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Zorloo ZuperDAC-S

Rating:
4.3/5,
  1. Johnny Mac
    Zorloo ZuperDAC-S Realview, verZatility.
    Written by Johnny Mac
    Published Nov 3, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Versatility, great output performance, hiss-free and super portable
    Cons - Gets warm and stays warm
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Zorloo is a new player in the audiophile community based off China which offers a promising set of products pioneered by their ZuperDAC offering which is now superseded by the ZuperDAC-S, designed as an everyday ultra-portable DAC solution. There weren’t any details about what the “S” stands for and my guess would be “Super” as in ZuperDAC-Super, accurate enough, right? The ZuperDAC-S retails for $79.00 which you can get from their official Zorloo site. Thanks to Andy from Zorloo for sending in a review unit in exchange for an honest review.

    Specifications:
    • True portable HiFi USB-DAC
    • Support Hi-Res audio up to 192kHz 24-bit
    • ESS Sabre 9018 DAC and amplifier
    • USB Audio Class 2 asynchronous mode
    • SNR @ 120dB and THD+N @ 0.0005%
    • Small size at 50mm x 15mm x 10mm
    • Light weight at 10g
    • Aluminum chassis with stylish matted finish
    • Hardware volume keys with memory
    • Battery free, no need to charge
    • Includes USB, Micro-USB and USB-C cables
    Packaging and Build Quality

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The Zorloo ZuperDAC-S came in a small slim white box which showcases the DAC on the cover as well as the 2 cool logos of the Zorloo brand as well the product specifications and accessory set. Inside is the ZuperDAC-S itself packaged with 3 different cable connectors (Type-C, Micro-USB and USB-A) which is approximately 4.5 inches long and all sheathed black which also has black housings so those who are particular with aesthetics won’t have any issues pairing this with a myriad of products. The cables also have great flexibility to them while still being able to retain its form which is great when it is already connected to your audio devices. The ZuperDAC-S itself has an aluminum chassis and a matte finish, Zorloo provided me the gray colored one. The aluminum body has some sturdiness to it, I tried dropping it on a polished floor twice, once on hip level and once on shoulder level and it only showed a minor dent on the corner and still worked fine.

    [​IMG]

    The ZuperDAC-S weighs in at only 10 grams and only 2 inches long, .4 inches thichk and .5 inches wide. Preference would come into play as to which you’d like to have as a front, the 2 button increase/decrease volume switch or the Zorloo logo/LED light indicator sides. One end of the ZuperDAC-S features a Micro-USB and a 3.5mm headphone out. The volume buttons uses a 16-step configuration which can work separate its source, it also has highly contrasted in relation to the body color and has great feedback click once used and such buttons aren’t centered on the body and oriented near the Micro-USB.

    Usability and Functionality

    [​IMG]

    One look on the ZuperDAC-S and its small form factor automatically relieves you of the feeling of having to carry additional gear just to get quality audio and it also fits on your denims inner pocket which for a non-smoker like me was unused most of the time and a lighter for those who do. The aluminum body also guarantees this would last considering the fact that it also doesn’t have a battery for you to charge in order for you to use it.

    The 3 included cables on the ZuperDAC-S all worked flawlessly as they should. I using it all on different sources and although the cables and the DAC worked fine, it also almost automatically warms up on different sources. The ZuperDAC-S has almost no learning curve to setup as it was designed to be a plug and play device be it used with a Windows computer (no driver installations needed) and an Android device, I however needed to turn on OTG storage on my OnePlus 3T device for it to work there. Using it with an iOS devices would need one to get their camera connection kit or Apple’s lightning to USB Camera adapter.

    The ZuperDAC-S has a single blue LED indicator which stays lit while it is used and while it has no built-in battery, the power draw that it consumes although only at .11A max was still able to drop my 3T’s SOT to around an hour, this is subjective but just keep this in mind. The built-in volume controls also works independently from its source and decreasing or increasing the volume would need one to constantly click on them to adjust volume since long presses doesn’t work so when 1 button fails, you’re stuck unless you use your sources’ volume controls.

