ACMEE Magic Sound VI

cqtek

500+ Head-Fier
More Reality Than Magic
Pros: Analytical, clean and clear sound.
- SE and BAL 4.4mm outputs in one device, at a very good price.
- Quality construction and design.
Cons: Poor price/power ratio.
- Minimal functionality.
- Slightly high balanced output impedance.
Introduction

ACMEE Audio continues to grow and add new products to its catalogue. After introducing its first dongle in a limited edition, using AKM's defunct AK4493EQ DAC, it is now back with a fully-fledged Sabre DAC. It is the ES9018K2M. With this chip a sampling rate of 192k and a depth of 24Bit can be achieved and files up to DSD128 can be played back.
The Magic Sound 4 is special because of its heritage from ACMEE's DAPS series, adopting the same exterior surface treatment, as well as the brand's typical grooves. Internally, it also incorporates a separate printed circuit board design for the audio circuitry, as used in the MF02s, called "Pure Ground Technology". Its purpose is to eliminate digital signal interference from the audio circuitry. Its internal design is symmetrical, while both the width and length of the wiring is the same for both channels.
It seems that the Magic Sound 4 will not be unique: after the limited edition with AK4493EQ and the current version with the Sabre ES9018K2M DAC, there may be a new version in the near future…
The design of the Magic Sound 4 is simple and pure, with LED operation, a USB Type-C input and two audio outputs: SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm. We'll see the rest of its virtues in this review.

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Specifications

  • Model: Magic Sound 4
  • Colour: Blue
  • Body material: 6060 aluminium
  • Sampling rate/bit depth: up to 192K/24Bit
  • Output level: SE 2Vrms/balanced 4Vrms
  • Single-ended output power: 250mW (16 ohm)/125mW (32 ohm)/26mW (150 ohm)
  • Balanced output power: 270mW (16ohm)/500mW (32 ohm)/106mW (150ohm)/53mW (300ohm)
  • SNR: SE 110dB, BAL 115dB
  • Frequency response: 15Hz-45kHz
  • DAC: ES9018K2M
  • Headphone amplifier: RT6863 x2
  • Audio power supply: ±5.5V
  • DAC power supply: Low noise LDO x3
  • USB input: TYPE-C
  • Output: 3.5mm SE , 4.4mm BAL
  • Size: 60x24x11.5mm
  • Weight: 18.58g

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Packaging

The presentation of the ACMEE Magic Sound 4 is simple but elegant. It comes in a small, elongated box measuring 123x63x32mm, blue in colour, with a textile-like texture. The brand name and model are printed on the top third, in holographic ink. At the base is the web address, in smaller, white letters. On the back, at the bottom, there is a sticker with some data in Chinese. After opening the box you can see the dongle embedded in a thick foam mould, underneath which is a small black cardboard box containing two cables. In short, the complete contents are:

  • The ACMEE Magic Sound 4.
  • A warranty card.
  • An instruction and specification manual, in Chinese and English.
  • A short USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable.
  • One long USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable.

The packaging is simple, straightforward, terse but pleasing. It comes with the bare minimum. Little more can be expected.

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Construction and Design

The Magic Sound 4 has a clear reminiscence of the brand's DAPs, with the same exterior treatment and the grooves that are already part of the brand's hallmark. Its size is 60x24x11.5mm and its weight is 18.58g. It is made of 6060 aluminium and painted in a deep blue. The texts are inscribed on the sandblasted/textured surface. On the main side you can see the brand logo in the centre, underneath you can read "192K/24BIT DSD128". On the other side each connection is named. Of particular note is the "4.4BLA" caption. Just beyond the centre of this side, closer to the USB connection, there is an LED that lights green when connected. The elongated sides have 3 fins with two slots, giving that radiator look that the brand's DAPs also incorporate. At one end are the 3.5mm SE and 4.4mm BAL audio outputs. The balanced output has a gold-plated connector, while the SE output does not. At the other end is the USB Type-C input.
Internally, the Magic Sound 4 uses the Sabre ESS ES9018K2M DAC. It also uses the RT6863 x2 amplifier chip. The audio power supply of the Magic Sound 4 amplifier adopts a ±5.5V boost and ±4.8V ultra-low noise LDO design, which effectively reduces power supply noise. The power supplies for the left and right channels of the DAC are separated, using two ultra-low noise 3.3V LDO power supplies to improve channel separation, in addition to the 3.3V power supply and the 1.2V power supply for the digital circuit. The Magic Sound 4 has 7 power supply chips in its small body.
The Magic Sound 4 stands out due to its distinctive design with its distinctive grooves on the sides, its sandblasted surface and its deep blue colour. Thanks to the 6060 aluminium, it is built like a tank and feels sturdy yet lightweight. The surface is resistant to fingerprints and looks tough against scratches. It is clear that ACMEE has not skimped on its construction, neither externally nor internally. Along with the design, they have done a good job.

