Review: CEntrance DACport Slim DAC/Amp Combo

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by moedawg140, Aug 26, 2015.
  1. moedawg140 Contributor
    Review: CEntrance DACport Slim DAC/Amp Combo
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    IMG_8505.jpg
     
     
    I would like to thank Massdrop for the CEntance DACport Slim DAC/amp combo in exchange for my opinion.  Here’s the link to the drop page on Massdrop:  https://www.massdrop.com/buy/centrance-dacport-slim-amp-dac-combo?mode=guest_open.
     
     
    Here is the list of audio equipment used in the review:
     
    DAC/amp
     
    CEntrance DACport Slim: $99 shipped in United States
     
    Sources
     
    Surface Pro 2 64GB: $899.99
    Custom Windows 7 Ultimate PC:  > $2,000
     
    Headphone
     
    HIFIMAN HE1000: $2.999
     
    IEM
     
    Shure SE846: $1,000
    Sensaphonics Custom Sleeves: $150 (used with Shure SE846)
     
    Software applications used
     
    TIDAL HiFi – Lossless
    Sound Level Analyzer: $4.99
     
    Mentioned products
     
    Master & Dynamic MH30: $349
    Master & Dynamic MH40: $399
    Questyle Audio QP1R: $899
     
     
    Challenge – accepted!
     
    Is the CEntrance DACport Slim worthy of excelling with regards to triple duties: powering moderately difficult to drive headphones, powering very sensitive IEMs, and sound wonderfully superb as well?  Let’s take a look and find out…
     
    Here are a few features of the DACport Slim:
     
    Basic features: 
     
    1. 24 bit/192 khz
    2. Low and high gain for maximum 450 mw power (should handle everything from the Shure SE846 to full size headphone)
    3. Cap-free signal path (well-regarded Cavalli designs use similar implementation)
    4. Async USB done via XMOS controller
    5. The HIGH GAIN setting is also appropriate when using the output as a line level output.  Turn the volume knob to the max and leave the gain switch at HIGH.  This will configure the 3.5mm output for line level.
    6. Aluminum housing
    7. Tactile volume control scroll wheel (upper-right corner is a volume control wheel) 
    8. Compatible with larger android devices (tablets generally, some phones, needs power and small or old devices generally can't deliver enough)
     
     
    Power in a small package
     
    DACport Slim next to a quarter
    IMG_8511.jpg
     
    Authenticity and versatility are two words that come to mind when I think about my experience with the DACport Slim.  Furthermore, the DACport Slim conveys a slight hint of comforting warmth.  There is ample power to drive most headphones to very loud levels.  Also, no clipping at higher volumes was observed.  A triple threat and more, for sure!
     
     
    Compatibility
     
    Left view - headphone port
    IMG_8508.jpg
     
    The product is listed as being compatible with PC/OSX/Linux.  You can also try to test the DACport Slim with higher-powered Android devices via micro USB to micro USB cable (it was tested with a Samsung Galaxy S5), but you mileage may vary, since the DACport Slim is designed to be compatible with computer products.  I purchased a CCK lightning cable for my iPhone 6 and micro USB charge and sync cable for the Questyle Audio QP1R just to test if the DACport Slim would run, but to no avail.
     
    So I've been listening to the DACport Silm with easier to drive headphones such as the Master & Dynamic MH30, MH40, and HE1000, and the amp is seriously pretty dang good!  I feel that using the DACport Slim with easy on up to harder to drive headphones there isn’t necessarily a need for a more expensive amp unless you want a more colored sound, or pay a lot more for a slightly increase in higher auditory fidelity in my opinion.  
     
     
    Can it drive difficult to synergize IEMs well?
     
    DACport Slim and SE846 + Sensaphonics Custom Sleeves
    IMG_8707.jpg
     
    I wanted to find out if the difficult to synergize SE846 would be a sufficient match for the DACport Silm, and I am relieved to say that it was driven splendidly.  The presentation was smooth, warm, but detailed as well.
     
     
    Can it power moderately difficult to drive headphones well?
     
