USB DAC/amp (dongles)

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by Stuff Jones, May 17, 2021.

  1. ColdsnapBry

    ColdsnapBry Friend

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    do these have a changeable battery or something?
     
  2. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    It's not inherently bright, but if a track has a lot of treble energy it's not going to shy away from that.

    I kind of hate the term analytical because most people use it in contrast to another term I dislike as a descriptor, "musical." I find all the iBasso gear I've heard (which is a bunch now) to be musical and still having good technicalities and separation seems to be a real strength for them. When I say analytical for the DC03 Pro, I am referring to the ease with which I can analyze the separate elements of a track when I use it. It's not disjointed or clinical though.

    In short, I do not find the DC03 Pro to be bright or dry, nor is it warmed over like the RU6. This is why I call it neutral, it doesn't add excessive coloration in either direction.

    The DC03 Pro is the same regarding the app. However, the default filter is linear fast, which I think sounds fantastic. The gain is set to high which is fine because I've never heard any hiss from the device, and with 100 volume steps it can accommodate extremely sensitive IEMs to moderately powerful headphones like the 660.

    The only other setting IIRC is the "ultra" setting which enables or disables the additional opamps iBasso built into the dongle (the DAC chips have built in amplification opamps but iBasso added more for more power). iBasso recommends never turning this setting off unless you are severely low on battery. The chosen defaults sound great and I have never had the slightest complaint that I wished I could change the filter or the gain. I understand on principle it is annoying that iBasso does not provide the full experience for all of their customers, but IMO the app is there more to tick boxes on a spec sheet and for another marketing slide, not anything that significantly improves the experience of using the dongle. YMMV.
     
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  3. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Is Bandcamp compressed? It’s one of the places I like because all purchases are lossless. Not sure about the streaming quality though
     
  4. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    I think RD means streaming via the Bandcamp app, which indeed isn’t lossless, or at least wasn’t last time I looked.
     
  5. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Yes, steaming via the bandcamp app or website. Which is 128kbps for browsing and 360kbps or something for your purchases. neither one sounds very good.
     
  6. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    Would like to note that the iBasso DC03Pro continues to be a pleasant, synergistic listen with my (OG 300 ohm) ETA Minis after several months with this combo. It's not a $700 sound for $70, but that's not the point. :)

    I've tried the DC03Pro several times with my pair of Moondrop Kato and the combo has been less synergistic than the above. I sort of eventually get into it if I persist in listening, but I enjoyed the Kato more with the RU6. To me the DC03Pro is a bit thin or clinical with the Kato. Haven't tried EQ with that combo because life is too short 4 that.
     
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  7. nishan99

    nishan99 Friend

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    I got the Hiby FC6 R2R dongle ($300) for a week now and I want to share my brief impressions of it:

    It got enough power for my Focal Celestee and Fiio FD5 and a bit lacking to my Shouer S12 (16ohm/102dB), the bass on the S12 is looser and slower compared to my E1DA 9038SG3 dongle (~500mw) but it was fine overall.

    It sounds neutral overall with good tone density, good stage but rolled off on the edges (I think because the air region is rolled a bit).

    NOS sounds NOS, fast, full and harsh I preferred it with the sloppy Fiio FD5 but hated it with the Focal and S12. For those I preferred the fast normal filter or sometimes the slow normal filter.

    It's not a warm dongle, it's pretty neutral overall with rolled off upper treble (air).

    It got crazy good imaging for such a tiny device.


    It's not a staging monster or the last world of details, it's a great dongle if you pair it with sensitive enough stuff and selected the right filter for each headphones/iems. It's pricey for $300 I think they should priced it at $220 max.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2023
  8. DigMe

    DigMe Friend

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    what does “weight density” mean in sound terms?
     
  9. nishan99

    nishan99 Friend

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    WTF I meant tone density. I corrected it (damn a lot of typos too lol).

    And by tone density I mean notes have body to them and sound physical and tangible, opposite to that would be ghosty and ethereal.
     
  10. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I just received the iBasso DC06 Pro, a new iBasso dongle with dual ESS chips and balanced output, and off the bat I can tell that it sounds like a supercharged DC03 Pro. It has the same sonic hallmarks: Highly detailed, texture is upfront, propulsive energy, a very fast linear type sound. Like the DC03 Pro, the DC06 Pro does not smooth over harsh production. Listening to Heart's 1985 self titled album, full of great songs with some of the harshest 80s production I can think of, the tizziness from the cymbals and sibilants in voices are evident and not hidden, muted, or smoothed out in any way. When the production is smoother, the DC06 Pro presents it smoothly.

