Android phones and USB DACs
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StringBoi

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StringBoi, you have a lot of pretty common questions for jumping into this. In short, most devices in my experience work either with Android or with Apple. There are ways around this (you can get a DAC/amp combo that can be run as amplifier only and use an LOD until you get your S4, for example), but it appears to be generally true. There are a handful of devices that can work with both (the V-Moda Verza and the Go-Dap X [I believe] it was based upon come to mind), but they're pretty rare at this point.
 
What might be a good idea is to make sure you have May 4th off and attend the Canlanta get-together (link). There will be a lot of great gear there and plenty of opportunity to actually see and hear how these things work, instead of trying to decipher it all from articles and forum posts. Doing your research is almost always a good thing, but getting a chance to actually interact with the gear and the people who know the most about it would be just invaluable. 
 
If you aren't able to or interested in attending, I actually think this is the most useful thread I've come across on learning how to utilize Android devices to get excellent sound while on the go. While it might seem a bit daunting at first, I'd recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through. I've done that with this and numerous other threads, and I've yet to regret it. (I'm casually working my way through the 500+ page IE8 thread now... that one will take a while). You'll learn a great deal along the way, I guarantee it. 
 
Anyway, hope this was at least somewhat helpful. If you just want a brief off-the-cuff recommendation that meets your $200 budget, I'd say an inexpensive LOD (like this Fiio L9) and entry-level DAC/amp (like this iBasso D-Zero) would be a solid start. Although without knowing what headphones you're using, it would be tough to know for sure :wink:
 
Let us know how you get on, bud!!
 


I'm using a pair of Logitech UE 500's atm, nothing high end or hard to drive.  But I did notice since getting them a few weeks ago that I have to turn the volume up to almost max on my iPhone to hear some songs, especially while walking here in the city with the cars passing bye.  I saw some info about the D-Zero before and someone has stated that something like the JDS C5 would be far superior as an amp.  Wouldnt the DAC on a DAC/Amp combo unit get bypassed anyway making the C5 a better buy?
 
Thanks for pointing out the Canlanta event....I didnt even know that was going on.  I will most definitely try to get out there!  Thanks again for your help.
 
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post-9351250
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StringBoi

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Another affordable USB DAC/amp, $99 TCG U-SKIN
http://www.head-fi.org/t/655746/tcg-u-skin-the-portable-slim-decoding-amp-dac-one-machine
 
. bypassing the iPod/iPhone internal amp:
iPod/iPhone > line out >> TCG U-SKIN amp >> headphones
 

 
 
 
. bypassing the Galaxy S3 internal DAC & internal amp:
Galaxy S3 > digital USB audio out >> TCG U-SKIN DAC/amp >> headphones
 

 

 

 

 
 
Thats pretty nice, very compact....I'll keep that on my list as well.  Thanks for the recommendation!
 
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post-9351428
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rckyosho

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I'm using a pair of Logitech UE 500's atm, nothing high end or hard to drive.  But I did notice since getting them a few weeks ago that I have to turn the volume up to almost max on my iPhone to hear some songs, especially while walking here in the city with the cars passing bye.  I saw some info about the D-Zero before and someone has stated that something like the JDS C5 would be far superior as an amp.  Wouldnt the DAC on a DAC/Amp combo unit get bypassed anyway making the C5 a better buy?
 
Thanks for pointing out the Canlanta event....I didnt even know that was going on.  I will most definitely try to get out there!  Thanks again for your help.
You've got it all wrong.....it's the phone's DAC or AMP that is bypassed not the DAC in the DAC/Amp combo unit that is bypassed.
 
For iDevices(iphones,ipods...etc) you can get an LOD(line out dock) cable which bypasses the amp section of the iDevices but still uses the iDevices DAC and you can use an AMP then which the C5 is definitely a great buy for that.
 
To bypass both the DAC and AMP section of iDevices unfortunately requires a DAC/AMP(expensive) unit which is Apple certified (e.g. the Vmoda Verza/Vamp,Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo...etc)
 
But once you go for an android phone the only way to go portable is with DAC and AMP or combo unit(see danba's list for all the DAC/AMP that's compatible) using an OTG cable.
 
Some DAC/AMP combo do work with both Apple and Android but it gets expensive.
 
I know all this is confusing but if your going from Apple to Android and just starting out like others have said getting the iBasso D-Zero/TCG U-SKIN is a great first unit to have as you can use the Amp section of the iBasso D-Zero/TCG U-SKIN with an LOD cable first with your iPhone and when you get the S4 then you can fully utilize the iBasso D-Zero/TCG U-SKIN DAC and amp.
 
My recommendation would be to get the iBasso D-Zero for price,size,SQ,the ability to turn off charging mode while connected to an android phone and it comes with a short USB OTG cable(not so easy to get one).
 
The TCG U-SKIN is a great unit too but it does not have the ability to turn off charging mode while connected to a Device and that will drain your device battery faster and it does not come with an OTG cable.
 
Good luck!
 
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post-9351514
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StringBoi

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Awesome....thank you for clearing that up.  Phone audio is foreign to me and I never really payed much attention to it until now.  I thought I'd never need to worry about it because I do my critical listening at home and thats easier to understand when making a purchase. 
 
I'd rather not have to sell whatever I buy now to get something to work with my phone later so I'll take your recommendations at try out the D-Zero.  For the price, I could just hand it over to a friend rather than trying to sell it to upgrade later on.  For the D-Zero I would need to purchase a LOD to use with my iPhone correct?   What about the rubber band straps that I see that comes along with other units, I dont see these mentioned on their site as part of the package.  I'd probably have this in my backpack or pocket and would like the units to be attached to easily grab both.
 
