Dobrescu George

Reviewer: AudiophileHeaven
Khadas Tone2 PRO DAC/AMP - Musically Abundant
Pros: + Build Quality
+ Sonic quality
+ Details
+ Clean background for sensitive IEMs
+ 4.4mm Balanced Output
+ RCA outputs compatible with normal cables
+ Volume wheel
Cons: - Not a ton of driving power
- A bit pricey
- Gets warm during usage
- Not very portable for smartphones
Khadas Tone2 PRO DAC/AMP - Musically Abundant

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We have an interesting guest today, in the Tone2 PRO, from Khadas, priced at 250 USD, and with a 4.4mm balanced headphone output, and a Class A amplifier design. It will be compared to other DAC/AMPs, and the list includes Pro-Ject Head Box DS (400 USD), iFi Hip-Dac2 (190 USD), and Palab M1 Mini (500 USD). I only now noticed that the list of ~250 USD DAC/AMPs I reviewed is quite narrow, so Tone2 PRO will hopefully help fill in the spaces of products I can recommend to you.






Introduction

While I don't have a lot of information about Kadas Audio, I do know that they're growing quickly and designing lots of new products, having good relationships with other audio manufacturers, including case makers who are willing to create and design leather cases for their upcoming products. I always recommend trying to purchase Chinese products from Amazon and other third party seller shops rather than directly from Aliexpress, if you're looking for quick shipping times and good support.

To sum up my experience with Aliexpress versus Amazon, recently, I purchased two HDMI cables from Aliexpress, one from Vention and one from UGreen, and both arrived not working, unable to achieve the standards promised, as they are rated for 8K / 60Hz or 4K 120hz, but both can only do 4K 60Hz, which means that the quality is lower than described. I tried to speak with the sellers from both companies through Aliexpress, and none agreed to return the money or take the cables back, and the Aliexpress dispute did not end in my favor, so I basically wasted the money on two products that I am unable to use. On the other hand, I once ordered a WD Black SSD from Amazon, and after not receiving it for about 6 weeks, they sent a second one with much quicker shipping, and I did receive both after 1 week. Amazon said that I can keep both, as per their policy. To sum things up, do not order from Aliexpress if you want support and warranty, and do not order Ugreen or Vention HDMI Cables ever.

It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Khadas Audio. This review reflects my personal experience with Khadas Tone2 PRO, and the unit is personal, bought from Amazon.de. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it. The purpose of this review is to help those interested in Khadas Tone2 PRO find their next music companion.



Packaging

First things first, let's get the packaging out of the way:

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The price of the unit is not really reflected in the package, as Tone2PRO has one of the smallest, most compact packages I've seen for a DAC/AMP ever. It does come with a type-c to type-c cable for laptops and smartphones, but that's about it.



Build Quality/Aesthetics/Features

At the technical level, Tone2PRO has a superb build quality, and is basically a tank, large slab of metal with a really aesthetic, geometric design. The unit has a high-end ESS ES9038 Q2M DAC chip, and it is paired with x OPA 1612 OP-AMPs, which are beasts on their own when it comes to driving power and overall quality. We also have a 32Bit / 384 kHz data rate bit perfect, with support for DSD512. The Line Out has a THD of -118 dB, and Kahadas included hardware MQA decoding with their Tone2PRO.

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The RCA is Balanced RCA, with 3-Pin outputs, but it supports typical RCA connectors as well, so you don't have to worry about compatibility. We have one Type-C port that supports data and power, and a second I2S port that is basically there to offer support for Linear Power Supply units.

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Generally, using the unit is really fun, it has no background noise, no hissing and it does not have a high output impedance, so it is totally safe and well made for IEMs. The unit has both a 3.5mm single ended output, and a 4.4mm balanced output, with fair driving power for headphones, as I'm able to drive Sendy Audio Peacock just fine, along with HIFIMAN HE-R9, KLH Ultimate One, Sendy Audio Apollo. It does not have enough power for super power hungry headphones like Audeze LCD-MX4, or HIFIMAN Arya Stealth, and it feels like it was generally designed for IEMs rather than large headphones.

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Tone2PRO has a really good shape and stability on the desk, but I would not recommend it as a portable DAC/AMP, as the unit can get quite warm during usage, and can consume quite a bit of power. For a computer, this aspect is not very important, but for a smartphone, it consumes more than using the same phone in Bluetooth mode, which can be quite a lot.

