Image courtesy of NuForce Inc.
The creative minds behind NuForce pride themselves on making products for audiophiles who demand a little more class and quality from their music (i.e. they won't be caught listening to The Wiggles). Clearly they've designed the uDAC-2 SGE with these in mind. The gold and silver box is discretely small, classy in appearance, and decorated with nothing less than a tiny but genuine Swarovski crystal.
Before you think of chipping that off and flogging it on eBay, bear in mind that the crystal is embedded in the volume control knob (actually, knob sounds vulgar for this item so let's call it an adjuster), which is just about the only thing on the front of this charmingly simple looking device aside from a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Turn the uDAC-2 SGE around and you will see a USB input and three audio sockets on the back: analog red and white stereo RCA outputs that seem oddly demeaning to a device with this one's aesthetic quality, and a digital coaxial output for smashing digital audio sound (note that there is nothing inevitably better about the quality of digital audio and if you have been told otherwise, you've been misled).
According to NuForce, the uDAC-2 SGE includes a headphone amplifier and a digital-to-analog converter. The latter takes digital music from a computer via the included USB cable, processes it through an 'audiophile-grade' USB audio receiver and then converts it into an analog signal using a 'high performance D/A converter chip'. Sounds cool.
NuForce describes this as a "convergence process" but I suspect that is a fancy way of saying that it allows you to play what's on your computer on a decent sound system without resorting to the former's headphone socket.
If your computer has analog audio out or S/PDIF digital output capability, you might be wondering why you would bother. Well, aside from the fact that your PC probably doesn't have a genuine Swarovski crystal embedded in any of its knobs... umm, adjusters, it probably wouldn't satisfy the discerning music fan with its audio quality. Given that the uDAC-2 SGE retails at $399, you should expect a premium listening experience.
Then there is the uDAC-2 SGE's portability. NuForce describes it as a "must-have laptop companion" and has supplied it with a protective leather case, premium USB cable (not sure what "premium" means here) and a carrying pouch, all intended to let you take it wherever you take your music-loaded notebook.
For the jargon oriented, NuForce would also like you to know that the uDAC-2 SGE comes with a circuit board enhanced with a cryogenic process; a double jitter-reduction mechanism at data level and oversampling filter stage; a high voltage 2V analog output; a high-quality analog volume control (don't forget the genuine Swarovski crystal) and absolutely, unequivocally no capacitors in any of the audio signal paths. It's also self-powered via the USB so it can boast low power consumption.
Keep in mind that although the uDAC-2 SGE is marketed as a superior sound device, the quality of what comes out depends on what goes in.