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Apogee GROOVE Portable USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier for Mac and PC

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. Wiljen
    Get into the Apogee Groove
    Written by Wiljen
    Published Dec 14, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great sound quality when paired with high impedance headphones and better than average output power for a portable DAC.
    Cons - USB Only and needs enough power that use paired to a smartphone or tablet is not practical.
    [​IMG]

    Apogee Groove

    I became aware of Apogee years ago as they make one of the more popular lines of studio Analog to digital equipment and chances are pretty good at least one of your favorite recordings was made using Apogee gear. Two things have conspired to keep me from buying their products until now. First and certainly foremost, cost. Most of the gear Apogee makes is targeted to professional studios and priced accordingly, and second most of their gear is designed for Apple and I have never been a fan of the Mac. Recently though that has started to change. More Apogee products are now Windows compatible and the Groove has come down to a price point that while still high for its class is much more attainable. I purchased the Groove without any incentives or discounts. I have no affiliation with Apogee, nor was I provided any incentives to write this review. If you have an interest in the Groove, the best deals are the bundles with Sennheiser headphones which discount the groove fairly substantially. Alternatively, refurbished models are also sometimes available via Apogee’s website.

    Packaging:

    Packaging is pretty uneventful. The box is black cardboard with the Apogee logo on front and the specs on the rear in silver. Inside the Groove is protected by a foam surround with the manual hidden below it along with a cloth carry bag and a USB-A to micro-usb cable. The one comment I would make is the bag is oversized for just the Groove and only a single pocket so storing the Groove and the cable together may still wind up scratching the surfaces.

    [​IMG]



    Build:

    The groove isn’t much bigger than a pack of chewing gum, but has substantial heft and the build is very solid. The housing is solid metal with a micro-USB port at one end and a 3.5mm female port at the other end. The underside has a rubber pad that covers most of the bottom and provides a non-slip/ non-marring surface. Two large rubber coated buttons on the surface are separated by a string of 3 LEDs. The buttons do not have a positive click to them but are not easily pushed by accident. Internally, the Groove houses an ESS Sabre dac chip and unlike most portable arrangements, the Groove uses the full desktop chip with 8 paths rather than the mobile chip that only contains 2. The Grooves uses 4 paths per channel to yield a lower noise floor and better SNR than found on the average portable 2 channel model.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Operation:

    The other claim to fame for the Groove is that it is a constant current design rather than a constant voltage design that is more common in portable audio gear. (The drawback to that is the output impedance is rather high. I sent my Groove to ASR to test, and it tested very well with the exception of a 20Ω output impedance. For more details, see the measurements here.) Because of its high output impedance, the groove is best suited to being used with high impedance headphones (150Ω and up), or as a DAC into another amplifier. I had no trouble powering Sennheiser HD700, HD650s, and Beyer 990 (600Ω) models to any desired volume using the Groove. I did find that when paired with low impedance headphones such as the Campfire Cascade or Hifiman He4xx that the Groove tries to protect itself by cutting out when the volume is set too high. I also found that I could not have worn either headphone at anywhere near the volume required to cause cut-outs without causing permanent hearing loss. While not optimal for low impedance headphones or iems, the Groove still performed admirably. For sake of sound notes, I have used only the HD650s and Beyer 99os in order to eliminate any issue that might be caused by impedance mismatch.

    Volume control is tied to the software volume control in Windows so you can use the buttons on the Groove or the slider in Windows to adjust volume rather than having to remember to use one or the other. Mute is only available from the Windows volume controls. The LEDs on the Groove are well designed to serve several purposes rather than cluttering up the device with more stuff. A single blue LED means power is on, but no signal is being recieved. When a signal is received, all three LEDs are used to show the digital signal input level. A single Green LED mean -20 to -30 dB, two green LEDs mean -4 to -10 dB, and all three LEDS lit green means >= -3bB. If clipping occurs, the top LED will go from green to red to indicate it. When volume levels are changed, the LEDs light purple to indicate the direction and amount of change

    Interestingly, I found that the Groove continues to be powered even when the PC sleeps and draws roughly 1.6 Watts of power the entire time it is plugged in. This causes the Groove to be very warm to the touch after use but never particularly hot even after long listening sessions. I also found little or no difference in heat after 45 minutes of listening to the 990s vs the same length of listening time using the HD700s so impedance does not seem to contribute to heat production as it does on some other designs. (Granted this test was entirely unscientific and was just it doesn’t feel notably hotter so some minor differences may be lost to method here.)



