Four Devices Tested: From $2000 Down To $2
All of our tests were run on a PC with Windows 7 x64. For the most part, the machine's specs aren't really relevant, except for the fact that the motherboard hosting our Realtek ALC889 codec is Asus' Rampage III Formula.
The following devices are included, covering price points from $2000 down to $2.
|Benchmark Media DAC2 HGC||JDSLabs O2+ODAC||Asus Xonar Essence STX||Realtek ALC889|
|Price||~$2000||~$290 (including AC adapter)||$190||~$2 (OEM in volume)|
|Format||External USB Device||External USB Device||Internal PCIe card||On-board codec|
|Driver version||1.61||Native USB Audio||126.96.36.1994||188.8.131.5223|
|DSP Chip||Custom FPGA||N/A||Asus AV100(C-Media CMI8788)||Realtek ALC889|
|DAC Chip||ESS SABRE32 ES9018||ESS SABRE32 ES9023||TI PCM1792A||Realtek ALC889|
|I/V conversion||2 x TI LME49860/LME4562||2 x JRC NJM4556AD||2 x TI LME49860/LME4562 (1)||Realtek ALC889|
|Buffer||TI LME49600TS||Custom 4 x NJM4556D stage||TI TPA6120A2||Realtek ALC889|
|PCM audio support||Up to 176.4/192 kHz samplingUp to 24-bit word length||Up to 96 kHz sampling (2)Up to 24-bit word length||Up to 192 kHz sampling (3)Up to 24-bit word length||Up to 176.4/192 kHz sampling (4)Up to 24-bit word length|
|DSD audio support||Natively supported via DoP||Not supported||Not supported (5)||Formally supported, but couldn't get it to work|
- The STX has swappable socketed op-amps. We replaced the native 2 x JRC2114D (which are also very good) with 2 x TI LME49860/LME4562, the same ones used in the DAC2.
- Does not support 88.2 kHz
- Does not support 88.2/176.4 kHz
- Did not support 88.2 or 176.4 kHz in our test at 16- or 24-bit depth
- The PCM1792A DAC does support DSD, but unfortunately, the C-Media CMI8788 does not, hence the lack of this capability on the card
Despite the higher product series number, the ESS Sabre ES9023 DAC is, on paper, inferior to the ES9018. That doesn't imply an audible difference, though.