Simple design for a simple function
About the size and weight of a deck of playing cards, the DAL-150 couldn't be more simply designed. On one end, there's a USB port for connecting to your PC; on the other, you'll find an S/PDIF digital coaxial output for connecting to your stereo receiver. That's it--since the unit gets its juice from your computer's USB port, no power adapter is required.
That's the good news. The bad is that the included USB cable is a little less than two feet long, and the included digital coaxial cable is only about three and a half feet long. Therefore, your stereo has to be about six feet away from your computer for the included setup to work, which is less than ideal for many people. Sure, longer cables (both USB and coaxial) are available, but you'll have to pay extra for them.
Another gripe: Unlike , the DAL-150 plays only MP3s and supports no other file types. Plus, you have to use Microsoft Windows Media Player to play them. If you're looking for a digital connection to listen to Internet radio in the RealAudio or Windows Media formats, this device won't work. Clicking an icon in the taskbar lets you toggle between outputting standard S/PDIF digital audio or passing the signal along in the MP3 format to that decode MP3s at an even higher-quality level than the DAL-150, according to the company.
That said, the DAL-150 itself does decode MP3s very well--the sound quality is quite good--and uses hardly any of your PC's resources. When we compared its output to that of an analog sound card, it was abundantly clear that the DAL-150 produced cleaner sound and better stereo imaging.
The $149 DAL-150 certainly delivers good sound in a simple design, but its short cables and limited compatibility make it hard to recommend unless you get it at a significant discount. Of course, if your stereo is set up near your computer and you don't mind using Windows Media Player, our reservations are of less concern to you. But we recommend you investigate other options before you buy the DAL-150.