These days my desktop seems to be getting more and more crowded with all sort of audio bits and pieces: DACs, players, DAPs, earphones, cables, computer etc. It’s getting to the point where I either need a bigger desk or I need to downsize my components. Enter the Micca OriGen+ DAC. This little unit takes up much less space than many of its counterparts yet still have enough versatility to not leave you wanting. Let’s take a look then.
Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with the company in any way and all opinions and observations here are my own, based on my experience with the product.
The OriGen+ comes in a little brown box that when I first saw could hardly believe that the DAC could fit inside.
Inside was the DAC, an owners manual and a 3.5 mm to RCA cable. The cable is of good quality and comes in handy when you want to connect to an amplifier or powered speakers.
Build and functionality
This thing is very solidly built and has a neat, little form factor. Starting with the anodized aluminum top plate of the unit the most obvious thing is the large, solid machined aluminium volume knob. It has a clear white dot, showing you the current position and is nice and smooth to turn allowing for very precise adjustments. Above that is a series of LED indicators showing PCM or DSD input, bit-rate, power and left and right signal detection.
On the front panel, there is a 3.5 mm and 6.35 mm headphone jacks so there’s no need for any adapters. At the top right is the output select switch for choosing headphone or variable RCA out. On the bottom right is a hi-low gain select switch allowing you to choose between 10dB and 0dB.
Moving around to the back we find the Asynchronous USB 2.0 input, 3.5 mm stereo analogue line level and combination optical S/PDIF digital output and the input select switch as well as a DC 5V power input. I kind of wish that the RCA line-out was fixed level instead of variable as that would negate the possibility (or probability) of giving yourself a heck of a fright and possibly damaging your ears if you forget to adjust the volume before flicking the output select switch. In case you’re wondering – yes, I have done it already.
On the underside, there are 4 rubber feet to prevent sliding and to protect the surface that the OriGen+ is sitting on.
It’s quite a versatile little gadget this one. You can have it connected to your computer and then to another device via the optical input. Changing between sources is then as easy as flicking the rear input select switch. Likewise, switching between headphones and line out is just as simple, although like I said you really need to get into the habit of lowering the volume and gain before doing so.
That’s about all there is to it really. The unit is small enough to fit just about anywhere you want to put it and because it’s powered by USB there’s one less cable to manage. One thing to note is that the driver installation is a bit of a process, made more difficult by changes that Microsoft has made recently with driver management. It can be a little frustrating but there are detailed instructions on Micca’s website and you only need to do it once, although I have experienced the occasional BSOD with Windows 10.
Okay this is the most difficult part because how do you talk about a sound that is transparent or neutral? Soundstage is not especially wide or deep but impressive for a unit at this price point. Bass notes are tight and textured and separation is on point. The noise floor is low, I haven’t experienced any buzzing or hissing with headphones or IEMs nor any channel imbalance. Overall it’s just a clear, fairly neutral presentation.
These two DACS have a very similar overall sound with the OriGen+ having a touch more sparkle in the treble while the DAC-X6 has slightly more emphasis on the mids. Most of the differences are cosmetic, the most obvious being the size. Both are nicely crafted from metal and both have excellent build quality. Micca’s offering has the advantage of high and low gain switch, both 3.5 mm and 6.35 mm headphone jacks while the FX-Audio unit has the added benefit of Coaxial input. The output select switch on the OriGen+ is a very handy addition and it’s probably this factor alone that would make this one my preferred DAC for the desktop. The DAC-X6 does have some compelling points though, first being the lower price and secondly its Plug and Play capability, meaning you don’t have to go through the driver installation drama or deal with those nasty BSODs.
Recommendations for improvement
I’m not sure if it’s possible but I’d love to see Plug and Play capability or at least some updated drivers to address the Windows errors. (Windows will have native support for USB DACs soon). I would also prefer a fixed level line out rather than variable so that you can keep the headphone out volume at sensible levels instead of needing to remember to lower the volume before you switch from the line out every time.
The OriGen+ is a solid performer, coming in at around $100 making it one of the cheaper options for consumers. Despite the low price it has some really good features and sounds good to boot. USB and optical inputs, output select switch for versatility and high and low gain settings for sensitive earphones or harder to drive headphones.
Construction is very solid and this thing is small – about the same size as a stick of butter (not counting the large volume knob) meaning its perfect for anyone who has little desk space to spare. Overall this is a good entry level DAC for those just starting out or wanting to improve on their laptops sound quality with something that doesn’t take up too much space and it won’t make your wallet cry either.