Colorfly CDA M1


500+ Head-Fier
Colorfly CDA M1
Pros: -
- Well balanced neutral, near organic timbre, mature presentation
- Clean and crisp dynamics
- Great technicalities
- Highly affordable
Cons: -
- Volume adjustment not as refined as the competitors
- Lower score on battery endurance to the host
- Compatibility issues with UAPP, appeared weak unless tweaked
- Practically no difference between High Gain and Low Gain
- Finicky stock USB Cable, tend to unwind on itself

Colorfly CDA M1​

Review Date: 29 January 2022
Serving AUX feed to Shure KSE1500 (SE Port)
  • DAC Chip: Colorfly custom “Alpha” ESS Sabre based
  • RT6863 high-performance independent Op-AMP
  • 32-Bit/768kHz PCM signal decoding
  • Native DSD512 decoding
  • Colorfly U8 HiFi music player architecture
  • Ultra-low jitter 100M active crystal oscillator
  • JitterKill 2 independent clock architecture
  • Dual Headphone output(3.5mm SE & 4.4mm BAL)
  • Supports both High & Low impedance modes
  • Swappable connector cables
  • Multi-platform compatibility
  • USB Connector: Type-C
  • Bitrate support: PCM 32-bit/768kHz, DSD512 natively, DSD256 DoP
  • SNR: 120dB
  • THD+N: -100dB@600Ω, -98dB@32Ω
  • Output level: 2Vrms(3.5mm), 4Vrms(4.4m)
  • Output power: 100mW(3.5mm), 200mW(4.4mm)
  • Frequency response range: 20Hz-20kHz
  • DNR: 120dB
Test Equipment


  • FOSTEX T40RP MK3 (Magnetic Planar, 50 Ohm, 91db Sensitivity)
  • Beyerdynamic DT880 (Dynamic Drivers, 600 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)
  • 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)
  • Shure KSE1500 (Single Electrostatic 200V, KSA1200 Energizer)
  • Kinera Idun Golden (3BA + 1DD Hybrid, 32 Ohm, 112db Sensitivity)
  • VE Asura 3.0 FE (Single DD, 155 Ohm)
  • VE ZEN 2.0 SLQ (Single DD, 320 Ohm)
  • 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)
Comparative Reference DAC/Amp:
  • iFi ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN CAN Stack (15.1 Vrms)


Colorfly CDA M1
is a specially built Dongle using Colorfly own customized DAC which is based on ESS Sabre chipset. Similar to the one they used in their flagship DAP of Colorfly U8.

Build, Functions, Usability​

Coiled up with TRN VX Pro

Beautifully built, CDA M1 comes in a fairly sized package for a Dongle. It has USB C female port which will work with any USB C cables. CDA M1 comes with a short USB C to C cable that is somewhat fancy looking, twist braided with shiny jacks. While it does look fanciful, I wished that they opted to use something a bit more solid. The issue I found with the stock cable, the twist braid exhibited tendency to unwind itself especially when the user move about frequently. To resolve this issue, I ditched the stock USB cable entirely and use a basic USB C to C instead from my other Dongles.

There’s two tactile buttons on the side which serves as volume adjusters. Now, CDA M1 apparently does not have independent volume adjustment. Those two buttons simply acting as remote controller to change the volume level on the host. On most other Dongles, I would normally set the volume to max and leave the volume adjustment to the unit, CDA M1 will not work this way. Click the volume adjustment up and the volume slider on the host will change as well. Not something that I particularly like. I would rather that CDA M1 comes with no hardware adjuster if it is meant to just only serve as a remote controller.

The setback that I observed with volume adjustments, jump increments between levels are not refined. For example on HiBy Music Player, scaling from 7 to 8 can result in volume jump that is a bit too much on highly sensitive IEMs. I have this problem consistent across TRN VX Pro, TIN HiFi T3+ and Kinera Idun Golden. Not so much on the harder to drive stuffs like Etymotic ER4SR, VE ZEN 2.0 SLQ, Fostex T40 RP MK3 and Beyerdynamic DT880. It is a bit better with UAPP as UAPP has adjustments for volume jump increments.

