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Micromega MyDAC review (CS4351)

  • With their entry-level MyDAC (AU$499), Micromega have joined other field runners in refusing Pacific Rim production and/or assembly. The MyDAC was designed in France and it is manufactured in France. National pride is a powerful consumer persuader because it suggests superior quality control, greater longevity and support for the local (job) market.

    Ironically, unboxing the MyDAC doesn’t burn you with homefire confidence. The ABS plastic shell of the MyDAC connotes shades of Ikea and – to a much lesser extent – Apple. Playing heavy on the latter for marketing purposes will likely lead to end user disappointment. A Jonathon Ive designed DAC would definitely feel more substantial than the lightweight Micromega. In the hands of the consumer, the MyDAC looks and feels closer to Mattel or Fisher-Price: rudimentary, basic, and functional. You wouldn’t blink twice if you saw this DAC on display at ToysRUs.

    Enter Micromega’s R&D director Daniel Schar.

    “The reasons for the plastic case are more than one. The plastic case is an important part of the design. By choosing totally non-magnetic material, we are able to control all fields at the board level. This is more predictable than a metallic case.”, says Schar.

    No power brick here. The in-house designed SMPS has been internalised. Quick on the draw with more thorough email responses, Schar elucidates:

    “MyDAC is the only USB D/A converter in the market and in this price category to offer an onboard Switch Mode Power Supply especially designed for MyDAC, with a very special power supply section for the analog circuitry, offering unprecedented noise performance for such a device.“

    “This means that we have three different technologies in the box ( SMPS, Digital circuitry and D/A conversion and Analog amplification) needing to get along together.“

    “It is essential to make a layout where all effects between the different sections and technologies are controlled at the board level without any external influence. A metallic case, even in non-magnetic material like aluminum, would have an influence on the circuit’s behavior. This is the main reason why loaded ABS was chosen for the casework.”

    The rotary rocker on the front permits four positions: Standby (backlight glows red), USB, coaxial and optical (backlight glows white). Said white backlight flashes in the absence of signal lock.

    75 ohm coaxial input? Bien sur. Asynchronous USB? Oui oui. 24/192? Certainement.

    Out back, a switch toggles between USB Audio Class 1.0 and 2.0 modes. Both modes run driverless on a Mac. Windows people will need a driver for USB 2.0 operation.

    The USB receiver section deploys the ubiquitous XMOS chip and the S/PDIF receiver is a Wolfson WM8804. A surprise drops in for coffee when you compare a direct USB feed (from MacMini) to a signal S/PDIF re-routed via M2Tech’s Hiface Two – they sound pretty much identical, the direct USB connection being free of the over-etched treble that sometimes troubles the Italian convertor. Credit is due to Micromega here for such an excellent USB implementation.

    Each of the “low jitter” master clocks are fed by individual “low noise” power supplies. Want specifics? 22.5792 MHz for the 44.1/88.2/176.4 family and 24.5760 MHz for the 48/96/192 neighbours.

    Processing the digital feed is a Cirrus Logic CS4351. Much like ESS’s 9023 Sabre chip, the CS4351 DAC chip exhales 2V so no gain is required from the output stage, itself a buffer consisting of an OPA1642 from Texas Instruments.

    Be warned.  First impressions are VERY deceptive. Once you’re up and running, the MyDAC hoses away any doubts as to its sonic prowess.

    With most budget DACs one must choose where to accept compromise. Separation or body?  Pick one.  Designers usually achieve the latter by sacrificing some of the former. It’s a natural consequence of designing to a price.

    A furious blast through The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive and the MyDAC pitches its tent closer to camp separation. There’s nothing thin or reedy about its presentation though. Overall acoustic mass is good. Points are awarded for it not sounding edgy or metallic in the upper-most frequencies. It’s reassuringly smooth. Not a common personality trait at this price point.

    Bass impact or reach isn’t as good as the Metrum Hex (€2185). Neither are tonal colours as indelibly inked. For peer group assimilation we must push the Micromega further down field.

    The MyDAC was directly compared to the Emotiva XDA-1 (discontinued, $299). The XDA-1 is no slouch in its own right. It’s one of the better budget units and I still dig the same qualities that arrested my senses when I reviewed it in 2011.

    Your eyes do not deceive you: the Emotiva nails the Frenchman to the floor when it comes to functionality and connectivity: show-pony casework, balanced outputs, volume attenuation. However, the tables get turned in listening tests. Listening to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, the Micromega is more lit-up (but without suggestion of upper-mid glare), energetic and s p a c i o u s. It’s closer to a performance under house lights than the shadier, more veiled American. Moreover, when giving room to a 24/88.2 copy of Aftermath, the Emotiva USB’s input tops out at 16/48.