The volume wheel at the top of Tone2 PRO controls the inner volume of the unit, Windows has separate volume control and the volume wheel does not change the Windows volume. I noticed the same behavior with Black Shark 4 as an Android Smartphone.



Sound Quality

For today's review, I've used a multitude of headphones and IEMs, including HIFIMAN He-R9, Ambient Acoustics MAD 24, Fir Audio VxV, Tingker TK300, Dethonray Tender 1, KLH Ultimate One, and Earsonics Onyx. Tone 2 PRO is generally able to drive pretty much any IEM and most portable headphones fairly well, but I do recommend it for IEMS more, as it has a super low background noise and hissing level, plus tons of detail and can achieve its maximum volume with no distortions. It has MQA decoding abilities, and a pleasing presentation.

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The overall sonic signature of Tone 2 PRO is slightly warm, but mostly natural, with a really wide and clean presentation, tons of details, superb extension both in the bass and the treble, and it has excellent dynamics too. Comparing it directly to Hiby FC5 (which I have on the desk by chance), the differences between them are huge, and FC5 is much more forward and gets louder easier, but Tone 2 PRO is much deeper, with better layering and instrument separation, more refinement and resolution, and it is considerably more natural in tonality, for both male and female voices. Tone 2 PRO sounds equally good at all volumes, it doesn't get compressed or flat at low volumes, but it doesn't become distorted at high volumes either. It is also very versatile with all music styles, and will sound equally good with all music styles, from Rap to Pop to EDM to Dubstep.

The bass of Tone 2 PRO is super clean, deep, but not overly emphasized compared to the midrange and the treble. The general signature of Tone 2 PRO is natural, with no special emphasis on any frequency, so it will be perfect for someone who's looking for a very versatile and natural sounding DAC/AMP. The bass has a natural decay, full and bountiful presentation, the reach is perfect down to 20 Hz, as long as the IEM / Headphone supports it too, and the bass has excellent control with low distortion. The bass is exactly what both warm and natural IEMS need, as it presents the ability of the IEMS to the fullest, with no particular coloration.

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The midrange of Tone 2 PRO is where it excels, as it has a really deep and clean sound, with tons of details, excellent dynamics and surprisingly good depth. The instrument separation is really good as well, Khadas Tone 2 PRO creating a holographic and well-rounded image of the songs it is playing. The midrange is natural in tonality and emphasizes both male and female voices equally, resulting in a generally pleasing, fun and sweet sound. Male voices sound forward and deep, natural with the right amount of texture and tonality, while female voices are generally on the sweeter, more euphonic side of things. Guitars sound natural, clean and have natural textures to them, while pianos are distortion-free. The soundstage is generally deeper than it is wide.

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The treble of Tone 2 PRO is clean, fatigue-free, natural in extension and character, edging on smooth. The treble can be a bit smooth, especially if you have a smoother or warmer sounding IEMS, but it generally has good air and extension. The stereo imaging is surprisingly good, and even with bands like Maximum the Hormone, you can hear that in many songs, the voicing was recorded in double for left and right side to create a more aggressive effect, the band having a super fun and rocky presentation with Tone 2 PRO. More aggressive songs, and harsh songs can sound smoother and leaner on Tone 2 PRO. This is not a negative, as many IEMs and Headphones can be quite exaggerated in the treble, and be fatiguing or harsh, Tone 2 PRO helps with those.



Comparisons

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Khadas Tone 2 PRO vs Palab M1 Mini (250 USD vs 500 USD) - We have an awesome amount of driving power from Palab M1 Mini, which also uses a balanced 4.4mm headphone output as the main, but the difference in price between the Palab M1 Mini and Tone 2 PRO is double. It feels like the Tone 2 PRO is a mini Palab M1 Mini, with a smooth and fluid sound, but considerably less driving power. The overall sonic has more details on Palab M1 Mini, along with more resolution, but Tone 2 PRO can provide a similar level of dynamics, impact, and a fluid, clean, natural sound, that is quite similar to M1 Mini, but for half the price, as long as you're mainly driving IEMs and portable headphones.