CDA M1 also exhibited some parity issues with UAPP, of which the default settings for UAPP optimized for UAC2, the M1 seems to churn out much less power than it is capable of. This can be fixed by tweaking UAPP to allow individual channel volume and setting it to Max. Due to this finicky situation, I have opted to use only HiBy Music Player for CDA M1, USB Exclusive Mode and with Automatic Volume setup – finally CDA M1 shines to the fullest potential with output that is strong and wholesome.

Endurance wise, CDA M1 scored usable 5 hours of continuous playback on my Sony Xperia X Compact (Android 8, 2700 mAH, Airplane Mode, UAPP bitperfect). Driving TRN VX Pro. CDA M1 does get a bit warm to the touch after a while, which is normal for this type of Dongle. CDA M1 fell 1 hour short of the competitor like HiBy FC5 and Cayin RU6 which scored 6 hours.

Lastly, the gain switch does not seem to exhibit any audible change. Switching of Gain is achieved by pressing the two volume buttons at the same time. At least to my hearing I can’t tell the difference.

Sound Impressions​

The highlight of CDA M1, the sound itself. CDA M1 is a very well tuned unit exhibiting amazing balance of neutrality. It does not sound digital or metallic even paired with natively bright sounding partners. The timbre is close to being analogue and organic, something which is not commonly found on ESS Sabre based Dongles. For example the general tuning for ESS normally ended up being bright and overly sparkly, CDA M1 thankfully does not exhibit that trait. Similar to the tuning of Questyle M12, HiBy FC5, THX Onyx and Audirect BEAM 2S in fact. For this very reason, I am liking this CDA M1 a lot.

What stand out the most for CDA M1, how crisp and polished dynamics presentation are. It is very clean and coherent, dynamic transients flowing effortlessly without any hint of artifacts or distortions. This is consistent from the most sensitive IEMs all the way to 600 Ohm monsters. This consistency is not an easy thing to accomplish.

If I must nitpick, I will say that I do observe some pronounced edginess to upper Mids especially when paired with an already bright sounding partners, Etytmotic ER4SR and TRN VX Pro for example. I can feel that peaky type vocals (Soprano) like Alison Krauss appeared sharper than usual. Thankfully it never actually goes all the way being sibilant. Other than that, I am hearing very well balanced dynamic range presentation which is wholesome and polished. Otherwise Mids came out as very neutral with good density and imaging. Instruments and vocals sounding natural and believable. On some recordings, especially when paired with Mids centric partners, ample intimacy and lushness to the presentation, just about right. This is especially important for indulgence of Jazz and Folk music.

Very well textured Bass, Mid-Bass presented truthful to the nature of the recordings with solid rumble, attack and decays, not forgetting the details while at it. Sub-Bass seems to take a back seat a bit, still audible, the presentation favoring subtle crispness over lush undertones. Crisp and prompt. Most enjoyable when paired with Shure KSE1500, Fostex T40RP MK3 and Beyerdynamic DT880, Bass responses exhibited rich density and textures, I can actually hear the flow of Bass notes as the transition goes from one level to another.

As for the highs, CDA M1 exhibited great control of Treble presentation. It has sparkle and air with realistic decays. Especially evident when paired with devices which are already bright sounding. It does not go over the board with unnatural brightness or the dreaded ESS “Pinna Glare”. Resistance to sibilance is admirably amazing. I can clearly hear Treble Micro Details especially when paired with Shure KSE1500, Etymotic ER4SR and TRN VX Pro. I love what I am hearing. There’s smoothness to the overall presentation that keep things addictive.

Technically, CDA M1 deliver in spades. Soundstage thankfully not as narrow as how normally an ESS based DAC/Amp would sound like. There’s good sense of staging width, depth and spacing. Spatial imaging is sharp and precise, very holographic with cleanly defined layers separation. Speed wise, equally impressive with no chance of CDA M1 sounding compressed or congested. CDA M1 is assuredly a very detailed and resolving Dongle. The resolution itself is right up there with the top dogs of #donglemadness. With amazing transparency, CDA M1 will satisfy those seeking analytical output when paired with equally resolving partners.

