ESI Dr. DAC nano



I recently bought an ESI Dr. DAC nano for my office system from Paul at Purite North, so I figured I'd share the experience.

The Dr. DAC nano is a USB-powered 24/96 DAC, with a combined optical and 3.5 jack output. It retails at around £65. Its most obvious competitor (and the device which mine replaced) is the Behringer UCA202 or 222 both of which are fundamentally cheaper than the nano.

In the box

The nano came with some sparse instructions (which frankly I didn't bother to read), the DAC itself, a nice little (micro to regular) USB cable, and a couple of adapters - a 3.5mm to 1/4" headphone adaptor and something that looks like it's for optical S/PDIF, which I put straight back in the box.


External differences between the nano and the UCA 202 boil down to the facts that

  • the 202 has a captive USB plug which is frankly a bit awkward (and you can't use your own foo-tastic USB cable) whereas the nano has a micro USB socket
  • the 202/222 have frankly pretty crappy plastic construction (not surprising given their extreme low price), but the nano has a very good aluminium (?) case that lies flat on a desk

In the higher price bracket the nano is up against the more expensive Audioquest Dragonfly, an offering from M2Tech and the Meridian Explorer. It has to be said that I'm not at all keen on the Dragonfly or Hiface "cantilever" design. They look like they would be putting unnecessary strain on the USB socket, and are just asking to get snapped off by some clumsy bastard like me. The Meridian is well-reviewed but costs something like 4 times as much.


Installation on my Windows 7 PC was just a case of plugging it in. The PC whirred for a couple of seconds and told me that my device was ready to use.

A quick check in the control panel confirms we're all good to go


My desktop system is the Eclipse TD307PAII speakers / amp combo. Connect the combined optical / headphone output of the nano to the phono inputs on the amp with a Chord iChord (I can't actually find that product on Chord's web site - maybe they've stopped making them).

Stick on Biosphere's Novelty Waves in MediaMonkey.

Sit back and enjoy tunes.


I expected the nano to be a slightly more handsome and practical version of the Behringer, with no discernible sonic differences, particularly in my crappy little desktop system.

I'm fully prepared to accept that expectation bias or simply higher volume may well explain what I heard, but I swear that the nano is significantly better than the Behringer. Normally I'm not into attempting to describe qualitative differences in sound, but the nano sounds sharper and clearer, less mush, and there is noticeably more bass.

Happy camper!

Obligatory in-situ photos:




Praise where it's due Paul - it's a good piece of kit. I can't say "genuine audiophile bargain", however that only because it's the second worst audio review cliché after "the wife called through to ask what had changed".

So far I've been listening to The Black Dog, Billy Mackenzie and Blue Oyster Cult ("On your feet! Or on your knees!"). I'm still surprised that it really does make a difference.

p.s. thanks for the 3.5mm -> 1/4" adaptor :doh:


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