    Compared to the 03 Pro, the 06 Pro has a clear tighter control over the drivers (in BAL out, I'm not bothering with the SE on this one since all my headphones are balanced capable), and better layering, with more nuance in the presentation of instruments. I am hearing more detail, and also can discern more of the mix in terms of instruments that are mixed higher or lower. Listening to Art Blakely Live in Tunisia, I get a sense of space around the instruments. The soundstage feels close to the head though, not massively expansive, and is wider than it is tall.

    I've got a DC04 Pro coming for a direct comparison, which is supposed to have a more relaxed presentation, but that's shipping from China and with the holidays probably won't have it until January. Without that comparison, I can say the DC06 Pro is everything I like about the DC03 Pro, only more so. However if you don't need balanced out, save the money and get the DC03 Pro instead, which I still think sounds fantastic.

    Listening done with IE600s with IE Pro tips and ETA O2, source is an iPhone 15 Pro Max and a Macbook Pro.

     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2023
  11. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Looking for some help from any other iBasso DC Elite owners: mine is exhibiting some unexpected behavior and I'm trying to ascertain whether it's "normal" or if I've got a dud. On all three devices I've tried (MBP M1Pro MacOS Sonoma 14.2.1, iPhone15 iOS 17.2.1, Shanling M6U Android 10), when i plug the DC E in via USB C, it shows up in the connected devices/audio Midi setup, but defaults to digital out (white LED) after waking from standby (red LED). A long-press of the button only shuts the dongle down to standby if there's no signal being output, no matter the connected device.

    After starting an audio stream, while plugged in, the DC E will allow a medium-long-press to start passing audio (turning white LED to green), however (!!!), once the stream has stopped, the DC E reverts to standby (red LED) immediately. Also, single short-button presses while streaming audio do not seem to do anything; no apparent change in volume in 1dB-steps as expected per the Quick Start Guide.

    Whether playing audio or not, there is significant noise between volume knob clicks, no matter the connected device, or audio stream sampling rate or bit depth.

    Further, after installing the iBasso UAC App on the Shanling, it won't recognize the DC E, no matter what system settings for USB audio out I've tried (but I hate/suck at Android so there's very likely some stupid developer submenu somewhere I've not properly set up).

    Oddly, only when I set the M6U to run in PRIME MODE instead of ANDROID MODE do I get true "plug-and-play" (i.e., plug in the DC E, no audio streaming, DC E goes straight to green LED, and it does not immediately revert to standby after stopping an audio stream). But I still get noise between volume steps using the dial (and still no single-dB steps using the button).

    Other things I've tried fooling with, with no change in device behavior: 3 different USB C OTG dongle cables (one included with DC E, one included with Cayin RU7, and one DDHifi TC09S cable.

    Thanks for any help!!
     
  12. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I can’t speak to all of that behavior (I don’t own the device) but for the app, you have to download the version on ibasso’s website, not the one on Google Play: https://ibasso.com/dc-elite-driver-fw-app/
     
  13. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    I suspect that unit is a dud as my DC Elite (used with iPhone 13 Pro Max, and macOS) does not exhibit any "white lights" during initial connection or playback.

    Connecting with a USB-C to Lightning cable, the DC Elite shows a red light. Playing music the light goes straight to Green.
    stopping the music, DC Elite light goes back to red light after 8 seconds.

    A press and hold the side button does enable the white LED. then a press and hold brings it back to red.

    music playing or not-
    turning the volume knob exactly 1 click, there is a short click/stutter with the volume adjustment but no real noise.
    there is noise if the knob turn ends up "halfway" (a slight over or under rotation) in between the 1 click, and a slight nudge either way brings the volume back correctly. this "turn exactly 1 click" on the vol pot is not well implemented IMO.

    I've never had an Android device to try using the UAC App.
     
  14. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Shanling UA4 or iBasso DC04 Pro for use with Android phone and Tidal feeding Tangzu wu Heyday?

    Plan to use balanced outputs, typical volume is 85 db or lower. Trouble free operation is desired.
     
  15. Gezellig

    Gezellig New

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    Any thoughts which dongle would synergize well with a Hifiman Edition XS and laptop? I'm not bothered about battery drain (laptop is usually on AC power, but I often move between rooms for various reasons, which is why I'm looking for a dongle instead of a desktop set). Also not bothered much with dongle size. Won't be using it with my smartphone. I read earlier in this thread that the Ifi Go Bar has decent power output. There's an open box at €220 available to me atm.

