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Review and Measurements of Nobsound NS-DAC3 Pro DAC & Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and measurements of Nobsound NS-DAC3 Pro DAC and headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. I see it on Amazon for USD $140 with free shipping from China.

This is the type of DAC you see in tons of Chinese websites with tempting features for the price. As you can imagine, there is nothing glamorous about such products. The packaging is as cheap as you can get. There is even a small CD with the drivers for your nostalgic feelings about computing days long gone. A couple of photocopied pages complete the picture as far as the manual is concerned.

The metal enclosure is not bad though and brings some uniqueness in this super crowded market:

Nobsound NS-DAC3 Pro DAC and Headphone Amplifier Review.jpg


As you can see, increasingly we see Bluetooth added to these small DACs. Also nice is dual headphone jacks.

In the back we have the usual S/PDIF, Toslink and USB inputs.

Anyway, let's see how she measures.

Measurements
Here is the dashboard view using the headphone jack with the output adjusted to 2 volts (line out with 2.3 volt output was almost identical):

Nobsound NS-DAC3 Pro DAC and Headphone Amplifier.png


Needless to say, this is very disappointing. Specifications state 0.001% distortion at 2.2 volt RMS. We have 0.009% or almost an order of magnitude higher. The culprit is that third harmonic which peaks to almost -80 dB itself. Naturally, our SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is pretty dismal at 81 dB:

1542431037050.png


Let's look at power output with 300 ohm load:
Nobsound NS-DAC3 Pro DAC and Headphone Amplifier Power Measurement.png


We have decent amount of power here but unfortunately the noise and distortion are quit excessive compared to competing products (Topping DXC3 Pro shown above).

At this point, I lost my appetite for running more tests. Clearly there are design issues here (I suspect in the buffer/amplifier section). Doubtful that the unit was measured to verify any of the specs published (although power rating is close to mine).

Conclusions
It is tempting to go bargain shopping in asian markets for DACs. Prices are lower and features a mile long. Alas, I have been personally burned over and over again, not having found a single performant unit. This is another example of it. The lesson here is to not get excited over formats listed, DAC chips and specs shown. Unless you see real measurements like I am showing, the performance likely won't be there.

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#2
Honest question: Are the distortions you've measured audible? If so, then obviously throw it in the trash. If not, then why disregard "features a mile long" in favor of something you can't use or appreciate?
 

Jimster480

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#3
Honest question: Are the distortions you've measured audible? If so, then obviously throw it in the trash. If not, then why disregard "features a mile long" in favor of something you can't use or appreciate?
CD music can reach 90+ SINAD IIRC so 80db SINAD isn't even basic 16bit performance.
Additionally there are just so many better performing products at a lower price, that it makes no sense to have a poorly performing one for more money.
 
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#4
What is a better performing piece of gear at a lower price with the same feature set? I've certainly never seen a credible experiment showing that it's possible to distinguish two DACs, when one isn't horrifically malfunctioning. So my attitude has always been that the feature set is the number one aspect of a DAC, and technical achievement is nice as a feature in and of itself. I.e., I'll pay extra for it, but I wouldn't sweat it if it were inaudibly subpar, as this case appears. Granted, I use an ADI-2 DAC, mostly because of the feature set, so I paid extra for that technical peace of mind, but if I had to recommend a DAC to someone not wanting to drop a grand on it, I don't see why this one's technical specs are audibly worse than something like the JDS Atom, whereas its feature set is far richer.

And regardless of what CD music can do, the question is what human ears can do.
 

sergeauckland

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#5
CD music can reach 90+ SINAD IIRC so 80db SINAD isn't even basic 16bit performance.
Additionally there are just so many better performing products at a lower price, that it makes no sense to have a poorly performing one for more money.
I does if the facilities and ergonomics suit better. Technical performance is all well and good, but once it gets to the point of inaudibility, there are other parameters more important.