    [​IMG]





    Sound:

    Reviewing the sound of a DAC amp is a difficult proposition as in a perfect world, it shouldn’t have one. The Groove does not make that job any easier as it does a good job of not adding anything to the music. I did notice a very slight warming of the sound when paired with the Cascade but think this may be more due to the impedance mismatch than anything else. The Groove does show some characteristics of its SABRE implementation as it leans toward the analytical with a slightly cold sound as a result.

    Comparisons:

    I pulled out several other portable DAC/Amp combinations to compare to the Groove. Amongst them were the Fiio E07K and E17K, Sabaj Da3, smsl idea, ifi xDSD and nano BL. The Groove easily outclasses the Fiio, Sabaj, and SMSL idea when comparing output power but is clearly aimed at a different target market. Were I to be pairing the device to high sensitivity low impedance in-ears, I would go with the Sabaj or SMSL. When powering anything over 150Ω both the Sabaj and SMSL are very limited and cannot provide enough power to really open up more power hungry cans. The Groove on the other hand had no trouble pushing 600Ω Beyers to volumes that would cause hearing loss.

    When compared to the xDSD or nano BL, we have a closer fight. The Groove provides nearly the same amount of power as the other two but lacks the filter options and is not battery powered as the Ifi products are. The Ifi products are both bulky when compared to the Groove and while the xDSD and Groove both have LEDs to show volume range, the Groove is a bit more intuitive as it takes a bit to memorize the color patterns used by the xDSD.

    When used purely as a DAC paired to my Valhalla amp, the Groove offers performance similar to the Bifrost or Khadas Tone Board I usually use for this.



    Conclusions:

    Some will immediately read the comparisons and draw the conclusion that the xDSD is a better device. I think that depends on how you intend to use the device. As a dac, both are very good and offer similar performance. As an amp the xDSD is more capable with lower impedance devices while the Groove really starts to show its muscle with 300Ω and above models. The xDSD was designed to be paired with a smartphone for on-the go use while the Groove was designed to pair with a laptop (either Windows or Mac) and used while working. For those who want a simple device that works well and provides all the power they need for studio headphones, the Groove does a very good job. It doesn’t offer a lot of options, but it is plug and go. No fiddling with lots of drivers, settings, or software, just plug it in to an available USB port and plug in your headphones. Most will try to compare the Groove to portable DAC/Amps because of its form factor and this leads to the assumption that the Groove is not price competitive. When instead compared to other desktop combos like the Magni 3/Modi 2 Uber, you have similar price and performance in a more convenient form factor.
      kukkurovaca likes this.
  2. mtliu
    Awesome. Best sounding DAC/amp I have ever owned.
    Written by mtliu
    Published Aug 19, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Clear euphoric sound. Instruments stay distinct in their own space. Simple to use. Easy to transport.
    Cons - Lack of features, but I don't miss them. Can only be used with a computer. Cannot be used as an amp alone.
    The DAC+amps I currently own now are the Fiio E17K and E07K, some lower-end audio interfaces for recording, and a cheap generic outboard USB based upon the CM108. The Apogee Groove sounds significantly better than them all. The Apogee Groove also has the least amount of bells and whistles out of them all. Granted the Groove retails for almost twice the price of all the other ones I've listed. However, Fiio E07K is meant to dock with the Fiio E09K - this combo price brings it closer to the Groove pricewise. The Fiio E17K will dock with Fiio's forthcoming K5 dock. The E17K + K5 together will match the retail price of the Groove. Even though the K5 is not out, it is possible to get the same performance by using the line-out of the E17K to feed the E09K. The Groove still sounds better than either of the Fiio DAC+Seperate Amp Combos.
     