    Sound Quality

    [​IMG]

    Utilizing the ESS Sabre 9018 chip which is widely used on similar products such as from SMSL and Sabaj which also ironically has almost identical IDEA and Da2 products makes me guess they are sister companies or under all made under one roof. The single most noticeable audio feature the ZuperDAC-S lacks is support for DSD and PCM decoding which almost a standard now on devices although on the consumer end, who would be carrying those formats on their mobile phones which this is designed for, right? But yeah, would have been nice if it was included.

    You had one job, just one job, and the ZuperDAC-S lives by this mantra which is to output higher quality audio off portable devices in a simplified way. I made sure to once again acclimate myself to using my mobile phone and MSI GF62-8RE laptop for music to get the mood on and just let the ZuperDAC-S go in between. Just by including it on the chain immediately made tracks clearer and fuller. I cycled through Norah Jones’s Come Away with Me, Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits, Suicide Squad’s The Album and DeadPool 2’s Soundtrack albums in 16/44 Flac and although the changes are minimal, it is definitely noticeable as compared to using my 3T and MSI device direct for audio use. The lower frequency performance had a tad more impact to them while the higher frequencies are more articulate, the midrange frequency gained the highest benefits of this device with it being clearer and a kick more crisp. Imaging and soundstage also benefitted making the overall sound more distinct in its delivery.

    Conclusion

    [​IMG]

    The Zorloo ZuperDAC-S comes in on the portable DAC party clad in simple looks and the most basic of functions with more than enough versatility and portability at a reasonable price. While all these are petty for some hardcore audiophiles, it certainly does a great job in ushering in the starters into the audiophile party looking for a solution to their basic mobile phone audio and direct PC audio woes.
  2. viperxp
    Great for what it is
    Written by viperxp
    Published Mar 31, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Versatility
    Small
    Sounds great
    Looks cute, understated
    Cons - Some harshness in high frequencies (arguable)
    Hello,

    This review will be dedicated to the latest DAC from Zorloo, the ZuperDAC-S.
    First of all I would like to thank Andy from Zorloo for his patience (I had quite a lot of questions and comments) and the gratitude of providing me with the review sample.

    Introduction

    I do not consider myself as an audiophile. I try to listen to the music, and not to the equipment, and the best equipment to me is the one that will provide the most natural sound, that I like the most. The base needs to be able to get really low, and stay controlled. Mids should sound clear and natural, female vocals and guitars should be enjoyable, and highs should not pierce into my brain. I am giving this introduction, in order to let you better understand my comprehension of the ZuperDAC.

    Part 1 - Physical and Compatibility

    1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg 4.jpg

    Here you can see the user manual, which you can also download from the official website.

    DSC_6039_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6040_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6041_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6042_DxO_cr.jpg

    Here is the unit itself. I got a shiny red one (there is also a silver and grey option), I think this is a good color for such a small device, as it will be a bit easier to find :) .
    No quality issues, it's really tiny and light.

    DSC_6043_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6044_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6045_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6046_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6047_DxO_cr.jpg

    The DAC arrives with cables that will allow to connect it to a mobile phone (both older type - B and the newer type-C) and to a PC as well. The cables are short, wrapped and have a nice quality feel, there is a good amount of metal there.
    DSC_6048_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6049_DxO_cr.jpg DSC_6051_DxO_cr.jpg

    Some size comparison with FiiO X3-II and Sandisk Clip Sport Plus.

    Some interesting facts:
    • The unit consumes between 0.46-0.56W (0.9-0.11A) from the USB socket it's connected to. It gets really slightly warm, regardless of the volume and connection status of the headphones.
    • The volume buttons work differently from any audio device I ever used. When you keep them pressed, the volume does not change, you need to keep clicking in order to change the volume.
    • The unit features a blue LED. It lights up when the DAC is initialized, and lights up steady when the unit is plugged in.
    • When connected to Android devices, there is nothing you need to do in order to get it working, real plug and play, it works on the fly, without even restarting the audio application.
    • The unit works well also with Amazon Kindle HD 10 2017. I am writing it because there is not much information regarding connecting external DAC's to Amazon devices (I am aware that the OS they are running is actually an Android, but it is heavily customized and I was unsure if the device will be supported).