S
 

graz_lag

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#6
What is a better performing piece of gear at a lower price with the same feature set? I've certainly never seen a credible experiment showing that it's possible to distinguish two DACs, when one isn't horrifically malfunctioning. So my attitude has always been that the feature set is the number one aspect of a DAC, and technical achievement is nice as a feature in and of itself. I.e., I'll pay extra for it, but I wouldn't sweat it if it were inaudibly subpar, as this case appears. Granted, I use an ADI-2 DAC, mostly because of the feature set, so I paid extra for that technical peace of mind, but if I had to recommend a DAC to someone not wanting to drop a grand on it, I don't see why this one's technical specs are audibly worse than something like the JDS Atom, whereas its feature set is far richer.
A poorly - or so so, engineered stuff cannot match a well engineered one in terms of pure performances.
You know that, and that's one of the reasons for which you have bought your ADI-2.
That's is true for each and every single stuff you interact with in your daily life.

AFAIC, the problem with these Chinese stuffs is the "re-definition" of the notion : You get what you pay for ...
If you study the range of audio gears offered by some of the decent manufacturers (like Topping and/or SMSL among few others) out from the hundreds of Chinese's you see in the market, YOU'LL NOT notice right away the same distinct correlation between quality and price you're used to with the western manufacturers.
Are exactly the studies as the one of amirm that bring to the community of passionate the points of reference, which one is in the need of to re-defining the above said notion "You get what you pay for" about this wave of audio gears from China.

Last but not least, the most dangerous aspect of the Chinese production is the consistency in quality.
They simply cannot (or do not want :mad:) manufacture within consistent quality parameters.
So, it might well be, that this unit that amirm measured, comes from a lower-quality than other - batches.
Who knows ...
 
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pwjazz

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#7
I bought this thing as a bit of an experiment. I can't say that I'm surprised by the result, though the biggest eye opener for me was that the seller Douk Audio on AliExpress has been completely silent in response to my inquiry about the fact that distortion on this unit is an order of magnitude out of spec.

As far as I can tell, Douk Audio is the manufacturer. Their website listed an email, so I'll try that next.

Thanks for taking a look at the unit @amirm!
 

graz_lag

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#8
I bought this thing as a bit of an experiment. I can't say that I'm surprised by the result, though the biggest eye opener for me was that the seller Douk Audio on AliExpress has been completely silent in response to my inquiry about the fact that distortion on this unit is an order of magnitude out of spec.

As far as I can tell, Douk Audio is the manufacturer. Their website listed an email, so I'll try that next.
Purchased as a bit of an experiment is entirely understandable, with all the best for your claim.
Quite nice website, with product pages with detailed information & photos.
By the way ... the declared distortion is 0.0005% ...
 

Krunok

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#9
From the measruement perspective this device really doesn't impress, but I seriously doubt you will be able to hear any sound coloration coming from this device no matter how long you listen to it, especially as its dominant distortion factor is 2nd harmonic.

Here I'm not advocating that this device shouldn't perform better, I'm simply stating my belief that its performance is still under hearing thresold.
 

Krunok

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#11
Aha! I'll just set one of my spare tubes on top of the unit and pretend I'm listening to a tube amp :D
LOL :D

Check the specs of my tube amp for comparison, and keep in my mind I don't hear any difference except slight roll-off at HF when switcing between this amp and my Rotel amp that has far better specs:

 

SIY

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#14
AFAIK, second harmonic is 2x fundamental, 3rd is 3x fundamental, etc.

A harmonic of such a wave is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the frequency of the original wave, known as the fundamental frequency. The original wave is also called the 1st harmonic, the following harmonics are known as higher harmonics. As all harmonics are periodic at the fundamental frequency, the sum of harmonics is also periodic at that frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is 50 Hz, a common AC power supply frequency, the frequencies of the first three higher harmonics are 100 Hz (2nd harmonic), 150 Hz (3rd harmonic), 200 Hz (4th harmonic) and any addition of waves with these frequencies is periodic at 50 Hz.
 

pwjazz

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#16
LOL :D

Check the specs of my tube amp for comparison, and keep in my mind I don't hear any difference except slight roll-off at HF when switcing between this amp and my Rotel amp that has far better specs:

That thing has enough tubes that it could moonlight as a polyphonic electric organ!
 
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