New Portable Setup

PupazzoGnappo

Novice Member
Hi Everybody,
I'm looking to but a new portable, good quality setup, and I'm a bit lost.

Until recently, I was listening to my music through a phone+DAC setup: Spotify set to Max Quality, Galaxy S7 Edge + Fiio E18 Kunlun + Sennheiser Momentum 2 (cabled).
I was definitely happy about the sound, the DAC was super bulky and hence not comfortable to carry around, but the soundstage and separation were perfectly fine, and I had plenty of volume to play with.

Unfortunately, after 4 years of faithful service the phone died a few weeks ago, and according to Samsung it's beyond repair. So, welcome a new Samsung S20 Ultra, that I bought without thinking about its compatibility with the Fiio. Surprise surprise, once connected with the DAC, nothing happened: coupled with the S20 the E18 is a useless brick, and while I opened an enquiry with Fiio support, I doubt that they will have a solution.

So, I thought that it may be time to go for a completely new setup, but when I tried to get some info online I discovered that in 4 years the world has advanced way too much for me to keep up. Here would be the requirements:

  • Comparable or better sound quality vs previous solution
  • More portable
  • I would like to go through the phone and avoid external music players, unless audio quality is massively improved
  • Wireless vs analog: I've always preferred cabled solutions for more quality, but I'm not a taliban, I can change my mind if there's ground for that

I've recently tried a friend's Nuraphone and I've been quite blown... I am absolutely convinced that their "normal vs custom" comparison is bull****, as the normal profile sounds too bad to be true, but on the other hand comparing the custom profile with my beloved Momentums... well the Nuras seem to sound a bit better.
I know that they have an internal DAC though, so applying another DAC on top of it maybe overkill or even have degrading effects?

I hope you got a clear enough idea of what I'm looking for, I'd be super grateful if you could give me some advice and I look forward to getting your feedback!
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
I am not sure where your problem is with the S20, because if a usb DAC previously worked on an earlier machine, I cannot see why it would not on a later model. I suggest you query Samsung.. Amazon have tiny in line USB to headphone adapters at the 10 quid mark, which might solve all your problem. At least you would know where the USB problem originates. I suspect that the DAC chip might be no worse than the one in the Fiio . If that worked, you might invest another 8 quid in USB Audio Pro ..an add on for Android devices which replaces part of the android OS with a better version. And yes it does work.
Incidentally the Samsung S7 had a feature for customising headphones to the users deafness profile .the phone would ping each ear in turn with varying frequencies and amplitudes and adjust its output accordingly. Unfortunately that will not work with either UAP or with Bluetooth. It may still exist in the S20

It would be hard to beat one of the better overear Noise Cancelling headphones. ..
particularly those using better than the standard Blu tooth codec. The ApxHD or LDAC codecs bring things up to near wired standard. The Sony 1000M3 and now M4 are market leaders for a very good reason..and its not hype. They have massive battery life. The Senns have products in that space also, and if you like their sound
 
Last edited:

Steven

Senior Moderator
Every USB C to 3.5 headphone adaptor contains a DAC. The dongle might sound 'good enough'
 

PupazzoGnappo

Novice Member
I am not sure where your problem is with the S20, because if a usb DAC previously worked on an earlier machine, I cannot see why it would not on a later model. I suggest you query Samsung.. Amazon have tiny in line USB to headphone adapters at the 10 quid mark, which might solve all your problem. At least you would know where the USB problem originates. I suspect that the DAC chip might be no worse than the one in the Fiio . If that worked, you might invest another 8 quid in USB Audio Pro ..an add on for Android devices which replaces part of the android OS with a better version. And yes it does work.
Incidentally the Samsung S7 had a feature for customising headphones to the users deafness profile .the phone would ping each ear in turn with varying frequencies and amplitudes and adjust its output accordingly. Unfortunately that will not work with either UAP or with Bluetooth. It may still exist in the S20

It would be hard to beat one of the better overear Noise Cancelling headphones. ..
particularly those using better than the standard Blu tooth codec. The ApxHD or LDAC codecs bring things up to near wired standard. The Sony 1000M3 and now M4 are market leaders for a very good reason..and its not hype. They have massive battery life. The Senns have products in that space also, and if you like their sound
Thanks for your answer. At the time I bought the Fiio it wasn't compatible with all the Samsung line-up, as not all the phones supported audio through USB. However, the S20 for sure supports music through the USB-C, as that's the only "audio out" the phone has, so you're right, it should work but it doesn't. I'm using an adapter as the Fiio original cable was "micro USB to micro USB", that may be the issue?