    Unit operation, sound

    Well, when I got the unit I connected it to my PC that had the following setup : PC was connected to a DELL monitor's internal USB hub with a meter-long cable, and there was another meter long USB cable from the monitor's USB hub to the ZuperDAC. Well, the unit successfully initialized, worked but from time to time (every 1-2 minutes) I got a sudden eruption of static at some random songs, not reproducible at the same parts of the songs. I was a bit angry, as my first thought was that the unit was faulty, or had some other problem. Well, lucky for me I was wrong, when I connected the device with the bundled short cable, without the HUB, I never had any problem, with 3 different computers. Connection with Samsung Galaxy S5 and Kindle HD 10 was also flawless.

    Volume - only 32mW ???

    One of my concerns about the unit was the output power, of "only" 32mW. Well, it may look modest compared with my 200mW FiiO X3-II, but we must have proporsions. My first DAP, the Cowon G3 had 5mW, and it was enough at the time.
    So ... Is it enough?
    Yes.., depends.
    What?
    Well, when I connected Audio-Technica ATH-M50X to Samsung Galaxy S5 - the volume was almost enough o really enjoy the music. But with the Zuper ... well, it gets them ridiculously loud, you start feeling them move on your head, I would say it feels much much louder. The same situation with the Amazon Kindle HD 10.
    But, when I plugged in the Koss TBSE1 (headphones that I enjoy listening the best) I could get to the max volume, and sometimes could ask for more. FiiO X3-II does not have any problem with those, and I never ever got to the High amp setting.
    So, if you intend to plug in some low sensitivity and/or high impedance headphones you might want an amplifier after the ZuperDAC.

    Sound

    I can tell you this, the DAC does not disappoint. I really enjoy it, and it might be an ideal device for me. The bass gets lower than the build in DAC in SGS5 and in the Kindle HD 10, no harshness in the mids and really nice highs. If I would need to point some thing that I would like to be improved it would be the high frequencies - I think there is some harshness there. But from the other side, as I do not own an audiophile reference grade components for comparison, the DAC-S sound may be the "right" sound, and it is me who needs to adjust.
    I did not do too much tests, but from my point of view the device has better bass (lower and better controlled) than the FiiO X3-II, but some harshness in the high frequencies that FiiO does not have. But I will repeat myself, I may be wrong, the sound is really enjoyable and the differences are not apparent.
    Compared to the sound of SGS-5 and Kindle, ZuperDAC sounds clearer, across the frequencies, with much higher max volume.
    I listened to the unit for about a week, and could not find a genre where the unit fails or excels, it's universal fro m what I can tell.

    *** Listening via PC was done using Foobar2000, 24 bit 192 Hz mode (also in driver), WASAPI (event) setting. Music - really different genres, from metal to 80's, Enigma, Enya and so on and so on, lossless flacs.

    Conclusion

    Well, I think the device is great, it does what it claims to do well, it is universal and really easy to get liked.
      PlantsmanTX likes this.
  3. Cinder
    Excellent Performance, Small Package
    Written by Cinder
    Published Mar 12, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Metal housing, neutral presentation, good amount of power, independent volume control, lots of cable options
    Cons - Lacks native DSD decoding, cables a bit too stiff
    [​IMG]
    Zorloo ZuperDAC-S Review: Excellent Performance, Small Package
    Zorloo is a small Chinese company whose products were born in the crowd-funding marketplace. They’ve been doing a lot of work involving headsets that use integrated DACs and have recently released a successor to their first push into the mobile-DAC world: the ZuperDAC-S.

    You can find the ZuperDAC-S available for pre-order here, for $70.

    Disclaimer: This unit was provided to me free of charge for review purposes. These words reflect my true, unaltered, opinion about the product.

    Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.

    My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, mid-bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.

    Performance / Features

    The ZuperDAC-S is simple: two buttons, two ports. It makes use of a 3.5mm jack out and a micro-USB port in. It has a status LED as well, though it's on the bottom of the device which makes it hard to see if you are also fiddling with the buttons.

