I purchased this DAC/Amp to replace my computer's Creative Sound Blaster Z sound card. I couldn't believe how simple it was to load the Windows driver, as Creative products (which I've used for twenty plus years now) are notorious for their difficulty and instability. As a sound source, uDAC-5 is just a bit better than the sound card. It offers just a bit greater detail throughout the audible spectrum. I'm not sure if I would characterize its top end as clearer or harsher, as that's highly dependent upon the headphones I'm using.
This device sounds best with my NAD VISO HP50 headphones. My Samson SR950 headphones sound better than when being driven by the sound card. My Final E2000 earbuds sound pretty decent with this. My Fostex T-X0 planar magnetic headphones sound quite good as well, but because of their higher impedance I have to drive them harder. The uDAC-5 sounds a tiny bit fuzzy at that higher volume. The same thing happens with my Harman Kardon Soundsticks III, so I guess I just have to back off a few percent. Instead of turning it up to 11, 9 will have to do.
The DAC/Amp does get warm, but it's not significant enough that I worry about the longevity of the device.
Why didn't I give it five stars? The fuzziness at full power. And the price was a bit steep, considering this only plays sound. I'll have to enable my on-board sound to be able to use a microphone, since I'll probably be removing the sound card from my system.
I you need something like this and don't mind the price, go for it. I know when asked about this or other similar devices I suggest a Schiit Fulla 2 would be a better deal, but it won't go beyond 24/96 whereas the uDAC-5 goes well past that. This suits my listening needs and I'll adapt to it not being a sound card with a microphone input.