- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 30 June 2014
Sony UDA-1 USB DAC Amplifier Review Highlights
I review a lot of headphones and headphone amplifiers for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity and I was excited to see how the Sony UDA-1 would perform with several cans, including the excellent NAD HP50.
The UDA-1 is a small, yet versatile USB DAC and amp, able to drive small bookshelf speakers and headphones. The Sony UDA-1 feels best at home in a small office setup and anyone who needs a versatile all-in-one for their computer audio collection should check it out.
Sony UDA-1 USB DAC Amplifier Highlights Summary
- • Handles all lossless formats including DSD via its USB input
- • Has coax and optical digital inputs
- • Small amp can handle efficient speakers
- • Great build quality
Introduction to the Sony UDA-1 USB DAC Amplifier Review
Sony has been around my whole life and is one of the top mega-brands of my childhood, sitting amongst heavy weights like McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Nintendo. I do remember having a Walkman and a handful of cassettes, but I am truly a child of the Compact Disc. I still buy CD’s, albeit not as often as I used to, but the majority of my music purchases are on vinyl or high resolution downloads.
As the CD sections in stores like Best Buy have shrunk down to a couple of racks, it's been clear since iTunes took off that the Compact disc is on its last legs. So as the industry switches to digital downloads, it only makes sense that a company like Sony focus on playing back those downloads rather than clinging on to a dying optical media. At the 2014 CES, it was quite apparent that Sony was directing a lot of talent and engineering into Hi-Res audio. Sony has even made a minimum specification for what qualifies as “Hi-Res Audio.”
SONY UDA-1 USB DAC Stereo AMPLIFIER REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Two-Channel DAC/Stereo Amplifier
- Power Output: (JEITA 10% 1kHz 4Ω) : 23W + 23W
- Codecs: PCM, Dolby 2.0, 5.1, 7.1 (Through HDMI Input)
- THD+N: 10%
- MFR: 10 Hz - 100 kHz, - 3 dB
- S/N: 100 dB
- Inputs: 1 x Coaxial Digital, 1 x Optical Digital, USB Digital Type 1, 1 x USB Digital Type 2, 1 x Pair Analog Coax
- Outputs: 1 x Stereo Analog Coax, 1 x Head;phone, 2 x Speaker
- Supplied Accessories : Remote Control; Instruction Manual; Quick Start Guide; USB Cable
- Dimensions: 3" H x 8.9" W x 10.4" D
- Weight: 8.8 Pounds
- MSRP: $799 USD
- SECRETS Tags: Sony, DAC, Sony UDA-1 USB DAC Amplifier Review, UDA-1 Review, Headphone reviews 2014, Headphone Amplifier Reviews
There is actually a pretty clear definition of what media can be labeled Hi-Res: anything higher than the 44.1kHz/16bit CD standard. This includes sampling frequencies such as 96kHz/24bit and higher, and DSD 2.8Mhz and higher. The file format must also be lossless, meaning if compression is used then no information is lost. DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, and ALAC all support lossless High-Res Audio.
The only question left is how the consumer plays back Hi-Res media, and that’s exactly what the Sony UDA-1 seeks to answer. It connects to your computer, either Mac or PC, via USB and plays back any digital audio format you are likely to have. That signal is made available through a headphone out, standard RCA out, and a 23 watt rated amp. All this can be had in a small, well-built package for just $799. So is the Sony a good buy? Turns out it might need a few tweaks before I can call it a slam dunk, but it does offer a lot of functionality.