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Connectivity

The ACMEE Magic Sound 4 can be connected to a Windows 10 PC. It requires no drivers and can play 192K/24Bit PCM and DSD128 files.
It can be used in connection with a smartphone (Android or Apple) and compatible DAPS or transports. For Apple, a suitable connection cable will be required, which must be purchased separately.

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Operativity

Operation is extremely simple. It has a USB Type-C connection and under Windows 10 no drivers are required.
It has no volume control and has two audio outputs SE 3.5mm and BAL 4.4mm.
It has an operation LED that lights green when connected, but does not change colour to indicate the saple ratio. It also has no battery, no external buttons, so operation is extremely simple and straightforward.
With use, a very slight warming can be detected, but nothing annoying. Little or nothing else to comment on.

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Measures

Looking at the power specs, I already thought they were too much. But seeing that its power is really low, I honestly didn't expect it. With no load on the SE output, it barely gives more than 0.5V, which is ridiculous compared to what is specified. The balanced output is just double that, as usual. 1V is normal for many small DAPs and most dongles I've tested, but for SE. Although, there is still an aggravating factor, the output impedance. The good part is that Acmee has improved in this regard and it is not as high. As measured, the output impedance for SE is slightly over 2Ω, while for the balanced output it is slightly over 4Ω. As I say, this is an improvement for ACMEE, but they are still values that can be improved.
The only good thing to come out of the measurements is that the observed curves are quite clean and have no visible distortion even at full power. It was only a matter of time before this was not the case.

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No load SE

With no load, the output voltage at 1khz is 0.524V. Very poor.

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15Ω SE

With a 15Ω load, the output voltage at 1kHz is 0.455V, resulting in a power of 13.8mW. The specifications give a power of 250mW at 16Ω. No further comment is necessary.

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33Ω SE

With a 33Ω load, the output voltage at 1kHz is 0.48V, resulting in a power of 7.22mW. The specifications give a power of 125mW at 32Ω.

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100Ω SE

With a 100Ω load, the output voltage at 1kHz is 0.519V, resulting in a power of 2.69mW.

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No load BAL

With no load, the output voltage at 1khz is 1.01V.

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15Ω BAL

With a 15Ω load, the output voltage at 1kHz is 0.765V, resulting in a power of 39.02mW. The specifications give a power of 270mW at 16Ω.

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33Ω BAL

With a 33Ω load, the output voltage at 1kHz is 0.889V, resulting in a power of 23.95mW. The specifications give a power of 500mW at 32Ω.

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100Ω BAL

With a 100Ω load, the output voltage at 1kHz is 0.982V, resulting in a power of 9.64mW.

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Frequency Response

Frequency response is flat from 10Hz to 40kHz and crosstalk is negligible. Nothing remarkable in this respect.

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Output Impedance SE at 33Ω 1kHz

ACMEE Magic Sound 4 ZOut 33 Ohms SE.jpg

Output Impedance BAL at 33Ω 1kHz


ACMEE Magic Sound 4 ZOut 33 Ohms BAL.jpg

Sound

The other strong point of the Magic Sound 4 is the sound, along with its level of construction. The ACMEE dongle features the typical Sabre sound, which is characterised by a neutral, bright/analytical profile. The sound is clean and transparent, fast and subtly punchy, something that provides that sparkle that gives it a more critical level of sound.
The frequency response is entirely flat, but its slightly higher-than-unity output impedance can subtly colour the frequency response of some hybrid, low-impedance IEMS. This is always a box of surprises, as the result is hardly predictable. With dynamic headphones there will never be a problem and the response will always be that of the connected headphones.
The bass reproduced is expressive, with a good level of roughness and the classic Sabre explicit high-resolution cut. I must comment that I have always been a fan of this kind of sound and that is something that is clear throughout my reviews. The low end comes across as very well defined, clear, dry, crisp, with good speed of execution, quick decay and almost no decay. The Magic Sound 4 provides the bass with good layering and layering capabilities, thanks to its high resolution and speed. This, coupled with the remarkable transparency, allows for a fairly dark and separated background to be appreciated between notes.
Admittedly, it's not an ultra-cheap dongle, but it does have SE and balanced 4.4mm output. Normally, dongles in this price range have only SE output, some have only 4.4mm output. But the Magic Sound 4 has both. I've talked about power before, and it's not the only reason I recommend using the balanced output. I feel that the balanced output has more body and sounds smoother, which is noticeable because the sound is less twangy, as well as a better stage feel and more muscle in general. Of course, these impressions are linked to a better power response, but also to a more refined, yet more melodious sound.
The mids are accurately reproduced, sparkling, pristine. The clean feel enhances the level of separation and definition, maximising a sense of air between notes. Resolution is remarkable. There is no softness that eliminates detail, but rather detail is expressed revealingly, even somewhat critically. It may sound dry, but those looking for a more analytical sound will be delighted with this twist on ACMEE's other DAPS. All in all, the midrange is neutral, with a bright tendency that never offends and shows nuances with great ease.
Unsurprisingly, the high end is explicit, crisp and extended. Lovers of soft treble should pair the Magic Sound 4 with warm IEMS if they want the treble to be more musical. But for those who enjoy an unrestricted top end, this new ACMEE is in a league of its own. Notes in this range come across as fast, remarkably defined, even sharp, but without sounding piercing. There seems to be a command to unleash the Sabre sound, something that is accentuated in this range. This is how Magic Sound 4 achieves a pure treble sound, emphasising its definition, but without increasing its presence. It's a question of sound profile.
With all that has been said so far, it is clear that separation is another strong point of this dongle. The location of the elements is quite precise, as the level of resolution makes it possible to discern the elements in an obvious way. There is more of a sense of cleanliness and transparency than of depth. But the good level of layering means that the sound does not appear flat. Admittedly, though, the presentation is wider and louder than it is deep. Despite the sharpness, the surrounding or three-dimensional sensation is not very high and the sound feels close rather than vaporous.