Khadas Tone 2 PRO vs ifi Hip-Dac2 (250 USD vs 190 USD) - Hip-Dac2 has a battery inside, and slightly more driving power, but it has a slightly higher output impedance, and with super sensitive IEMs, it will have a higher noise floor, and more hissing than Tone 2 PRO. The overall resolution is actually slightly higher on Tone 2 PRO, which tends to be deeper in sound, with better layering and instrument separation, also providing slightly smoother treble that can help with aggressive, harsh and fatiguing music. I recommend Hip-Dac2 much more if you need a portable device that won't eat battery, as it has its own, but if you're at a desktop unit, and if you're mainly driving IEMS and easy to drive Headphones, Tone 2 PRO is an excellent option.

Khadas Tone 2 PRO vs Pro-Ject Head Box DS (250 USD vs 400 USD) - While Head Box DS is quite a bit larger and more expensive, it mainly can deliver more driving power than Tone 2 PRO. The overall detail, resolution, micro detail, layering, instrument separation, depth and tonality realism goes to Tone 2 PRO, which can be quite a bit better than Head Box DS in all those aspects. Although Tone 2 PRO uses a balanced 4.4mm connector, it has considerably less driving power than the 6.3mm single ended headphone output of Head Box DS. For larger, hard to drive headphones, Head Box DS provides a fun, neutral sound that can be a bit bright, but is dynamic and punchy, while for IEMS and easier to drive headphones, Tone 2 PRO is more detailed, has a more natural bass, smoother treble, but still a lot of energy.



Value and Conclusion

With a price tag of 250 USD, Tone 2 PRO has a fair price point, for a desktop DAC/AMP with low distortion, good control for IEMs, and a deep, well separated sound. If you know the rule, you can have it cheap, quick or good. You can only pick two, and there will always be more affordable options for the same size and driving power, but most of them have a lower quality, refinement and overall clarity compared to tone2 PRO, which is quite good for the price. To get any real step up in overall sonics and driving power (together), you generally have to spend almost double, and get in the ~500 USD price range.

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With a geometric, aesthetic design, two headphone outputs, and volume control, plus separate power and USB connectors (you don't NEED to use two USB Cables, but you CAN), Tone 2 PRO is really interesting to look at and have, plus a welcome DAC/AMP for your desktop. It has no latency for gaming and doesn't need USB Drivers or any additional software, working just fine right out of the box.

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At the end of the day, if you're looking for a high quality DAC/AMP with a nice aesthetic, and a controlled, no distortion, no hiss sound, excellent layering, detailing and a super beginner friendly sound that won't be harsh or fatiguing, I recommend Tone 2 PRO as a really awesome, hard to beat option at 250 USD, at the moment of writing today's review.
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ngoshawk

Headphoneus Supremus
Khadas Tone2: Like a Konigsegg, only smaller
Pros: Diminuitive
Sound qualities
Capabilities
Stunning looks
Adaptability
Cons: Diminuitive
Not mine
Inordinately non-intuitive volume knob functionality (I'm a dolt)
Underappreciated
Not much else, it's quite good
Khadas Tone2: ($199): Like a Konigsegg, only smaller

Tone2

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Intro: Afforded the opportunity to review the Tone2, I jumped and politely said yes. Intrigued by the multitude of abilities of this little DAC, I noted the good reviews of the critter and waited my turn. The unit belongs to @Wiljen, and I am grateful for the loan. I have numerous DAC’s with which to compare the Tone2 and hope to provide some insight into its functions and capabilities. I have never heard the original Tone product, so I was looking forward to this. Upon completion, the unit will be sent back to Will.

Company highlights:

Khadas Technology Co., Ltd. is the company that owns the brand "Khadas", it was founded on 2020-07-01. We mainly focus on developing, manufacturing and marketing Amlogic and Rockchip single board computers (SBCs) for the open source community and streaming media player industry. Lately we've also added audio products like the Tone2 Pro Hi-Fi DAC and Khadas balanced RCA connectors to our line-up.

Our parent company, Shenzhen Wesion Technology Co., Ltd. founded on 2014-11-05, handles OEM/ODM product design, software and hardware development, as well as final product manufacturing and delivery to the point of use or sale. If the client wishes, they can carry out industrial design for both the internal PCBA support structure, as well as the external product enclosure.

