Best Portable DAC

Glad to have you here. Welcome.

I have the Qudelix. I find it physically difficult to operate because of the confusing (to me) button system, but only compared to my DAPs. The 5K is amazing in terms of the feature set in the phone app.

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Thanks! Honestly the buttons would take some getting used to, but I’ve never taken issue with them. I always just use my older apple watch to control my music. I never have to take the Qudelix out of my pocket.
Next spring I wouldn’t mind upgrading to a dap. One that could connect to Wi-Fi, usb audio out, and broadcast in aptxhd or ldac would be amazing. Or at least if it had most of those features it’d be worth a try. And without a price that’s unreachable.

There’s plenty of choices, even at less than $200 USD, that can do all those things and more.

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I have an iBasso DC05, which currently costs around €50-60. It has two ESS chips and 90mW power. Sounds clear with good resolution, but sometimes gets quite hot. Also plays MQA from Tidal. Only 3.5mm connection.

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Careful not to cook the family jewels!

I have both the Fiio Q3 and Fiio KA3 and Fiio Btr3k.

I want the basic form factor of the Btr3k (small lozenge sitting in pocket undistturbed and connected to only IEMs, not to phone) and the power & sound quality of the Q3 or even one of the better DAPs. Not concerned overly at the inability of AptX HD or Adaptive to be truly truly lossless or not for this use case. For me “portable” means:

  1. I can wear IEMs on a walk or in my house fully mobile - needs to fit in a pocket, though doesn’t have to be Btr3k tiny.
  2. I can use my phone without running the chance of dislodging a USB C or other cable which will stop playback
  3. I can use my phone to control the music - ideally something like Roon ARC or native Tidal/Qobuz apps, but I’m open-minded. Roon ARC comes in a strong favorite here.
  4. Enough power to run decent headphones (eg, beyond IEMs), and both SE and balanced connections (ideally 3.5 and 4.4 as I tend not to use 2.5 for anything)
  5. NICE TO HAVE: Microphone built-in so I can take short phone calls if needed without taking off my IEMs; can charge while playing; can act as USB-connected DAC if I’m sitting at a desk and want to operate off my macbook

Anyone have any ideas?

I use and enjoy the iFi Go Blu. Power wise it depends on what headphones you plan on using. It works well with ones that are mostly easy to drive but I wouldn’t choose it for the Arya :slight_smile:

The Quedelix also has a great reputation and comes with PEQ (Go Blu has XBass and XSpace) but not sure if it has a mic. I haven’t tried it personally.

Edit: if you are ok going bigger, the Gryphon is a great device and has enough power for most things. I also like the Aune BU2 but it’s 2.5 not 4.4. And no mic on either of them.


Truthear Shio Review

The Truthear Shio is a compact digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amplifier combination unit that retails for $69.99. The Shio features a 3.5 mm single-ended output and a 4.4 mm balanced output, as well as a physical volume rocker. The Shio uses dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips, only seen previously on more expensive products. ShenzhenAudio sent me the Shio in exchange for my impressions.

I have used the Truthear Shio with the following headphones:

Moondrop S8
Dunu Kima
Truthear Hola
TinHiFi T4 Plus
Moondrop Void
HiFiMan HE400SE

The Shio comes in a small grey cardboard package with a white slipcover. The slipcover features the anime mascot “Shiroi” on the front face and details the Shio’s technical specifications on the rear face. The device itself and a small Truthear-branded USB-C to USB-C cable are secured in a foam mounting tray inside the package. In terms of documentation, the Shio comes with a warranty card and an owner’s manual written in Chinese, English, and Japanese. The Shio also includes an illustrated postcard providing key biographical details about Shiroi.


The Truthear Shio has an oblong form factor with rounded corners. The four long faces of the device are covered in a textured pleather wrap. The wrap is subtly embossed with the Truthear logo on one side. I strongly dislike the use of pleather in most products and the Shio does not change my mind. The pleather looks and feels cheap and tacky. I would have preferred the entire device use the black anodized finish present on the top and bottom faces. The Shio features a female USB-C port, which enables use with different kinds of transport devices. The metal volume rocker is located on the spine of the device. There is a small LED indicator off to the side of the volume rocker that indicates the current gain setting. The pleather around this LED is not cut perfectly, adding to the cheap presentation. The 4.4mm balanced output is gold-plated, but the 3.5mm output is not.


