For a change, I had the opportunity to compare the Audioengine D3 with the Creative Omni as well as my existing Music Streamer II.
Now the Omni is less than half the price of the D3 but the Omni has additional features like 5.1 channel support, optical out, microphone input, etc. The Omni also claims to have a good headphone amplifier built in so I was interested if the Omni could compete with the D3.
The Audioengine D3 and Creative Omni were compared with their respective headphone outs to test their built-in headphone amplifier. In addition, the D3, Omni and Music Streamer II were connected to my EHHA amplifier to test their DAC chips without the built in headphone amp.
Audioengine recommends a 40-50 hour burn in for the D3 which was surprising since I hardly believed a DAC would experience burn in given it has no moving components like a headphone driver. However, out of the box, I didn’t like the D3 so I decided to burn it in for at least 24 hours. I am now a believer in burn in for DACs! The sound has opened up quite a bit, and I am enjoying the D3 now. Of course, burn in is probably DAC dependent but I believe the Audioengine D3 certainly shows this phenomenon.
The main focus of the sound is the mids and treble as well as its wide soundstage. Very impressive for such a small device. Treble is clean, rather refined with a good amount of detailing.
The Omni is clearly out of its league when treble and detailing are in question as its clearly outmatched by the D3. The treble on the OMNI can sound a little shrill on some sound tracks. The Music Streamer II puts up a good fight though I believe the D3 is slightly better in this regard.
Coming to the mids all 3 put up a good performance with a slight advantage to the Music Streamer and the D3. All 3 give a good presentation of the midrange with barely any differences. The Omni had a slightly mid focused sound however.
Last left was the bass. Here too the 3 DACs gave a different performance. Surprisingly the best performance went to the cheapest DAC of the lot – the Omni ! And in last place was the Audioengine D3 with the Music Streamer II taking second place.
The Omni gave the best impact and resolution with the Music Streamer only slightly behind. The D3 isn’t far from the top 2, but it has noticeably rolled off bass which is probably due to its rather small design.
Please note all these differences are not huge but noticeable with a good quality headphone.
The Music Streamer II portrays the best soundstage by far among the 3 DACs with the D3 in second place. The D3 has a wide soundstage, but the slight bass roll off does detract as it effects sound stage depth perception. The Omni has a rather average sound stage but its the cheapest DAC by far in the comparison.