    I can't believe how much Apogee packed into such a small space. Taking up less room than the size of my two largest fingers is a box with micro-USB in, 3.5mm headphone out, volume buttons, and 3-very bright LED indicators that Apogee does not explain in the included manual nor online. When listening in a dark room, the LEDs are quite bright and always flashing. I have to turn the device on it's back or I find myself looking over at the dancing lights.
     
    I'm using a Windows 10 laptop. The Groove did not work out of the box with the laptop. However, downloading the driver was a simple matter of registering my product - then the driver became available. It installed without a hitch - works great. Even though the website claims the driver is only for Windows 7 or 8, it works fine with Windows 10.
     
    Way back in the day, when I was satisfied with my onboard audio, I thought my onboard audio sounded fabulous. This is also because I grew up in the age of vinyl records and cassette tapes. The onboard audio sounded miles better than what I was used to in the 70s. The first DAC that I noticed had significantly better sound was actually an audio interface meant for recording. What it made me realize was that the onboard audio was smearing some of the sounds together. If a passage had a particularly powerful bass, it would sound as if the energy needed to reproduce that bass was sucked away from the energy needed to reproduce any other frequencies also present in the music. The same thing would happen with a particularly powerful cymbal crash. This was not something I noticed until I bought a new DAC and compared. Recently, I had bought both the Fiio E17K and Fiio E07K. However, even these smear sound - even though I wasn't aware of it until listening to the Groove. The Groove keeps all the instruments separate in their own space within the soundstage. The Fiios will smear the sound a little bit  - it is most noticeable with powerful bass or cymbals. Its as if the attack of the cymbals makes the part of the sound that comes after the attack briefly smear itself with the rest of the music. With the Groove, the sounds stay where they are - never blending with the other instruments - even for a moment. My onboard audio (Skull Candy approved - damn you guys how dare you put your name on something that sounds so awful) smears and blends audio almost all the time. The Fiios do it a little, and the Groove never does it. I can only imagine that somewhere down the road, I'm going to find myself with a $500 DAC, which will then make me reevaluate everything all over again.

    One thing I noticed when moving from onboard to the Fiios, was that with the Fiio, I could tell what kind of guitar or bass the performer was using - and sometimes even the effects the guitar/bass signal was processed through. This is even more noticible with the Groove. With the Fiio, sometimes I would have to concentrate to hear some of the differences. With the Groove, it is immediately even more apparent.

    When comparing the Groove to the Fiios, the Fiios have a little bit of grain - and the Groove is transparent clean - that fades to a black hole of silence when no signal is present. I didn't notice the grain in the Fiios at all until auditioning the Groove. Damn you Apogee for  turning my once clear and open Fiios into grainy frequency smearing paper weights! Granted the grain is very little and the smearing is also very subtle. 

    The Groove currently retails for around $300, but it seems like almost every week, Adorama is bundling it with a set of higher-end cans and discounting it like crazy. I got this along with ATH-M70x cans for $300 for both. I've seen Adorama also bundle the Groove with HD600s and HD650s as well as a few others.

    I'm still going to keep my Fiio stuff because the Groove can only be used with a computer. I've seen some hacks online where people have managed to use it with phones or tablets - but these are hacks and will most certainly void your warranty. The Fiios have a plethora of features - such as tone/balance/gain controls - as well as the ability to be used as an amp accepting line-in and digital signals. However, I don't find myself ever wanting to change the tone controls with the Groove. I'm listening with flat EQ. My sources range from CDs to 24-bit FLACs purchased from an online retailer that specializes in "high-res" FLACs from the source - to crappy 128k mp3. The Groove seems to make the 128K mp3 sound better.

