USB DAC/amp (dongles)

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

  1. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Likes Received:
    1,522
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    India
    Ah. Thanks for the heads up man. I will read up on it and see if it will work out for me.

    4490 and 4493 are the biggest velvet sound culprits. Even the 4495 started to move away from the velvet sound. 4497 and 4499 are quite malleable when it comes to the sound. Depending on the implementation you can make it to sound dull/boring, sterile/analytical, warm/bodied. And a good 4497 based DAC can go head on head against a Schiit multibit.
     
  2. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    11,120
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    What are some of the good 4497 DACs that you feel are competitive with Schiit Multibit DACs? I’d like to hear more non-Schiit good DACs.
     
  3. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,756
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Yeah my Cayin N3Pro with the 4493 had that over-smoothness. This is closer to the BF2.
     
  4. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2017
    Likes Received:
    1,522
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    India
    That’s the sad part. Not many practical DACs out there with the 4497 chip. Jadis uses 4497 but their DACs are too pricey. Topping D90 uses 4497 too, but apparently it is tuned to be boring and is one of the brands that ASR shills, so I didn’t want to try it. The Gustard A20 is supposedly tuned to be on the analytical side, so I never got interested in it. SMSL M400 V1 apparently is a good 4497 implementation. But I hear it is a sister company of Topping so I didn’t want to try it. Jay’s Audio DAC2 is another good DAC apparently, but not as hard hitting as Schiit DACs. The one I have heard that made me realize the potential of the 4497 was the Cayin N8, which is actually a portable audio player but can be used as a desktop DAC. In my books, it is still the best DAC I have heard in my system considering all things I prioritize. The Bifrost2 and Wavelight are a close 2nd. But the N8 is a very delicate piece of gear and costs a ton of money and I don’t think it is worth it if you are going to use it only as a desktop DAC. Which I why I moved on from it. I am still on a hunt for a DAC that sounds like the N8.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2021
  5. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

    Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    6,165
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Winnipeg
    I *think* my RME Babyface Pro FS uses an older 4413 (at least the non "FS" version did). I actually like it a bit more than the ADI-2 Pro that I used to have, which I believe was the 4490 at the time (the newer FS models are 4493 last I checked, unless they've updated yet again)
     
  6. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,756
    Trophy Points:
    113
    If anyone else has or gets the Dethonray Honey H1, I'd be curious to hear impressions. There's such a satisfying analog heft and warmth to the sound, with enough detail to not leave me wanting. But I don't have much experience with nicer/costly sources for IEMs (only my ZX1 was more expensive), so it may not impress others at the price point.
     
  7. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

    Friend Contributor
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    2,963
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Been rocking the PAW S1 for a while now.

    It’s super convenient with the short lightning cable (extra) or USB-C cable and small body.

    Everything just works on all my devices, which is a refreshing change from other similar devices I used in the past.

    As far as sound, I feel it has a very special synergy with my Solaris SE which makes me want to listen to that combo more often than not, despite having much pricier options available, both at home and at work.

    I actually started to bring my tablet to work and just use the S1 w/ UAPP instead of my B2/Jot2 setup.

    It also works great with the LCD-i4, but requires high gain and setting the volume quite high (mostly because the EQ compensation requires quite a bit of attenuation to avoid clipping).
     
  8. Jeff Watts

    Jeff Watts Rando

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2021
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Location:
    China
    Anyone got experience with Ovidius B1? It's been lauded as one of the best dongle under $200. I have been using the Shanling UA2 for some months now and I'm really happy with it. Just wandering if it would be an upgrade. My IEMs are FiiO FH3 and ER2XR.
     
  9. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,756
    Trophy Points:
    113
  10. Jeff Watts

    Jeff Watts Rando

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2021
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Location:
    China
    I'm really excited for the upcoming S2. It has almost double power output on SE, would be great for efficient headphones.

    https://hifigo.com/blogs/news/lotoo...sb-dac-amp-step-up-your-high-resolution-music
     
  11. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,756
    Trophy Points:
    113
  12. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    11,120
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I almost feel like Cayin is taking a bit of a loss on these because they’re hoping it will give people enough of a taste to get buyers to upgrade to one of their big boy DAPs instead. To get their current DAP-sized R2R module, which is $600+ by itself, you need their $1100 DAP. I will admit I’m intrigued and at that price might buy one out of sheer curiosity. Their comments about compromising the user experience in the service of better sound makes me think this won’t be just a slap a buzzword on a cheap device that technically qualifies as a R2R by stretching the definition to the breaking point kind of product. At least I hope so.