    In DACville, qualitative differences are more often than not only hair’s widths apart. Not so with this A vs. B. When decoded by the MyDAC, a FLAC of New Order’s “Blue Monday” is loaded with more fringe-dwelling information; the edge of that relentless kick drum more crisply cookie cut. Want more air in your digital playback chain? Again, the MyDAC goes further than the Emotiva. Case in point: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”. Micromega peel the song’s roof back to allow the listener a better view of the players housed within. Those guitar steps get built a few stories higher.

    The Micromega sound isn’t as fleshy as (say) the Schiit Bifrost. It drives from a higher centre of gravity and is probably closer to the Peachtree DAC-iT: California sun-drench leads to apricot sweetness. Ya get me?  Think of the Bifrost as wheat toast and the MyDAC as a slice of white. Both equally tasty but strike the palette in different ways.

    A shame then that you might not get to hear this DAC at your local dealer. As with nearly all DACs, there’d be little point. Hearing the subtle differences between decoders is a tricky business that requires your own rig and your own time. Plenty of time. Certainly, more listening time than even the most accommodating high street might extend to you.

    Nearly all of the competition at the $500-600 mark bests the Micromega on aesthetic appeal. BUT…get past its ABS plastic case and this small box from France might well wow you for it ranks as one of the better entry-level decoders – up there with the Audio-gd NFB2/3 and Schiit Bifrost. I’d peg it as sweeter and smoother than both. However, it’s not as meaty as either, particularly the Schiit. Anyone with an entry-level tube push-pull (e.g. Ming Da) should pay attention here. The MyDAC is ideal for those with systems that err towards an over-congealed state.

    Wrap.  If you’re intrigued by the MyDac – and you should be – buy it, live with it for a while, lend it to a friend, host your own A/B comparative listening session, draw your own conclusions and then – if you don’t like it – sell it on. I’d wager that few buyers would get as far as this final step. And if they do, it will be in order to move up the DAC food chain to something considerably more luxurious.

    Reviewers don’t get to call in advance what will become legendary (and what won’t). That’s for the buying public to decide.  The Micromega MyDAC probably isn’t a game-changer or a future classic. However, it is a superb entry-level unit, no doubt as Micromega intended at the drawing board. If you prioritise separation, layering and a recording’s ambient information then y’all should go forth and multi-buy.


    Associated Equipment

    • MacMini + M2Tech Hiface Two + Audirvana
    • Emotiva XDA-1
    • Metrum Hex
    • Rega Brio-R
    • Audio-gd Master 10
    • ATC SCM 11
    • Magnepan MMG
    • 47 Labs Lens


    Audition Music

    • David Bowie – Space Oddity (1969)
    • The Rolling Stones – Aftermath (1966)
    • The Orb – BBC Sessions (2008)
    • The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (2008)
    • New Order – Substance (1987)
    • Led Zeppelin – IV (1971)


    Further Information
    Absolute Hi-end / Micromega

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Nice review John! – Its refreshing to read an entertaining review that also has the ‘meat and potatoes’ that us review freaks thrive on!…(for other reviewers out there…hint hint….COMPARISONS!)

    2. I’ve had a MyDac for about a week now and really like the way its settled into my system. Thanks for the comparison of other units, John. This field and price point are only going to become more hotly contested giving us many more choices. Getting good information on performance and comparisons with similar price points and spec will become even more critical as choices increase.

    3. John, why is the bit rate and DAC rate in Audirvana different in your photo above? I’ve not experienced any differential like that. 24/88 shows as 24/88 (and others) as per the file I’m playing. Just curious.

      • Hey – because I did the photos AFTER the listening session. What you see is the USB input on the Emotiva DAC topping out at 16/48.

    4. Thanks for the solid review John – while complete disclosure requires me to admit I’m a member of the north american sales team for Micromega, I’m happy to say I agree with your review and have been enjoying my own MyDac in my system for the past three weeks now. IMHO, stunning for the money. Keep writing – you’re good!

      • More airy/spacious. Better microdynamics. JKDAC32 is more restrained (a good thing when listening ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT).

    5. Thanks John, but that makes my HRT MSII look like audio jewellery …. OK – maybe that’s stretching it 🙂

      I appreciate that Micromega had to cut a few corners to come in at that pricepoint, but that wouldnt look out of place on the shelf at K-Mart. Limit of two per customer, personal shoppers only.