The Tone 1 was a DIY DAC, which received much acclaim. Several audio compatriots have the Tone 1 and claim it to be amongst the best sounding budget DAC’s they own. I do not doubt them one bit. Khadas took a more polished approach with the Tone 2, building all together from the ground up in a svelte Northern-European style to me. The curves whisper Swedish efficiency to me just like a Koenigsegg. As primarily a tuner at first, Koenigsegg has grown into one of the very best ultra-super cars out there. While the Tone 2 might not fit that bill, going inhouse with the build assures quality control and the ability to tailor some of the finer points from within. Plus, it continues to show that Khadas is serious about their price to performance/feature point, which keeps them competitive in the market. I am impressed.


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I will also state that I had a dickens of a time figuring out how to change filters, settings etc. based upon the diagram. While the diagram does show how to do so, the orientation had me pushing and pulling on the knob 90-degrees off from whence it needed to be done...Once I watched the video below though, all was good. Well, as good as it could be, and I do find it less than intuitive in usage. Feature-wise it is good. Finagling away is cumbersome to me.

Features video (watch them for proper operation):







Specs:

Tone2 Pro is our second generation Tone Board from Khadas that incorporates a variety of user feedback from our first-gen product, the Tone1. ESS ES9038Q2M DAC has been paired with four powerful OPA1612 operational amplifiers, and three buffer amplifiers. This 3-stage amplification pathway enables Tone2 Pro to drive a wide-range of demanding audiophile-grade headphones with impedances of up to 150 ohms.

The latest addition to file format support is MQA decoding. The onboard XMOS XU216 processor enables bit-perfect, hardware-native, USB class II, asynchronous "unfolding" of MQA data for both web streaming and local high fidelity audio playback, enabling future-proof "original master quality" audio reproduction just as the artist intended, but at reasonable file sizes and streaming bandwidth requirements.



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Highlights:

DAC + Headphone Amplifier -
Tone2 Pro combines the ESS ES9038Q2M with x4 OPA1612 operational amplifiers that deliver superior audio quality.

High Performance - Up to 32bit 384KHz sample rate, bit-perfect DSD512, and -118dB THD+N (line-out).

Hardware MQA Decoding - XMOS XU216 processor for full MQA decoding, enabling next-gen "original master quality" web streaming and audio playback.

Balanced RCA - Next-generation "balanced RCA line-out" with 3-pin output, sets a new interface standard for the Hi-Fi industry.

Linear Power Supply - Tone2 Pro has a second USB-C (I2S) port that supports 5V linear power supplies for ultra clean signal-to-noise ratios.

Interesting info: Tone2 Pro is our second-generation Tone Board from Khadas that incorporates a variety of user feedback from our first-gen product, the Tone1. ESS ES9038Q2M DAC has been paired with four powerful OPA1612 operational amplifiers, and three buffer amplifiers. This 3-stage amplification pathway enables Tone2 Pro to drive a wide-range of demanding audiophile-grade headphones with impedances of up to 150 ohms.


In the box:
  • x1 Tone2 Pro
  • x1 USB-C Cable (Type-C to C)
  • x1 Instruction Manual
  • x1 Warranty Card
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Gear used/compared:


MacBook Pro
Cayin N6ii

EarMen Sparrow
ifi xDSD

*Used for comparative purposes in their own right:

Moondrop Blessing 2
Moondrop S8
FiR Audio 5x5
Empire Ears Hero
ApeSonics Purple Rain
Whizzer Kylin HE01

Kennerton Magni
Sivga Phoenix
Sendy Aiva
Verum Audio Verum1
Final Audio Sonorous 3



Songlist:

Joey Alexander-Warna album and others
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
twenty one pilots album, Trench
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Mark Knopfler-Down The Road Wherever
Elton John-yep, still good, still cool
Alex Fox
Big Head Todd & The Monsters
Tidal MQA



Unboxing:

Coming in a square short white rectangular box, you could easily mistake this for a Hallmark box of cards due to the build of the box alone. The box is superbly built and thick. The back should have given me a good impression of what was to come due to the color coordinated features and instructions, but I missed that. It is well laid out and each feature is well placed and written. The front has a picture of the Tone 2...in life size. To say this is diminutive would be like saying a Red Hot is a small candy. It is, and so is the Tone 2.