    The DAC-S’s sonic performance is excellent and bears no flaws. It has a completely transparent effect on sound and tone, though its output impedance is still a bit too high, coming in at roughly 1.6 Ohms, to perfectly suite sensitive IEMs such as the Audio Genetic AG2.

    My ears are sensitive to hiss, so I searched far and wide for a high-performance mobile DAC that is compact and hiss-free. Well, the DAC-S checks all those boxes freely. I can’t find a single pairing with my existing gear that produces any sort of audible hiss.

    Build Quality

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    [​IMG]
    The DAC-S is built solidly with no machining flaws or sloppy craftsmanship. The shell is made from a single piece of aluminum and has cleanly (and safely) cut edges. They aren’t sharp or uneven either. The top and bottom of the DAC-S are made from a matte plastic that is free from flex and warping. The 3.5mm jack and micro-USB port are well-seated within the housing and firmly accept their respective jacks/cables.

    Summary

    All in all, the Zorloo ZuperDAC-S is an impressive little device. It offers a premium look and build combined with great efficiency and performance, all in a small package. It also doesn’t have a huge “audiophile” markup that you’ll often find on mobile DACs aimed at this market.
  4. cash1489
    Zorloo ZuperDAC-S Review
    Written by cash1489
    Published Mar 2, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Easy to use
    Solid Build
    Great Sound
    Cons - No Native DSD Decoding
    This review originally appeared on hifitrends.com

    The ZuperDAC-S, currently available for pre-order on the Zorloo website for $69, is a follow-up to Zorloo’s original ZuperDAC, which was a portable DAC/AMP with a USB Stick form factor similar to AudioQuest’s Dragonfly Black. The follow-up ZuperDAC-S instead has a female micro-USB port on one end, so you can plug in different USB cables depending on what type of device you are connecting to, as opposed to plugging directly into your computer with a male USB-B connector.

    It is built around the highly-regarded ESS SABRE 9018Q2C System On Chip which combines a DAC and modestly powered headphone amp, which should pair well with headphones up to 32 ohms impedance. This chip is widely used in many portable DAC/Amps like the S.M.S.L. IDEA and the Sabaj Da2, both of which have a similar form factor to the ZuperDac-S. However, the other two offer native DSD decoding, something the Zorloo product doesn’t.

    Instead, it decodes up to 24/192 PCM, which probably covers the needs of a budding audiophile just getting started with portable hi-res playback, who is most likely the target audience Zorloo is marketing this product to. DSD would probably not be worth the hassle to many of them.

    Just like their marketing material says, this product provides a simple and inexpensive way for music lovers to bypass the cheap internal DACs in their smartphones, tablets or computers and enhance the sound quality. To sum it up, the unit is small, plug and play with most Android and iOS devices, and just needs a simple driver install to work with a Windows computer. It also sounds great.

    [​IMG]
    Included Accessories
    Build:
    Regarding fit and finish, the ZuperDAC-S feels very nice in the hand, with its slim profile, rounded edges, and metal body. It is also very light, weighing only .34 ounces. The separate volume up and down buttons on the face, also made of metal, is a nice touch, and they press in with a nice firm reassuring feel. It feels like they will hold up for awhile. The 16 step volume adjustment also works independently of the device it is plugged into.

    The back side of the unit is blank except for a Zorloo logo and tiny blue LED, letting you know the unit is powered on. There is no power button, it powers up automatically when you plug it into a USB device.

    Features:
    Because of the micro-USB port mentioned earlier, the ZuperDAC-S is very narrow, which makes it a lot easier to carry around than something like the Dragonfly Black. The female micro-USB port also makes it possible for Zorloo to include several small USB adapter cables in the box, three to be exact. They give you one with a USB-C end, which is nice since most of the new smartphones and laptops have this connector, then they also give you two more cables with USB-A and Micro-USB ends to ensure compatibility with any other tablets, phones, or laptops you have lying around. For a gadget junkie like myself, this versatility is very nice.