      Still, something that small is easily hidden, I guess.

      • I agree. BUT the plastic case isn’t there just to save money – it’s to improve sound quality also.

        • John, I’ve read this here and at the Micromega web site. I’m not plastics or metal engineering mind, but how can ABS plastic enhance the sound of the MyDac, or any component? Just curious. If it were really a viable option I’d think other companies would have hit on this idea before. Still loving my MyDac, but wondering if Micromega may be reaching a bit on the plastic thing.

    6. I wonder how it fairs up the ladder against something like the Wadia 121?
      Regardless thanks for a great review of a product that should have a wide audience.



    7. Thanks for your review. Yours in one of the two reviews that prompted me to buy this unit without bothering to audition. While I’m much more over the moon than you are (I immediately bought another one after listening to mine), I have not had the opportunity to compare this to anything other than an aging DacMagic. I haven’t nearly enough experience to say where it ranks, but I can say, I love the open sound of this little box.

      • I think my words capture my enthusiasm for this DAC without spilling over into gratuitous hyperbole. I’m glad you share this enthusiasm. “Open” is possibly the single best word to describe it.

    8. “The Micromega sound isn’t as fleshy as (say) the Schiit Bifrost. It drives from a higher centre of gravity and is probably closer to the Peachtree DAC-iT: California sun-drench leads to apricot sweetness. Ya get me? Think of the Bifrost as wheat toast and the MyDAC as a slice of white. Both equally tasty but strike the palette in different ways.”

      Maybe strawberry cream puff highs with brown shoepolish upper mids attached to a mindboggingly-sumptious, chocolaty caramel frappe cream, slightly sugary lower mids, slowly, liquidely sliding into a bottomless warm and moist pool of languid comfort in the very lows as the music expands into my mind squiggling through my relaxed intestines from my buttocks.

      Sun-drenched leads to apricot sweetness…my Big Fat butt.

      Are mind-altering drugs with wheat toast still so freely used in your country? If yes, perhaps the dosage might be reduced? Where’s the editor?

      • Sounds like DAR is not for you and you require more more starch in your hifi commentary – fair enough.

        I *am* the editor. And I’ll take drugs and then write as I see fit.

      • So, you’re confused by the food analogies?
        They worked for me. PERFECTLY.
        Let’s see your review.

    9. Hi John,
      Thanks for all the work you have done.
      Did you try the MyDac on the USB output of a SBT with EDO installed ?
      If it works, how does it compare to the SBT + synchro-mesh ?
      I understand that you abandon your SBT as a reviewer, but all your readers have followed you immediately (but I agree, we have to do it one of those days). Don’t forget us !
      Best regards

    10. Best writing in an audio reveiw. EVER.

      I ain’t no writer, but I’ve read Stereophile and The Absolute Sound for over twenty years.

      Your article managed to communicate the essence of the sound of components better than any review I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. And who’d a thunk it? You did it though food!

      If Zagat’s reviewed audio reviews, they’d have to give it five-PLUS stars.

      Thanks a million for a very, very enjoyable experience.


    11. John, if AGB cant deal with your metaphors, fair enough, but why take the time to bag you for taking the time to give impressions on gear weeks – in many cases MONTHS – before the other guys get around to it ? I suspect that AGB would be happier with a bunch of graphs – I’d like him to take his slide rule and slide it right up his xxxx !

      Personally, while I do have the odd issue with Srajan’s verbosity, I find most of your reviews very readable – dont let a few dickheads spoil your day.

    12. Sorry to have ruffled so many feathers, er, appetites, over what I saw as a humorous missile that those with thin skins took much too seriously.

      The fact is that Bob Harley reviewed this device in TAS weeks before this review appeared and gave it a glowing comment.

      The most important lesson to learn here is that digital technology provides a leveling off between the economic divide: the well-heeled v. the common man who buys domestic chocolate v. the imported kind.

      Inexpensive DACs can sound close to, if not exactly the same, as the best of the bunch. I’d think it makes it difficult to hype the $5-20,000 DACs these days. While the low end DACs compete dramatically with the best, there seems to be a cutoff where the laws of diminishing returns really kick in…maybe the $1000-1500 mark, where some DACs provide preamp functions and excellent headphone amps as well as SOTA sound.

      And John, as for the drugs you take, we appreciate you admit to your other hobby. We do not approve, but we do not censor or prohibit whatever gives you tingles.

      Just don’t confuse what you hear when Down Under with what we’d hear up North after a cup of frappe.