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Inside is another thick paperboard “sleeve,” which holds the manuals and I would highly recommend learning the differences. I still refer to it while changing features. I will add that this sleeve pays homage to the original but having a color print of the motherboard. A nice touch to their history. Keep that manual handy, for you will need it based upon all of the technical features involved. Below that is the unit itself and a narrow rectangular case, which houses the USB type-C to type-C cable of good length. I have the exquisite DDHiFi C-to-C cables on hand, so I used those instead.


Technicals:

The Tone 2 Pro implements ESS9038Q2M DAC chip paired with a USB decoder and 3 stage integrated amplifier, along with four OPA1612 OPAMPs. Each of the two headphone outputs (3.5se, 4.4bal) having separate amplifier circuits. The CMOS XU216 USB chip lies inside the Tone 2 Pro, which supports full MQA decoding. Even though Khadas has instituted a thermal pad to dissipate heat through the device’s metal shell to keep the chip cool, I found the device to run quite warm. So that means the heat transfer did work. Mind you this isn’t tube-hot, but a bit different, nonetheless.

Bluetooth will use the Qualcomm aptX, when implemented.

Speaking of the manual, it does provide several key illustrations, which are useful in using the Tone 2 properly. Keep it handy.

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Build/Functionality:

The anodized red looks stunning, like a perfect complement to your laptop/desktop. Angular with swooping edges and angular geometric patterns, the Tone 2 has taken geometry to an artistic audio level. I’m not exactly sure what all the shapes could mean, like the horizontal slot running just above the ½-way line ending short of the “control knob.” Regardless, the shape has that modern touch, and even though I am left-handed, using it was fairly easy. This is designed for a right-handed person though...

Keeping up with the excellent build, all connections are tight and professional looking/feeling, adding to the premium feel. Add in the rubber bottom and you have a unit, which is functional and efficient of build. Placement of each functional unit such as connectivity or headphone jack is logically laid out.

The rotating/toggling knob on the top is the control center, much like you would find in most of the latest cars. This controls all, and it would be worth your time to spend an evening or two just acquainting yourself with how it works, and the different sounds wrought from the device. For my use, I had the Tone 2 Pro hooked to my MBP or the small XDuoo MT-602, to gauge the DAC only. While the T2P does provide its own amp, that is not the true highlight to me. The best aspect of the T2P is the DAC itself, which continues the tradition of sound/price for Khadas. The T2P is double the price, but with the included amp section and other features you realize why.

I won’t go through all of the functions but included the diagrams below for a guide on what is capable in this wee device. I did spend an evening or two and even in my depressed state of paucity understood the functions to a certain degree. It did take me watching the video to fully comprehend the features, and thus cancel out my random push/pulls/gasps/yells simply in returning to the volume setting.

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Double pushing the round knob allows the user to move between functions. On some devices you must make a concerted, exaggerated effort to get the item to switch when instituted like this. Not here. Easy to push, and quick to change functions, I appreciated the solidity and quality of the knob. Plus, once you realize that it does not take much force (hardly any), you alleviate the fear of ripping the knob off...something in which I admit I thought might happen. Once “inside” each sub-menu, you then either rotate the knob clockwise, or counterclockwise. A nice feature to have this is, going both ways so you can quickly go between say low and high gain.

On something such as filter options, this gives the user the ability to quickly A/B two filters and see what they like for each song. Again, using the color menu allows you to see the name of the effected filter change. I will admit that ears more versed than mine would be able to discern differences better. For me, I switched to a filter, which sounded good and left it there. The RBG ring is hard to see in light conditions, but more easily seen in low light or evening/night settings. So, while this gives a good indication, I’m not sure what the benefit is, and would have liked something such as what Chord does with the Hugo/Mojo. Plus, that looks cool.

I will also note that low & high gain worked well, and with a larger increase in volume than I thought would occur. I currently have the Moondrop duo of the Blessing2 & S8 in house, and both to me are amongst the harder to drive IEM’s of late. Switching to high gain on the T2P worked well (not that low gain was a slouch), giving me that extra punch on Tidal’s MQA of Alex Fox’s live version of Guitar’s On Fire. Excellent sound and one that needs the extra kick of volume just because.

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Sound:

Summary (new to me...but why not...):

As stated above, I used the T2P as a dedicated DAC on my MBP and in concert with the MT-602. First used as a DAC, then while writing the 602 review, the T2P came across as mostly neutral with excellent detail and clarity for the price. This will not (and shouldn’t) function on the same level as my iFi Pro iDSD. But for its purposes, the detail, which was wrought from the music emanating came across as clean and detailed. Not overly crisp, but not soggy, I would call this distinct. A fine DAC, which when paired with a quality amp such as the venerable EarMen TR-AMP would make some much higher priced duos recoil with slight fear.