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Conclusion

By now, what brand in the industry doesn't have a dongle. And until AKM is re-composed, ESS Sabre is still the most widely used DAC. ACMEE has opted to use an ES9018K2M and its sound has shifted away from the warmth or neutrality of its previous DAPS. Its Magic Sound 4 dongle has a Sabre sound that is unrestricted, analytical, transparent, full of dynamics, with a remarkable sense of separation, resolute, effective and with a clear bright neutrality. The aesthetics are unmistakably reminiscent of the brand's other models, as is the level of construction. Sound, design and workmanship are undoubtedly the strong points of this dongle. On the other hand, the functionality is very basic and the power level demonstrated is far below the specified level. It is strange that ACMEE is weak in this area, because their DAPS are powerful. On the other hand, a trend leading to success is that the output impedance is down to an acceptable level, although there is still room for improvement in this area. But it is certainly another point that fans will appreciate.

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Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis

  • HiBy R3 Pro
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
  • Ikko OPAL OH2
  • TFZ Tequila Pro
  • BQEYZ Autumn
  • Dunu Titan S
  • Dunu Falcon Pro
  • NiceHCK TopGuy
  • NiceHCK Lofty
  • NF Audio NM2
  • Hidizs MM2
  • Rose Martini
  • NiceHCK EBX21
  • OurArt QJ21

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Ratings

  • Construction and Design: 80
  • Packaging and Accessories: 60
  • Connectivity: 70
  • Operability: 60
  • Sound: 80
  • Quality/Price: 65

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Penon Audio Store, offered me this model, in exchange for writing an honest review. I want to make it clear that all my opinions written in this review have not been conditioned by this fact, nor will I ever write anything that I do not really think or feel here. I will only write about my personal opinion in relation to the revised product.

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Purchase Link

https://penonaudio.com/acmee-magic-sound-4-192k.html

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You can read the full review in Spanish here:

https://hiendportable.com/2022/04/10/acmee-magic-sound-4-es9018k2m-review/

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OspreyAndy

500+ Head-Fier
ACMEE Magic Sound VI
Pros: -
- Good solid build
- Clean sound
- Above average technicalities
Cons: -
- Dry, lean timbre and tonality, lacking organic touch
- Underwhelmingly weak for a 4 Vrms rated dongle
- Drains the battery host heavily, the worst I have observed so far
- Gets really hot especially when used on PCs
- No volume adjusters
Review Date: 26 February 2022

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SPECIFICATIONS

DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9018K2M
Amplifier: RT68632
Casing Material: 6060 aluminum
Sampling Rate/Bit: 192K/32Bit (for WIN system without driver)
Output Level: Single-ended 2Vrms, Balanced 4Vrms
Output Power: Single-ended: 250mW (16ohm)/125mW (32ohm)/26mW (150ohm)
Balanced Output:270mW(16ohm)/500mW(32ohm)/106mW (150ohm)/53mW (300ohm)
SNR: Single-ended: 110dB; Balanced 115dB
Frequency Response: 15Hz-45kHz
Power Supply: ±5.5V + LDO to ±4.8V
DAC Supply: LDO3
Input: TYPE-C
Output: 3.5mm Single Ended & 4.4mm Balanced
Product dimension: 60mm24mm11.5mm
Product weight: 18.58g
Accessories: TYPE-C to USB cable/TYPE-C cable/warranty card/user manual

Test Equipment

IEMs:

  • Etymotic ER4SR (Single BA, 45 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)
  • TRN VX Pro (8 BA + 1DD Hybrid, 22 Ohm, 106db Sensitivity)
  • TIN HiFi T3+ (Single DD, 32 Ohm, 105db Sensitivity)
  • Kinera Idun Golden (3BA + 1DD Hybrid, 32 Ohm, 112db Sensitivity)
Sources:
  • Windows 10, Foobar 2000 (USB 3.0 Power)
  • LG V50 ThinQ (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • Sony Xperia X Compact (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • HiBy Music Player App (USB Exclusive Mode)


LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING

ACMEE Magic Sound VI
, The variant that I received is an ESS Sabre unit. I wanted the AKM version and specifically made my order based on that. Alas, when it arrived, I was rather unpleasantly surprised to see ES9018K2M being identified by Windows USB Audio driver. Oh well. Let’s see how this one sounds like then.

* From what I have learned, ACMEE Magic Sound VI comes in two variant. AKM4493EQ and ESS9018KA2. The AKM version supposedly the first 100 unit released.

Build, Functions, Usability​

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Magic Sound IV comes in very distinctive anodized Aqua aluminum chassis. It is very simple and practical. With just one indicator for PCM resolution on one side, and completely blank (with just engraved decals) on one side. Quite robust and probably will survive well for rugged daily abuse.

On one end, there’s a female USB C which makes it possible to use any USB C to C or C to A (both cables provided). A common practice nowadays. The other end, again a common thing now, with one 3.5mm Single Ended phone out and a Pentaconn 4.4mm BAL port.

Two things that’s bothering me a lot about this Magic Sound IV, first the battery endurance to the host. It only scored 3 hours of continuous play on my Sony Xperia X Compact (Android 8, 2700 mAH Battery, UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, driving TRN VX Pro). That’s officially the worst score of any dongles I have tested so far. With the majority of the Dongles in my collection scoring the average of 5-6 hours under exact same loads. Second, it runs hotter as well, especially when run directly attached to my laptop. All these suggested poor implementation of power delivery within the unit.

Sound Impressions​

Being an ESS Sabre DAC unit, Magic Sound IV sounds like a typical ESS dongle. Bright, dry and lean especially when paired with partners that are already neutral/natural like Etymotic ER4SR, Kinera Idun Golden and Shure KSE1500.

Dynamics appeared clean and crisp. Solid attack with fast transients. However this also means it has tendency to sound edgy with peaky passages as would most natively tuned ESS DAC would sound like – the Pinna Glare of ESS Sabre evident. While not exactly sibilant or glaringly bright like some other ESS Dongles I have tested last year, it does exhibit some granular edges. Lacking smoothness with over emphasis on crisp presentation. The timbre decidedly digital sounding, non-organic.

Dynamic range is commendable. I can hear good extensions on both end of the frequencies with Treble exhibiting micro details and Sub-Bass having audible presence. Mids and vocals appeared normal and uncolored. The one that’s lacking was the depth and density of note weight. Overall dynamics theme, generally lean, dry and mildly bright.

The saving grace for this Magic Sound IV, pairing it with warmer sounding partners. Something like TIN HiFi T3+ or CCA CA16 Pro. These two IEMs are already organic in their native signature and the dryness of Magic Sound IV output being offset, resulting in something a bit more satisfying to listen to.

Technically, Magic Sound IV is average at best. Soundstage and imaging being normal. Spatial positioning appeared good as well with proper placement to instill holographic staging. It has ample speed and resolution to handle even busy tracks.

Driving Power​

Officially Magic Sound IV is the weakest 4 Vrms rated Dongle I have tried so far. With my 45 Ohm, 96db Etymotic ER4SR it already sounded meek and thin. I have to crank the volume over 60% to get proper listening loudness (I am a low volume listener type). All this running on 4.4mm BAL port with HiBy Music Player USB Exclusive Mode.

The uninspiring experience with ER4SR totally discouraged me from testing the Magic Sound IV on anything more demanding. As such I opted NOT to test it with Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm, Fostex T40RP MK3 or the duo of VE high impedance earbuds.

Magic Sound IV is seemingly meant to pair with anything not exceeding 32 Ohm or lower than 100db of sensitivity – and something natively warmer too.

VERDICT​

ACMEE Magic Sound IV. Suffice to say, the overall experience is underwhelming. For the price asked, Magic Sound IV is no better than a $5 JCally JM08 or JA21. I would probably be less critical if the form factor of Magic Sound IV is an ultra compact with matching price to it. Not forgetting how terrible the battery endurance to the host and the heat emitted when used on PC. I don’t normally say this, but this time I make an exception – spend that money on something else.

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Best Pairing: Natively warm sounding partners, non power demanding IEMs​


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