For the headphones, I'm using the analog Momentums, so no NAC as far as I'm aware, even if overall protection from outside noises is great.
 

PupazzoGnappo

Novice Member
Every USB C to 3.5 headphone adaptor contains a DAC. The dongle might sound 'good enough'
That would be the cheapest solution for sure, and maybe allow to put more budget on the headphones side. You would advise anything that sounds better than Momentum 2 in a max 400 EUR price range?
 

McCol

Well-known Member
Be careful if you decide to invest in a DAC for the S20 ultra.

There is an issue with certain DAC's and the Samsung range of handsets. I've tried the Audioquest Cobalt with the S20 and the only way it functions properly is with the USB Audio Player app. If using without this app you experience pops and crackles when playing back audio.
Audioquest support informed me it's because the default for Android audio drivers is fixed to a certain sample rate (I'm not 100% on the technical side of this), UAPP bypasses the android drivers to use it's own. This is fine apart from the fact that UAPP only supports certain music services and not Youtube etc.

I've had numerous conversations with Samsung Tech support who say its a device issue and not an issue with the handset. This has been an issue for 3 generations of handsets with Samsung. I've tried a couple of other DAC's in the past and had similar problems.

The Fiio Q5 and Q5s work fine as they use some internal drivers to bypass the android drivers. It's annoying as people with more tech savvy than me say it should be straight forward software fix. However I gather that the number of people using the S10/20 in this way pales in comparison to the total number of sales.

What I would say though is that an external DAC like the Cobalt or similar when used with the UAPP app does sound stunning.
 

McCol

Well-known Member
That would be the cheapest solution for sure, and maybe allow to put more budget on the headphones side. You would advise anything that sounds better than Momentum 2 in a max 400 EUR price range?
Would you prefer wired or wireless headphones?
 

PupazzoGnappo

Novice Member
Be careful if you decide to invest in a DAC for the S20 ultra.

There is an issue with certain DAC's and the Samsung range of handsets. I've tried the Audioquest Cobalt with the S20 and the only way it functions properly is with the USB Audio Player app. If using without this app you experience pops and crackles when playing back audio.
Audioquest support informed me it's because the default for Android audio drivers is fixed to a certain sample rate (I'm not 100% on the technical side of this), UAPP bypasses the android drivers to use it's own. This is fine apart from the fact that UAPP only supports certain music services and not Youtube etc.

I've had numerous conversations with Samsung Tech support who say its a device issue and not an issue with the handset. This has been an issue for 3 generations of handsets with Samsung. I've tried a couple of other DAC's in the past and had similar problems.

The Fiio Q5 and Q5s work fine as they use some internal drivers to bypass the android drivers. It's annoying as people with more tech savvy than me say it should be straight forward software fix. However I gather that the number of people using the S10/20 in this way pales in comparison to the total number of sales.

What I would say though is that an external DAC like the Cobalt or similar when used with the UAPP app does sound stunning.
Hi McCol, I believe that we are getting closer to what I'd be looking for. Honestly the 8 EUR for UAPP are a non issue, so I'm definitely ready to download it, but I read that there are issues with it and Spotify, as you cannot play Spotify from within the app. That would be a major issue, because I cannot change streaming service at the moment (I'm on a family account and both wife and daugther have humoungous playlists).
If there was a proven way to play Spotify through DAC with UAPP, then I would be definitely going for it.