    My one concern is that as a general rule R2R DACs sound best warmed up, which goes against the very nature of dongles that are plugged and unplugged multiple times a day, and getting the device to optimal temp will either drain the battery faster or require a stronger power draw on the host device.
     
  13. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,756
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Good point. Seems like something more appropriate for a self powered device, although isn't R2R more power intensive? I had and enjoyed their <500 quasi tube DAP the N3Pro quite a bit and thought the AKM overly smooth DAC/DAC implementation held it back. If they could add R2R without increasing the price or killing the battery life too much that would be a very attractive device.
     
  14. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex SBAF's Imelda Marcos

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    13,279
    Trophy Points:
    113
    @shotgunshane and I were talking about how there's not a lot of content on SBAF about these dongles. I wanted to resurrect this thread now that I have a campfire Ara.

    So, who has the lotoo paw s2? I'm tempted to pick up the upcoming cayin offering and the lotoo to compare.
     
  15. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,608
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Northwest France
    I've been seeing the E1DA 9038 dongle popup a lot. It's an ESS based DAC and the designer shows crazy low distortion measurements. There's two versions, one with a 3.5mm output and another with 2.5mm balanced.

    Reports on HF show that it draws quite a bit of current and probably not suited for smartphone use.
     
  16. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    3,141
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Bird-watcher's paradise
    I am very happy with my L&P w2. It is overpriced, and as such should have come with a case, but in terms of sq per $, I'm still happy with the value proposition. Quiet, transparent, good detail retrieval, powerful enough to drive my elex with authority, but the Sundara is a bridge too far. I haven't heard that many dongle dacs, so a grain of salt is advisable. I find it comparable in sq to my ak4497 equipped m11pro, though they are tuned differently. I find it to sound significantly better than my Fiio btr5 used wired, but that is the only other one I have owned since a Meridian Explorer 2 and Emotiva big ego I owned many moons ago, but neither of those were really dongles.

    I wish, instead of a s/pdif out, it had an actual line out for use with an outboard amp. I have used it via the se out as such, and thankfully the amp circuit is quiet enough that double amping the signal is not a huge problem, but it does give up a bit of some of the qualities that I like so much, namely transparency and black background. The s/pdif out with my Galaxy tab 6s lite as source via uapp did sound a bit better than directly from the same source via USB to the same dac (Gungnir MB g5 a2) but it could be placebo as the difference is marginal (mostly seems to be a quieter noise floor), and it seems comparable to the improvement I heard when going from pc via USB to s/pdif out from a node 2i. So it may be just changing the input used on my dac, not anything the w2 is doing. Seems likely.

    But used with iems as intended, it sounds great to me. It seems more neutral than bright, but I have 60 y.o. ears, so...your mileage will almost certainly vary. Even with my Tin hifi t4s, which are the most treble-forward iems I have, I get no fatigue or wince-inducing highs and little or no sibilance. The Blessing 2s, Er4xrs, and dk3001 pro all sound as good as I have heard them sound. So it does everything I had hoped, as well as I had hoped, if only it did it for $100 less. And a shout out to Andrew at Musicteck,(where I purchased), who is sending me a new screen protector gratis after I cracked the one on mine. I thought it was the screen itself and was pretty gutted as it is only weeks old. Questions are always welcome.
     
  17. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    11,120
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I don’t understand why virtually none of these dongles have a line out option. Seems like a really obvious use case that none of them are addressing.
     
  18. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,608
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Northwest France
    Meridian Explorer 2 has one. But then you have to deal with potential unwanted MQA processing
     
  19. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    3,141
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Bird-watcher's paradise
    Iirc, the Explorer was not compatible with Android devices. Not an apple guy so no clue about ios.


    Edit: Mine was gone long before mqa existed.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2021
  20. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    11,120
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Yeah, you won’t find me owning a Meridian device anytime soon.
     

Share This Page