    DACport Slim and HE1000
    IMG_8711.jpg
     
    Top view - Low and High gain settings
    IMG_8507.jpg
     
    I was eager to try the miniscule DAC/amp to find out if it could drive my headphones.  The sensitive MH30 and MH40 was a breeze to power with a great deal of headroom, but I seriously thought that the HE1000 would be a test for the DACport Slim.  No, not at all.  The DACport Slim passed the amplification portion of the test (and DAC portion as well) with supreme flying colors.  I am listening to the HE1000, DACport Slim and Tidal HiFi – Lossless right now as I type this, and I have not wanted to press "next" to any track because everything, even songs that I normally wouldn’t want to listen to – sound very detailed, with defined bass, a robust midrange, and a sublime treble that makes me want to be lost in the music, or dance, depending on what is playing.  The results are a thoroughly engaging presentation from this combination.
     
    On my Surface Pro 2 and Custom PC, the DACport Silm handled everything I threw at it regarding a diverse media format playback.  DSD, WAV, FLAC, MP3 and other file formats were handled seamlessly.  The DACport Slim has a beautiful sound with sufficient overall tone and timbre.
     
    Max volume of the DACport Slim and HE1000 using Sound Level Analyzer (Z weighting) and -3 dBFS 192 kHz pink noise track
    IMG_8513.png
     
     
    Volume control
     
    Right view - volume and USB connection
    IMG_8506.jpg
     
    The physical volume control is wonderfully implemented.  Simple to access when it is near you, and can be easily accessed via left thumb or right index finger.  The tactile volume control feels satisfying to turn, as it is not too loose-feeling, and not too firm-feeling – rather, it feels just right. I like having both abilities because on my Custom PC’s Bluetooth keyboard I typically use the keyboard's volume buttons (I have a custom program that delegates the Page Up and Page Down buttons as volume up and volume down), so I only use the physical volume to turn down the unit completely if I'm changing headphones and/or earphones.  Choice is always lovely.
     
     
    Effortless connection
     
    The DACport Slim is designed to strictly run off of whatever the device is plugged into via micro USB cable – no external power cables or adapters necessary.
     
     
    Installation
     
    Install the DACport website’s software and restart. Make sure the DACport Slim is plugged into a USB 2.0 port, because when I plugged into the USB 3.0 port of my Custom PC, the computer did not recognize it.  Windows 10 or MAC OSX may function correctly, but to make sure the DACport Slim will work correctly, plug it into the USB 2.0 port.
     
    When you have the DACport Slim plugged in, the audio should automatically change from whatever is plugged into the PC (or other devices) to the DACport Slim’s audio port.  If you do not hear volume, make sure the source volume is turned up and DACport Slim’s volume is turned up as well.
     
     
    CEntrance software options
     
    The software offers streamlined and minimal options.  The options in the CEntrance USB Audio settings are:
     
    Latency: 1.0 ms to 20.0 ms.  I keep the latency setting on the default setting of 10.0 ms.
    CEntranceUSBAudioGlobalSettings.jpg
     
    Sample Rate: Choices – 44100, 48000, 88200, 96000, 176400, and 192000 Hz.  I keep the sample rate setting on the default of 192000 Hz.
    CEntranceUSBAudioSampleRateSettings.jpg
     
    ASIA Hosts can change: “checked” or “unchecked”.  I keep the ASIO Hosts option on the “checked” default.
     
     
    No stones unturned
     
    Easy way to change Low to High gain and vice-versa
    IMG_8703.jpg
     
    With regards to the versatility of the DACport Slim, you can use your favorite EQ applications, streaming services, and play virtually anything the computer would normally play natively.  The Low gain setting is best for C/IEMs, and the much more powerful High gain setting is best for most headphones.
     
     
    Feel the cool warmth
     
    The DACport Slim gets a little warm, but does not reach very hot temperatures.  The “little engine that does”, contains a solid aluminum constructed housing and feels substantial when held, even though it only weighs 2.5 ounces.
     
    Hover view - housing
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    Top view - housing
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    Back view - housing
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    A smart purchase
     
    I have listened to a lot of slim-type of amps, and larger, more power hungry desktop amps, and this little device packs a lot of power relative to its size.  The sound that the DACport Slim is able to produce is simply magnificent.  For the money, it is one of the smartest buys one can purchase if they are looking to add highly sufficient amplification to most headphones, and sound liquid, warm, and detailed doing so.  An instant favorite, and for the price, you almost cannot go wrong, aside from humming to yourself for free!
     
