Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Wonderful device - amazing bang for the buck and quality!
on May 28, 2012
I bought this for a slightly more unusual use -- as an external "soundcard" essentially. I use the digital outputs from my computers (optical from one, coaxial from the other so I can just switch between them with the flip of a switch) to use this as an external DAC. From here it connects to my headphone amp (a CMoy with an AD8620 -- a simply amazing sounding DAC even if it's a tad power hungry that makes it sound far better than a CMoy) directly. As a DAC it just sounds absolutely amazing. It has better clarity and quality than any I've used up to now, including some external "soundcard" type DACs like the Alien DAC. There is a bit more of a noise floor than some of them, but I still have to turn the volume dial up so far that if it were playing music I'd be bursting my eardrums to really notice it. This gives me all of the benefits of an "external DAC" with more universal compatibility (since it works with far more than just my computers) and a surprisingly amazing sound. Far better than I ever expected really. I've even ordered a USB soundcard for my netbook which has an optical output and which matches the D3's frequency and depth range (so I can use 96/24 if I so choose) because I like this so much I want it on there. I'm going to have to get another of these as a backup I think. I don't ever want to go back, even if this thing tears up...
I have tested this with my TVs too out of curiosity. The first thing that I noticed is that my TVs do not have the option to decode the audio. They just do a straight digital passthrough. One reviewer said it doesn't work with over-the-air, but this is just because so many use encoding methods (probably DTS I guess.) It definitely does work with anything that supports using a PCM output and with TVs like these any device that uses PCM on their digital interface will just be passed through still as PCM. For instance, my Roku player uses an HDMI cable and is set to stereo output. The TV just passes it directly and the Roku at least sounds great when connected to the Fiio D3. I've also tested using the optical output of my PS2 console and so far haven't found anything where it didn't just work great. I tried to find games with good music and I've discovered that a few (most notably PSX ports like the Megaman X collection) don't really sound great, but a few are just wonderful this way (just for instance, the Persona games.) The game Rez never suited me that well, but I believe that people who love it should absolutely try it this way.
Fiio does not recommend using the OPAMP to directly drive headphones. As a preamp it sounds fine, but it would probably be a bit weak for things like headphones. I haven't really tested that since it definitely couldn't compete with my CMoy and the OPAMP on it. I have heard of people replacing the TI LMV358 OPAMP on there with others such as the Analog Devices AD8656 with positive results (though you obviously have to be very good with a soldering iron for this and can, of course, count on utterly voiding the warranty in doing so.) The AD8656 at least can drive headphones directly, so with a proper setup this could even act as a headphone amp in addition to acting as a DAC. I probably won't be doing this any time soon, but if the AD8656 sounds even remotely like the AD8620 I might consider it someday (in the meantime I obviously can't review what it might sound like.)