Bass comes across as fairly taut and defining with more than I thought, and not as much overlord into the mids. Not quite the grunt power of the iFi products (not much does), I liken this to the refreshing taut push down below of the Questyle CMA twelve master, but not costing that price. No, it does not function at that “punch way above its price,” but rather provides me with the same sort of surprised feeling of a tight, clean and crisp response down below. I always want more bass, but if you have heard the CMA 12M, you understand that sometimes the quality of that low sound (and across the spectrum) is worth well more than adding a muddied sound for the sake of punch. Call this ever-so-slightly warm, but more a detail response, which does not cloud the mids.

The mids sound a bit subdued, but not veiled. I find defining these sound characteristics hard, but still try to relate it to what I can and do know. Slightly behind the rest, the vocals are still clean and represent what is engineered if a bit thin, lacking that fullness of a higher-end DAC. I do not mind for this is still a very fine rendition of the sound. Instruments, which present itself here come across as clean and nearly full, lacking a bit in the edge department. A bit more bite to the sound here would have rendered the sound as full-fronted and vibrant. I do not mind this at all, and that distinct sound of which I spoke in the summary above still comes across, but not quite like others. Call this nitpicking, for this really is a wonderfully sounding device.

Finishing up top with the treble tendencies, the filter choice can play into the hands of what you want out of the sound. On Marieta by Ibrahim Ferrer, that distinctness of sound comes across as clarity-driven and clean; just not like those multi-hundred dollar DAC’s that everyone wants/slaves over/lusts after/promotes. This is good sound up top, and does not offend me like some of another company that shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, I appreciate that this is not a grating, cringe-worthy sound up top, and applaud the treatment while listeing to Chan Chan from the Buena Vista Social Club. Sensuous and delivering a sound, which matches that sensuous nature with emotion, the T2P gives me just what I desire here; passion.

The sound also comes across as wider of soundstage than I had though, but depth suffers a bit. I am nitpicking again, and instrumentation is perfectly placed and discernible from the music pouring forth regardless. The trumpet solo on Chan Chan is wonderfully light and (again) distinct. Followed by the guitar solo, you clearly hear the artist sitting stage left playing the guitar on his knee. Layering as a result is good as well. This is a very good rendition of the music for the price, and one could easily live with this for both portable use (commuting) and desktop use at work.

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Amp:

This section will be short. As mentioned, driving the Moondrop duo was best done on high gain, and I could easily tax my ears with music too loud, but for harder to drive units, another amp would not be your worst choice. Using the T2P as a dedicated DAC to me is getting the best use out of it.


Comparisons:

Khadas Tone 2 Pro ($199) v EarMen Sparrow ($199):

When I first received the Sparrow, I note its small size, realizing this was the way of the future when dealing with DAC dongles. Running almost twice the price of others of the same ilk, the Sparrow had better perform. And it did. And it does. With fewer “controls” (as in none), the Sparrow automatically changes when bitrate is sampled. Having only a 3.5se and a (much more) powerful 2.5bal headphone jack, you are at the mercy of your volume control and the engineers from EarMen. And that’s all right, for they do know what they are doing.

The Sparrow promotes more in the mid-section to me, and with a bit more warmth. I would also add that the bass response makes its presence felt a bit more in the mids as well. Treble is pushed forward, too; giving the listener a thoroughly engaging sound and one which begs to be turned up. While you are at the mercy of what source you are using for controllability and amp features, if you want a simple, straightforward, excellent sound DAC, then to me there is not a finer offering than the Sparrow for the price. The Tone 2 Pro offers much more flexibility and many more features with which to play, but sound wise, the Sparrow tops it in terms of detail, but only slightly.

This comes down to whether you want the flexibility of the T2P, or the simplicity of plug-n-play and forget sound of the Sparrow. Both are really god for what they provide the listener.


Khadas Tone 2 Pro ($199) v iFi xDSD ($399):

Not really a fair comparison here, as the iFi truly is a monster in terms of DAC’s and with an amp, which could very well put some dedicated portable “amps” to shame as well. Showing its age, the iFi does give the user the ability to hook up much like the T2P, though. Add in XBass and 3D+ features and you get the toys, which the T2P does not have. You can also BT at the current time, which means you can use it with your smartphone for an increased listening pleasure (one hopes...).

