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Any recommendations for an USB DAC with punchy bass?

  1. Theronguard
    Hi. I'm searching for an usb dac with punchy bass. I'll give you some background info about what I like to give you a clearer picture of what I'm searching for.

    I like:
    -Strong punchy bass
    -Small amount of subbass
    -Clear vocals

    I don't like:
    -Sharp highs/sibilance
    -Hearing the constant bass bwooooooom throughout the song (it makes the listening tiresome).

    What I'd like to have:
    -Android compatibility
    -Bass controls:
    a) I'd also like to be able to control the bass on my android.
    b) If the DAC has a real kick out of the box there's no need for bass controls

    My headphones are: Encore Rockmasters OE
    The sound that I enjoyed the most was on my modded Samsung J5 with Viper4Android with settings:
    - +15.4 dB Bass Boost
    - Pure bass+
    - 71 Hz crossover freq
    Sadly I switched phones and I don't want to lose my warranty by modding, so viper is a no no for me for about 2 years.
    (please don't tell me to switch headphones, I've heard the sound that I liked on them and now I just want a dac that sounds similar)

    I'm using the soundblaster E5, but I hate the bass on it. It's strong but the "bwooooom" is always present, even in the songs I've never heard it in.
    My budget is 150$.

    I really really appreciate any help. I'll be really happy if I can find something I like thanks to you, because for now I'm losing my drive to listen to music because it doesn't sound good.Thanks.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  2. shrimants
    your music sounds bad because your headphones are bad.

    a dac is responsible for exactly 1 thing: converting digital audio to analog audio. This is not the place to look for sound improvements. I'm not saying all dacs sound the same, but the headphones will make the biggest difference (95%). the amp and dac will make the final 5%. Dacs are good investments when you have noise and artifacts and other crackling or hissing sounds happening that you're trying to get rid of.

    Your bass sounds BWOOOOOOOM because you've completely obliterated the original sound using your v4a settings. An EQ can help bump sound a little bit here and there (3-6db). It cannot universally fix any headphone's sound.
    Rhamnetin likes this.
  3. Theronguard
    Thanks for the reply. What I wrote might've been a little unclear.
    I know that the DAC's main role is to convert signals - I just need a dac with bass settings - and I tried few of those and they had clear difference in the quality of bass (SB E5 vs SB PLAY 2 for example)
    (Sorry, maybe the term "soundcard/dsp" would fit here better).
    Also I loved the bass with the v4a, it was as punchy as I wanted it to be. I said that the soundblaster E5 made it go all bwoom.
    Unless by saying "obliterated the original sound using your v4a settings" you meant that I changed the sound of the headphones for good (is that a thing?).
    Guess I'm just stuck to my encores because I liked the sound before having to change my soundcard but maybe it's time to change the headphones.
    If that's the case, do you recommend any headphones with strong punchy bass (preferably closed with good noise isolation + they can be high impedance). I'd be willing to spend around 200$.
    Anyways, thanks again for taking your time to reply :p
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2018
  4. shrimants
    what i would do in your position is spend 0 money for a bit and just spend time researching. find local audio boutique stores and hifi stores that sell headphones, go to best buy, go to other electronics stores. they all have tester headphones. look up meets and whatnot and see what all you can test.

    use 0 eq, get the simplest and least complicated path from your music to your ears without messing with the sound, so you're testing the headphones by themselves. compare to your existing headphones. then make a decision.

    it strikes me as strange that you like the sound of your headphones but then they dont have good bass....maybe your phone just has bad quality audio? try your headphones out of multiple different devices (with no EQ). I pretty much only use flagship phones so since the galaxy S3 i havent had any issues with audio quality as it is a reasonably flat output. i'm using a v20 right now, had an s6 edge before this, and had a nexus 5 before that.
    Rhamnetin and Theronguard like this.
  5. Sonic Defender Contributor
    FiiO Q5 is wonderful. It is as shrimants said, and as you seem to know, the headphone that matters. You simply need audio player software with a decent built in EQ such as Onkyo HiFi Player or Neutron. Either way, the Q5 is marvelous and you can and should stream from your phone via Bluetooth. I have been in this game a long time (since the 1980s) and I can promise you this, the FiiO Q5 is the real deal. Now that I have it I think it is the benchmark for fantastic sound quality, features, affordability and form factor. Trust me, if you can try the Q5 you should.
  6. shrimants
    on that note, ive noticed that as far as their amps and dacs go, fiio knows exactly what they're doing. they wont design something that will perform in every single edge case 100% every time, but for 99% of cases fiios amps and dacs are really good.

