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Amazing Audioengine D3 ...

post #1 of 91
Thread Starter 

Hi there,

 

Well, I was not sure should I post this in "computer audio", "portable sources" or "portable headphone amps" sections ... as this new breed of devices most certainly belongs to all categories. Maybe it's time for a new forum sub-section?!

 

Anyway, I was visiting my parents in the USA for the holiday season and just for fun ordered Audioengine D3. It was on special $165 offer on Amazon (roughly 100£). Cost of the D3 in the UK was £165 so it was quite substantial saving. I was pretty much reserved what to expect as I already have Audioquest DragonFly 1.0 and FiiO E17. Let alone my Meier Audio Corda Jazz desktop amp. I was keen to have another "DF like" (and usb cable free) portable dac/amp as I was not quite happy with the DF 1.0. Also, I was drawn to the D3 AKM4396 DAC because of hugely positive experience with all devices where this DAC was integrated (namely Gigaport HD+ and Auzentech Meridian V2 audio interfaces).

 

Oh boy. I was completely unprepared for this device, and that was a good thing! Simply put, D3 is amazing (as per post title) and it's quote astonishing how they achieved this in such small package. Speaking of technology advances ... huh?! I may queue DF 1.0 and FiiO E17 on eBay for sale as they will be rarely used from now. What is evident during the very fist listen (even before break-in) is that D3 gives more body, more bass, more structure and more "air" to the music. Things are rarely congested. It doesn't add or take away anything. It's very neutral and subjectively maybe a bit on the dark side. If you have bright headphones (as in my case) it's really fantastic pairing. What's even more intriguing is that I may be free to say that sound signature does have that analog feel. Crazy it is. Stereo field is noticeably wide, lower end of the audio spectrum is really deep and not muddy/congested. Trebles are very enjoyable and smooth (hence my comment about the bright headphones pairing). Last couple of days I found myself reaching for D3 instead of Coda Jazz desktop amp for a quick high quality session and that's saying something!

 

D3 draws 5V/200mA from the USB port and what's interesting is that it doesn't lack any power ... even when driving my HD600. On the other hand, my low impedance "bass-reference-electronic-music" choice Ultrasone Pro 900 headphones are easily best portable pairing I've heard. Pro 900 are rated at only 40ohm but you really need quality amp to explore all that bass, mid bass, sub bass and not end up with bland, rumbled, distorted and not overly exciting, toe tapping bass. D3 did really fantastic job here and auditioning Pro 900 was really exciting adventure. I'm still sceptically looking and D3 and thinking how device of this size can produce such fully bodied bass. Things were looking spot-on on the IEM front too. My Sennheiser IE8 were superb and quite probably at their best with the D3. There was no hissing or distortion at all. D3 does have really black background and quite passages are really enjoyable. AKM4396 by itself is very low noise, low distortion D/A converter but D3 as a "platform" is completely noise free.

 

Metal injection molded (MIM) aluminum case does get hot and aluminum is really a good choice here, acting as one huge heat-sink. Speaking of aluminum, D3 design is fantastic. It does have that industrial, cold looking but professional look. It's very easy on the eye. No bling, flashy, unnecessary details and that's a good thing. I believe that Mac owners will be quite pleased with D3 design as it's quite "compatible". There is noticeable "click" when the device is powered on, probably from the relay controlled outputs?! It's first time I've heard this on the device of such form factor. It was a bit unnerving at first, as I thought that something is not right. If someone is interested to use D3 as super portable, high fidelity Android platform ... I can confirm that D3 is working with the USB Audio Player, (UAPR) straight from the USB OTG port (on my HTC One) and without the need for any additional power (banks). With D3 paired with UAPR sound quality is exceptional. I couldn't use it outside of the UAPR domain, but that's probably because of the 24bit output requirements, so not exactly sure if Android OS is to blame. All in all, it's really super portable set-up. Take a look:

 

 

 

It would be interesting to see how D3 is behaving when used as pre-amp or pure DAC source. That's still in the queue.