Driving Power​

3 way battle. CDA M1 vs FC5 vs M12. Driving KSE1500 and DT880 600 Ohm

As per usual, 2022 #donglemadness contestants are subjected to extreme driving tests and trials. From Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm to Fostex T40RP MK3 magnetic planar, to 155 Ohm VE Asura 3.0FE and 320 Ohm VE ZEN 2.0 SLQ.

Simply put, CDA M1 passed with flying colors. My extensive tests showed that CDA M1 was able to closely match the output as heard from iFi ZEN stack of ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN Can (15.1 Vrms) at approx 75% of overall fidelity (driving DT880 600 Ohm) – volume set at 18/32 on HiBy Music Player, playing Diana Krall “The Look of Love”.

In comparison:
  • Colorfly CDA M1 = 75%, Vol 18/32, 4.4mm BAL on High Gain
  • Questyle M12 = 80%, Vol 25/32, 3.5mm SE on High Gain
  • HiBy FC5 = 75%, Vol 56/128, 4.4mm BAL on Adaptive Gain
Comparison Factors (vs iFi ZEN Stack)
  • Listening loudness (proper level)
  • Dynamic transients and density
  • Headroom spacing and staging
  • Imaging strength
  • Details articulation
As can be seen above, CDA M1 actually has more loudness versus the M12 and FC5 (with matched loudness at proper listening level). However, the M12 has the upper hand with better dynamics density and note weight, better natural organic balance and slightly wider soundstage. CDA M1 and FC5 practically performed equally – at least to the limit of my hearing ability.

BAL and SE Differences
  • SE at 10/32 loudness driving VE Asura 3.0FE 155 Ohm
  • BAL at 7/32 loudness driving VE Asura 3.0FE 155 Ohm
The SE for CDA M1 is just not suitable for anything that require more power. As tested with the 155 Ohm Asura 3.0FE, the output was outright fuzzy and odd sounding. Switching to 4.4mm BAL and then it does sound a lot better with crisper dynamic transients, tonality all sounded proper. The 3.5mm SE has no issues with more efficient IEMs even serving as AUX feed to Shure KSE1500. Sounds equally great with TRN VX Pro and TIN HiFi T3+, be it SE or BAL, the only difference being loudness levels.


Colorfly CDA M1. Despite the quirks and cons as noted earlier, there’s no denying how great CDA M1 as a DAC/Amp Dongle – sonic wise. And that’s what matter the most, the sound output. CDA M1 exhibited great finesse to work with literally anything. Be it super sensitive IEMs or exceedingly hard to drive juggernauts. This agility, finesse and flexibility is a mark of a great Dongle – of being consistent with sonic performances coming from such a compact device. I am especially impressed with how balanced the output is – neither bright not it is warm. CDA M1 is one of the prime example of how a great sounding unit should be tuned, it is highly resolving as it is amply musical. Something that can be enjoyed be it for critical listening or casual use. A winner definitely.


Best Pairing: Flexible up to 600 Ohm​

Last edited:
Great review! Is this dac dongle good for my Tri starsea? If not, can you suggest me what dac should I buy to drive my starsea?
@martinex Thanks!. I have no experience with Tri Starsea. But M1 being very neutral and refined, it will literally pair with anything effortlessly
@OspreyAndy I see, I will get this dac instead of Fiio KA3. Thank you!! :grinning:


100+ Head-Fier
Colorfly CDA M1– Entry Level Nightmare
Pros: - Sound Quality
- Good Power
- Really competitive price
- High-load and Low-load to match cans
Cons: - Low noise if paired with android 9 and lower
- Colorfly don’t provide any lightning cables (not even optional)
- A bit hot after using for few hours
Unit borrowed from my friend here in Indonesia and I will send it back later, Please take this “review” with grain of salt.