     
    Final thoughts and summary
     
    The DACport Silm DAC/amp is something that punches much above its weight regarding price and actual weight!  This is one DAC/amp that may be all you need for sufficient power and great sound for your headphone, and also take care of most wants with regards to the fidelity an amp is able to produce.  The answer to the challenge at the beginning of the review has been accepted and ultimately conquered by delivering sweet-sounding music to the ears.  Happy listening, everyone!
     
     
    CEntrance DACport Slim Specifications
     
    CEntanceSlimspecifications.png
     
    [​IMG]
    D/A Converter
     
    Sample Rate: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz
    Resolution: 24-bit (Also supports 16-bit)
    Connection: Asynchronous USB
    Local clock: Lowest jitter clock, no PLL used
    Compatibility: Mac, Linux, PC (driver available)
    Frquency Response 20Hz to 40kHz
    Dynamic Range: 109 dB
    THD+N: 0.003%
     
    Headphone Amplifier
     
    Audio Output 3.5 mm jack, headphone or line out
    Headphone Amp: Direct Class-A, no caps signal path
    Max Output Level: 2.9 V rms
    Max Output Power: 450 mW, drives 600 Ohm headphones
    Output Impedance: 1 Ohm   
    Gain switch: min gain is 20 dB below max gain
    Dimensions (LxWxH): 3” (7.6. cm), 1.1” (2.9 cm), 0.4” (1.1 cm)
    Weight: 2.5 ounces (72 grams)
     
    Firmware update
     
    For those who own an earlier batch of the DACport Slim, please update your firmware via this website: http://www.centrance.com/products/dacport/ (then click on the "Firmware" tab).
     
     
    From the CEntrance Website:
     

    Firmware update -- DACport Slim only
     
    If you own a DACport Slim from the earlier batches (purchased in mid- to late 2015), you may benefit from a firmware upgrade. This update will resolve compatibility issues with some USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and offer fully stable performance with Macs and PCs. Note that DACport HD does not require an update, so if you have a DACport HD, you don't need to perform this firmware upgrade.This is only for DACport Slim.

    We have created two ways of updating the firmware. If you use a Mac, click here. If you have a Windows machine, click here.
     
    The process of upgrading is simple and should take about 30 seconds once you have downloaded and unzipped the file to your desktop.

    We designed the Mac and Windows updaters do the same thing for your convenience. For best results, use a working USB port that has a reliable connection to DACport Slim for performing this update. After the firmware update, all USB ports should work equally well.

    When you run the Mac or PC updater, it will check your connected DACport Slim and automatically upgrade it to the latest firmware, if necessary. If your DACport Slim already has the latest firmware, the updater will tell you that the firmware is up to date. It's not dangerous to run the updater more than once. It is smart. If you have any questions, contact us and we will help.
     
    Update - connectivity
     
    I was able to get the iPhone 6 to work with the DACport Slim:
     
    The contenders (I chose the lower left device - Gear Head 4 port USB hub):
    IMG_1252.jpg
     
    iPhone 6, Apple CCK, at least 3 port USB hub, USB to USB cable (male to male) to Anker External Battery (or power from outlet), USB cable to Centrance, earphone/headphone of choice:
    IMG_1492.jpg
     
    Setup with HE1000
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    earfonia, s4tch and sheldaze like this.
  2. hola
    Two quick questions:
     
    1. Is it going to be $99? I was hoping $79...
     
    2. I know you said it does fine with SE846 -- which is a good choice for review because it's hiss-prone and it's FR fluctuation with high-OI source. So my question is: Do you detect any hiss / background noise? 
     
    Thanks!
     
  3. macabong
    How does it sound compare to Dragonfly 1.2? Thanks. Considering getting either one.
     
  4. sling5s
    How does it compare with geek out? 
     
    NyquistRate likes this.
  5. istirsin
    I'm also interested in comparisons to the Dragonfly, Geek Out and also Augioengine D3 if you've tried any of them.
     
  6. sling5s
    Ordered on the first day.  Couldn't resist the price. I doubt it's going to surpass the geek out, especially considering the price, but again, great price. 
     