    The only cable that doesn’t come with the ZuperDAC-S is a lightning adapter for Apple phones and tablets, but Zorloo advises in the instructions to use the micro-USB to USB-A cable along with Apple’s Lighting to USB Camera Adapter and it should work fine. Apple folks can let me know how that goes because I don’t plan to make an offering at the Apple altar for that extra dongle.

    Sound Quality:
    From the moment I plugged the ZuperDAC-S into my tablet with the micro USB to micro USB cable and connected my AudioQuest Nighthawks to it, I was impressed by the big sound coming from a device smaller than a pack of gum. The soundstage was wide. The treble was smooth yet full of detail, and the bass although slightly soft, filled out the rhythm nicely. The mids were sweet, perfectly in balance with the rest of the mix. That’s the part I appreciated most.

    In comparison with the Dragonfly Black ($99), another ESS SABRE based DAC I had on hand, the sound was slightly less detailed and transparent, but I preferred the warmer sound of the ZuperDAC-S. The Dragonfly conveyed things like the attack/decay transients of instruments better, but it seemed to provide a colder, more clinical performance, with less emotion than the Zorloo. The Dragonfly had more depth to its presentation, but the ZuperDAC-S also had good depth along with a slightly wider, airy soundstage.

    The Dragonfly Black leans towards brightness with certain instruments like cymbals, but the Zorloo’s smoother sound makes it easier to pair with headphones and IEMs. It also makes it a good all around DAC for all genres of music. I’m not saying the ZuperDAC-S is all around better sounding than the Dragonfly, just different. Some will like the more clinical, detailed sound of the latter, and some will like the warmer more diffuse sound of the former.

    Conclusion:
    The ZuperDAC-S is a well built and great sounding DAC for either someone who is just getting started with portable hi-res playback or someone who is looking for a simple way to upgrade their mobile audio. It doesn’t have any fancy features or support for DSD and MQA files like some of its competitors, so if you are looking for the Swiss Army Knife of DAC/AMPs, this isn’t it. However, what it does, it does very well, and it comes with everything you need to get started right away. It is also the perfect size and weight to take on the go without being in the way.
      hqssui and PlantsmanTX like this.
  5. HiFiChris
    ÒÓ
    Written by HiFiChris
    Published Dec 31, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - •tiny
    •dedicated volume buttons that work independently from the source device
    •works great with iOS- and Android-based sources
    •noticeably lower and more multi-BA friendly output impedance than its predecessor
    •hiss-free even with extremely sensitive in-ears
    •clean sound output
    Cons - •output impedance (1.6 Ohms) could still be a little lower for diva-esque in-ears
    •to my ears, the lows appear very slightly soft using high quality in-ears
    Preamble:

    Originally posted in English on my English and German audio review website, the "Kopfhörer-Lounge", here comes my review of the Zorloo ZuperDAC-S, successor to the original ZuperDAC.


    Introduction:

    Zorloo is a Chinese audio company that started their business with the help of crowdfunding, introducing the “World’s First Digital In-Ears”, “Z:ero”, and a DAC called “ZuperDAC” in the past few years.

    The original ZuperDAC was a small, portable USB DAC that worked rather well with sensitive headphones and in-ears. The overall package was quite good for the price, if you didn’t want ultimate output power for insensitive headphones, but it had one flaw for those who intended to use in-ears without a flat impedance response, such as most multi-BA in-ears, which would suffer from an altered tonality due to the effect of the original ZuperDAC’s ca. 7 Ohm output impedance, which is definitely somewhat too high for those particular in-ears (if you want to drive them without any tonal changes).

    [​IMG]

    Fast forward, the ZuperDAC is getting a successor, the ZuperDAC-S. It’s not only smaller than the ZuperDAC and now features built-in volume control that works independently from the host device’s, but also allegedly has a reduced output impedance of below 2 Ohms that should make it much better suitable for most higher-end multi-BA in-ears. Its technical specifications have also somewhat improved on paper, just as its power output (that’ll probably still be a bit too low for more insensitive full-sized headphones if you listen rather loudly, but should drive the majority of portable headphones and in-ears to unhealthy loud levels).

