Every time I get a hold of a Made in Malaysia hifi product, I have this sense of pride and it comes with a responsibility to give it my utmost attention in the review. For this particular product by Stoner Acoustics, it's even more special as I have been using their USB DAC since July 2012 for my office set up. The first model was UD100 which I used to call it 'The Naked DAC'.
When the owner and designer, Mr. Ooi Tze Yang contacted me just before Christmas, I quickly agreed to give a review on this as I have in the past reviewed their UD100, UD 110 and UD120.
As opposed to the previous models, this unit came with an amplifier as well. Complete in a small casing and volume control, the UD130 is lightweight which makes it portable enough to carry around. When you purchase the UD130, it comes with a USB cable to connect to your laptop and a carrying case as well. If you want it to be music on the go, it also support Android OTG. For me, this unit works well with my Samsung Fold, running Onkyo HF player, Google Music TIDAL and Spotify.
The unit is equipped with an AKM AK4493 high performance DAC, TI TPA6120A Dual Channel High Power Amplifier and a switchable USB Audio Class 1 (24 Bit/96KhZ) and Class 2 (32 Bit/384 KHz, DSD 64/12/8/256, DoP-64/128). You can read the full specs here.
THE SET UP
Source: Macbook and Samsung FOLD playing iTunes, Google Music, TIDAL and Spotify
Headphones: Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD800S
Earphones: RHA MA750
Compatibility: Literally plug and play for both Mac and Samsung FOLD OTG.
WAV, DSD, MP3, AAC... no issues
Take Five by Dave Brubeck on DSD
My usual first track for me to experience how deep can the UD130 deliver its bass. First of all I am happy to report that the UD130 is sooooo quiet. No hissing sound, no hums. Dead quiet. And yes, the bass extension on this track was exceptionally good. It juices up the cans sufficiently. It takes a bit more to drive the Senns and Beyer but the RHA, no issues at all. Effortless to deliver the bass that I like. On the high notes, the snare dispersion sounded extended as well.
At Last by Etta James on TIDAL HiFi
Love it Love it. The intro was mellow all in the right places. Send shivers to my spine. Etta's vocal was sharp and lively. I can experience the emotions through this track. The violin sounded very sweet too. At times, the vocal can sound a bit too sharp especially when she stretches her high notes but still tolerable.
Sweet luscious sounding Etta this UD130 allows her to sound like. Still cant believe it can deliver such sweet vocals through both HD800S and T1.
Return to Love - Andrea Bocelli and Ellie Goulding on MASTER Tidal
Ellie's vocal sounded sweet and luscious on this track. In contrast to Andrea's vocal, it made the duet sounded well balanced between Andrea's deep voice and Ellie's more high pitched voice. The piano notes also sounded very lively yet subtle. The bass and electronic effects were vibrant enough to make this track to sound old but new.
Enter Sandman by Metallica on TIDAL HiFi
Is UD130 all about vocal? Enter Sandman was a test for heavier sound for UD130. The UD130 presented this track with such control yet still deliver that metal adrenalin that this track offers. Bass was abundant from Lars's double pedal and the overall drum tom toms. Kirk's guitar riffs were energetic but maintains its rawness. This track shows that the UD130 is capable to cope with a fast paced and heavy metal tracks.
Sweet Child O Mine by Guns N Roses on 16/44
What can I say? I was in the mood of 90s metal and rock. I was expecting a similar experience like Metallica but for this track, it sounded a bit on a mellow side. It started off quite energetic with the guitar intro but the overall sound was a bit on the thin side. This was true for all 3 headphones/earphones that I used. It was still entertaining but I could use with a little bit of liveliness and essence behind this iconic track.
Sand of Time by Slumber Sonic on WAV 24/44
This soon to be released track by Slumber Sonic was experimental test for UD130. The bass intro sounded plucky but with still enough extension. The bass drums sounded full and well rounded but the snare dispersion sounded a bit uncontrolled. Clarity was evident here as I can hear each instrument separation clearly. The guitar solo sounded huge too. The vocal was mellow which suits the genre of this track.
Stoner Acoustics has once again produced an affordable, locally made USB DAC amp that does not compromise on sound quality. At RM300, this is a no brainer for anyone who is interested to improve their digital source without burning a big hole in their pocket. If I was to sum up the performance, I would say this DAC amp is the quietest portable model I have encountered at this price range. Its good for quite a range of musical genre including metal. It is also quite transparent. Playing high quality files is fun to listen to. Bass is exceptionally good and mids are sweet. High notes however may struggle a bit no to sound on the shrilling side. Have no issues driving headphones like T1 and HD800S although I had to play it at nearly maxed out on the volume pot. The unit is also powered directly from your source, so do check with Stoner Acoustics on compatibility. For me, no issue for Samsung FOLD and Macbook. It did not power up with Sony TPA Walkman.
The sound characteristics described here is quite consistent across Beyer T1, Senns HD800S and RHA. It was just a matter of volume level, how is it for UD130 to drive and overall ambience.
If interested to purchase, do head towards their website at STONER ACOUSTICS or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org