USB DAC/amp (dongles)

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

  1. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    @Merrick did do you get a chance to try these with any 300 ohm headphones to see if adequate power to drive that kind of load? I agree with the dongles-for-IEMs philosophy but I have this weird use case with the 300 ohm ETA minis
     
  2. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I no longer have any ETAs in the house at the moment, but I can try it with a 650 later and report back to you.
     
  3. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Well, color me surprised. I expected the DC03 Pro to fall on its face when presented with a JAR650, but after cranking the volume on it, I found the dongle performed admirably. The pairing is quite nice actually, the 650 bringing some needed warmth that the DC03 Pro lacks, and the clarity and silent blackground of the DC03 Pro ensuring there is no Sennheiser veil. Headroom might be an issue on more dynamic content, and percussion is probably softer than I would normally expect from this headphone, but overall the presentation solid.

    Since the 300 ohm ETAs tend to be easier to drive than the Senns, this should make a nice pairing.
     
  4. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    Awwwww yeah! That sounds like a great upgrade over the Pixel v1 dongle I've been using. I ditched the RU6 because of the same form factor/weight reasons you cited, @Merrick, and the Pixel dongle is great in terms of form factor for walking around the house with the ETA Minis, etc, but it struggles to drive the 300 ohm load.

    Thanks for giving the DC03 Pro a try with a similar load.
     
  5. Woland

    Woland Friend

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    After searching a bit, DC03 Pro is available for $55 from HiFiGo. A little less if you use the discount code NICEDAY$5
     
  6. DigMe

    DigMe Friend

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    Coincidentally I decided to try the cheapest CS43131 DAC dongle I could find on Aliexpress. This is the one I got for around $25 ($50 if you order it on Amazon!).

    https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256...2f9fu97&gatewayAdapt=glo2usa&_randl_shipto=US

    I actually ordered this back in November but had an issue with my move and the PO so I just got it a couple of days ago. Not ready to share impressions yet but I can after I have some more purposeful listening time with it.
     
  7. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I did see that in HiFiGo but once shipping was added it came out to at least as much, if not more than Amazon with Prime and would take longer to arrive too.
     
  8. DigMe

    DigMe Friend

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    a little more about this dongle. It is a great value at $25. Sound leans neutral but maybe just a tad laid back, especially compared to the Apple dongle or the Shanling M0’s ESS dac (which Shanling actually did a great job with). On acoustic guitar strums the high end strings don’t stand out way more than the lower end. Highs and mids are crisp and detailed though and bass is tight and natural. Separation and staging is really good. everything pops when it’s supposed to and remains coherent. It uses a single CS43131 DAC and SA9312 USB chip (I don’t know much about USB chips but some apparently like this one because it can natively decode DSD256, which I don’t give a shit about). The iBasso DC-03 is 2x 43131’s. It has greater output power but I will say that the HD6XX sounds great out of this (now I’m doubting myself some places say dual and some don’t). The more you crank the volume, the better it sounds but it sounds good at low volumes as well. It noticeably doesn’t have quite the oomph of the Vali 2 but it is still an enjoyable listening experience IMO. I am mostly listening to this with the Moondrop Kato though and it’s a great pairing. my source is mostly iPad Pro 11” USB-C with a bit of Shanling M0. Like Merrick’s report of the iBasso this one is also dead quiet. The dongle does not get hot and does not suck up battery power. The case is nicely formed aluminum wit plastic ends that light up but I’m guessing that the iBasso probably feels more premium. The writing on the case kinda looks cheap. It has one button that can do pause, forward track, reverse track EDIT: So says the description but on my iPad Pro it is only pausing and that is it). No native volume controls. I think most here would be satisfied with this for what it is. You can buy it with USB-C, lightning or both and it comes with a USB-a to USB-C adapter. I got both but haven’t listened to it with my iphone yet.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2023
  9. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    Anyone still have their GeekOut 100-1000? I still have my first edition GO450 (I believe) and the Go2Pro Infinity. Curious how those stand up to these modern dongles.
     
