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CEntrance DACport Slim Portable 192kHz USB Hi-Res DAC/Class-A Headphone Amp

CEntrance DACport Slim

Rating:
5/5,
  • CEntrance DACport Slim Portable 192kHz USB Hi-Res DAC/Class-A Headphone Amp

Recent Reviews

  1. peter123
    What a nice surprise!!!
    Written by peter123
    Published Nov 24, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound, size, value AND physical volume control
    Cons - No DSD support
    The CEntrance DACport Slim was purchased by me on the first drop for it on Massdrop.
     
    The DACport Slim is only available through Massdrop:
     
    https://www.massdrop.com/buy/centrance-dacport-slim-amp-dac-combo
     
    I’m not in any way affiliated with Massdrop or CEntrance.
     
    IMG_3273.jpg
     
    IMG_3272.jpg
     
     
    About me:
    I’m a 43 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
     
    My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
     
    My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
     
    I do not use EQ, ever.
     
    I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
     
    Built and accessories:
    The CEntrance DACport Slim is a combined USB DAC and headphone amplifier designed to be used with computers and laptops.
     
    The chassis on the Slim is made out of aluminum and the overall construction of the unit feels very solid without anything feeling loose or creating unwanted noises. The volume control is made of plastic but still feels very solid. Although the volume control offers some resistance I’d preferred even a bit more since I occasionally have managed to turn the volume up unintended.  The gain switch needs to be accessed with something thin to be changed but I’d much rather have it in that way than it being too easy to move unintentionally.
     
    I really appreciate the fact that the Slim has a physical volume control on it. I hate having to change the volume on a slider on my laptop and think this feature makes it a much more versatile device both for use at home and in the office.
     
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    IMG_3276.jpg
    Gain switch
    IMG_3277.jpg
    Combined headhone and line out
    IMG_3278.jpg
    Volume knob and micro USB port
    IMG_3282.jpg
    Under the hood
     
    Compatibility:
    The Slim officially supports Mac, Linux and Windows. Apparently some people are having issues using it with Windows 10. I’ve used mine with two different laptops running Windows 7 and it works great with both through both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. It also works pretty well with Android devices. It runs fine with the third party app USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) without any extra power from my LG G3 phone and it also works with UAPP from my old Nexus 7 tablet but only if connected to an external battery. The Slim has a class A amplifier in it which means it draws quite a bit og power when connected to the phone though and from my basic research it drain the battery with about 5% on an average song. This means, that to me, this is not really a good way to use it. With a power bank attached it works great though. From what I’ve read people also use it with Apple devices connected through the Camera Connection Kit.
     
    The Slim support sample rates up to 24bit/192kHz. Although I’m not personally much into hi-resolution music I’d still have liked DSD to be supported as well. The way it’s now you need put $200 on the table and get the DACport HD if you need DSD support.   
     
    Despite being really small the Slim pack pretty much power. The Slim is rated to output a total of maximum 450Mw but unfortunately I’ve not been able to understand at what load this is measured at. What I can say though is that it drives all headphones that I own with ease, even the notoriously hard to drive modded Fostex T50RP’s. The amplifier stage is class A and the Sim does run a bit warm, still nothing more than that. In comparison the Geek Out 720 is really hot. The performance of the amplifier is good enough for me to not pair the Slim with other amplifiers most of the time. 
     
    My Slim arrived without any accessories whatsoever but after about a week a cheap USB to micro USB cable that supposedly should’ve been included came in the mail. As far as I understand the cable is now included in the package.
     
    The specs:
    Headphone Amplifier
    1. 3.5mm jack, headphone or line out
    2. Direct Class-A, no caps signal path
    3. 2.9V rms max output level
    4. 450 mW max output power
    5. 1 Ohm output impedance
    6. 20 dB gain switch between min and max
    7. 3" (7.6cm) x 1.1" (2.9cm) x 0.4" (1.1cm)
    D/A Converter
    1. Plays 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz sample rates
    2. 16 and 24 bit resolution support
    3. Asynchronous USB connection
    4. Lowest jitter clock, no PLL used
    5. Compatible with Mac, Linux and PC
    6. Frequency Response - 20 Hz-40 kHz
    7. 109 dB dynamic range
    8. 0.003% THD+N
    Weight - 2.5 oz (72g)
     
    Sound:
    I’ve used the Slim quite a lot during the last couple of months and it has played for well over 100 hours.  
     
    I’ve combined it with my LG G3 phone, Nexus 7 tablet and two laptops running Windows 7 and it has worked very well with all combinations.
     
    Demo list:
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
    Ane Brun – These Days
    Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
    Metallica – Die Die My Darling
    The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
    Eva Cassidy – Songbird
    Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
    Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
    Celldweller – Unshakeable
    Jack Johnson – Better Together
    Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
    Dire Straits- So Far Away
    Bjørk - Moon
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
     
    I’ve got to be honest and admit that I find it pretty difficult to describe the sound from DAC’s. To me the sound of headphones and IEM’s are easier to describe than that of amplifiers and DAC’s. Because of this I’ll do a brief description of the overall sound from the Slim and then compare it to a couple of other amplifiers to highlight the difference and similarities to them.
     
