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Headphone Heights: REVIEW: Fournier DAC-2 Other by jaydacus

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REVIEW: Fournier DAC-2 Other

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Model: DAC-2
Category: Other
Suggested Retail Price: $249.99
Description: Tube Headphone Amplifier with USB DAC
Manufacturer URL: Fournier
Model Picture: View

Review by jaydacus on December 11, 2011 at 09:49:45
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for the DAC-2

This year I decided to set up a "headphone rig" in my room for nighttime listening. I borrowed the Burson HA-160D from my main system and liked the overall presentation, but found it to be very dry sounding. I decided that I needed a tube headphone amplifier to get that warm liquid sound. In the sub $500 range it turned out that there were really only 2 options. The Little Dot and this unit. I decided to go with this unit even though it is not fully tube driven because it has the built in DAC. All of my music is on a PC in FLAC format which makes the built in DAC essential.

I ordered this from Ebay, which currently seems to be the only distribution route, and had it in my mailbox within 2 business days. It arrived well packed and fully assembled. Set up involved connecting power supply(huge surplus HP power brick from a bygone era, USB, and headphones. Then I just set "USB Audio DAC" WASAPI as the output device in Foobar 2000 and that was it. The initial impression of the sound was very good. I has planned to upgrade my Sony MDR V6 headphones, but have now decided that I may hold off for awhile after hearing them on this headphone amp.

Build quality- This is clearly a handmade piece. Overall it is well crafted although if you look closely you will find a little extra glue in spots and notice that the USB and power port holes don't perfectly line up. Very forgivable considering the low price tag. Internally everything looks well well assembled. Perfect solder joints, well laid out, and 2 output transistors per channel screwed to the sides of the aluminum chassis. Ceramic tubes sockets for the 12au7's. The DAC is on a separate board from the amplifier section. It's clear that the DAC board and selector switch is the only thing that separates this unit from the HTA-2 headphone amp.

Sound quality- Very thick sounding with good detail and bass extension. Fairly transparent without much coloration. The tube sound is apparent when listening to anything with vocals or electric guitar. Non fatiguing sound that you could listen to all day. Does not produce the absolute level of detail of my Burson, but much easier to listen to overall.

Aesthetic value- The DAC2 is only available in blue. This is a good choice considering that 80% of the population considers blue to be their favorite color. While I like the metallic blue chassis, I could have lived without the blue lights under the tubes. I understand that the intention was likely to makes the tubes seem "cool" and more exotic to someone not familiar with tube gear, but to me it distracts from the beauty of the dark orange glow.I like the fact that the pilot light is blue, but I would like it better at 1/4 the brightness. I had to put tape over it. Otherwise it lights up the entire room at night. Not good if you're trying to get to sleep. A more ideal layout would have been no lights under the tubes and a normal brightness power light that was orange. The front is laid out in a very logical way. Large volume control, headphone jack, input jack(for the I-Pod crowd), and the power switch. On the back it has the power jack, USB/analog input selector, USB connector, and analogs inputs.

Other considerations- The output power is infinite on my V6 headphones. By infinite I mean that it becomes louder than my ears can handle before I hear any distortion. I would imagine that this unit could handle all but the most difficult to drive headphones with ease. With the unit being so light I was concerned that it would be too easy to pull off the table, but this is not the case due to soft rubber feet. There is a momentary spike of power in the headphones for a split second on power up. I was assured by the seller that this was not harmful.

Conclusion- If you are looking for a tube/SS hybrid headphone amplifier you will not find better quality unless you are willing to spend thousands of dollars. As an added bonus the DAC2 even has a built in USB DAC which makes it infinitely more valuable to anyone with a large music collection on their PC.

Product Weakness: Loud pop on start up, excessively bright pilot light, lights under tubes.
Product Strengths: Sound quality, build quality, price

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: NA
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): NA
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Win 7 PC with foobar 2000
Speakers: Sony MDR-V6 Headphones
Cables/Interconnects: Standard USB cable
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock, alternative, folk, R&B
Room Size (LxWxH): NA x NA x NA
Room Comments/Treatments: NA
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 week
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): NA

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Topic - REVIEW: Fournier DAC-2 Other - jaydacus 09:49:45 12/11/11 ( 2)