      • The drugs I take aren’t a hobby – they’re a lifestyle. And just because others disagree with you doesn’t necessarily mean they are thin-skinned. They just disagree.

        However I have a question. You wrote: “We do not approve, but we do not censor or prohibit whatever gives you tingles.” <--- Who are "we"?

    13. How do you compare MyDac with Musical Fidelity VDAC 2, in asynch mode?

      I have VDAC2, so if i buy MyDac will that be an upgrade?

    14. Nice review, congrats. I just wonder why you seem to prefer the MyDac over the JKDAC32, but in your DAC index the latter places higher? Is it maybe due to an overly detailed presentation of the MyDac, which becomes fatiguing after a while (unless the rest of the systrem is, as you call it, ‘over congealed’?) Thanks for another interesting article, John.

      • The MyDAC is considerably better with air and spatial cues than the JKDAC32 but the latter offers a more mature, fuller sound that’s (as you allude to) is easier to listen to for longer periods.

        • Thanks for clarifying that, John. Got it! If it wasn’t for my USB input exclusive choice, I would consider the Bifrost. As it is, I’m leaning towards the JKDAC32.

    15. Thanks. My chain is … PC > FLAC > USB > V-DAC2 > Chord Crimson RCA > Focal CMS40

      Will MyDac produce nice sound in my chain?

    16. Purchased the myDac a few weeks ago in Melbourne. It has a lot of obvious talent and produces a lot of clarity. The seperation of instruments is too great and detracts from the music. No flow. Hard to listen to for long sessions. Of course parts of some songs sound amazing. It is not musical – to my ears. So I sold it at a loss and am now back to using the $35 Fiio D3 – which I bought as a joke. The joke is that this little DAC does as well 95-105% the performance of better DACS. Tried first the HEED Dactilus with power supply, now the myDAC as potential upgrades. Both fail to far exceed my now ‘reference’ DAC. The reasoning being – if a $500-$800 DAC can’t blow that little DAC out of the water then I just wasted my money. Listening pure bit perfect via JRiver ASIO or WASAPI to FLAC files with wireworld cables. Tried both decent Headphones/AMP and my Wharfedale 9.6 speakers via Consonance valve pre-amp and Trends Audio T power amp. No Joy. The verdict : ‘Too much chalk and not enough cheese’. To my ears and in my reasonable setup … Anyone on a budget, try the Fiio D3, it’s plastic and cheap, but it pumps out some pretty consistent sound.

        • I’m using the Trends as a pure power amp and a $1500 Consonance valve pre-amp into Wharfedale 9.6 – they are pretty decent. I tried the DAC thru a decent head amp and phones as well. Same outcome. Anyway, I’m happy with the Fiio D3 for $35. The savings mean I now have a nice new pair of headphones and way better improvement for the $. Over chasing the ‘DAC Dream’ for now, until the bug bites again 🙂 Although I may experiment with some more cheap Chinese DAC’s, these mid range ones are a waste of cash for the return in my opinion. Can’t think of another product where you spend $35 and get similar performance to $450 – $800. The usual caveats apply as always …

    17. Just wondering if you have compared this DAC with the AudioQuest Dragonfly. The latter is more portable and perhaps the ESS Sabre DAC chip is better than the Cirruslogic chip. What are your thoughts?

    18. Hey John. Just purchased My Dac a few days ago on the strength of the review from TAS, just found yours today and thought it well written and would also have convinced me to give it a try (the drugs not the dac…just kidding!) I was curious if you or anyone thought that upgrading the also sparse looking power cord of the dac might help. I’m using MyDac with my squeezebox touch and haven’t ventured into computer based audio yet but that’next. I suppose spending something in the range of $100 for a power cord upgrade seems disproportionate but I feel like I saved quite alot on the unit itself and would invest unless it’s diminishing return. It might be moot seeing how the SBT uses a walwart and I haven’t considered changing that. Also plan on upgrading my coaxial cable (if you want to make a suggestion on that). Don’t have the history of any previous comments you may have supplied on this subject in the past and being pretty new to this appreciate your feedback. Happy Holidays, Dan
      Oh yeah, I do like my first impression of the dac after just two days of play.

    19. Hi John,

      Nice review,thanks. Was interested in your thoughts vs MiniMax II? Are you using direct integer mode? Something I cannot do with the MiniMax 🙁

      I really hope M2tech updates the driver.