    The icing on the cake is when I took the Groove to the club where I DJ and used it as the system sound card. I had been doing this with the Fiios - previously. The difference with the Groove is immediately apparent - particularly in the bass. The bass is distinct and the notes sound like they are supposed to - rather than this thunderous indistinct boom. Other differences can be best described as an additional shimmer that is heard with acoustic guitar and strings. It sounds noticibly better. I've read a lot of comparisons on head-fi where someone will say it is difficult to hear differences between two DACs. With the Grooves and the Fiios, it is clear that the Groove is superior. But this is expected since the Groove costs more than 2x the E17K and 3x the E07K. On a side note, the difference between the E17K and E07K is not that great. 
     
    ​In general what I've noticed is that the better sounding the equipment is, the less volume I need to hear details. I remember with cassette walkmans and orange colored pads headphones - I'd have to crank it up very loudly. With each improvement in the signal chain I make - the sound becomes clearer and more details emerge - this in turn makes me turn down the volume - consequently with the Groove, the volume is way down low. This is also probably what happened at the club - the increased clarity resulted in me playing with less overall volume.
     
    ​I'm currently using the Groove with the ATH-M70x cans that came with it as a bundle. I can't get enough! I did briefly try some of my other cans and IEMs - the Groove made them all sound better than I remember, but none of them sound as good to me as with the M70x. The volume on my computer is currently set to 4% - or 4 out of 100 - and it is loud enough. I don't have any difficult to drive cans or high impedance cans, so I can't comment on the ability to drive those. I'm wondering if the Groove will possibly power speakers given that they are powering my cans fine at 4/100.
     
    Some cans have a 3.5mm male jack coming out of them to hook to a m-to-f cable. I've been using these cans with an Ipod Shuffle or Sansa Clip for quasi-wireless music. The Apogee Groove can also serve in this capacity - except it becomes kind of like a cheek warmer because it gets so warm. Here is the Groove with a pair of Superlux 668B with velour pads. The sibilance commonly heard using these cans is gone - left with pure sound. The Superlux 668B never sounded so good.
    IMG_20150823_22290291021.jpg
     
    One Week Update: Still going strong. On a whim, I hooked the Groove up to my Moto X 2014 with a USB OTG cable AND IT WORKS!!!! It sucks the power out of the battery about 4x faster than without it - but slower than playing game apps like Candy Crush. The battery does not get significantly hotter than using the OTG+groove - running about 20 degrees F above ambient temperature (Candy Crush drives the battery temp to something like 50 degrees F above ambient). The drain on the battery with the Apogee is about 4x (200mA vs 800mA - the app I use to measure current drain doesn't tell me the per time units) than using the onboard phone DAC+amp. The minor disappointment is that the onboard and the Apogee do not sound all that different at the same volumes. The Apogee has a little bit cleaner bass and a little more shimmer in the cymbals, but it's not the night and day difference I experienced when comparing the Apogee to my onboard Dell laptop. Yes, the phone does smear the cymbals a little bit, but the difference between the Apogee and phone onboard at the same volume is very small - I had to critically listen and repeat passages a few times to really distinguish the minor differences. However, the onboard phone max volume is not that loud at all - although it is certainly respectable and listenable. The Moto X cranked up all the way is about the maximum volume I prefer to listen when using the phone as a source - usually out in public. However, the Apogee is able to play the volume to a unnaturally loud deafening level (to me) that I wouldn't be able to tolerate for too long. - while remaining clean, open, and transparent. Keep in mind that when I go to concerts where any amplification is used (meaning almost everything except classical music), I wear noise attenuating earplugs. This could also be a testament to the DAC+amp of the Moto X 2014. The phone is good sounding and loud enough. I'll have to compare it to the Fiios with an OTG sometime in the future. Also, keep in mind that for this particular evaluation that I'm using cans that I normally don't use with the phone (ATH-M70x). I'll have to compare using the devices I normally use with the phone (Koss KSC75 or Porta Pro and Hifiman RE400A) at a later date.
     
    5-stars. Sure it lacks features, but I actually don't miss them.





