The Acoustic Research UA1 ($599.99) embodies the ethos of the 60 year old Acoustic Research brand, by delivering superb sound at a sensible price and throwing down a challenge to competitors in this market, however well-known. There are many DACs out there. The UA1 is notable for exceptional sound & build quality and the remarkable power of the built-in headphone amplifier. Includes JRiver Media Centre Mac & Windows. The AR Hi-Res Reboot project has been underway since 2011 and Acoustic Research has chosen Japan and the UK markets in which to launch the full rebirth of the 60 year old brand. The UA1 is the second product from the new Acoustic Research Digital and High-End Division, following the AR-M2 DAP.
The 24-bit/192kHz UA1 is an outstanding DAC, designed to upgrade the sound from any computer, to deliver genuine High-Definition audio and play virtually any HD audio file via headphones, active speakers or Hi-Fi. It even comes with a free copy of the expensive JRiver Media Centre software for Mac and Windows. A huge amount of work has gone into the design of the digital, analogue AND the power stages. As a Compact Portable DAC, the UA1 is USB host-powered so needs no mains supply. The specifically engineered headphone amp is one of the most powerful available on any device like this and is able to drive serious headphones. The small heavy DAC, is constructed of aerospace grade aluminium, with exceptional anti-vibration properties. High-end components are used throughout on a single circuit board. Build quality is exceptional. Damped rubber feet secure the UA1 when used on a desk.
The wide range of file formats playable include
High power current feedback headphones amplifier
Dual High Precision Oscillator
Audiophile grade components throughout
For best sound AR has adopted the XMOS platform, known for its precision. Instead of the normal single clock crystal oscillator with a PLL clock generator, the UA1 uses an advanced dual-clock crystal oscillator design. With native 24.576MHz and 22.579MHz clocks supplied to the DAC, the audio device supports 44.1kHz, 48kHz and their multiples natively. Unlike much of the competition, AR don’t use fancy displays, excessive I/O or other power-sapping 'features'. All the power is reserved for the headphone amplifier. As a result, the UA1 matches or outperforms many AC powered USB audio devices and can drive all high-end headphones.
As a bonus, a full version of Jriver Media Center for PC and Mac worth $70 USD is supplied. The software supports nearly all the known music formats available. This is a very important value add because the Hi-Res formats such as FLAC and DSD are not natively supported by Windows or Mac OSX. Competitors typically include trial version of the software or do not include any playback software.
The UA1 was designed to deliver exceptional performance with computers and was not designed to support smartphones/tablets. Theoretically, if a mobile device supports USB Audio Class 2.0 AND 5V 500mA power to external USB devices, the UA1 can be used, but at this time, only desktop or notebooks can deliver the power required. Current smartphones or tablets do not have the power output.
LED Status display