Best Portable DAC

Good morning, or evening depending on where my fellow audiophiles are residing. I wanted to create this thread to discuss our top picks and preferences for a DAC that satisfies the needs of someone who is on the go and isn’t necessarily in the market for a big table top unit.

Something that could ideally fit in your pocket, or purse if you happen to be a lady audiophile :wink:, and is compatible with the IOS and Android operating systems.

I just picked up the iFi Hip DAC and will be pairing it with my iPhone 8 and or MSI laptop to give my Focal Elegia and Focal Listen’s some more juice. After I log some hours I will post a review and my impressions.

Cheers!

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Hey, nice idea and very useful for someone starting the hobby.
Chord Mojo has been my favourite portable solution for long time.
Recently I started using Audiquest Dragonfly Red and Cobalt.
I use the Red when I want a “meatier” sound, with music that needs more body, especially for low frequency range.
For everything purely instrumental I use the Cobalt which to my ears sounds “airier” and seconds a little more upper regions and matches perfectly with instrumental music I love.
I switched to the Dragonflies after the Mojo battery powered turned out to be a real pain in the…
You can charge the battery and listen to music but this turned out to be the best way to destroy the battery.
Mojo charges an obscene amount of money to change the battery.
I ended up buying one from a guy how produces LiPo near where I live and I changed it by myself.
All the mentioned to say I now prefer to avoid batteries when I want to be in the really portable zone.

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I think you need to qualify what you mean by the “best”:

best value, best sound quality, best mobility, best battery capacity etc, because as you know it is the balance between what the user needs and wants, versus the features and benefits of the device.

Personally, I have eschewed the “portable” DAC/AMPs in favor of the dongle-dac due the size, battery and the fact that they have gotten pretty darn good versus the early examples. In the dongle-dac category, I have gone from a COZOY ASTRAPI, to an AUDIOQUEST Black to an AUDIOQUEST Cobalt - and finally to a LOOTOO PAW S1 which I really like the best of all.

None of these have batteries, which is a big advantage, as they run off of the power supply or battery of the host (iPhone) unit. They are definitely more mobile, a critical factor. In sound quality, they have greatly improved over the last five years toward what I would characterize as very acceptable.

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The Luxury and Precision P6 Pro (or maybe LP6Ti) are likely the best SQ out of anything portable, but the P6 Pro has USB dac limitations that likely remove it for this use case. The LP6Ti doesnt have those, so my guess it is the best SQ, but there is minimal info out on it. Turns out it does have the limitations, and futher, no BT, so the LP6Ti, while a great device, is out of the running as a dac

Next is the Hugo 2. Raining champ of the transportable world for quite a while. Not a ton of juice, but plenty for IEM and pretty easy to drive cans.

Next are the TOTL daps like the Lotoo Paw Gold Touch and Astell & Kern SP2000 (may be others I just dont know about)

Everything I listed is a dap, but it all works as a dongle from phones with the proper cables. If I missed one, someone let me know, but I cant think of anything with a battery that would be a better DAC than those listed above.

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Adapt Audio DAC - Dense Audio. $120, use with your phone. Very transparent (excellent measurements on ASR). Sounds just as good as my far more expensive DACs (RME ADI-2 for instance).

Transparency for me is key. The DAC IMO should add nothing to the music (if that’s even possible some would say).

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I’ve now spent about 2 weeks with this bright little beauty and I’m only able to come up with one word to describe the iFi Hip DAC. WOW :exploding_head: The amount of quality they manage to pack into this compact little package is truly incredible.

From the ~ oh so satisfying to turn volume knob ~ to the sound itself. This thing is worth every penny.

I’ve been utilizing this DAC with the Focal Elegia and Focal Listen headphones. Neither of which are touted for their low end. However, when utilizing this particular DAC with them it manages to layer in an astonishing amount of depth and texture to the bass frequencies.

The one complaint I have about this item is the battery life. It only seems to last around 8-10 hours before needing another charge. Then again I’ve never managed a 10 hour listening session before, but it does seem like I’m having to charge it every other day or so. Other than that, it’s pure bliss. I would highly recommend you check it out if your looking for something compatible with an iPhone, Android, or laptop.

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I agree that the hip dac is an excellent little thing. As for ‘portability’ though, its major drawback is its own propietary battery life. I would love to see iFi make an inline usb dac like the Helm Bolt, which I ordered a little while ago. I’m definitely thinking more along the line of having a mobile setup, i.e. a pair of IEMs plugged into a DAC, plugged into a phone.

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The Hidizs S9 is a compact digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amplifier combination unit which connects to the source devices via USB-C. The S9 is the first Hidizs product I have reviewed since the AP60II digital audio player.

The Hidizs S9 differentiates itself from other options at this price point mainly through having both 3.5mm single-ended and 2.5mm balanced outputs on a single device comparable in both size and price to competitors that only offer one type of output. Importantly, S9’s unbalanced output is completely usable as opposed to being an afterthought. Some of the S9’s competitors offer superior heat management or more efficient power draw requirements, but it is difficult to argue with the value proposition the S9 presents.

My full review is available on my blog:

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I don’t know how it sounds but looks very interesting, especially given the price

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Maybe take a look at the Luxury & Precision W2

Link is to the MusicTeck site which is the only distributor of this new DAC outside of China.

I’ve had this DAC for 11 days now and love it. It’s got a cool little OLED screen like the Lotoo Paw S1, but it’s 4.4mm balanced output is much more powerful (230mW@32 Ohms). No MQA though if that’a your thing, and they don’t intend to support it with a firmware update.

I also own the Lotoo Paw S1 and prefer this W2 dongle (mostly used with Sony IER-Z1R IEMs).

A thread about this dongle (and the less expensive W1) has exploded over on another headphone forum.

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The issue I see with the A&K is the 2 ohm output impedance. It is also SE only, which may or may not be a factor for some.

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A&K followed the example of many other dongle on the market instead of developing its own model. SE only is a big limitation. Similarly priced Sparrow has balanced out too.

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Another problem I see with the A&K is a permanently-attached cable.

Is it rraly though? Its not like the bal would be grounded so yoy only get common mode rejection which should ve a non-issue on iems.

The Hiby FC3 is a compact digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amplifier combination unit. While not as powerful as some of the other USB-C dongles I have reviewed recently, the Hiby FC3 offers much better power efficiency than these higher output options. With the Meizu HiFi Pro hard to find these days, I am happy to recommend the Hiby FC3 in its place if you need more output than the Apple dongle is capable of on stock Android.

Hiby FC3 Review. Fuel Efficient | by Alec | Bedrock Reviews | Mar, 2021 | Medium

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The Audirect Atom 2’s primary differentiating factors are its extremely compact form factor and its laudable standards compliance. In most other respects, it is adequate but not exceptional.