    i cant comment on their headphones, no experience with those.
  7. Theronguard
    Viper4Android produced good bass, E5 produces bad bass for me - I'm not saying that my headphones have bad bass (maybe they do and v4a just brought the best out of them). The problem is that I don't have the phone with the v4a anymore and I don't want to mod my new phone so I don't lose warranty, that's why I went to search for a dac for android with bass boost because I mainly use my phone to listen to music and I wanted to have the punch back but I can't really find the same sound as v4a without modding.
    Anyways the idea about going to the store and trying out headphones is great. If I find something I like I'll post the results here. Thanks.
  8. Sonic Defender Contributor
    The Q5 has a hardware bass boost that is supposed to be not in your face, but effective and not destructive to the sound. Why would you need bass boost over what V4A can do? If you need more that is an issue unless I'm missing something here.
  9. Theronguard
    I don't need a stronger bass boost. I'd be happy even if it was the same, I just don't have access to v4a on my new phone.
  10. Sonic Defender Contributor
    You don't need v4A, just use an EQ such as included in Onkyo HF Player and Neutron. All the bass control you will ever need.
    Theronguard likes this.
  11. khayo
    I feel like a change of headphones would influence the sound the most along with eq but I'm partial to going with a headphone whose signature I like and not touching the eq.
  12. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Those but particularly "punchy bass" depends a lot more on:

    1. Headphone's response - if it rolls off too early and has no upper bass bump you're not going to get any of that punchy bass
    2. Headphone's power requirement vs amplifier power delivery - in other words, low sensitivity headphone needs a very power amp; high sensitivity headphone might get away with just a USB-powered DAC-HPamp
    3. Amplifier's current delivery (for low impedance headphones, more so when they're also low sensitiivty)

    In short, if you're going to use any USB DAC, best chance of getting that punchy bass is if you're driving a 99dB/1mW sensitivity, boosted upper bass but doesn't roll off too soon Grado RS1e. Otherwise you're gonna need something like a Meier Jazz FF (I have the older Cantate.2), a Burson Soloist or Conductor, or at the very least one of the iFi units and just switch on the bass boost.

    That depends more on the headphone save for if the amp driving it is horribly distorting.

    Note that if you get the iFi the bass boost boosts everything below 100hz or so, so if the headphone already has enough response below 35hz, boosting that too far might make for that kind of sound. Might as well get a Grado.

    Again, that's going to depend a heck of a lot on the headphone sensitivity and response, and amp output. And USB power isn't exactly the best source for a lot of power nor an amp circuit having a lot of capacitance when it needs to be packaged into a small chassis.

    You could probably try an iFi product though like the iDSD Micro.

    That insane levels of boost could be due to phone having a high output impedance doing its own EQ effect by not controlling the driver well enough.

    If that's not the problem then there's the possibility that you could end up getting less bass out of a high fidelity product, even with the iFi bass boost that doesn't boost that much.

    That could be due to excessive bass boost but then again you're doing +15dB otherwise so it's a question of what the EQ curves actually do in your phone vs the E5's.

    Please don't expect that this will make getting the right sound easier either since the DAC-HPamps have a low output impedance compared to smartphones and that could have been causing what you're dealing with. But if you really want to gamble on just the DAC-HPamp anyway, try the Micro iDSD.

    This is a problem for the iDSD. Maybe try the Ibasso D-Zero MkII or Fiio Q1 MkII, or the Fiio E10K. However at 107dB sensitivity power quantity isn't really your problem but either the headphone's response or its interaction with a high output impedance circuit. if the latter is the main problem a good DAC-HPamp might actually end up with less bass, though cleaner. So you're gonna need either bass boost and hope it works as you like or just get apply an EQ correction.

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