I believe that I already wrote a lot of words and you attention may drift away. Seriously, I'm more keen to hear from other users experiences. Goor or bad. It would be interesting to hear how D3 fairs against the HRT Microstreamer and Centrance DACport (as I was deciding between them and D3). There are not many discussions (or reviews) about D3 around, so I do feel a bit lonely here ... :-)

post #2 of 91

Your photo really caught my eye. I have been thinking of getting a DAC/AMP to pull a digital signal from my HTC one for use while traveling. Been researching JDS labs C5D & leckerton's offerings. Still think I will go with one of the traditional DAC/AMPs, But am curious how the D3 is working for you with the HTC one. Are you controlling the volume from the phone? Its' nice to have choices like these finally.

post #3 of 91

How does this compare to the Dragonfly v1.2 DAC? They seem to be (unofficial) direct competitors, but no one seems to have compared the 1.2 version with this new D3. I'd like to know which has superior sound quality before ordering either one.

post #4 of 91
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dobber View Post
 

Your photo really caught my eye. I have been thinking of getting a DAC/AMP to pull a digital signal from my HTC one for use while traveling. Been researching JDS labs C5D & leckerton's offerings. Still think I will go with one of the traditional DAC/AMPs, But am curious how the D3 is working for you with the HTC one. Are you controlling the volume from the phone? Its' nice to have choices like these finally.


Yeah, I did have some thought about traditional "portable" DAC/AMPs with more bulk, but honestly nothing beats the portability of "in-line" "USB thumb drive-sized " USB dacs/amps (like D3). I can simply put HTC One in my pocket and D3 just goes in-line with the cable with no detectable bulk at all. Ages ago I was just dreaming of such portable HiFi and now it's reality. Who would have thought ...

 

D3 is integrating with HTC one nicely, BUT you have to follow the sequence - at least in my case:

 

1. Firstly attach the USB OTG cable and wait 10 sec

 

2. Connect D3 (it will initialize and you will hear the output relays click)

 

3. Reboot the phone

 

4. After boot up sequence is complete, start the USB Audio Player Pro (UARP). It's very well written piece of audio software. It completely bypasses Android audio platform/driver thus allowing direct communication with USB audio hardware resulting in ultimate audio quality. 

 

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.extreamsd.usbaudioplayerpro

 

5. UARP will initialize D3 and you just have to confirm to Android OS that software wants to access USB device directly. The controls you see in the Mixer tab are the controls that the D3 device exposes and UARP will use them directly.

 

So, volume is controlled from UARP Mixer directly and not from the phone. Actually, I'm happy with that as it gives superior audio quality (direct hardware volume control). 

 

By the way, I'm using rooted HTC one with ViperOne ROM and ElementalX kernel ... but I believe that stock version wouldn't behave differently as USB audio is kernel supported and  UARP doesn't require rooted access.

 

Hope this helps!


Edited by Incognito73 - 1/18/14 at 3:15pm
post #5 of 91

Thanks for the reply. Yes it looks very handy. I did some research and found the Topping TP-D1 MKII MK2 for $70 and is supposed to work with the HTC One. I went ahead and ordered it, And if I find I like the sound quality but it's too bulky I will probably try the D3. Hoping I will be able to play straight from the stock music app & google music without any 3rd party apps involved. Though I am going to check out USB Audio Player PRO. 

post #6 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by whereas View Post
 

How does this compare to the Dragonfly v1.2 DAC? They seem to be (unofficial) direct competitors, but no one seems to have compared the 1.2 version with this new D3. I'd like to know which has superior sound quality before ordering either one.

 

I sold off my DF v1.2 in favor with the D3. What's your definition with "superior sound quality"?

 

If you prefer a more dry and thin, but slightly more detailed sound, the DF wins.  If you prefer a more dynamic and analog sound with more output power, the D3 wins.  Plus the D3 pairs better with my A2 speakers as it should being they are Audioengine products.  Both are good companies, but the D3 offers a 3-year warranty over the 1-year DF.

post #7 of 91
Well, I'm going to be using the DAC with Denon D5000s, so the 10ohm output impedance of the D3 concerned me a bit. I owned the D1 awhile back and liked it, but always wondered how other products sounded. I remember one reviewer (Hifiguy528) saying the 1.0 Dragonfly sounded slightly better than the D1, and I've heard another reviewer claim the D3 sounds very much like the D1. Since the 1.2 is supposedly better than the 1.0,and the 1.0 is supposedly slightly better than the D1, and the D1 sounds like the D3... Well, you get the idea.
post #8 of 91

Can't speak for the D1, just telling you how I heard it between the DF and D3.  I'm on the side of the fence that I don't really care too much about the output impedance with headphones, sensitive IEM/CIEM's - yes; headphones - no. 