The Truthear Shio is not compatible with headset controls, nor does it send connector status to the host device. It also lacks pause on headphone disconnect functionality. Because the Shio is most likely intended for use with a desktop or laptop, I am willing to overlook these omissions, but I would love to see at least the pause on headphone disconnect feature enabled on more balanced source devices. My aging Qudelix 5K has this feature for its balanced 2.5mm output, so I do not understand why this functionality is overlooked on so many products.


Truthear has made an ASIO driver available for the Shio here. I generally stick to WASAPI (Shared) for ease of use with Equalizer APO, but I did confirm that the driver worked with MusicBee.

Note: I made the following observations with a system-wide -4 dB pre-amp setting as suggested here. While I recommend using this pre-amp setting to preserve fidelity, it does reduce the headroom of all connected source devices.

The Truthear Shio is very powerful. Pairing the Shio with the Moondrop S8 using the balanced output, I reach my typical listening volume at a Windows system volume setting of 12/100. The HiFiMan HE400SE requires a volume setting of around 40/100 using the balanced connection. On the single-ended side, the Truthear Shio required a setting of 20/100 and the Moondrop Void needed 32/100. I did not need to use the high-gain setting for any of the headphones I tested the Shio with.

I took the following power consumption measurements with the Truthear Shio connected to my PC:

Shio PC Single-Ended In-Use

Shio PC Balanced In-Use

All measurements were taken on the low-gain setting. The Windows system volume was set to 60/100 using the balanced output with the Moondrop S8 and 94/100 using the single-ended output with the Truthear Hola. Playing a -12 dBV 1 kHz test tone from REW, these volume settings achieved an SPL of roughly 94 dB, as registered by my IEC-711 clone microphone.

The Shio does not appear to have a true idle mode:
Shio PC Idle

The Shio has excellent heat management and does not get warm to the touch even with prolonged use.

Note: I made the following observations switching back and forth between the Truthear Shio and the Hidizs S9 repeatedly under sighted conditions. The two devices were volume-matched to within .5 dB. Any perceived differences between the two sources may be a result of the remaining volume difference. There was also a delay of several seconds when switching between devices. The Moondrop S8 was used as the transducer for this comparison. In most cases, any differences between competently designed sources are infinitesimal and not necessarily apparent under uncontrolled testing conditions.

The Truthear Shio sounded slightly more grounded than the Hidizs S9, which is to say that there was more of a bass emphasis. The bass was better controlled and there was greater instrument separation, particularly between low- and high-frequency instruments. The S9 tends to oversharpen treble transients, whereas the Shio sounded smoother and more realistic.


The Truthear Shio is a terrific value and an easy recommendation from both a measured and subjective performance perspective. However, the sub-par build quality and questionable aesthetic may be dealbreakers for some. I hope that Turthear releases a revision with a cleaner, less polarizing exterior design quickly.

The Truthear Shio can be purchased here:


The Audirect Atom 3 is an ultra-compact DAC/AMP combo with a 3.5 mm single-ended output and ESS9280AC PRO DAC chip. Unless you need the Atom 3’s low-profile unibody design, there are more powerful dongle DAC/AMP options around the same price.

My full review is available at the link below:

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Apologies for gravedigging, but,I also found it very cheap and easy to replace the Mojo’s battery. Lots of options online. I did that after mine swelled from poor charging management.

More problematic for my Chord Mojo1 was that the mini-headphones jacks are weak, and, because of the way it’s attached, once one goes, they both go. I resoldered, but THAT is hard to do without a PCB solder station, and has only been a temporary fix.

The Tanchjim Space Lite is a good all-rounder dongle DAC/AMP. It provides greater clarity and more headroom compared to the Apple dongle, but does not consume vastly more power. While the lack of attention to standards compliance and the absence of an idle mode are regrettable, the Space Lite is still a good option for audiophiles who don’t require a balanced output for portable listening.

My full review is available at the link below:

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The Moondrop Dawn Pro is a DAC/AMP combo with both 4.4mm balanced and 3.5 mm single-ended outputs, dual CS43131 DAC chips, and a $49.99 price tag.

Going into this review, I expected to prefer the Pro version of Moondrop’s Dawn over its non-Pro version. However, I found I appreciated the Dawn’s compact design for portability, and likely would choose it over the Pro if only selecting a device for on-the-go use. That said, the Pro offers greater versatility and is the better choice for desktop applications. Both are great-sounding devices that are remarkably affordable. For the foreseeable future, the Pro will be taking up space on my desk, which is the highest praise I can give it.