     
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Bukem
      @ mtliu: Cheers. Missed the bit mentioning ESS Sabre. Apologies.
      Bukem, Aug 25, 2015
    3. hiker2
      It helps a lot to understand about Apogee. As I am going to narrow down the final shortlisted product list, just like a virtual test run...cool stuf..thanks !!!!
      hiker2, Mar 15, 2016
    4. damobananna
      Hi, Have you tried it with a usb3 port? because thats all I have on my lappy and my ak jnr failed to support this
      damobananna, Apr 11, 2017
  3. acain
    Big Sound In A Small Pakage
    Written by acain
    Published Aug 3, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Balanced Sound, Portable, Built Like A Tank
    Cons - Only for laptops, can't turn off or dim the LEDs
    REVIEW FOR THE APOGEE GROOVE
     
    ABOUT ME
    Let me introduce myself my name is Adam I am a 38 years old, I have been into audio equipment since I was in highschool. I don’t consider myself an audiophile, I am just an average guy that loves music. I like to listen to my music with the best possible quality. My journey to Head-Fi started one day doing a search on the web for headphone reviews. Just about all searches for headphones and earbuds brings you to Head-Fi, after lurking for a couple weeks I finally made an account and here I am writing reviews. Being on Head-Fi I have learned so much and I am learning something new every day.
     
    My reviews are written geared towards the average consumer since most web searches direct you to Head-Fi. Head-Fi reviews get more traffic than most pro-audio magazines or any designated review site, you won't find my reviews filled with audiophile terms or do I use graphs, meters, or charts. The only charts and graphs I care about are the quarterly ones that come in the mail about my 401K. To be honest audiophile terms confuse me, some of them have 2 different meanings depending on who you talk to, or the definition says to see another term. Being a simple guy and write know better than a high school student, you will fully understand my reviews. My goal is to let the average consumer know if this product is worth their hard earned cash
    .
    Before I get started I would like to say thank you to Brad from Apogee for sending me a demo unit out. I am not employed or am I being compensated for this review. This review is based off my honest opinions. Apogee is has been in the business since 1985, they mainly focus there products on professional digital audio equipment. There recent release of the Groove has caught the eye of many audiophiles and music lovers including me. It’s form factor is made to be portable for people on the go, or if you just need a small amp/dac combo.  Laptops are not known for their audio fidelity and there amp sections are usually very under powered. So lets see if the Groove can make my laptop sound better and drive my headphones to reasonable listening levels.  You can purchase the Groove directly from Apogee from the following link for $295 they also have a 30th Anniversary Model for $595 that comes in silver and gold.
    http://store.apogeedigital.com/store/index.php/products/apogee-groove.html
    IMG_3864.jpg
     
    IMG_3865.jpg
     

    Features:

    1. USB 2.0 connection to Mac and PC
    2. Up to 24 bit / 192kHz audio
    3. ESS Sabre DAC
    4. Enhances your iTunes, Tidal, Spotify, Pandora or other music listening experiences
    5. Constant Current Drive™ provides smooth frequency response with any headphones
    6. Quad Sum DAC™, 4 DACs per channel for highest dynamic range and lowest distortion
    7. Asynchronous clocking
    8. Multi-color LEDs for status and level indication
    9. Powered by USB
    10. Top panel buttons adjust and mute volume
    11. Compact and portable (95mm L x 30mm W x 16mm H)
    12. Premium aluminum build quality
    13. Built in the USA

    D/A conversion :

    1. THD+N: -107 dB with 600 Ohm load @ 16 dBu
    2. (-109 dB with 600 Ohm load @ 16 dBu-Anniversary Edition)
    3. THD+N: -100dB with 30 Ohm load @ 10.5 dBu
    4. (-101dB with 30 Ohm load @ 10.5 dBu-Anniversary Edition)
    5. Dynamic Range: 117dB a-weighted
    6. (119dB a-weighted-Anniversary Edition)
    7. Frequency response: 10Hz – 20K +/- 0.2dB
    8. (10Hz – 20K +/- 0.1dB-Anniversary Edition)
    9. Max output level:
      1. 225mW into 30 Ohm
      2. 40mW into 600 Ohm
    10. 8 channel ESS DAC (4 DACs per channel)
     