Sound though is of a warmer and richer variety, especially when you throw the switches so to speak. I would not call one better but merely different. You want features, which are easier to use, and POWER, then the iFi is the choice. If you want excellent sound and a DAC, which is really good; get the T2P and add a competent amp.

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Finale:

I have not heard the original Tone but trust the judgement of those who have. They state that for the price it was (and is) one of the best budget DAC’s out there and many still use it. A kind of cult following ensued, which I do hope carries over with the Tone 2 Pro. We often are charged with defining “the best” or “sounds the greatest,” but to me that misses the point; especially here. Another reviewer, Ryan states in his excellent review how the T2P isn’t meant to be the best across all levels, and it cannot be. But to rather compete at its level giving the user a taste of excellent sound for the price (https://everydaylistening.net/2021/03/23/khadas-tone-2-pro-review/). I agree.

The Tone 2 Pro is not meant to be the best, nor sound the greatest. It is meant to provide a versatile, innovative update to one of their timely products; which happens to sound great for the price as well. And when taken in that niche, the Tone 2 succeeds. It does sound really quite good and packed with features makes this a certain success, while putting other manufacturers on notice about a possible direction that could take place in the portable DAC market.

I thank the anonymous donor for the loan of the Tone 2 Pro, and begrudgingly send it back to them dreaming of the sound pleasures, which filtered from all which were hooked to it. The Tone 2 Pro is a very good device.

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abheybir
abheybir
Very well written specially in the cons "not mine" :p
ngoshawk
ngoshawk
Thank you. That is a definite con to me when I have to let gear go. Sometimes I purchase, sometimes I dream. 😎
Gevi
Gevi
Thank you for such a thorough review! I just love the design on this and it happens to be very competitive in the sonic department too

Otto Motor

Headphoneus Supremus
Khadas Tone2 Pro Review – Does Everything...And More
Pros: Versatile and flexible functionality; plenty of innovative features, good sound; very low output impedance; beautiful and compact design.
Cons: No (affordable) linear power supply offered as add-on; learning curve; awkward operation with 2 hands; bluetooth module not yet implemented.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Khadas Tone2 Pro is an innovative miniature desktop dac with integrated headphone amplifier that offers a ton of functionality qualifying it as a competent “Jack of All Trades”.

I formulated my opinion in this video - and come from a practical angle:




DISCLAIMER

The Khadas Tone2 Pro was kindly provided by hifigo for my review. Thank you very much.

You can get the Khadas Tone2 Pro from hifigo or amazon.
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d m41n man

100+ Head-Fier
Tone2 Pro: Sleek, Sexy Balanced HiFi
Pros: Smooth, non-fatiguing airy sound with lots of extension. Musical. Sleek, sexy yet solid form factor. Almost all-in-one.
Cons: Controls take a bit while getting used to. Single-ended HP output not enough for high-impedance headphones.
I'm quite a fan of all-in-one DACs and upon receiving the Khadas Tone2 Pro, it was nothing short of exciting. You can get the Khadas Tone2 Pro from Hifigo. I was intrigued by how they were able to pack an ESS DAC, coax, opamps, single + balanced outputs onto this sleek formfactor that is just a bit taller and thicker than a credit card. Alas, let's get onto the review and how this small, little DAC is about all you would need to have with you as a desktop stack alternative.

Introduction
Khadas is a brand owned by a Shenzhen-based company called Wesion Tech Co. They are makers of open source, OEM/ODM solutions such as single board computers and admittedly, I did not know much about them from even then but they were able to make a name for themselves in the audio industry with the Tone Board, which has garnered quite a number of positive feedback. Now, they're back with a sequel with lots of improvements of course, specifically now being a standalone usable product instead of just an integratable circuit board.

Packaging
The Khadas Tone2 Pro comes in a similarly sleek white box with the Tone2 Pro itself placed nicely but just with the manuals, warranty card and a single USB-C to C cable as its lone accessory. Would have wanted a bit more but I guess any additions would shoot up its cost a bit more to the north considering this is a $199 all-in-one DAC. An adapter or a case/pouch though wouldn't hurt but alas, you only get what is listed.

