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Android phones and USB DACs

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by nztechfreak, Feb 9, 2012.
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  1. JellyhillRocker
    Hi Guys. I'm a long-time head-fi lurker. Firstly, I'd like to thank all of you here who have helped me spend my cash. I'd be considerably richer without you. 
    Most of my headphone listening is done via a Hisound Studio V, usually with M-audio Q40s or Superlux HD681 Evo's (until the left channel developed problems). I'm very intrigued by this Android-> USB DAC 'craze', so decided to try it out. 
    I recently bought a ZTE Nubia Z7 Max. I have an unused Behringer UCA202 lying around, so I hooked them up and got it working without any problems. I tested it using the Kenwood music control app, the Onkyo HF player and the stock music player. All of these worked fine. The Onkyo HF player has a nice 11-band graphics EQ if you like that kind of thing.
    I was pretty pleased to have got this working so easily, but the UCA202 seems like a POS. The headphone out on it is especially bad. I struggled to get a decent volume out of my Q40's even at max volume. The headphone out on my phone sounded better. I then hooked the line-out of the UCA202 into my Fanmusic mk2 headphone amp. Whilst far from mind-blowing, this sounded a lot better. Finally I did a quick A/B test with the phone/uca202 and the dugood hdap-01 both plugged into a nad c355bee amp, powering some monitor audio bronze bookshelf speakers. The hdap-01 wiped the floor with the uca202, which should really be expected considering the price difference. 
    If anyone's on the look-out for a phone to feed a usb dac and like bargain-hunting in China, check out the ZTE Nubia. I has a nice screen, pretty good camera and the all-important smooth swipe action. I picked mine up for under 250 british pounds on aliexpress, with shipping in under a week.
    DanBa likes this.
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    That's because that unit relies on USB power that they expect would come from a full-size computer. A DAC-HPamp that runs  on its own power supply or battery, so long as it needs no drivers, would work no worse with a compatible Android (or iOS) device. Note though that just because it has a PSU or battery does not automatically mean that it runs every chip and from either - in some cases at the very least the USB receiver chip is run from USB power (which acts as its trigger to prioritize USB input), in others the DAC section is run off USB while the headphone amp section is what runs off its own PSU or battery.
  3. StanD
    I guess if you pay $60 you'll have accept a little bit of a crook look. I'd rather hit the kick a bit and do a little better. We have choices to fit our needs.
  4. bavinck
    Does anyone know if the iFi Nano idsd works with OTG and a Note 3?
  5. kawaivpc1
    This new 200 microSD card is amazing... it can be used for AK240, making it a 456GB player.
  6. Gerrit06
    @bavink I have them both and yes it does work with UAPP.
  7. bavinck
    Thanks. You need UAPP? That kind of sucks as I was hoping it would work with all apps.
  8. Steve Wilcox
    I've been eagerly awaiting the lollipop update to my HTC one M7, in the hope that Tidal will play via my HRT microstreamer.  The microstreamer lights up, but not a peep. Any suggestions?
  9. DanBa
    Let's suppose the HRT microStreamer is compatible with the native USB audio of your HTC One M7.
    music file >> stock music player (or YouTube) running on HTC One M7 >> USB OTG adapter cable + regular USB cable provided by HRT >> HRT microStreamer USB DAC/amp >> headphones
    Each component should be separately tested.
    Go to next test only if the ongoing test is successful.
    . Test the HRT microStreamer with a PC or a Mac:
    PC >> regular USB cable >>  HRT microStreamer >> headphones
     . Test the HTC One M7 with a USB OTG adapter cable and a simpler USB peripheral like a USB mouse or a USB keyboard:
    HTC One M7 >> USB OTG adapter cable >> USB mouse
    . Test the complete setup:
    music file >> stock music player (or YouTube) running on HTC One M7 >> USB OTG adapter + regular USB cable >>HRT microStreamer USB DAC/amp >> headphones
    If the last test is not successful, the current native USB audio of the HTC One M7 is apparently not compatible with the HRT microStreamer.
    Then test the HRT microStreamer with one of the following three music player apps which include its own USB audio user-space driver (i.e. USB DAC driver):
    . USB Audio Player PRO (UAPP): "Important: connect your device BEFORE starting the app, otherwise it will not get detected!"
    . HibyMusic: free
    . Onkyo HF Player
    The Android media player framework can only output 48kHz PCM audio to an external USB DAC for the time being.
    USB Audio Player PRO, HibyMusic and Onkyo HF Player can play and output high resolution audio. They can also play DSD music file and output DSD over PCM (DoP).
    A list of USB OTG cables:

    Android USB Audio is in the first step of development.
    The FiiO E17 USB DAC/amp for example was not compatible with the first version of USB audio of the Samsung Galaxy S3. The E17 can now work with the S3.
    It is not easy for the latest entrants (Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, ..., 3rd party USB audio developers like UAPP developer or Onkyo, and now Google with Android 5.0 Lollipop) in the existing USB DAC jungle because the USB specification allows some variability.
    The latest entrants have to adapt their USB audio implementation to (most) existing USB DACs.
    They have to be compatible with different interpretations of the USB specification.
    Once the native Google USB audio becomes mature, it will very likely become a reference USB audio implementation in the USB DAC industry used  for testing by the developers of new USB DACs, i.e. these USB DAC developers will have to adopt the Google interpretation of the USB specification, because a "professional" USB DAC maker should not ignore Android, the biggest computing device market share.
    The XMOS Multi-Function Audio Design Reference is used by many USB DAC makers to speed up the development of their USB DAC compatible with PC, Mac and Android; and the XMOS developers test it against PC, Mac and some key Android devices.
    louie louie likes this.
  10. DanBa
    Tiny DSD capable Cozoy Astrapi USB DAC/amp:
    "The Astrapi also works with many late generation Android smartphones."
    "Comes with high quality interconnects for IOS, Android and PC, plays up to DSD (DoP) with software support."
    EmpJ likes this.
  11. kawaivpc1
    Now, there's a new DAC device almost every three weeks.
    I think smartphone companies, audio recording device companies, and computer companies will eventually integrate DAC into their machines.
    I believe this will happen within the next three years.
    That's the ultimate future of all electronic devices. Then, all DAC market will die.
  12. LajostheHun
    Computers and smartphones already have DACs, they always did, the issue is their quality and  implementation. What I wanna see is more  powered headphones with built in DACs for portable use.
    kawaivpc1 likes this.
  13. kawaivpc1

    they have the poorest. All of these companies will realize they can make much benefit out of implementing real headphone amp and DACs that can be found on hi-fi electronics.
    Apogee is one of those companies. This well-known audio recording device company started to implement Sabre chips in their recording devices' headphone out.
    They clearly understand DAC can drastically improve sound quality and good DAC implementation can improve sound of monitoring speakers so it can help audio engineers.
    I think laptop companies, desktop companies, smartphone companies will follow this step in three years.
    It always takes a good amount of time for them to realize this.
    It's very apparent for us. But many people out there don't even know if DAPs and DACs exist.
    When I didn't know about DACs, I thought what I could hear on iPod and laptop was the best sound quality I can hear. I was totally fooled by them.
    Later I found that I can experience at least five times higher sound quality through DACs.
  14. StanD
    Bluetooth headphones already have DACs and Amps built in. Most do not sound all that good, some of the newer ones can surprise you.
  15. haist67
    I would like to confirm a troublefree connection between fiio e 10k and both lg g3 and note 10.1 via otg cable in case anyone is interesteed
    DanBa likes this.
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