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Acoustic Research UA1 Hi-Res USB DAC continues brand rebirth

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There are many DACs out there. The UA1 is notable for exceptional sound & build quality and the remarkable power of the built-in headphone amplifier. Includes JRiver Media Centre Mac & Windows

Acoustic Research UA1 Hi-Res DAC / Headphone Amp $599.99

The AR Hi-Res Reboot project has been underway since 2011 and Acoustic Research has chosen Japan and the UK markets in which to launch the full rebirth of the 60 year old brand. The UA1 is the second product from the new Acoustic Research Digital and High-End Division, following the AR-M2 DAP.

The 24/192 UA1 is an outstanding DAC, designed to upgrade the sound from any computer, to deliver genuine High-Definition audio and play virtually any HD audio file via headphones, active speakers or Hi-Fi. It even comes with a free copy of the expensive JRiver Media Centre software for Mac and Windows.

A huge amount of work has gone into the design of the digital, analogue AND the power stages.

KEY – ‘Best In Class’ audio performance

KEY – Serious headphone driving power and performance with no mains supply needed

KEY – High-grade audiophile components used throughout with exceptional build quality


KEY – JRiver Media Centre included for free

As a Compact Portable DAC, the UA1 is USB host-powered so needs no mains supply. The specifically engineered headphone amp is one of the most powerful available on any device like this and is able to drive serious headphones.

The small heavy DAC, is constructed of aerospace grade aluminium, with exceptional anti-vibration properties. High-end components are used throughout on a single circuit board. Build quality is exceptional. Damped rubber feet secure the UA1 when used on a desk.

The wide range of file formats playable include



– Audiophile-grade ultra-low-jitter asynchronous USB Audio input

– High-quality high-power headphone amplifier to drive high-end headphones

– Analogue outputs for playback through any Hi-Fi or Active Speaker

– Toslink Digital out for digital system integration

 High-precision Alps manual volume control

– LED Status display – Multicolour showing frequency

– Headphone Power (THD < 0.01%) / 32 ohms 400mW + 400 mW / 300 ohms 43mW + 43mW

– Full copy of J-river Media Center for Windows or Mac included (Worth £50)

Acoustic Research M-Class DAC and Power Design

– Genuine lossless path support 16-bit 44.1kHz to 24-bit 192kHz

– Isolated digital and analogue circuits

– Burr-Brown PCM1794A flag-ship class DAC

– Burr-Brown OPA2134 current/voltage line out driver

High power current feedback headphones amplifier

– Texas Instrument TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier in proprietary circuit design

– Ultra low distortion at max output <0.01%

– Supports 16 to 600 ohms headphones

– Ultra-fast slew rate, genuinely responsive to Hi-Res content

 Dual High Precision Oscillator

– Accurate clock for 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96 / 176.4 / 192 kHz

Audiophile grade components throughout

– High quality capacitors

– High quality ALPS analogue volume control

– High quality gold-plated brass RCA connectors

Quote: Arex Li – Designer of the UA1

“We had a great DAC, but had to very work hard to deliver the powerful USB-Powered headphone amp”


For best sound AR has adopted the XMOS platform, known for its precision. Instead of the normal single clock crystal oscillator with a PLL clock generator, the UA1 uses an advanced dual-clock crystal oscillator design.

With native 24.576MHz and 22.579MHz clocks supplied to the DAC, the audio device supports 44.1kHz, 48kHz and their multiples natively.

Unlike much of the competition, AR don’t use fancy displays, excessive I/O or other power-sapping ‘features’. All the power is reserved for the headphone amplifier. As a result, the UA1 matches or outperforms many AC powered USB audio devices and can drive all high-end headphones.

As a bonus, a full version of Jriver Media Center for PC and Mac worth $70 USD is supplied.  The software supports nearly all the known music formats available. This is a very important value add because the Hi-Res formats such as FLAC and DSD are not natively supported by Windows or Mac OSX. Competitors typically include trial version of the software or do not include any playback software.

The UA1 was designed to deliver exceptional performance with computers and was not designed to support smartphones/tablets. Theoretically, if a mobile device supports USB Audio Class 2.0 AND 5V 500mA power to external USB devices, the UA1 can be used, but at this time, only desktop or notebooks can deliver the power required. Current smartphones or tablets do not have the power output.


Digital-to-Analogue Converter

– Burr-Brown PCM1794a

Current-Voltage Converter

– Dual Burr-Brown OPA2134

Headphone Amplifier

– Texas Instrument TPA6120A2

 Power (THD < 0.01%) / 32 ohms 400mW + 400 mW / 300 ohms 43mW + 43mW


– USB 2.0 (host powered)

– USB Audio Class 2.0 (Asynchronous mode)


– Headphone Output (6.3 mm)

– Gold Plated Brass RCA (Right)

– Gold Plated Brass RCA (Left)

– Optical (TOSLINK)

Supported Formats

– 44.1 kHz – 48 kHz

– 88.2 kHz – 96 kHz

– 176.4 kHz

– 192 kHz (Analogue output only)

– Higher than 192 kHz (Supported through high precision conversion in JRiver Media Center)

– DSD64/DSD128 (Supported through high precision conversion in JRiver Media Centre)

LED Status display

– White 44.1kHz

– Cyan 48 kHz

– Blue 88.2 kHz

– Purple 96 kHz

– Red 176.4 kHz

– Yellow 192 kHz


135 long x 82 wide x 24 mm high


338 g

About Acoustic Research: From 1952 to the present day, Acoustic Research has a history of innovation, advanced technologies and unique design for the consumer. From the introduction in 1959 of the dome tweeter (still used in today’s speakers), the first ever acoustic suspension sealed loudspeakers the famous AR-3 and the first suspended sub-chassis belt-drive turntable from which most modern designs derive.
The new AR High-Fidelity Division is a fast-moving internal “Start-Up” within the huge US Voxx International Corporation. The chief designer and his colleagues are purist audiophiles and music enthusiasts, intent on challenging the Audio Status Quo and building Giant-Killing products at sensible prices.
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