    I was asked if I wanted to test the new ZuperDAC-S before release. I accepted and was supplied with a free sample for my evaluation, without any other incentive or external influence on how my review would turn out, for good or ill.


    So let’s check out how the new ZuperDAC-S performs, shall we?


    Technical Specifications:

    Price: regular retail price: $79; crowdfunding pre-order price: $45
    DAC: ESS Sabre ES9018Q2C
    Max. Resolution & Sampling Rate: 24 Bit, 192 kHz
    Max. Output Power: 32 mW + 32 mW
    Volume Control: integrated, 16 steps, works independently from host (last setting is stored)
    SNR: 120 dB
    THD: 0.0005%
    Channel Separation: 76 dB
    Output Impedance: < 2 Ohms


    Delivery Content:

    What you get, next to the DAC itself and a neat little manual, are three USB cables (micro USB, USB-C, USB-A).

    [​IMG]

    While an Apple-specific cable doesn’t come included, the ZuperDAC-S, just like its predecessor, also works with Apple devices if Apple’s Camera Connection Kit is used (this is not only stated in the manual but also something I can confirm myself).


    Looks, Feels, Build Quality:

    The ZuperDAC-S is fully made of black and gunmetal grey metal, which also includes the two volume buttons.

    Build quality is nice and the design appears like a professional product, however I think it would be even nicer to have the volume buttons labelled (even though their layout is quite intuitive – the one closer to the headphone port is the “volume up” button), and I also think that an engraved or laser-etched Zorloo logo would look nice, too. [I was just informed that the production version of the metal housing will have Zorloo logos. Nice!]

    [​IMG]

    The three cables have got woven insulation but are stiffer than what you would probably want for fully portable use. They’re easy to replace though since there is no permanently attached cable but a universally usable micro USB socket.

    Since the two buttons have a rather low profile and a neither too weak nor too heavy actuation point, accidentally adjusting the volume is quite unlikely.


    Ports, Buttons, Features:

    Super easy and simple – two ports (micro USB and 3.5 mm) and two volume control buttons that work independently from the host’s volume control. And a blue power LED.

    [​IMG]

    Android, iOS (with special cables or with the help of the Camera Connection Kit), MacOS and Linux work driver-less with the ZuperDAC-S while one has to manually download and install the drivers in order to get the small DAC to work with a Windows computer. It is an easy process though.

    When in use, the ZuperDAC-S will warm up a bit, but never reaches temperatures close to be considered “hot”.


    Volume Control:

    One of the biggest differences compared to the original ZuperDAC is that the ZuperDAC-S now features volume control buttons, something its predecessor obviously didn’t have.

    Volume is controlled digitally, so there is no channel imbalance even at low settings, and there are 16 steps in total. The last volume setting isn’t only stored and remembered after plugging the ZuperDAC-S into another device, but the volume control works also independently from the host, which means that you can use the DAC’s volume control if your host doesn’t allow any volume adjustment, or if the host’s volume control isn’t as precise as you would like to, with a too large gap between two settings.

    For this I really applaud Zorloo – volume control is super precise with Android devices as a result (, albeit not exactly with a Windows source where you cannot use the built-in Windows volume but have to use the ZuperDAC-S’s 16 built-in volume steps).


    Sound:

    Frequency Response:

    One of the most basic and fundamental things an audio device should have is a flat unloaded frequency response in the important range of 20 to 20000 Hz. While it is anything but sorcery to achieve this in modern days, some (however mainly inexpensive and rather no-name) audio devices still fail to achieve this basic thing.

    Let’s see how the Zorloo performs in this regard:

    [​IMG]

    As it could be expected, the raw and unloaded frequency response is perfectly flat and therefore just the way it should be.

    Output Impedance:

    Even when having a flat frequency response without load or with a simple load (such as a headphone that has got the same impedance over its entire frequency response), things are getting much more difficult with most multi-driver in-ears that have got more than just one driver and a crossover circuit that causes the in-ears’ resistance to vary along with their frequency response.