My full review is up on my blog:


I am using the Sony nw-wm1zm2 nickname "gold brick. This is the latest in Sony Walkmans signature series. It runs on. Android 11 and works really well for streaming HR music, currently streaming from Amazon ultra HD. The unit allows for over a Terabyte of storage. Sony is using AI-Edge technology to upscale compressed music files in real-time. DSEE Ultimate (Digital Enhancement Engine). C D quality (24 bit 44.1/48khz). This dap can also be used as a usb dac. The bluetooth technology works seamlessly for bluetooth speakers or headphones. This dap has both 4.4mm balanced and 3.5 unbalanced ports. Music sounds incredible, can drive my HD 800S headphones and all iems.


Hidizs S9 Pro Plus Martha

TLDR version on YouTube: TDLR - Hidizs Pro Plus Martha

The S9 Pro Plus Martha has been sent to me directly by Hidizs in exchange for the publication of this review. Hidizs have not made any specific requests or comments and I will do my best, as always, to be a unbiased and sincere as possible.

You can find the official page for the Hidizs S9 Pro Plus here: Hidizs S9 Pro Plus Martha - HiFi Balanced Dongle DAC

As with all of the links I share, this is a non affiliate link.


I reviewed the S9 Pro dongle DAC quite some time ago, 2 years ago in fact, although the dongle was launched quite a bit before that. I remember the device being very powerful for its size, and in comparison to the competition at the time, with a sound signature that was quite cold and analytical.

I think that the S9 Pro was something that worked rather well for Hidizs, making the brand known to quite a few people, especially because, at the time, there were nowhere near as many dongle options as there are now. The S9 Pro used an ESS ES9038Q2M chip and the device was specified as putting out 200mW @32 Ohms from it’s 2.5mm balanced socket and 100mW from its single ended socket. Again, quite an achievement at the time. However, what was even more of an achievement was the fact that it measured under testing even better than it did in their specs.

So, moving on over 2, almost 3, years since its release, Hidizs now bring us the S9 Pro Plus Martha, a device that is very reminiscent of the Pro but with some updates that Hidizs are quite excited about.

The DAC chip does remain the same on the new version but there have been changes to the implementation that we will discuss throughout the review. One thing to note from the new specs is that output power is actually shown differently, promising 100mW + 100mW from its SE output (@ 32 Ohms) and 180mW + 180mW from its BAL output (again at 32 Ohms).

I don’t have the equipment to confirm or deny the claims (you can check out for measurements) but based on the previous device and my time using the S9 Pro Plus, I have absolutely no reason to not believe that it meets at least the specs quoted. That is still a lot of power from a dongle device, even years after the S9 Pro was released.

But anyway, let’s take a look in more detail and see what else, other than power, the S9 Pro Plus has to offer.


The packaging is a small square, hard plastic, black box. This is surrounded by a cardboard cover that shows the device on the front, along with specifications on the back.

Removing the lift off cover from the box, we find the S9 Pro Plus sitting inside a foam cutout that protects it. Underneath this top layer of foam, there is a small cardboard compartment that contains the USB-C to USB-C cable, a USB-A to USB-C adapter, a card with the serial number etc. and a couple of small, square, hi-res stickers (that I am sure will make some people happy as they are in the box and not on the device :wink: ).

That is about it as far as presentation. There is no instruction manual included but I am not sure if it will be included in the retail version. To be honest, in my case, the manual would have been obsolete anyway as, when I first received the device, the buttons only served to change track. A later firmware update added functionality.

Build and aesthetics…

While the build of the S9 Pro Plus still features the machined aluminum and the glass of the previous version, there have been quite a few updates to the layout and aesthetics of the device.

The new model is slightly shorter, yet also slightly wider and thicker. The differences aren’t huge only 4 or 5mm or so, and I don’t have the original on hand to compare, but it gives me a feeling of being more compact.

One of the main additions to the Pro Plus are the two buttons on the side. These look like rotary dials but are in fact push buttons. The buttons are plastic and do have a bit of a wobble to them but nothing terrible.

The device is available in various colours (black, blue and silver) and features an illuminated Hidizs logo on one side that changes colour depending on the format of the track being played. In general, the aesthetics are not anything spectacular but they still look decent and I have no issues to point out with them.


While the S9 Pro was just a plug and play device, the Martha does add some extra functionality to the device. It still decodes PCM up to 32bit/768kHz and Native DSD up to 512, with no MQA support, if that is something that interests you.