    The CEntrance DACport Slim got less bas presence compared to most, if not all, other DAC’s I’ve got but despite of this it doesn’t sound thin in any way. Sub-bass reaches low and the overall sound is what I’d describe as neutral as well as very natural. I don’t find it to be neither warm nor cold in its character. As already mentioned soundstage width is excellent and I would almost say that it’s slightly laid back in its presentation. All of this together makes for a effortless presentation that’s very easy to enjoy.
     
    I do find the Slim to pair best with warmer sounding headphones and IEM’s but it sounds good with everything I’ve tried it with.
     
    Comparison:
    Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
     
    I this comparison both DAC/amp combos where fed by different laptops both running Mediamonkey with the exact same settings and I was listening to through my Philips Fidelio X2’s and ATH-CKR9’s.
     
    I used a splitter/switch box to easily switch between the two units being compared and a simple Android app to volume match them.
     
    IMG_3286.jpg
    Size comaprison. Top to bottom Geek Out 720, DACport Slim, SHOZY Lancea
     
    Geek Out 720 vs DACport Slim:
    Compared to the Slim the GO720 ($169) has more bass presence, especially in the mid- and higher bass giving it more drive in the music but also a more intimate presentation. Sub-bass is quite similar with both. The less bass presence on the Slim gives a perception of better separation, a less in your face presentation and a bigger stage.  Switching from one to another makes the GO720 feel a bit sluggish and bassy in comparison. The difference in sound between these two is quite easy to hear and some of the biggest I’ve come across when comparing DAC/amp combos and the GO720 is definitely fuller but also more congested sounding.
     
    The GO720 is slightly bigger compared to the Slim and it connects to the computer with a male USB A connector while the Slim has a female micro USB for the same purpose.
     
    The GO720 offers two 3,5mm outputs, one with 0,47Ohm and one with 47Ohm while the Slim has a gain switch. Both devices offer a line out functionality by maxing out the volume, the GO on the 47Ohm output and the Slim on the low gain setting.
     
    Both have class A amplifiers and both run hot, the GO more so than the Slim but it’s also the most powerful of the two.
     
    The Slim has a physical volume button while this feature unfortunately was removed from the GO720 in a firmware update.
     
    None of these are really suited to be paired with Android without the use of an external battery due to their severe battery drain.
     
    Both are very quiet (no background hiss) even with the 12Ohm CKR9’s.
     
    The GO720 support up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD (up to 64/128) while the Slim only support up to 24bit/192kHz.
     
    The choice between these two comes down to what kind of sound you like and what headphones/IEM’s you plan to pair it with. The GO720 is also quite a bit more powerful and support higher bitrates.
     
    SHOZY Lancea vs DACport Slim:
    The SHOZY Lancea ($179) and the Slim share more of their tonality than the GO720 and the Slim does. That being said the Lancea also has much more bass presence than the Slim but still manage to retain the same sense of space. The Slim sound cleaner due to lesser bass and also more natural and less diffuse to my ears. Switching between the two there’s no doubt that although the bass on the Lancea doesn’t necessarily reach deeper it definitely hits harder and has more presence.
     
    The Lancea is much smaller that the slim, maybe about a quarter of its size and just like the Slim it’s connected to the source through a female micro USB port.
     
    Both have a single 3,5mm output and both offers a line out function when maxing out the volume.
     
    The Lancea runs much cooler than the Slim but also offer much less power.
     
    The Slim has a physical volume control while the Lancea doesn’t.
     
    The Lance is very well suited to be paired with Android devices due to its lesser power demands and high compatibility with such devices
     
    Both are very quiet (no background hiss) even with the 12Ohm CKR9’s.
     
    The Lancea supports up to 20bit/48kHz sample rate while the Slim supports up to 24bit/192kHz.
     
    The choice between these two does not only comes down to what of sound you’re looking for but also how you intend to use it. The Lancea is very well suited to be paired with phones and tablets in addition to a computer or lap top while this might not be the most convenient with the Slim. The Slim on the other hand offers a lot more power, support higher bitrates and offers a physical volume control.
     
    As already mentioned I find it really hard to find significant differences between well designed and built DAC’S/amplifiers but the differences mentioned above does most definitely exist.
     
    Summary:
    What CEntrance and Massdrop have accomplished together here is a fantastic performer at a ridiculously low price. For $99 you get a great DAC paired with an equally great amplifier section putting out amazing sound quality and plenty of power for all IEM’s and most headphones. In addition you get a hardware volume control that feel reliable and a very small form factor.
     
    I think it’s safe to say that the CEntrance DACport Slim has really impressed me, not only with its fantastic performance but also with its amazing value.
     
    Anyone looking for a clean and clear sound with an effortless presentation and a small form factor should check out the Slim.
      s4tch, Currawong, Light - Man and 3 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. peter123
      Thanks! Wow 1,5W no wonder it got hot :)
      peter123, Nov 25, 2015
    3. twelvebears
      I own both the Slim and original DacPort because my original developed a fault (which Centrance are dealing with without charge outside the warrantee period) and I had to nab the Slim at the silly Massdrop price of about £78 inc postage.

      While the Slim handles higher res files, I think the amp section in the original is superior (as it should given the price difference) and overall sounds better and has more grunt for difficult headphones. BUT the Slim is much smaller and half the cost, so is a simply fantastic deal at the Massdrop price.

      It's a quality little amp from a great company for Fiio money. What's not to like!
      twelvebears, Nov 27, 2015
    4. Pedro Retador
      Have you pair these with the warm Sennheiser Momentum 2.0?
      Pedro Retador, Sep 9, 2016

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