    If the audio device’s headphone output doesn’t have a low output impedance, the in-ears’ frequency response and therefore heard tonality will be skewed and they will (depending on the device’s output impedance and the in-ears’ specific impedance response) sound more or less different than when driven by an audio player that has got a low output impedance. To maintain an unaltered sound even with low impedance multi-driver in-ears, it is therefore best to have an audio player that has got an output impedance of ideally less than 1 Ohm.

    Zorloo states an output impedance of less than 2 Ohms, which might already lead to some slight and already audible frequency response changes with really diva-like in-ears, but should be still fine for most multi-BA in-ears.

    This is what the ZuperDAC-S puts out when connecting a critical, low impedance multi-driver in-ear to its single-ended output:

    [​IMG]

    The connected load was my Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10, an in-ear that is among the most source-picky species of its kind and changes its sound quite rapidly as the player’s output impedance rises.
    The measured deviation in combination with the Zorloo indicates an output impedance of ca. 1.6 Ohms, which backs up Zorloo’s own specs.

    While very low sensitive multi-BA IEMs with a high impedance swing, such as the Triple.Fi 10, Campfire Audio Andromeda or Shure SE846 might want an even lower output impedance for no audible frequency response changes at all, most multi-BA in-ears will have no audible or only a very small tonality change. In this regard, the ZuperDAC-S outperforms most smartphones by a good bit, with only few models having an even lower output impedance.

    Hiss:

    I consider myself as someone who is rather sensitive to hearing hiss and have also got some very sensitive in-ears (for example the Shure SE846 and Ostry KC06A that are among the most hiss-revealing models on the market). So with the right in-ear, I hear hiss to a varying degree with about any digital device (in fact out of the devices I have and have heard, only the iBasso DX90, Cowon Plenue 2, Leckerton Audio UHA-6S.MKII, Luxury & Precision L3 and Luxury & Precision L3 Pro are basically really hiss-free, with some other devices such as the iBasso DX200 or Cowon Plenue M2 or Plenue D coming very close).

    Using the Zorloo with my Shure SE846, Pai Audio MR3 and the Ostry KC06A, I can report that I am delighted. Very delighted actually, since even with those ultra-hiss-revealing in-ears, there is no audible hiss coming from the ZuperDAC-S, no matter what volume setting is chosen. This is pure excellence, something very desirable and something only very little devices achieve, such as the Cowon Plenue 2, iBasso DX90 and Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII. Splendid. Just splendid and something where the vast majority of smartphones are clearly inferior, even if the output power specs are comparable/close.

    Sure, most people won’t be using the ZuperDAC-S with extremely sensitive in-ears, but those who do, like myself, or are planning it, will be very happy to hear that, this I guarantee.

    Subjective perception of Transparency, Details and Soundstage:

    Now to the rather subjective part of my review. My opinion and experience regarding the perceived “character” and “transparency” of source devices and amplifiers is this one: there can be an existing audible difference between various devices, but it should definitely not be overrated – simply because the basic character of a headphone won’t be completely changed (if the circuit follows a clean design philosophy and the output is load-stable), but sometimes rather slightly “shaped” and is usually very subtle in many cases and is (in most cases) just slightly present (if even there) and not “huge” or like “totally different classes” or “night and day”.

    I am not a fan of exaggerations and hyperboles here because as long as the objectifyable parameters of an audio player are neutral and not too shabby (loaded frequency response, distortion, crosstalk, dynamic range, noise, …), the audible difference, if there is any, will be quite small at best if two devices are compared with proper volume matching that cannot be done by ear but only with instruments, since even small differences in loudness can be perceived as a technical advantage by our ear and brain.