    System Requirements

    Mac OS:

    1. Computer: Intel Mac 1.5GHz or faster
    2. Memory: 2 GB RAM minimum, 4 GB recommended
    3. OS: 10.8 or greater
    4. Connection and power: Any available USB port
    5. Driver: Mac Core Audio.  No download or installation necessary

    Windows OS:

    1. PC or laptop manufactured after January 2006
    2. Intel Core 2 @ 1.6 GHz or AMD equivalent
    3. Memory: 1 GB RAM minimum
    4. Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit)
    5. Windows 8 (32 and 64 bit)
    6. Windows 8.1 (32 and 64 bit)
    7. Windows 10 (32 and 64bit) September 2015
    8. Connection and power: Any available USB port
    9. Driver: Register to download from Apogee’s website


    IMG_3868.jpg
     
     

     
    PACKAGING
    Apogee Groove comes in a nice heavy duty box with Apogee’s logo on the front. On the rear of the box you will find information for the specs and features. Opening the box the Groove is nicely presented to you laying in a pre cut foam insert. Underneath the foam you will find the instructions and accessories.

    IMG_3874.jpg

     
    ACCESSORIES  
    Groove
    USB Cable (1′)
    Carrying pouch
    Product booklet (Quick Start Guide, Warranty Information)
    Instructions for download of software and complete documentation
     
    Who doesn’t like accessories, the Groove doesn’t come with much since it’s a portable amp/dac and doesn't require much of anything. It comes with everything you need to get you going with the included usb cable. Apogee also includes a nice drawstring carrying pouch. And of course the instructions, that’s about it for accessories.
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    BUILD And FUNCTION
    The Groove build quality is minimalistic and very clean looking, the outer casing is an all aluminium design with a black finish. The first thing I noticed is this thing is small and has a good weight to it. It’s probably no bigger than two packs of gum stacked on top off each other. On the bottom there is a non-slip peice of rubber, so it doesn’t scratch or slide on whatever you place it on. On the bottom side you will find the headphone input, and on the top is the usb input. There is also a small loop in the right hand corner to attach it to a lanyard or keychain. I wouldn’t recommend making it a $300 key chain but you never know with some people out there.
     
    On the face of the Groove there is only two buttons for the volume control, in between the buttons there is three leds. Pushing the buttons have a nice feel to them and they are also covered in a slip resistant rubber The leds are multi-colored for status and level indication, they have a good brightness to them. The Groove is powered directly from your laptop's usb port, it’s not meant to be used with tablets and cell phones due to the lack of power output. There is a hack on YouTube to hook it up with an external battery source and cell phone.
     
    It’s a plug and play device as long as you are using MAC OS, Window OS users will need to download the drivers. Downloading the drivers was pretty easy from there website, you do need to register the Groove before you are able to access the right drivers. It has a USB 2.0 connection and up to 24 bit/192kHz audio. Grooves dac section is not one or two but four dacs per channel. Its called Quad Sum DAC, 4 DACs per channel for the highest dynamic range and lowest distortion. The Groove also uses a Constant Current Drive that’s supposed to provide a smooth frequency response with any headphone. Overall I love the build and form of the Groove, it doesn’t take up much room and can be thrown in your pocket for traveling.
    IMG_3870.jpg
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    SOUND
    Finally the most important part of the review the sound, if I had to sum it up in one word it would have to be WOW. All my listening was done on my Lenovo Ultrabook ideapad. Using the headphone jack straight out of my laptop without the Groove is very unlistenable to me. Maybe for someone else it’s good, straight out of my laptop it’s very closed sounding with  recessed mids and non existing upper frequencies. On top of that, my laptop by itself can hardly drive any headphone with a double digit impedance to a reasonable listening level. If I do listen to music straight out of my laptop the volume is pegged at 100, I never listen to anything without an amp or dac hooked up to my laptop.
     