    • Agreed, ditto, +1 Agreed, ditto, +1 x 1
    • List
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2023
  10. Pyotr

    Pyotr Acquaintance

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    Nice, it's looking like the CS43131 is a really solid chip. I have an hidizs S8 and a go bar which use the same chip, and I really enjoy the sound out of both, each have great dynamics that slam and soothe when called for, the s8 is just a bit more energetic while the go bar is more mellow and a touch clearer, but both are still very resolving and fun to listen to. I just ordered a DC03 because of Merrick's good word and the fact that it implements two CS43131 chips, so I'm really curious how it will sound and hold up to the s8 and go bar. s8 is also dead silent with CFA Ara/Andro and has independent volume control, so if the DC03 can kind of blend the characteristics of both the s8 and the go bar, it'll be a keeper for me
     
  11. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Awesome! I'd love to hear how the DC03 Pro stands up against the Go Bar, given the price difference.
     
  12. Woland

    Woland Friend

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    I picked up a iBasso DC03 Pro for $50. To me it is a well regarded example of current generation dongle, rather than something I want to compare to other dongles. I was curious about how the technology has progressed.

    What's great is it is tiny and weighs so little, doesn't drain the phone battery noticably and has those volume controls. So it wins as a convenience option. It has also been great as an upgrade to the awful audio on my chromeOS tablet, and on Android allows me to use the DSP of USB Audio Player.

    I've been comparing it to my mobile source of Sony NW-ZX2 DAP. For local or Spotify Lite download play, the ZX2 is great. For modern streaming apps, not so much. But sound quality is just in a different league to the dongle. Notably the ZX2 audio feels rich and enveloping, and bass is impactful. Switching between them, my feet start tapping and music has an emotional impact when using the Sony. Functionally, ZX2 DSP is simple compared to USB Audio Player but what it does, it does very well.

    20230204_125215.jpg

    I'll be curious to find which ends up being used more over coming weeks - will convenience trump sound quality?
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2023
  13. Josh83

    Josh83 Friend

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    This Muse dongle is a steal at $150. It’s an ESS-based unit, but it’s much closer to the smooth Matrix ESS sound than the various glare-y Topping ESS DACs or the ESS iteration of the ADI-2.

    At times, the Muse has hints of the latter’s brittle treble, but in tiny, tiny amounts relative to something like the ADI-2. And, again, this thing is 150 bucks.

    It’s not quite as good as the iFi GoBar and has much less power. But for efficient IEMs, it’s the best sub-GoBar dongle. Infinitely better than the RU6 or the UA5, both of which I thought kinda sucked.
     
  14. Woland

    Woland Friend

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    A quick postscript on this.

    After some thought, the shortcomings I observed are likely because a small dongle can only draw and store very limited power from a phone, and that limits amplification. The iBasso and other dongles can work really well as DACs to external amps. I'm currently very much enjoying the iconoclastic chain of USB Audio Player upsampling to 384k PCM - > DC03pro in NOS mode - > Vali 2 - > HE6se.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2023
  15. DigMe

    DigMe Friend

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    I’m def planning on hooking up the one I reviewed above up to my Vali 2 sometime soon to check out.
     
  16. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    I snagged a DC03Pro to see if it's an improvement over the Pixel v1 dongle with my 300 ohm ETA Minis. It is. It's more clear & detailed, and has better bass. And, it doesn't make an annoying pop when the USB cable is unplugged while the dongle is still connected to the headphones.
     
  17. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I have remained so impressed and enamored with the DC03 Pro that I am now considering both an Ibasso standalone DAP and potentially some higher end IEMs for more resolution/engagement.
     
  18. nishan99

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  19. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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  20. DigMe

    DigMe Friend

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    looks like it’s $76 at AE. I don’t like that nondetachable cable though.
     

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