    To be clear, I don't own the Edition XS yet, but I auditioned it on my Dragonfly Red and laptop recently, and was rather surprised how good that sounded already. I'm using the Red with an HD650 atm, which is far from ideal, but doesn't sound as bad as I expected. The red's v-shaped sound signature brings a little fun to the 650, even if the final presentation is a bit... I don't know.. strained? In any case, I might pick up a second hand Apogee Groove to see what that does to the 650, but my first romance with the XS and longer love for the HE-500 might mean I'm just more of a planar's guy.
     
  16. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Bad news, I went to use my iBasso DC06 Pro last night and I got horrible static and dropouts. This morning I tested with both a different cable and connecting to a different device, and got the same issues. The DC04 Pro using the same cable and on the same devices played perfectly. Researching online, I found several reports of this same issue (and others) happening with the 06 Pro specifically. I used mine very lightly so it wasn't user error. Really disappointing but at this point I'd suggest that anyone interested in an iBasso dongle, look at the 03 Pro, 04 Pro, or Elite.
     
  17. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    Sorry to hear about the DC06 Pro! I've been looking forward to your impressions on the 04 Pro. Do you have a preference between the 03 and the 04 (besides the balanced output on the 04)?
     
  18. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    They’re extremely close to my ears, I’d say get the 04 if you need balanced, otherwise save a little cash and get the 03.
     
  19. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Forgot that I'd been meaning to share impressions of this thing for months now.

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Great battery life, can easily last a full day out and about with efficient transducers (on low gain) so long as you don't blast things at very high volumes and aren't listening constantly. Sound is pretty innocuous with gobs of power, but treble can definitely be bothersome at times and exaggerated with some transducers. Presentation is about par for the course for something that advertises ESS converters (ES9219) and THX AAA amplification: not the best at macrodynamic swing or treble refinement-- definitely not treble refinement, but macrodetail is solid and there's a sense of nondescript vastness to the sound. I do actually find myself able to sit back and sink into music with the phone (LDAC) > BTR7 > Andro 2020 chain, but that is, as it always is, a mood thing first and foremost. Wired mode has more body and tighter delineation throughout the frequency spectrum than LDAC mode, but that extra richness can be a bit overmuch at times. Great for headstage nerds owing to the improved delineation it offers, though. Treble is also less sizzly when wired.

    **********************************************************
    I very nearly bought an iFi GO blu to pair with my third pair of Campfire Solarises to have come in on account of my rather liking how well they paired in store demo settings; I did have a Shanling M0 for a long while but ultimately felt it was perhaps too disengaging a sound, easily trounced as it was by the Apple dongle. Sadly, the aforementioned third pair of Solarises experienced the same failure as the previous two (the dynamic driver in one channel failing), so I opted to forego the GO blu on account of my now having sidegraded to the Campfire Andromeda 2020s (they do some things better and some things worse; I just happen to prefer the OG Solaris by far) as the OI out of both 3.5mm and 4.4mm jacks were sub-1R, i.e. not ideal for the Andros unless you like a warmbutt sonic profile.

    [​IMG]

    The FiiO BTR7 was a blind buy and something of a late birthday present to myself. I figured that while I wasn't expecting it to be a particularly beautiful-sounding thing, I'd had good experiences with FiiO products going back to over a decade back and think that they're at the least less reprehensible in how they conduct their business than contemporary other brands. Also got it at a sizable discount from a HK-based vendor on a local online market, though that only applied to the white SKU. Ah well, aesthetics be damned (I'd have gotten the stealth-black one elsewise).

    Overall, it's got gobs of power for a little nugget and the LDAC reception is actually pretty impressive-- I can leave the device about 10 meters away and still get usable sound for background listening with direct line of sight, though that does put things at risk of stuttering; I still get good reception from about 3m away with a wooden door between myself (and the BTR7) and my source, in my case a Samsung S20 FE. It's nice being able to leave my phone on a table and just walk around without having to worry too much about signal dropouts.

    I'm ashamed to say that in all my months of owning this product I haven't yet tested out other codecs.

    Haven't tested MQA out either but if I could have gotten a version of this thing sans that for cheaper, I'd have been all over it. Screw MQA.

    One nitpick I have when I sit down and focus on listening is that, when playing from rest, there'd be a small "jump" in playback speed a few seconds into playing music before things settle. I've kept the firmware up to date as best I can and this issue has yet to be remedied as of ver 2.02. This doesn't happen when running the BTR7 as a wired dongle so it's definitely something to do with how either my phone or the BTR7 handles LDAC.

