• Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC Review

    The Fubar II is probably the simplest piece of audio gear you'll ever hook up. I know this is very important for many of you slowly coming over to the world of music servers and computer based audio. To get good sound from the Fubar II USB DAC just plug it in to your laptop and your preamp or amp and you're done. There are no drivers to install and no special software programs to make it work as designed. If you're looking for a basic DAC or a simple DAC to connect to the cabin stereo system you should really check out the Fubar II USB DAC.

    The Fubar II USB DAC is pretty versatile. It works with Windows, Mac, or Linux. The DAC also comes with some nice cables, both USB and RCA. I reviewed the newest version of the Fubar II that has improved power regulation and LPF circuits. The analog output uses a Burr Brown OPA2604AP opamp that can be swapped out with any opamp you like. The DAC is a Burr Brown PCM2702. This unit can handle 16/44.1 or 48 kHz. Firestone does offer a 24/96 SPDIF DAC also available from Audiophile Products. The Fubar II is a really small unit. I was surprised as how small it was even though I had seen it countless times online. It was one of those things where I had to actually hold it to get the full story.

    When my review unit arrived I had a little trouble with the power supply. There was a real high pitched noise emanating from the wallwart power supply. I talked to Audiophile Products and this was the first time they heard of any issues. They sent me out another one that arrived in a couple days. The replacement is not dead silent, but more inline with other products in this category. Audiophile Products also offer a really cool power supply upgrade for all the Firestone Audio components. The supplier offers much more power reserves and is a recommended upgrade for only $117.

    On to the sound of the Fubar II USB DAC. This DAC really sounds better than the minimal $137 purchase price suggests. While the Fubar II may not be the DAC to replace your Audio Research reference system, it certainly belongs on a desktop, in the office or as part of good system up at the cabin. In addition, this DAC is a very smart purchase for those of you looking to dip your toe into the Computer Audiophile water. This DAC is cheaper than a half inch of audiophile cable, so you should have no hesitation about ordering one. The Fubar II can really shine with music that doesn't have the dynamic range of a full orchestra. On a lot of rock & roll like Pearl Jam's Yellow Ledbetter, or Cry of Love's album Brother this DAC is really good.The poles of the sound spectrum aren't this DAC's sweet spot. The DAC can sound a little sharp playing back highs and a tad loose in the lows. But hey, for a $137 dollar entry into computer audio or that system up at the cabin that doesn't get any use because you don't want to haul your CDs with you, this DAC is will seriously provide a lot of enjoyment. With the standard power supply difficult passage do sound a little restricted or thin. This is the exact reason Firestone designed the Supplier power supply. If you don't get into Rage Against the Machine and all the hard hitting instruments on their albums or you don't need to reproduce a full chamber orchestra in the office then you'll be totally fine with the standard power supply. One song that really brought me some enjoyment through the Fubar II was Portishead's Machine Gun fro their new album Third. The song has a really good beat and the Fubar II reproduced it really well. The song had great impact through the Fubar II and for a moment it sounded like I was listening through another of my much more expensive DACs. Given the right situation and music the Fubar II can really shine.

    I don't think anyone expects the world from an entry level DAC, but you can certainly expect some serious enjoyment from your music through this little guy. Plus, doesn't the music kind of sound a little better when you know you haven't over paid for something by several thousand dollars? Ok, maybe that is a personal thing :-)


    Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC front.


    Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC back.




    Fubar II Audio Midi Setup Settings
    Audio Midi settings with Fubar II USB DAC attached.

    click to enlarge



    Fubar II USB Bus Configuration
    USB Bus configuration during the Fubar II USB DAC review.

    click to enlarge
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi MikePC - Thanks for following the site and posting your questions. The sound quality comparison between the two DACs is even more subjective than a standard opinion on one of them. Each has its faults and strengths which, so a person should consider what they want in a DAC or what sound they like best. For my system the Devilsound DAC produces better sound. Also, the Devilsound DAC is a unique product because of the all in one aspect. On the other hand it can't be enhanced with any power supply upgrades or opamp rolling like the Fubar II. <br />
      <br />
      I don't have any experience with the Keces DACs, but I am currently looking into them.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again for posting MikePC.
    1. mikepc's Avatar
      mikepc -
      Very interesting. Totally understandable that subtle nuances are rather subjective on taste and particular setup. And great points on the upgrade which are a bit beyond my knowledge and sophistication at this point.<br />
      <br />
      I guess my question about quality was more coming from a recent experience that I had with AudioEngine AW1 transmitters which I recently tried. I started from an entry-level NAD CD player and Receiver as the base of my system which sound great for me. Unfortunately I want digital music from my computer with little budget. I then tried hooking up my Ipod with lossless music with a cable. Yes, I really don't understand much. I should have known that the sound would be a serious drop. My next try was to go to the AW1 transmitters from my computer where I was playing CDs (to avoid source problems). This combination resulted in about the same sound as from my Ipod. I will probably take the plunge to the DevilSound next. I'll let you know how that works out.
    1. shermshermy's Avatar
      shermshermy -
      I just received my Fubar II, which I purchased largely based on the review. It is my first standalone DAC. I am loving it. I use a Super T-Amp through JBL Control 1Xtreme speakers to listen to a large FLAC collection on a Windows XP laptop at work. The system isn't exactly expensive (quite the opposite). But, I am getting terrific sounding music. The Fubar really did the trick to enhance the sound way beyond what the internal sound card could do. Thanks.
    1. Kira Shannen's Avatar
      Kira Shannen -
      Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC Review may be laptops' salvation. I hate the poor audio quality that comes with the laptop, that is why I didn't buy one, I can't stand a day without music. But this device is so simple to use and so powerful, I love it!<br />
      ____________________________<br />
      Kira Shannen - <a rel="follow" href="http://us.trendmicro.com/us/products/enterprise/datacenter-security/deep-security/">Virtualization Security</a> tester