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Build
The Tone2 Pro feels solid and is just about almost the size of a credit card, just a tad taller and thicker but is still not as thick as a pack of cards or cigarettes. Aside from the silicon pad underneath (which is for stability or non-slip purposes), its matte aluminum body does not ever look cheap with mine coming in red for that Iron Man feel but not as glossy. Aside from the plastic backing that houses the ports and the knob, which is the only means of control you have on this product, everything seem stylish and feels good.
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Functionality and Sound
The Tone2 Pro has a USB-C input as its main with an I2S USB-C port as well for expandability options such as a Bluetooth adapter or a separate linear supply (which I would recommend). It also has spdif coax input, which I feel should be a requirement for DACs even nowadays to avoid being branded as just a USB DAC for versatility's sake, though it does miss having an optical port but I would not complain for this form factor. It has RCA preouts of course but what stands out is that these RCA analog outputs does have balanced capability. I was not able to use it as I do not have the balanced RCA interconnects but am quite intrigued with how it would work once these are widely available to connect with balanced amps. It also has single-ended 3.5mm headphone out as well as a balanced 4.4mm output. It definitely is a welcome function being a all-in-one but to note, do not expect the 3.5mm HP output to drive high impedance headphones. Despite its opamps, it had trouble driving my Sennheiser HD6xx and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro, unable to separate busy elements with lots of noise, distortion and lacking loudness even on high gain. I would not expect much from its amp stage for a device this small, at least it does have it. It is very capable though with IEMs (without hiss) and 32 ohms headphones such as the Sennheiser Momentums and V-Modas so no complaints there.

Plugging in to either my mobile and PC was hassle-free. Automatically got detected by USB Audio Player Pro via my mobile phone (Huawei Mate 20) while it automatically installed a driver via Windows though you can manually install with directions in the manual where to download for your PC. However, it did not work connecting to my AK SR15 player via USB output, seems due to power reliance or incompatibility as the RGB ring light just continued to flash without recognition. That aside afterwards, everything was up and running via my mobile. The default control for the knob was the volume of the HP outputs with red going to cyan/teal levels on its LED indicator. Though it has to be noted that controlling and cycling through its different functions take some time getting used-to but once you get the hang of it, it's actually pretty simple. Pushing down twice on the top side of the knob (not surface) cycles through the different sections such as the track, gain, inputs, and filters while turning the knob adjusts the levels. Admittedly though, I can imagine users will find difficulty in using this control method.
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Onto the sound impressions, I have to say this is one of the better ESS Sabre implementations out there. Out of both the ifi Zen Can and Schiit Magni 3, the Tone2's ES9038Q2M gives a smooth, very airy, presentation. Non-fatiguing and musical even out of the Senn HD800 and no harshness out of the AKG Q701. Layers do stand out with above average details and staging. In comparison, the Topping D50 with its dual ESS Sabre implementation gives out more details though at a more analytical and dry sounding way with less emotion, reason why the D50 is good to pair with a tad warm-sounding or thick bodied sounding amp. The Mojo, on the other hand, gives out the same hint of warmth and smoothness. It's basically the sound combination of the strengths of both the Tone2Pro and the D50 but with an average soundstage as its small weakness though definitely the details, clarity and intimacy is more apparent with the Mojo but of course 3x the price as well. What sets this apart is ithe Tone2's MQA certified capable, which can't be said of the previous two DACs if it matters.

All in all, the Khadas Tone2 Pro is a darn awesome all-in-one product in a compact sexy formfactor at $199. The controls may take some time getting used to and the single-ended HP output may not drive high impedance headphones well enough but through and through, this is a remarkable solid DAC package hindered only by its knob scheme. How else can you have a can-do-it-all desktop setup that fits the palm of your hand at $199? Good job Khadas!
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d m41n man
d m41n man
@sg2k - haven' heard the v2 but if it's just the v1 with MQA decoding, then I'll go with the Khadas Tone2 Pro - smoother, refined but still detailed sound, expandability (i2s port), coax, filters (if these matter) all in a compact sleek form. Honestly, the ifi Zen Dac without the Zen Can is just a pure USB DAC, but its overall sound quality and driving power is still a tad below the T2P especially considering the size ddifference.
J
Jimmyblues1959
Excellent review!
d m41n man
d m41n man
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