    [​IMG]

    On the topic of how much juice this thing can push out, on high gain I can get to about 32/60 volume steps on the single-ended out with the HD600s before I start feeling uncomfortable. The sound is just okay for non-critical listening honestly: bass is loose and fuzzy, not to mention there's a hardness to things that I don't get out of the MMB2>Piety stack that contributes to discomfort, but I can see folks being satisfied with how well it powers the Sennheisers. Front headstage is diffuse with everything pushed to the sides and sonic images having little, if any, depth in this configuration. Everything's got a mite of haze and smear to it, but I imagine running the Senns out of the 4.4mm connector ought mitigate those issues somewhat, though I don't have the requisite cable to test that (seems SE out is 18mW into 300R while BAL is 40mW into 300R, definitely not ideal).

    Back to how it well plays with IEMs, the only ones I have on hand are the Andromeda 2020 and the Etymotic ER2XR with a random aftermarket cable I picked up on the fly. In so many words, I HATE how the Etymotics sound out of the BTR7's single-ended output, though that could be the cable which I recall thinking made the Etys sound harsher and shriller vis a vis the flimsy stock cable-- whatever the case running them out of the FiiO further exacerbates those problems. ESS Sabre is putting it politely, felt more like a rusted, serrated rapier straight to my cochlea. I didn't have a cable to test the ER2XRs with the BAL output but I'm actively disinclined to pair the two up again.

    The Andro 2020s fare much better out of both the SE and BAL outs than does the ER2XR out of SE. I DO somewhat prefer the Andros out of the 3.5mm (1.2R) since they're a whit too lean for me out of the 4.4mm (2.8R), but given I was using different cables between those impressions any differences could easily be attributed thereto as well. Rather than ameliorating what I feel are areas of weakness with the Andromedas, the BTR7 tends to lean into highlighting what the Andros do well: the headstage is wide open and admittedly diffuse, but the Andromedas suck at imaging compared to the Solaris anyway so I'm not missing out on very much there. The low end out of the BA array on the Andros can't really slam either, so the fact that the BTR7 errs on the side of being restrained in its presentation isn't too much of a bother.

    I wouldn't call the treble etched-- that's too narrow-sounding a word for what I'm hearing, but it's definitely got a rougher and hashier quality to it than does the desktop stack (though at least with the Andros I do have to mentally compensate for the differences in FR owing to how reactive to source impedance they are). Transients are definitely squarer and slower than out of the desktop rig, but while I'm definitely partial to literally the exact opposite of that sort of presentation I have to concede that there have been times when I've found the BTR7 > Andro chain to be relaxing to listen to after spending a lot of time listening to music out of the more transient-smacky desktop stack. That sedate character does lend itself to using them right before bed to unwind so long as nothing too treble-forward comes on.

    I normally have random documentaries or YouTube podcasts on though so I needn't worry overmuch about wayward treble shimmer stabbing my ears.

    The stage is more cohesive with the Andromedas than with the HD600s, in this case being rather thrown-forward and grey. It doesn't do anything to offset the lack of clarity, veiledness that the Andromedas are known to have. The rougher, splashier treble does poke through but that doesn't qualify as "cutting through the veil" in my book, it just ends up making for a weirdly disjointed and annoying listen on some material e.g. The Pretty Reckless - Death by Rock and Roll (an album I've been listening to pretty often lately). Hi-hats, vocal sibilance, and the like are harsh relative to the desktop rig (MMB2>Magni Piety with A LOT of digital attenuation running exclusive mode so some untimely desktop notification doesn't blast my ears to Kingdom Come) with everything having more of an exaggerated edge. It ought be noted that, volume matching by MiniDSP EARS, the desktop rig does a fair better job imparting a sense of real clarity and openness, cutting through the infamous Andromeda haze.

    Oh and there's definitely noticeable hiss out of both outputs on the BTR7 with the Andro 2020s, more the balanced than the single-ended, but it's not really at a level where I care.

    [​IMG]

    Button tactility is fine. I dislike that all the buttons are on the one side of the device with the power/menu button being right above the "select" button. The first-party fake leather clip case I got does offer some textural contrast with the power button having a debossed texture vs the select button's being sort-of embossed, but the distinction between the two is impossible to pick out in a hurry. I end up feeling for the volume rocker or squeezing to identify the chamfered bit where the mic is and navigating from there.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Tangent: the first-party case is an extremely loose fit and I have to tape the BTR7 to the case on the inside to keep it from sliding out. Bleh.

