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Looking for a multichannel USB DAC with balanced outputs

edechamps

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I moved my system to a bigger room and it looks like my Xonar U7's paltry 1V output voltage is now unable to drive my Genelec 8030As to loud enough levels, given how much headroom is lost to the somewhat extensive software EQ and volume normalization stuff I'm doing.

So I'm looking for a USB DAC with the following:

  • At least 6 balanced analog outputs.
  • Capable of outputting at least 10 Vrms (between cold and hot) on said outputs.
  • Usable as a single standard Windows WDM 5.1 device. I won't be using ASIO. Standard USB Audio Class would be ideal to avoid potential driver issues.
  • I don't really have a budget, but I also have zero interest in paying crazy sums of money just to enter some kind of silly SINAD competition.

Looks like I should probably be looking for some kind of pro audio interface, but I get the impression I'll face an uphill battle getting the interface to behave as a single Windows 5.1 audio device (as opposed to, say, a bunch of stereo outputs). Thoughts?
 
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I moved my system to a bigger room and it looks like my Xonar U7's paltry 1V output voltage is now unable to drive my Genelec 8030As to loud enough levels, given how much headroom is lost to the somewhat extensive software EQ and volume normalization stuff I'm doing.

So I'm looking for a USB DAC with the following:

  • At least 6 balanced analog outputs.
  • Capable of outputting at least 10 Vrms (between cold and hot) on said outputs.
  • Usable as a single standard Windows WDM 5.1 device. I won't be using ASIO. Standard USB Audio Class would be ideal to avoid potential driver issues.
  • I don't really have a budget, but I also have zero interest in paying crazy sums of money just to enter some kind of silly SINAD competition.

Looks like I should probably be looking for some kind of pro audio interface, but I get the impression I'll face an uphill battle getting the interface to behave as a single Windows 5.1 audio device (as opposed to, say, a bunch of stereo outputs). Thoughts?

I have the U7 mkII, and it is useable... just needs a bit more output voltage -- also the occasional clock drift occurs specifically in the LFE channel if I leave the PC and mch DAC left on running for weeks on end without turning off.

Vrms is not something that's listed in the usual specs from online vendors, unfortunately. I see dBU for output, but I don't know (or can't recall) how that translate to volts -- seems like Presonus has the highest at +18 dBu (Balanced).

The ff. may be good enough candidates to take note of:

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
MOTU UltraLite-mk5
PreSonus Studio 1810c

*nothing obvious to indicate that they would not be detected as mch (5.1/7.1) dacs for WDM use -- can't be certain for sure.
 
The recently released RME UCX II can be used as multi channel playback using WDM, tough you have to install their Windows driver. Max output is 19 dBu, 6.9 volt RMS, so below wanted 10 volts, but perhaps sufficient.

It’s an audio interface with many features you probably will not use.


See chapter 8.2 in the manual for 5.1: https://www.rme-audio.de/downloads/fface_ucx2_e.pdf

Specs: https://rme-audio.com/fireface-ucx.html

There are two threads on ASR about the UCX II, one with several measurements.
 
I have the U7 mkII, and it is useable... just needs a bit more output voltage -- also the occasional clock drift occurs specifically in the LFE channel if I leave the PC and mch DAC left on running for weeks on end without turning off.

Vrms is not something that's listed in the usual specs from online vendors, unfortunately. I see dBU for output, but I don't know (or can't recall) how that translate to volts -- seems like Presonus has the highest at +18 dBu (Balanced).

The ff. may be good enough candidates to take note of:

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20
MOTU UltraLite-mk5
PreSonus Studio 1810c

Handy calculator for conversion of dBu to volts: http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-db-volt.htm
 
Thanks, these look interesting. The RME UCX II looks really pricey though - I can't imagine paying $1500 for a DAC!

I also came across the ESI U86 XT but I have no idea if it's any good.

By the way, something I've been wondering while reading these USB audio interface spec sheets: when pro audio manufacturers state output voltage on balanced outputs, do they mean between ground and hot, or between cold and hot? The latter is twice the former when dealing with a balanced signal. If convention is to state the voltage between ground and hot, then I actually only need 5V for my use case (my 10V requirement is between cold and hot).
 
Yeah, the UCX II is pricey but then it’s not just a DAC but a compact and powerful audio interface. I use it on my desktop for microphone use.
 
If convention is to state the voltage between ground and hot, then I actually only need 5V for my use case (my 10V requirement is between cold and hot).

No idea... I do know the LSR305's back plate has this input selector that has a 10dBV switch for use with pro balanced interface connections. Which seems to indicate that an interface with +14dBU output (11.78 dBV) is already sufficient enough for it. So I suspect that's the case.

*eh, actually, it's between 4dBU and 10dBV. I use the latter for the lower voltage of the U7. Clearly need to look this up on again....

Looks like I had it backwards:
Domestic gear with a −10 dBV level is usually unbalanced. Studio gear with a +4 dBu level is always balanced. 0 VU = +4 dBu.

1635724001689.png


'Twas right in front of the page. Aghh... duh.
 
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Anyway, I know that even my ancient presonus usb pro audio interface which only has +10dBU outputs is more than sufficient for all my studio monitors.
 
By the way, something I've been wondering while reading these USB audio interface spec sheets: when pro audio manufacturers state output voltage on balanced outputs, do they mean between ground and hot, or between cold and hot? The latter is twice the former when dealing with a balanced signal. If convention is to state the voltage between ground and hot, then I actually only need 5V for my use case (my 10V requirement is between cold and hot).

It is the latter - between hot and cold. Your 10 Volt RMS maximum output requirement can be converted into a dBu spec as follows:

dBu = 20 * log10( Vrms / sqrt(0.6) )

max output in dBu = 20 * log10( 10 / sqrt(0.6) ) = 22.22 dBu
 
Well it looks like Topping has the answer to my original question :) Price is a bit steep though :( Also the driver support is a bit of a question mark.
Good OP. Very few such DACs available. Balanced outs are not available on this otherwise superb and far more expensive multichannel DAC. https://exasound.com/Products/e688-channelDAC.aspx

Actually, my system will only be 5.1 and I still can't find a DAC of this quality with balanced outs. My subs will powered so my only need for balanced outs from the DAC is if I go with active front and side speakers. Such speakers rightly have balanced inputs, and my lines will likely need to be at least 16 to 20 feet or so from the DAC.

I'm really upset about that Exasound e68 DAC. If they chose a larger chassis then they might have been able to offer balanced outs as an upgrade option. But whichever DAC you chose I hope you're very pleased in every way with the
sound quality.



Actually,
 
There is, also, the Okto DAC8 Pro. Cheaper than the exaSounds.
 
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