Small (maybe portable) DAC/amp advice needed

pk4425

Standard Member
Hi all:

I want to buy a DAC/amp to drive my Meze 99 Classic, Moondrop Starfield and the probable upcoming purchase of either HiFiMan Sundara, HiFiMan HE400i (2020) or Sennheiser 560s. Yes, I know the 99 Classics and Starfields don't NEED amplification, but I think both would benefit from it.

Anyways, I'm looking for something small that I can use to drive those cans with Spotify at 320 kbps (CD Hi-fi soon!) from an iPhone 12, MacBook Air and Lenovo ThinkPad laptop. I'm trying to stay at $150 USD or lower. I want something that doesn't color the sound that much and has low noise, enough power to drive some hungrier cans I may buy in the future.

I'm not wed to either the dongle or small, portable box form factor. Bluetooth capability isn't essential, either, but would be nice. Here are the models I'm considering, and why:

iFi Hip: Excellent reviews from numerous professional and consumer sources. The ability to run balanced, if desired. But not as truly portable as a dongle. Will need to buy USB-to-Lightning adapter cable or Apple Camera Connector to use with iPhone. No app. Most expensive on list.

Zorloo Ztella: Good reviews from numerous professional and consumer sources. Love the small form factor and that you can buy with Lightning adapter. Can't run balanced, though. No app. Moderate price.

Tempotec Sonata HD Pro: Good reviews from numerous professional and consumer sources. Cheapest price on list. Love the small form factor and that you can buy with Lightning adapter. Quality control problems reported, though. No app. Enough power for higher-impedance cans?

Qudelix 5K: Excellent reviews from numerous professional and consumer sources. The ability to run balanced, if desired. Plenty of power. Great app with parametric EQ. Will need to buy USB-to-Lightning adapter cable or Apple Camera Connector to use with iPhone. Does Bluetooth work that well with AAC -- iPhones don't have LDAC. A bit quirky with setup? Toward the high end in price.

Which of these models do you think would suit me best, all things considered? Any other models I should consider?

Thanks for your help!
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Dragonfly red
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Thanks. But I tried a DragonFly Black about a year ago and thought it was sh*t. Chi-fi USB DAC/amps costing $30-50 made my cans sound better.
Ah ok. I have one and think it's great, different folks, different strokes
 

pk4425

Standard Member
I bought the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro today to drive my Sennheiser HD 560s (120 ohm impedance, 110 db sensitivity), and I must admit I'm underwhelmed so far.

I know this is a dongle and not a nuclear substation for power, but it seems like the Sonata HD Pro only gives me about two more clicks of volume than driving the 560s straight from my iPhone 12 and the Apple Lightning DAC dongle. The sound isn't really cleaned up THAT much, either. I expected more considering the praise here and other audiophile lairs online.

Am I doing anything wrong? Or were my expectations too high? Or does this prove again that the Apple Lightning DAC dongle is the best $9 bargain in hi-fi?

Thanks.
 

Dazimus

Distinguished Member
I have a Fiio BTR5 which I use with my iPhone 11 and 99 Classics and it does a great job.
 

pk4425

Standard Member
I bought the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro today to drive my Sennheiser HD 560s (120 ohm impedance, 110 db sensitivity), and I must admit I'm underwhelmed so far.

I know this is a dongle and not a nuclear substation for power, but it seems like the Sonata HD Pro only gives me about two more clicks of volume than driving the 560s straight from my iPhone 12 and the Apple Lightning DAC dongle. The sound isn't really cleaned up THAT much, either. I expected more considering the praise here and other audiophile lairs online.

Am I doing anything wrong? Or were my expectations too high? Or does this prove again that the Apple Lightning DAC dongle is the best $9 bargain in hi-fi?

Thanks.
Quick update on my Sonata HD Pro: I learned that this nifty little device has an automatic gain sensor. It drives low-impedance, high-sensitivity cans with less power than their high-impedance, low-sensitivity cousins, as that extra juice isn't needed.

The Sennheiser HD 560s, at 120 ohm, falls right into the purgatory between low and high gain and is detected as low gain upon proper connection. But there is a trick: Attach the 6.35-to-3.5 mm adapter that comes with the HD 560s to the Sonata. Then attach the Sonata to your phone with the USB-C or Lightning cable. Finally, plug in the main cable from the headphones to the adapter already connected to the Sonata.

This tricks the Sonata into thinking high-gain headphones are added, and there is ample, clean power to drive my HD 560s. REALLY pleased with this little device for $60 (iOS version) once someone at ASR taught me this trick.
 

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