    A more detailed, German article written by me concerning the “audible difference between comparable audio devices, if there is any”, can be found here: http://kopfhoerer-lounge.blogspot.de/2016/04/Eigenklang.html

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    So let’s go on with my subjective impressions and observations (for critical listening and listening in general, I mainly used my Sennheiser IE 800, InEar StageDiver SD-2 as well as the Ostry KC06A, Brainwavz B200 and NocturnaL Audio Atlantis):

    Truth to be told, the ZuperDAC-S sounds mostly similar to its predecessor to me, except for being fully hiss-free with super sensitive in-ears and except for having the lower and much more multi-BA in-ear-friendly output impedance. Therefore it won’t be much of a surprise if the following lines show some similarities to my original ZuperDAC review, however with various additions:

    I don’t want to rest for too long with the general sound description (as the differences are also very small when the levels are correctly adjusted):
    The ZuperDAC-S’s sound is what I’d consider as being precise, clean, with high speed and a slightly more analytical approach of neutrality while measuring tonally flat anyway.

    Like with many Sabre implementations, so I would say, sound tends to be a little “crisp”, as in that the treble appears “very fast” and clean, and at least for the high frequencies, the ZuperDAC-S’s implementation is among the subjectively perceived “quickest” I have encountered so far regardless of price.

    Transparency with sensitive and well-resolving in-ears is good but won’t reach the summit – but there is no big difference/gap. No, this isn’t because the Zorloo is vastly superior to many other devices or because devices with excellent precision-measured specs are in fact not all that good, but instead it’s because modern audio implementations are just no sorcery anymore and even inexpensive devices usually feature a nicely clean and transparent implementation (with only few exceptions).

    A mini-weakness of the ZuperDAC-S is that its bass doesn’t appear as tight as some other devices’ when using in-ears, something that I have sometimes observed with some audio devices as well. Again, it’s a quite small, rather tiny, difference, but present with sensitive in-ears.

    To my ears, the soundstage is averagely wide and deep, and doesn’t show any signs of imprecision.

    Definitely no night-and-day differences in general overall, but rather nuances (, which is just what one should and would expect), more objectively regarded – saying anything else would be quite foolish. Still, properly volume-matched by meters, the Zorloo has got a slightly different, “faster” appearing treble character than various other devices.
    Generally those differences are by the way more apparent with sensitive and well-resolving in-ears and mostly indistinguishable even with very good full-sized headphones.


    Let’s continue with quick comparisons to two other Sabre-based DACs, namely the HiFime 9018d as well as LH Labs Geek Out IEM 100.

    The ZuperDAC’s perceived transparency with detailed in-ears is not really worse, but the Geek Out has got an edge over the Zorloo using sensitive in-ears with high detail retrieval even though the ZuperDAC-S has got that “faster” appearing treble. Just as expected, there is no difference though when using full-sized headphones or less sensitive and less well resolving in-ears. Given that the differences are rather nuances, which is totally normal (and even has to be that way) for well-constructed audio devices, this isn’t all that much of a surprise.

    The Geek Out’s bass output appears slightly tighter.

    Some words about hiss: with extremely sensitive in-ears, there is some (but still rather gentle) hiss with the Geek Out while the ZuperDAC-S is entirely hiss-free.

    Regarding sonic qualities, both the ZuperDAC as well as HiFime 9018d are very close, but both are slightly different in their presentation.

    Both soundstages are about similarly “precise”, though the HiFime generates the somewhat wider appearing stage while perceived spatial depth is similar.
    Here again, the ZuperDAC-S’s treble stands out in appearing “faster”, whereas the HiFime outputs the slightly tighter lows in comparison when using sensitive in-ears.

    Transparency using sensitive and well-resolving in-ears is pretty much similar.

    While the 9018d outputs strong levels of hiss into very sensitive in-ears, the ZuperDAC-S remains hiss-free. The HiFime has got the advantage of many more built-in volume steps though.


    Conclusion:

    If you’re in need of a small, very portable USB DAC below $100 with built-in and host-independent volume control, truly excellent hiss performance even with extremely sensitive in-ear monitors, which is a very rare thing to find, and a still rather low/reasonable output impedance that is around 1.6 Ohms and still good for most multi-BA in-ear monitors with a non-linear impedance response, Zorloo’s ZuperDAC-S seems like a really good choice.

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    As the Italian music formation Mo-Do sang in German language in the 1990s, I conclude my review by saying that the ZuperDAC-S is “Super Gut” (“Super Good”).
      CodyZzZ, ryanjsoo, hqssui and 3 others like this.