For the headphones, I may be old fashioned but I still prefer relying on a cable.
Thanks again for your help!
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
Hi McCol, I believe that we are getting closer to what I'd be looking for. Honestly the 8 EUR for UAPP are a non issue, so I'm definitely ready to download it, but I read that there are issues with it and Spotify, as you cannot play Spotify from within the app. That would be a major issue, because I cannot change streaming service at the moment (I'm on a family account and both wife and daugther have humoungous playlists).
If there was a proven way to play Spotify through DAC with UAPP, then I would be definitely going for it.

For the headphones, I may be old fashioned but I still prefer relying on a cable.
Thanks again for your help!
I have a soft spot for sennheisser , and acquired the momentum on ears from a bargain bin in Currys ..they were missing a lead. I have given them to my wife , because I felt she needed some quality in her life, being married to me., And anyway I prefer overears . I now use Sonys exclusively. The M3 can be used wirelessly and wired, ..I almost always use it wired. It is OK when the power is off and wired, but not superb. But it is excellent with the power on. It is also extremely noise reducing, and very very comfortable to wear. I have two pairs of Sony MDR1 headphones which are into another league. The second pair I use exclusively wired , although they have a Bluetooth mode. As conventional phones I believe them better than the M3. . But as others will say at this price range there are no bad products and one is moving sideways in sound quality
. Really you need to get the one that is comfortable, not awesome and both models of Sony are in the ballpark..as also are the Senns and probably B&O and probably Bose . While I liked the shape of the B&W phones, they were just uncomfortable to wear for me.
 

McCol

Well-known Member
Hi McCol, I believe that we are getting closer to what I'd be looking for. Honestly the 8 EUR for UAPP are a non issue, so I'm definitely ready to download it, but I read that there are issues with it and Spotify, as you cannot play Spotify from within the app. That would be a major issue, because I cannot change streaming service at the moment (I'm on a family account and both wife and daugther have humoungous playlists).
If there was a proven way to play Spotify through DAC with UAPP, then I would be definitely going for it.

For the headphones, I may be old fashioned but I still prefer relying on a cable.
Thanks again for your help!
There is an option on the app to exit the app but keep the audio drivers running, this is supposed to ensure that Spotify etc can be used. However when I tried it the popping issue was still present. This was a few weeks ago though, I will try again later and let you know the results.
 

PupazzoGnappo

Novice Member
There is an option on the app to exit the app but keep the audio drivers running, this is supposed to ensure that Spotify etc can be used. However when I tried it the popping issue was still present. This was a few weeks ago though, I will try again later and let you know the results.
Thanks for the answer and for testing for me.
And by the way thanks to everybody for the support, I wasn't expecting to get so many answers in such a short time, your willingness to help is so appreciated! :clap::clap::clap:
 

PupazzoGnappo

Novice Member
I have a soft spot for sennheisser , and acquired the momentum on ears from a bargain bin in Currys ..they were missing a lead. I have given them to my wife , because I felt she needed some quality in her life, being married to me., And anyway I prefer overears . I now use Sonys exclusively. The M3 can be used wirelessly and wired, ..I almost always use it wired. It is OK when the power is off and wired, but not superb. But it is excellent with the power on. It is also extremely noise reducing, and very very comfortable to wear. I have two pairs of Sony MDR1 headphones which are into another league. The second pair I use exclusively wired , although they have a Bluetooth mode. As conventional phones I believe them better than the M3. . But as others will say at this price range there are no bad products and one is moving sideways in sound quality
. Really you need to get the one that is comfortable, not awesome and both models of Sony are in the ballpark..as also are the Senns and probably B&O and probably Bose . While I liked the shape of the B&W phones, they were just uncomfortable to wear for me.
I also have a soft spot for Sennheiser, it's the first brand i tried when I was 5 (it was my father's choice for the home hi-fi headsets) and I've been a fan ever since.
I never took Sony as seriously, probably for some stupid prejudice,as I hear only good things about their top of the line.

I've been fascinated for a long time by Shure, but never had anything from them. I've seen that the SRH1540 got sterling reviews basically everywhere, do you have direct experience with them?
 

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