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Denon DA-300USB DAC Review  Print E-mail
Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
Article Index
Denon DA-300USB DAC Review 
Set Up and Listening
Conclusion


The late Terry Callier’s 1968 debut, The New Folk Sounds Of Terry Callier is a stunning recording, with Callier’s voice reaching impossible heights. Through the DA-300USB, I was really taken aback by the delicacy the high frequencies, and the smooth and transparent midrange. This album has a lot of open space and dynamic range; to my ears, the Denon rendered these qualities immaculately. The track "Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be" simply left me amazed at how even the smallest performance nuances came through.

Denon DA300USBThe DA-300USB’s sonic performance set new benchmarks, for me, in the $500 to $1000 DAC price range. First, the bass was the most articulate and precise I have heard. Second, the soundstage was the widest I have experienced. The highs were delicate, and equal of units costing much more. The DA-300USB offered up a finesse and nimble quality I was not used to hearing at this price point. A track that crystallized this for me was Tim Buckley’s "I Must Have Been Blind" from his Blue Afternoon album.

DSD Performance & Headphone Amplifier

I moved the DA-300USB from my system to my desktop, connecting it to my Mac Mini with an Audioquest Forest USB cable, and a pair of Audioengine A+ (review forthcoming) powered monitors. I fed the DAC all PCM resolutions using Audirvana Plus playback software as well as DSD files, from various sampler collections, and from my own recordings done with a Korg MR2. The DA-300USB successfully locked on to all incoming sample rates. DSD is more organic and analog sounding than PCM; it sounded wonderful through this unit.

Using the headphone amplifier with my Grado SR-60 cans, I was treated to excellent, full bodied, and precise sound. I could really hear the difference between various resolutions. The front panel volume control provided lots of usable range. I also liked how the Denon ran pretty cool, as I have had other units literally heat up my desk. Ergonomically, the DA-300USB proved to be hassle free and a pleasure to use.

Conclusion

The DAC market, across all price points, is incredibly competitive. With so many marketing buzzwords and technical jargon to wade through, consumers may find it daunting. Denon's DA-300USB is a very attractive package that allows you to decode digital files of every known resolution, listen with headphones, or place in a high quality dedicated listening room. All for $499.

Looking for a place to punch holes in the DA-300USB’s performance was a fruitless task. It really does paint a complete musical picture. You get the added benefit of having a future-proof decoder that will allow you to enjoy your digital music library regardless of what flavor you enjoy, from standard CD quality, high resolution PCM downloads, or Direct Stream Digital.

Very highly recommended; maybe one of the highest value products of the year.


Specifications



Denon DA-300USB: $499

Inputs:
●    USB (Type B) input for connection to a computer
●    two optical digital audio
●    one RCA coaxial digital audio

Outputs:
●    fixed, line-level stereo RCA audio output
●    full-size 1/4" (6.3mm) headphone jack

Other info & specs:
●    supported sample rates for USB input: 32/44.1/48/88.2/96/172.4/192kHz Linear PCM; 2.8MHz (DSD64) and 5.6MHz (DSD128)
●    supported sample rates for coaxial and optical inputs: 32/44.1/48/88.2/96/172.4/192kHz Linear PCM
●    operating system requirements: Windows® XP (Service Pack 3), Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac® OS X® 10.6.3 (Snow Leopard) or later
●    USB 2.0 driver required for playback on Windows computers (free USB driver download available from Denon's website)
●    Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later supports plug-and-play operation, so no dedicated driver is required
●    external AC power supply included
●    vertical and horizontal mounting capability with 4 self-adhesive rubber feet and vertical-mount stand included
●    6-3/4"W x 2-3/16"H x 8-1/16"D (horizontal orientation)
●    weight: 3.3 lbs.

Review System 1


CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
Server: Squeezebox Touch
DAC/Server:  SIM Neo 308D
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MkII
Amplifier: Audio Research VS 55. Bob Carver Black Magic, CLONES Audio 25p
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, Darwin Truth (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz CD5003
Music Server: Simaudio MiND 180, Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity A90, CLONES Audio Sheva DAC, MyTek Stereo 192
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Roksan Kandy A2 B2
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Anthony Gallo Acoustics A’Diva SE
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS

















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