DacPort was released sometime back but I was never really into proper source output. So my first Dac was a iBasso D1 then the RSA Predator. I belong to the headphones and amp first before precise source. So recently I was trawling through the web for a nice Dac/Amp beyond my predator to drive my HE-500. Didnt want to spend too much on the amp section since I have a proper Stello HP100 waiting for me back home, but something better then my predator.
After some consideration I took the DacPort for a all in one no frills solution running through a direct USB power. I am a sucker for something portable that can be thrown in a bag. My laptops never exceeded the 13" (usually 11") mark for the last 12 years. I did consider O2/Odac but the attractiveness of just USB driven Dac/Amp won me over and once I'm settled, it will turn into a pure Dac except for travels.
So how does the Dacport fair? Really good versus the predator, the only other dac/amp I have on hand. I listen to around 80-83 db for my music. Using the HE-500, that is approximately 12o'clock slightly towards 11 on the volume pot. I also have a RS1 which goes till 11o'Clock and a UM Mage around 10. So overall, driving it in-terms of loudness is no issue. The Predator needs somewhere at 3 in low gain to power my HE500 to equivalent level. The volume goes from 8 to 4, so plenty more volume for those that need something even louder running a power hungry phone like HE-500.
The Predator can go way louder though, but it comes with a irritating soft hiss even on my HE-500. Its not noticeable unless in a really quiet environment but its present. The DacPort is not totally hiss free, its just magnitudes higher volume to even notice them. On general I dont get hiss on both since I listen to a relatively low level.
In sound quality, Im judging them as a Amp/Dac vs my Predator. Im just using my laptop, with the music I enjoy to judge. The predator feels slightly wider, cooler and more forward in the mids to me. The DacPort on the other hand is more all round, airy and more well balanced through the spectrum. Clarity is also better on the DacPort, with more noticeable detail in the background. The differences above however are really hard to detect. Took me non stop ABing to actually. To put it into a daily use perspective, I think they are unnoticeable in day to day use to me.
However the greatest difference to me is the bass. This was the first difference I discovered and all three of my headphone detected them straight. At first the predator felt like it had more bass. However after just a few listen in Bad Romance I immediately notice its not that the predator has more bass, but the DacPort bass is way tighter, have stronger slam and dies off. The Predator has a bloated bass, loud but squishy. I believe this is not due to lack of power to drive as it also affects my Mage. This bass also lead to the DacPort having a overall cleaner sound to me.
For a lower price then the Predator, it definitely out-perform it in a noticeable way and without any extra cables power cables or battery if used as a Dac/Amp. However, the Predator does have a standalone amp and is battery powered. To me, the DacPort is worth every cent since its a good compact solution for a laptop without needing extra adapters while sounding remarkably good and drive my headphone to a sufficient level.
Some minor observation of the DacPort. It gets warm when used like a class A Amp. My hp100 is way warmer and so is my laptop so I am not complaining. The second thing is the volume pot. Predator one is smooth and do not create "hisses" when turned. The DacPort one does, however it can only be heard with my Mage. Considering that thing is just outright sensitive, its not a cause of worry to most.
Edited by tassardar - 11/21/12 at 2:19pm