    I always find it hard to describe sound especially with a amp/dac, there are so many variables like what kind of files, headphones, music type, environment and how well your ears function. So I will do the best that I can, all my files were all hi-res WAV or Flac format. To start off the Groove has a completely dark background. When there is no instruments and pauses in the music it is nothing but silence. When using my laptop by itself I usually hear a hissing noise or some kind of alien noise.  I don’t have any really high impedance headphones, the only pair I have are the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80 ohms. They are not the highest impedance cans but they are not the easiest ones to drive. Coming straight out of my laptop I have the volume at 100, and this is still not a reasonable listening level. The sound is very unlikely with no details and probably the worst reproduction of high frequencies I have heard.
     
    Plugging the Groove into my laptop with the DT770s turns them into something totally different. If you ever saw the movie Over The Top with Sylvester Stallone, where he is a professional arm wrestler.  Whenever he turns his hat around backwards he transforms into this super arm wrestler. Or it’s like superman without his cape, you know what I mean did that make any sense. What I am trying to say is the Groove does some magical things to the transformation of the digital to analog signal. The first thing I noticed was the separation of instruments, that was not there when my cans were plugged straight into my laptop. Apogees Groove doesn’t seem to add any coloration to the music and keeps things well balanced and natural. It’s hard to say what an amp/dac sounds like, when headphones have there own sound.
     
    But I can tell you this it’s a huge improvement over my laptops sound card. Using other amp/dac combos there are sometimes very subtle differences and improvements that can be heard. The Groove was an instant improvement  to my music giving it a nice full bodied sound. From the low end to the high end of the spectrum, the Groove has no problems reproducing fine details in vocals or low end bass. The strong point would have to be seperation of instruments. It also had no problem driving the DT770s to a nice listening volume. There was plenty left that I could turn them up if I wanted to go deaf. I wasn't’ sure if the Groove was suitable to drive balanced armature iem’s since they have crazy impedance swings. So I set the volume all the way down and plugged the Grado GR8es in, and the Groove had no problem with them at all. The background was still completely dead quiet, without the Groove I experience a lot of hissing and humming right out of my laptop worse than regular headphones.
     
    In the end the Groove can make your music sound the way it should be listened to. The overall sound is balanced with great retrieval of details.. To top it off it can drive most headphones with it’s amp section. It sounds better than higher priced dedicated desktop amp/dac combos that I have used. Whatever magic they did in this little unit, just works.
    IMG_3893.jpg
     
    IMG_3895.jpg
     
    FINAL THOUGHTS
    I would highly recommend the Groove  to anyone looking for a portable amp/dac for their laptop. It’s form and build are top notch, it’s higher price might turn away the average consumer. If you're an audiophile or a serious music lover or a pro in the industry,  the price will be more of a bargain for its performance. It’s not every day I get to demo something that gives me that WOW factor, the Groove has definitely shocked me. Just for being a portable unit and it’s size, I didn’t expect it to drive headphones the way it does. I was even more impressed the way it converts all those zeros and ones into a highly detailed listening experience. Thanks for reading I hope I helped anyone interested in this.
      arftech and RedJohn456 like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. senorx12562
      Nice review Adam. This is becoming a very crowded market segment, w/ the Explorer, Dragonfly1.2, numerous Fiio products, and especially the GO 1000, which is now going for $199, and which has way more amp power than the Groove. Things are heating up,and it should be very interesting in the next 6 months or so. Cheers.
      senorx12562, Aug 4, 2015
    3. acain
      So many companies are jumping into portable audio, the more choices the better.
      acain, Aug 4, 2015
    4. shigzeo
      I'm hearing conflicting reports about this. Lachlan isn't happy with his because of its instability under varying loads. My DUET 2 is also pretty unstable, but this one may be more so. Still, seems a good idea.
      shigzeo, Aug 5, 2015