Sneak-Peek Colorfly CDA M1 (Colorfly α)
MSRP: 499 Yuan ≈ $89
Tuning Style : Neutral with massive soundstage, very well-balanced
Suitable Genre : allrounder, especially good on mellow pop and vocal
Grip Comfort : Excellent / Good / General / Poor
Build Quality : Excellent / Good / General / Poor
Control Exp. : Excellent / Good / General / Poor
Life Time : Doesn’t have battery, based on front-end battery capacity
Boot Time : Plug and play
Bluetooth : -
Balance Out : 4.4mm Balance
Native Capacity : -

Brief Introduction to Colorfly CDA M1
Colorfly pretty well-known as DAP maker before, but they kinda quiet lately with no new product on 2020. They back from their hiatus on 2021 with their flagship IEM Colorfly Quintet and entry level USB DAC Dongle Colorfly CDA M1.

CDA M1 use Colorfly α (ESS customized DAC) which also used on their flagship DAP Colorfly U8, it does provide 4.4mm balanced and 3.5 Single Ended, you can also switch between high-load and low-load depends on what kind of cans used on (will explained later)

For measurement you can refer to L7AudioLab here:

Good and Bad based on my Experience:
The Bad:
- Low noise if paired with android 9 and lower
- Colorfly don’t provide any lightning cables (not even optional)
- A bit hot after using for few hours

The Good:
- Sound Quality
- Good Power
- Really competitive price
- High-load and Low-load to match cans

Sound Quality Evaluation
This Review using Nova 5t or laptop with windows 10 as front-end, and Modded Anole VX (tone down the uppermid to lower treble which result a bit thicker and less fatiguing while still keeping up the technical) and K501 as Cans.

High Frequency
Clean and crisp treble, good lining and rich of detail, pretty good control

Mid Frequency
Midrange is very prominence, the most ear-catching. It’s durable, fuller and well balanced. Neutral timbre, both male and female vocal is excellent, there is noticeable distance between voice and instrument. Lining sense is really good both for vocal and instrument

Low Frequency
Thick but not muddy, good weight note, dive deep, good enough atmosphere with really good texture, possibly the best bass response from source on its price range

Separation, Soundstage & Resolution:
Soundstage pretty wide, but the most impressive is the depth, it’s considerably deep with good layering, height also pretty good.
Resolution is better than average for the price range.
it’s the cheapest source that I’ve tried which can easily give big spherical sense.

Balanced Out vs Single End
Balanced out with bigger room and more loose compared with Single-ended, there is also bigger low frequency volume on Single-ended. Power doubled from balanced out. The rest is pretty much the same

High-Load vs Low-Load
Low-Load with red light on PCM or lower format and blue light on DSD file format, High-Load with white light on PCM or lower format and purple light on DSD file format.

Low-load sound softer and more relaxed while on High-load is denser and fuller sound. It’s more noticeable on current hungry cans such as AKG K501.
For multi-driver I do recommend low-load for easier to listen.

Personal Comment
This dongle caught me off guard, I didn’t expect good sound coming from sub $100, it’s value absolutely outstanding.
I think I don’t need to review Hiby FC5 because I don’t see the reason why I should buy it over this one
Colorfly CDA M1 sound quality also close to what Cayin RU-6 offers, it’s obviously have much better soundstage presentation. But RU-6 still has its own charm on vocal presentation and the unique warmth which absolutely good for some people

Should I buy Colorfly CDA M1?
No doubt! It’s the best value DAC Dongle I’ve tried and it’s gonna be my staple recommendation for source sub $200. As the title say, Colorfly CDA M1 really give nightmare to their competitor.

Recommendation Level: ★★★★★
Very easy to recommend!

That’s all my review of Colorfly CDA M1, hope it helps, Cheers~
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@XeLLoZ no, there is no dedicated LO, it's quite rare for usb dongle to have its own dedicated LO
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@XeLLoZ I think Questyle M12 has an auto detect system, plug in headphone lower than 70 Ohm it's low gain, higher than 70 Ohm it's high gain. Higher than 600 Ohm it becomes line out at 2 Vrms.

Typically a dedicated amp source input will be higher than 600 Ohm I think. Not sure if it's something you want but it's the only thing I can think of lol.

Also I'm having a hard time deciding if I want CDA M1 or Caying RU1 or Questyle M12 LOL. They all seem to have their different pros and cons.
Compared to the M12, which one is brighter?