Acoustic Research UA1 DAC/Headphone Amplifier Review

Article by Randall Tan


AR’s UA1 DAC/Headphone amplifier.A sure-fire way to improve your computer generated audio


The AR-UA1 is Acoustic Research’s answer to audiophiles wanting high-fidelity high-resolution audio on their personal computer, be it at home or on the move. This audiophile-oriented asynchronous USB DAC is more than just a pretty device.


Cased in a metal enclosure with a footprint of 82 x 135 x 24mm, Acoustic Research kept appearances minimalistic with a piano gloss black rear and front fascia wrapped in a machined aluminium casing.  Four slits are provided for ventilation and heat dissipation and the company’s logo engraved on the top of the device, gives the UA1 a very clean and sleek look. The front fascia further supports the UA1’s minimalistic look featuring just a headphone jack, a knurled knob for headphone volume and a multicolour led indicator that shows the sample rate of the output.


Build with the computer-geek-audiophile in mind, the UA1 receives source audio and is powered via the USB input. Output options include headphone, stereo RCA or optical at sample rates of between 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz. The optical output is however limited to 96Khz. If you want to play your favourite high resolution tunes in DSD64/128, DXD or sample rates higher than 192 kHz, the UA1 comes with software that supports this through high precision conversion.


At the heart of this beautiful,  satin-bead blasted device beats a flagship Burr-Brown PCM1794a DAC.   This DAC is then paired with dual OPA2134s for current-voltage conversion that drives a Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier. With this, the UA1 promises to turn your computer into a reference class audio source for your everyday listening even with high performance headphones.


The UA1 is a definite upgrade with clearly perceivable improvements when paired with your PC equipped with regular computer audio processors. Improvements are immediate in the low end spectrum of the listening track, eliminating boom  and  giving an overall comfortable listening experience with greater bass detail and extension.


The experience does not end there as the separation of instruments is now more enhanced, creating a clearer definition between the various instruments. Spatial depth and sound stage is also wider certainly  more so than what standard computer audio processors are capable of. No longer is the music in your face, but , more  laid back with a truer sense of stereo space.


Compatible with both Windows 7/8 (32-bit or 64-bit) and Mac OSX Snow Leopard as well as any other superior formats, the  gorgeously packaged UA1, in particular its DAC is truly  impressive.  Priced at approximately RM1,800, the UA1 is a highly capable DAC/headphone amplifier that will raise the performance envelop of just about any computer based audio system.


For further information, contact:

Asia Sound Equipment

Tel: 03 799552091

Elson: 012 2203620


Article by Randall Tan

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