    There are two filter options on the BTR7, a "fast" linear filter and a "hybrid" with slower rolloff. Comparing the two in brief, they're pretty similar in many respects other than staging and treble presentation. The "fast" filter sounds more expansive and diffuse with hyperclear tendencies whereas the "hybrid" makes for a somewhat more intimate headstage presentation with protracted treble decays. I was partial to the latter during the first couple weeks of use with the Andromedas, but eventually the sizzlier metallic sheen it brought to the upper frequencies got on my nerves, so now I just tolerate the more exaggeratedly expansive stage with the fast filter. Vocals also tend to take on a bit more nasality on the hybrid filter setting which can sometimes fit preferences once you acclimate to it, but to me it's just a whit annoying.

    The FiiO Control app has two equaliser modes you can make use of, a 10-point EQ and a parametric EQ. I've not tried either of these. There's also a "distortion compensation" setting for second and third-harmonic distortion. I fiddled with this somewhat and couldn't tell a difference after a few minutes of putzing around, maybe I'm just deaf.

    [​IMG]

    The FiiO thing works as a wired dongle for PC/mobile too and I was HOPING it'd be a significant step up over LDAC in terms of pure sound quality. The treble is more sedate in wired mode with less of that hashy tizz, but the low end also gets filled in somewhat which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how keyed in you are on the thing's tonality in Bluetooth mode.

    [​IMG]

    Wired mode offers greater note weight, sense of decay to things, and tempo seems more correct and not occasionally hypersped like LDAC can sometimes feel (this is distinct from how playback speed sometimes jumps after initiating playback). Stage is similarly large but there's more meat to individual sonic elements, more a sense of mass and texture to individual sonic images and just less... frizziness to sonic images overall. There's a toggle below the volume rocker to disable power draw when plugged into a source so the BTR7'd be forced to run off its own battery which could make for a compelling case for its being used as a wired dongle, but on the Andromeda 2020s with the Tripowin cable I currently have equipped, I prefer how things are voiced in LDAC mode (not to mention it's just much more convenient having fewer cables to worry about).

    Everything that comes in wired appears to be forcefully resampled to 48kHz which is fine on my Android cuz everything gets mashed into 48kHz there anyway, but on PC it may be a bit of an issue. I've not done extensive A/B comparisons between how wired mode sounds out of my PC vs how it sounds out of my mobile but just off the top of my head the differences aren't massive enough to stress out over for a portable system-- maybe a bit less clean a delineation to sonic images, maybe somewhat more haze to the background, but hardly anything showstopping or deterrent.

    On the topic of wireless connectivity, you have the usual suspects including AptX-Adaptive and AptX-Low Latency (which are both new to me, didn't know they existed) but I only keep the two enabled since they're all I really need:

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Jun 26, 2024
  20. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    First thanks for the small loaner tour for the iFi GoBar Kansei!

    Physical impressions

    This thing is quite hefty, and although it's kinda cool for hifi stuff to be weighty, during the few brief times I walked around with the Kansei in my pocket it was a bit annoying and distracting. Like walking around with two rolls of quarters in your pocket...

    Useability

    It's simple enough to fiddle with xBass, xSpace, and IEMatch on the Kansei. But be forewarned, switching between the sampling rates/filters is a convoluted user experience. You literally need the decoder ring in the PDF instructions to figure out WTf sampling rate and filter setting you're listening to. And changing them requires a mix of various lengths of presses of the single selection button. 3 seconds, click 'till the lights flash morse code confirmation kanpai, press for five seconds, wait, did that change anything? it sounds the same... (checks decoder ring) Oh, nothing changed... Perhaps this will urge users to stop fiddling once they find a preferred setting? I dunno.

    Brief sound impressions

    I spent most of my time cycling between CFA Andro OG, Solaris OG, and Fathom. 4.4mm Bal out only. First off, all required IEMatch to be engaged. Overall, between these three IEMs, the Kansei was tonally even, just slightly rolled off in the bass, and a bit boring. Compared to Cayin RU7, the iFi was cleaner and more extended in the treble, but sounded a bit flat, dynamically. Compared to iBasso DC-Elite, the iFi sounded even more dull and lifeless playing through all three above mentioned IEMs.

    However!!! Things drastically improved when I used the iFi to power moderately easy to drive dynamic cans. In fact, while powering both JAR HD660 and ETA Ada, the iFi trounced both the RU7 and DC-E. I really was not expecting the iFi to sound as ballsy as it does with either of these circum-aural/supra-aural dynamic cans, given the iFi's slightly insipid sound using IEMs. Driving regular HD600 or JARHD650v2, or any of my ZMFs was less of an enthusiastic experience, though.

    Conclusion

    This is a weird dongle to nail down from a use case perspective based on its' lack of verve driving the IEMs I own. I guess it makes sense as a portable to drive full size cans, but if it only drives higher sensitivity/lower impedance cans? I'd probably rather go the transportable route.
     
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