 

Keep your D5000.  I sure wish I had along with the D7000.  They just don't make it like that anymore, IMO.

post #9 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha421 View Post
 

Can't speak for the D1, just telling you how I heard it between the DF and D3.  I'm on the side of the fence that I don't really care too much about the output impedance with headphones, sensitive IEM/CIEM's - yes; headphones - no. 

 

Keep your D5000.  I sure wish I had along with the D7000.  They just don't make it like that anymore, IMO.

Good advice. Yeah, I'm keeping them for sure. :) I thought about ordering both the D3 and the 1.2 to compare them, which I might do anyway. I'm sure the 1.2 will be fine though.

post #10 of 91

I demoed the Audioengine D3 and it sounds wonderful using Fostex TH600s and my Macbook Pro playing high res and regular ALAC files.

post #11 of 91

Just got my Dragonfly 1.2 this afternoon. The overall sound is detailed, but something about it is really fatiguing. Either I have really sensitive ears, or there's some harshness to this DAC. The only other time I ever had this type of fatigue was with the headphone out on the HK3490. I just couldn't listen to that for very long without getting a headache. The box was open, also, and the DAC is supposed to be new. I've got an Audioengine D3 on the way to compare them. Might be sending this one back anyway.


Edited by whereas - 1/22/14 at 3:09pm
post #12 of 91
Thread Starter 

Well ... that's exactly why I was hooked on D3 instantly. Non-fatigue, analog-ish, very smooth and enjoyable listening sessions. Even my Ultrasone Pro 900 are tamed and they are very well known for their ear piercing "qualities" partly because of V measurements and partly because of titanium drivers. Surprisingly good matching. As someone already suggested, you may not strictly retrieve all those surgically processed sonic details with D3  (do you have to ?!) but instead there is a more significant sonic reward (at least for me) ... pure music listening fun. For me, D3 is refined, transparent and detailed just on the right edge.

 

Speaking of output impedance. I believe that many listeners are simply blindly hooked on "1/8" rule. No reason really. It can't be that strict as we are not talking about linear devices and then you have the frequency vs impedance relationship on both ends (amp and headphones). Because nothing is strictly defined in non-linear world, it's probably not very wise to draw firm conclusions on nominal output impedance. As mentioned, impedance swings across the frequency range and those very swings will define the sonic fate of any headphone. Real life listening is essential as some headphones will be happy with less then 1/8 then again some will be fine with more. By the way, I did try D3 with IE8 /Pro900/HD600 (16/40/300 ohm respectively) and didn't noticed any major sonic flaws.  

post #13 of 91

The D3 drives both my HD 650's and Denon  d600's just fine.  Awesome performing dac/amp.  

post #14 of 91

Yep. Just got a D3 to compare with the Dragonfly 1.2 and you guys are absolutely right. It's so smooth and expansive, just the right amount of everything. This is about as wide a soundstage as I've heard through my D5000's. Been listening to the D3 for about 30 mins. now and it's seriously good. It reminds me very much of the Cowon house sound, but with a genuine soundstage and a great amount of detail. Like you guys were saying, the low end is definitely what sets this apart.

 

Just plugged back into the Dragonfly, and there is that sensation of more texture on everything, but a harshness that hurts my ears after a few minutes and even sibilance issues. I'm not sure if it's just the particular pairing of my headphones and this DAC...

 

Going to listen some more before making any conclusions, but the D3 is indeed amazing. Especially for the price.

post #15 of 91
Thread Starter 

Just for the sake of balance in this thread ... it seems that What-HiFi didn't like D3 very much

 

http://www.whathifi.com/review/audioengine-d3

 

Probably many of you are quite suspicious about the credibility of this review "institution", but it seems that D3 just got the first public bashing.

 

 

By the way,  did anyone tested D3 as pre-amp (DAC source) ? ... as I got quite impressive results with my Rega BrioR amp.

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