    On massdrop, the price is $99 with the MSRP as $150. But on their website it says current price is $199. On the other hand, on John Darko's review of the Dacport Slim, it says $249. Finally, on their Facebook, it's says it's now $149 but will be $249.
     
    Lot of discrepancy on price. 
     
  7. badmojo
    i agree, their website is actually a little confusing, it had me thinking there were 2 diff products, slim and hd. smh.
     
  8. sling5s
    DACport Slim is $99.99 (only available at Massdrop) with MSRP of $150
     
    DACport HD is $199.99 (available everywhere else) with MSRP of $250
     
  9. badmojo
    so there were 2 diff ones, dammit. I cant decide now till I read impressions for both.
     
  10. sling5s
    No comparison to Dacport original? Hard to get an idea how it compares...
     
  11. sling5s
    Here's a reply I got:
     
    "DACport had not been updated in over 6 years. Technology moved on  and offers better performance today, of course."
     
    Michael Goodman
    Managing Director, 
    Chief Product Architect
    CEntrance, Inc.
     
  12. istirsin
    As if by black magic, the headphone out on my atrocious sounding MacBook Pro stopped working. Guess I'll be picking one of these up as well.
     
  13. badmojo
    what is that suppose to mean? sigh. is a meaningful explanation too much for these companies?
     
    imackler likes this.
  14. moedawg140 Contributor
    Sorry for not getting to everyone sooner, I have been working with the awesome CanJam staff and volunteers.  It's pretty early in the morning here (3:20 am), and have to get up in a couple of hours (after this post and fall asleep) to help Warren and Ethan get everything ready for an exciting day!  As such, I apologize in advance for the possibly somewhat frank responses.

     


     
     
    Quote:
     
    1.  The DACport Slim is $99 as reviewed.
     
    2.  I did not detect any hiss or background noise when using the DACport and SE846 combination.
     
     
     
    Geek Out vs. DACport Slim (listened/compared this morning) - The Geek Out has a more distant sounding signature.  Slightly more tinny than the DACport Slim.  There is not nearly as much attack as the DACport Slim.  There is less heft, bite, and the notes do not attack with authority compared to the DACport Slim.  The DACport Slim embodies a more full sound, where you feel the music (literally and figuratively) more than the Geek Out.  The DACport Slim sounds more clear and emits a more open and spacious sound, presenting spatial cues and conveys plankton/micro-detail with ease.
     
    I listened to the Geek Pulse X and Geek LPS stack throughout the day and as I type.  I listened with a re-balanced Fostex TH-900 and balanced HIFIMAN HE1000 to compare headphones on the stack, and using the HE1000, SE 3.5 mm to 1/4 inch with the stack and SE 3.5 mm with the DACport Slim, comparing the two DAC/amps.  Amazing synergy, immense soundstage and highly resolute complete sound signature.  Why do I mention this stack?  Well, I a/b-ed with the HE1000 with multiple songs and genres, and even though the Geek stack is an amazing sounding piece of equipment, the stack does not completely leave the DACport Slim in the dust.  The DACport slim is less resolute, but is respectable in its own right.  The DAPport Slim has a signature that is natural, with a slight bass tilt, and as a result, detected a more palpable and invigorating bass and overall attack than the Geek stack.  Amazing results for a device that small and cost-effective, no doubt in my mind - in my opinion.
     
    IMG_9196.jpg
     
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    I will listen to the most up to date Dragonfly later today or tomorrow if I can.
     
     
     
    Regarding doubting the DACport Slim won't surpass the Geek Out (in my opinion) - check above (first reply to you).
     
     
     
    The drop is regarding only the Massdrop edition of the DACport Slim, as reviewed.
     
     
    Correct, thanks for the info.
     
     
    I will attempt to listen to them both later today or tomorrow if I have time.
     
     
     
    I did not listen to the DACport original with the DACport Slim, so it would be difficult to impossible to compare the two in a meaningful manner.  With that said, I spoke to a friend I met here, and he said my DACport Slim sounds better than the DACport original.  That's confirmation enough for me! [​IMG]
     
     
    Congrats in advance (to purchasing and using the DACport Slim)!
     

     
    Off to sleep for about a little over an hour.  I apologize in advance again if it takes time for me to reply.
     

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