USB DAC/amp (dongles)

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

  1. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    I'm a big USB DAC/amp dongle fan, finding that for IEMs they often have the best SQ/dollar ratio compared to DAPs. They also have the portability advantage. I didn't see a thread on these, but mods please correct me if I'm wrong.

    In the past I've had the Geek Out USB DAC/amps, which were good except the infamous Sabre glare. Powerful and detailed.

    I recently tried the Lotoo Paw S1. It is sweet, smooth and detailed sounding but lacks power, resulting in limp bass and dynamics.

    Now I'm onto the Luxury and Precision W2, and it's the best I've heard so far. It's got a neutral to slightly warm signature, with plenty of detail but little digital nastiness. It's got plenty of umph, with deep full lows, but also plenty extended highs. All in all it sounds pretty tonally balanced to me. It's got a remarkably black background: Orchestral pieces that start quiet and swell gradually can be heard from the very starting moments. The stage is relatively wide and precise. It's not as powerful as some of the GOs, so I wouldn't bother trying to use it with full sized HPs, except maybe balanced with easy to drive HPs like the Verum 1s. All in all it has better sound than my Cayin N3Pro, excepting the tube magic idiosyncrasies.

    The size is tiny with the length just slightly longer than the width of a credit card. The firmware works mostly fine from all my sources including my phone, with a few glitches here and there. For example, occasionally on foobar I have to restart a track to hear it and with my Shanling Q1, it cuts off the first half second of new songs when switching. It works perfectly with my Pixel 3a.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2021
  2. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Thanks for pointing out the digital nasties on the W2. I was quite keen about this one.
     
  3. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    I've been using Qudelix 5k for a few weeks and have been surprised how good it is for $110. I usually don't bother with ESS but I have no complaints. The app is fantastic and all settings are saved on the 5k. I use a s20 5g phone playing lossless files, LDAC performance is spot on and this is the first time I've had such a great mobile setup. I even ran HD650 out of it single ended and was quite surprised. The sound reminded me of schiit modius dac but without the magnius amp 2d flat presentation you'd expect from the price point and hardware involved. Pairs nicely with 3DT and Dusk.
     
  4. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    I think you misread me - "with plenty of detail but little digital nastiness". I mean that I don't hear digital nastiness, like on the GO series.
     
  5. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Lol, gotcha. Would you say the S1 even better with respect to free of digital nasties?
     
  6. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    The S1 is smoother/sweeter, less detailed and less dynamic, so it is easier to listen to that way. I don't know if you can chalk that up to difference in digital nasties though. But maybe - it certainly has a sweet tone.
     
  7. FlySweep

    FlySweep Friend

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    Is Balanced out noticeably better sounding than SE ? Questyle recently put out a dongle that's piqued my interest, too. A little on the lower powered side, but interesting nonetheless.
     
  8. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    I've never heard it balanced with headphones since I don't have 2.5mm cables for HD650 or Aeolus.

    With 3DT there was a noticeable improvement with balanced. It also goes from 1v to 2v balanced. Got the impression of wider stage and more dynamics balanced. There's also the ability to double the voltage to 2v/4v but I actually have not bothered. I get about 8 hours LDAC lossless files balanced. So I didn't want to lose battery time.
     
  9. BarnBurner

    BarnBurner Acquaintance

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    Thanks for starting this. I received my Astell & Kern dongle but am out of town and won't be back until Friday. Twin CS chips, I've really been liking the Cirrus sound lately, I can report back here if that's helpful.
     
  10. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    A little more time with the W2 and I can identify it as erring a bit on the bright side. With a naturally brightish IEM like the 3DT this is not a good pairing. With a more neutralish set of IEMs like the B2 Dusk, it sounds great.

    edited
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2021
  11. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    upload_2021-6-4_11-33-23.jpeg
     
  12. Iron-Buddha

    Iron-Buddha Rando

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    I got one too. Confirm that it works on the iPad Pro 11" via USB-C and the iPhone XR via DD Hifi TC28i adapter. Would love to compare this to the W2.
     
  13. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    In the interest of full transparency, I've sold my W2. It is a little bright which became more apparent over time. I very much enjoy the UM 3DT, which itself leans bright, and so the pairing was less than ideal. It's very good with the B2 Dusk which is not as bright, but not as good to my ears as the 3DT.
     
  14. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    What are you mainly using now? And are you using your 3DT stock?
     
  15. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    I'm using the Dethonray Honey H1. It has a really nice class A type warm dynamic and punchy sound that tames the brightness of the 3DT and makes the timbre even more convincing IMO. Really nice bass too. Not a dongle though. I've cycled through a bunch of gear recently but am hoping to tame my wild horses with this combo for a while.
     
  16. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Not a dongle indeed! They’re touting the AKM Velvet Sound in their marketing, is it too velvety?
     
  17. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Not to my ears. It sounds more gritty/textured than the other AKM chip implementations I've heard.
     
  18. EagleWings

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    The AKM4497 chip, if implemented correctly, will be completely free of the infamous AKM velvet sound. Now I am very curious to try this one.
     
  19. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    I should warn that it's got a little of the infamous early 2010s chi-fi user unfriendliness/idiosyncrasy. The firmware upgrades aren't entirely straightforward. The volume isn't entirely smooth. When I skip tracks in foobar there's a glitch at the beginning of the track (not so with android). But for me the inconveniences are manageable and worth it for the SQ.

    It did do a credible job with the HD6XX when I had them, so it's got a bit of juice.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I can't keep track of all the chip numbers. Which ones are known for being too velvety? there's 4490, 93, 97, 99? etc
     

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