 
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rckyosho

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Awesome....thank you for clearing that up.  Phone audio is foreign to me and I never really payed much attention to it until now.  I thought I'd never need to worry about it because I do my critical listening at home and thats easier to understand when making a purchase. 
 
I'd rather not have to sell whatever I buy now to get something to work with my phone later so I'll take your recommendations at try out the D-Zero.  For the price, I could just hand it over to a friend rather than trying to sell it to upgrade later on.  For the D-Zero I would need to purchase a LOD to use with my iPhone correct? 
 
Yep that's about all that you need to get apart fom the d-zero.A good and cheap one would be the Fiio L9 LOD cable.
 
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StringBoi

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Do you know if this comes with the silicon bands that attach the units together,  I didnt see them listed in the package on their site.  I see rubber feet, but I'm assuming thats for table use?  After doing some digging around, I take it FiiO doesnt sell those bands separately?  Is there a good alternative to FiiO's, preferably plain in color?
 
 
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StringBoi

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Sweet!  Thanks again
 
 
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Theogenes

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StringBoi, I should have been more clear in my earlier post, but while using the iPhone and LOD, you are 100% correct, you are bypassing the iBasso DAC (although not the amp). This means you won't be getting to hear everything the device has to offer, but it'll be a start-- especially considering the internal iPhone headphone amp is generally considered a bit bass-shy (going on the impressions of others only, no personal experience). But when you get a USB DAC compatible phone (like I presume the S4 is), you'll be able to use both. 
 
Also, the D-Zero I have was used, but it did not come with any rubber bands, to my recollection. Not a big deal though, a lot of headphone companies sell 'em. 
 
If you can wait until the Canlanta meet, I'd be happy to bring my D-Zero (and a few others I have) so you can listen and form your own opinions. 
 
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akong

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Okay, so from what I gather, to bypass the Samsung s3's DAC / AMP all I need to do is connect it to my iBasso d-zero with a OTG cable, and then I'll get that beautiful sound? 
 
Also, does anyone have a link or know where I can get a compatible and good android OTG cable? Thanks. 
 
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Theogenes

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Akong, you are correct, when using the D-Zero via USB OTG, you take advantage of both the DAC and amp of the D-Zero. Also, iBasso includes a short OTG cable that should work just fine for connecting to the S3, so you don't have to worry about finding another one. 
 
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StringBoi

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StringBoi, I should have been more clear in my earlier post, but while using the iPhone and LOD, you are 100% correct, you are bypassing the iBasso DAC (although not the amp). This means you won't be getting to hear everything the device has to offer, but it'll be a start-- especially considering the internal iPhone headphone amp is generally considered a bit bass-shy (going on the impressions of others only, no personal experience). But when you get a USB DAC compatible phone (like I presume the S4 is), you'll be able to use both. 
 
Also, the D-Zero I have was used, but it did not come with any rubber bands, to my recollection. Not a big deal though, a lot of headphone companies sell 'em. 
 
If you can wait until the Canlanta meet, I'd be happy to bring my D-Zero (and a few others I have) so you can listen and form your own opinions
 
I'm pretty sure I'll be going to Canlanta, being that its so close to me....trying to talk a friend to come along with me.  I would really love to try out what some of the more seasoned audiophiles have.  Rckyosho, posted above that the D-Zero does come with two of the bands....I'll be buying it new so looks like that wont be an issue =) 
 
Thank you all for your help!
 
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rckyosho

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The newer stock should have all accessories so get it from iBasso direct(it's cheaper anyway and ships fast)and you should have it all.Other sources might still be holding on to old stock which rubber bands or even the short OTG cable is not included.
Anyway I think akong has an older unit....you can get the cable from Toxiccable cause he's an authorised iBasso dealer for 5 dollars if I'm not wrong.
 
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oliwek

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Thanks for the reply.  Per this post, JameFiio states that they are not going to declare it compatible; and as usual my lack of luck raised its head.  A real shame as when using the USB Audio Recorder app there was a smile; I really like the (excuse lack of proper terminology) dryness or clinical-ness that the E07k brought to the mix.  The Note 2 paired with an E11 and ATH-M50 is fun enough but rather dark sounding and definitely doesn't have as many details front and centre.  
 
As I'm based in the Middle East, meaning asking about a micro USB OTG cable is an exercise in frustration resulting in my reliance upon Amazon.  I do not think the cable itself is bad; could you please leave your cable unplugged from the DAC and plug it into the Note 2 and tell me whether or not a "USB device connected" notification pops up?  Because that's the behaviour exhibited by my setup.  I'm also sure that the E07K is good as it pops right up on my Linux laptop.
 
If push comes to shove I'll attempt to upgrade the kernel to your recommendation.  While I don't have any problems configuring, building and installing kernels on Linux...I just wanted a phablet that worked.  Of course I want to run a DAC off it so that desire isn't set in stone.  Wondering if it's worth waiting for another stock kernel update or take the plunge of rooting and installing the new kernel.
sorry for the late reply :
yes connecting the DAC triggers a "USB device connected" (or something like this, as I have the UI in french) notification ; and for your later question, there is no settings to change to let the DAC work with the Galaxy Note 2 : as soon the DAC is connected, I open Neutron media player and the sound is routed to the device (no more Note 2 speaker sound), I have nothing to do.
 
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akong

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The newer stock should have all accessories so get it from iBasso direct(it's cheaper anyway and ships fast)and you should have it all.Other sources might still be holding on to old stock which rubber bands or even the short OTG cable is not included.
Anyway I think akong has an older unit....you can get the cable from Toxiccable cause he's an authorised iBasso dealer for 5 dollars if I'm not wrong.
I actually did get the cable in the package, I just lost it :p 
I can't find the cable on Toxiccable's or iBasso's website, or anywhere else. Is there anywhere else I can get it? 
 
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