    20. Hi John, very nice review. I bought the mydac soon after tracking these very favorable reviews. It didn’t for short of expectations in terms of sonic quality. HOWEVER, there is one major technical glitch that troubles me. The mydac generates occasional “click” sound like the one with dirty LP playback. I thought that was a bad sample but my fried also got same issue. Later I found on micromega website that the noticed this problem. It affects 192 k file playback via USB using Mac machine.

      I hope you can help verify this and check with Micromega what solution they can offer.

      Meanwhile I would still highly recommend this box to those who wouldn’t care about 192k playback, or those using windows pc.

      It’s such a shame…. This could have been a no-brainier bestbuy….

      • Thanks Peter. I didn’t notice this but I did’t really play much 192 (if any). Mostly I use/d Redbook source material played on Audirvana+ with 4x up-sampling.

      • Didn’t notice this either. My main issues were with brightness, the flashing source LEDs, a slight transformer hum, a high noise floor even without a usb cable plugged into the unit, and the plastic box. Still sounded great, but I think it has a few rough edges – guess what you would expect for the price.

    21. John,
      I currently own an NAD 356BEE integrated amp. I, only today, purchased an NAD 390DD. Would I have fared better with the MyDac and the 356BEE or was I wise to order the 390DD? Since you’ve reviewed both, I though you’d have a very educated opinion regarding these two fine devices.

    22. I second John on the 390DD recommendation, despite not having heard the MyDAC, but readers need to be aware that NAD now offers the C356BEE/C375BEE with the optional MDC DAC modules installed at the factory (its a screwdriver job, FWIW). Resorting to something anything less than a $500 dedicated DAC over these modules makes no sense to me, least of all a plastic fantastic like the MyDAC.

      I plan to audition the W4S mINT before I revisit NAD – the form factor is just impossible to resist, as is the relatively low pricetag. I predict that Class D implementations will blow some very jaded minds over the next 5 or so years 🙂


    23. I’ve read that the XDA-2 sound quality has improved slightly over the previous generation, and it also does 24/192 over usb now, so it might be a closer match to the MyDAC. I was curious how it would compare. Have you got your hands on an XDA-2 yet?

      • The XDA-2 landed yesterday. It’ll remain in its box until I get back from this weekend’s ATP festival.

        • Hello – I have been using the MyDac for SPDIF and wonder if anyone has really tried to squeeze the most out of it in terms of cabling, ac cord or other tweaks. What seems to happen is that people ignore it because of the price or use it with the included power cord and a minimal SPDIF cable.

          Call me crazy, but I use decent solid silver or copper SPDIF cabling and a cryoed C7/C14 adapter with some of my better power cords. I think one would be surprised at what can be obtained. A Myrtle block on top of the case doesn’t hurt either.

          Sooner or later I’ll grow up and buy a real dac.


            • Hi John,

              Thanks for the response. I have the plus with dexa opamps and really like it.I am just a bit bugged by not being able to use direct integer mode with AV+. Any thoughts on the subject? I am curious about the MiniMax with the Xmos. I know you gave the Metrum Hex a great review and it also uses the original Hi-Face. Am I really missing something, or worried for nothing?

              best regards

    24. I recently purchased the Cambridge Audio iPod dock I am looking for a good DAC to really help put some energy into my Apple Lossless Files and CD’s. So far, thanks to your recommendation, the MyDAC is definitely in the running and you have convinced me to drop the Arcam out of the race. Here’s a list of remaining competitors I’m still considering: Musical Fidelity M1DAC, Wyred 4 Sound DAC 2 and I just read about a MYDAC II (?) from Musical Surroundings – any recommendations? Also, is anything gained from using the balanced digital out line vs RCA vs optical/Toslink? Thanks for your great review, your writing style is perfectly fine with me, with or without any, uh… lifestyle enhancements.

      • The fact is that inexpensive DACs are catching up to top tier designs, but still, one needs to compare apples to apples. The Wyred4Sound DAC2 is amongst the top tier and it has what one can argue, a very transparent built-in preamplifier. It is an extraordinary DAC sonically and the low cost spread has a way to go before it gets there, sonically and feature-wise.

        As for the Emotiva, I have no idea how they do it at the price – I mean, imagine that the parts have to cost less than $100 including the casing to sell for $400 retail. It’s almost impossible! Yet looking into that 2/3 empty casing, we also understand that there is some illusion happening here with respect to what one is getting. Still, that price and feature set is pure magic, allowing arguably high end sound for the price of a bag of peanuts.

        • Reply from Daniel Schar at Micromega: “MyDAC doesn’t do any upsampling. We believe that native sample rate is always more truthful to musical content.” So all good: no upsampling going on.

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