The changes come by means of having 7 different filter options to choose from, at least according to the publicity, as the instructions and the actual device only have 6. These can be cycled through by pressing both of the buttons simultaneously. I honestly can’t say that I notice much difference between the filters in a sighted test, so there is no way I would pick them out in a blind test, but they are there for those of you that have better hearing capabilities than me :wink:

When I first received the S9 Pro Plus, the main function of the buttons was to change tracks. I reached out to Hidizs (as did a few other people I think) and asked if there was any intention to implement volume control from the buttons. Hidizs took this into account and a couple of weeks later released a firmware upgrade that converted the buttons to control volume rather than tracks.

For use with a phone, I believe that there will be people who prefer one or the other based on personal preference, however, for use with a PC, which is how I have mostly been using the device, I much prefer the volume control. There is no sustained volume change, in other words, you need to click the button step by step, which are 2 point increases (or reductions) in Windows, but pressing and holding the button does not perform any action.

One thing to note is that the volume control on the S9 Pro Plus does not work with the Tidal app on Android. I have spoken with Hidizs about this and it seems it is due to the way the Tidal app works, not allowing an external device to control volume. The Tidal app also causes issues with volume control of other apps when Tidal has been opened with the dongle attached, when closing Tidal, the volume control does not work in other apps until the device is disconnected and reconnected.

I am not an engineer, or programmer, so I cannot say what the technical reason is for this but I will say that I have found the Tidal app to cause issues with many devices in the past, some of them frequent and others very random. The common factor in all of them was the Tidal app. Therefore, I have no doubt that it is an issue with Tidal but I just wanted to mention it.


Hidizs say in their publicity that the S9 Pro Plus has a different tuning to the S9 Pro. While this is not exactly true, as both devices have a flat frequency response, there is a perceived difference in the actual sound.

With the S9 Pro I found that things could come across as rather bright and harsh, although very detailed. In the case of the S9 Pro Plus, the sound seems to not present these characteristics. It is not a warm sound, it is still very neutral, but it is not overly analytical like I found the S9 Pro to be.

Maybe analytical is the wrong word as this dongle is still very detailed, in fact, it is just as detailed as I remember the previous model being, it is just not as sharp as that model. I would say that the overall sound is neutral to the point of not leaning one way or another.

I have been using it to power quite a few IEMs, from budget offerings such as the Salnotes Zero, up to high end models such as the Aroma FEI WAN, and it has done a good job of driving all of them. I didn’t find that it caused anything in particular to stand out in comparison to other neutral sources that I have used, making it transparent and, well, neutral to my ears.

With headphones, it also does a fairly decent job with most of the dynamic drivers I have on hand. Even with the easier to drive planars, such as the Ananda, I find it to work pretty well, although some of the more demanding planars, such as the Arya v2, did seem to be a little lacking in performance. This is to be expected, especially when listening to fast paced music with larger quantities of bass.

I have got into the habit of trying the Koss KPH40 on many of the sources I review as they do react quite differently on different sources (the famous “scaling” is quite impressive for a set of 40€ headphones). The S9 Pro Plus doesn’t get excessively loud with them (60 ohms & 101dB is not really an easy load for the dongle) but they do sound clean and musical at my usual listening levels.


The S9 Pro Plus has arrived a few years after the S9 Pro and I think it is a worthy upgrade to the previous model. The S9 Pro was (is) a very good dongle but, in my opinion, it was just a little harsh in its presentation.

The S9 Pro Plus has taken that presentation and smoothed it slightly, without losing the qualities that the S9 Pro was known for. Yes, the DAC chip stays the same but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As I have said before, it is more about the implementation than the chip itself, the newest isn’t necessarily the best.

What we do get is volume control, 6 filters to choose from and a 4.4mm output to replace the 2.5mm. All of these are improvements, while the price stays basically the same as the old model.

Speaking of price, I haven’t mentioned it yet!

Depending on when you see this review, the price is going to vary but the Pre-order starts on November 16th and runs until November 30th. During this time, the first 100 units will be priced at $69.99 and then, after the first 100 units are sold, it will cost $79.99.

As I said, this price I find reasonable as the S9 Pro is still around 80€ here at the time of putting this review together.

Also, Hidizs have offered a 5% discount to anyone who reads this review, using the Code: ACHO5OFF

As always, I have no affiliation with Hidizs nor do I use any affiliate links, so I do not receive anything in exchange for any purchases made with or without the code, but I guess it does give Hidizs a way of tracking anyone who purchases after reading my review.

As always, this review is also available in Spanish both on my blog ( and on YouTube (