SMSL iDEA portable dac+amp

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by Matias, May 27, 2017.
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  1. PlantsmanTX
    If you're willing to spend $100 for the Sabaj Da3, you could add the $100 Fiio Q1 MkII to the list of amp/dacs you're considering.
    Ders Olmaz likes this.
  2. Ders Olmaz
    thank you for replies. i write options because of 11.11 discounts. i see only fiio q1 in discount it is 60, smsl idea and sabaj da3 is something like 70 bucks. Is Q1 mark ii is way better audio quality ? the charge is no problem for me by the way.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
  3. antdroid
    I just got the Sabaj DA2 tonight, and have been testing it side-by-side with the SMSL X4 on several different types of music and segments of different songs that have instrument separation or other things I like to use as distinguishers. The DA2 definitely sounds more precise, and better at separation than the X4. The X4 is quite commendable and at the price it's a solid offering, especially compared to the similarly priced K1. The DA2 though can drive my test headphones (Fostex T50RP Mk3 with mods) much better than the X4, and overall - sounds just slightly better. The X4 does have a warmer sound as someone mentioned much earlier in this thread.

    I am using an Android (Essential PH-1) device (with USB-C) as my test bed and while I dont have audible buzzing or hissing that people have mentioned, it does sometimes have a click sound if I unplug and replug it when switching devices. It may be android being confused what's going on as I'm switching DACs rather quickly.

    Overall, I'm going to keep the DA2 over the X4 for $20 more. The DA3 looks like a beast at the price, but does not sound portable friendly with its power consumption. I also use the Fiio BTR1 for bluetooth dac/amp.

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
    PlantsmanTX likes this.
  4. PlantsmanTX
    I doubt that the Fiio Q1 sounds way better than the iDEA. I just suggested another highly-regarded portable DAC/amp that runs on its own battery.
    Ders Olmaz likes this.
  5. Rocketval
    Does anyone know if there is an otg cable to connect both the dac (micro-usb) and, at the same time, recharge the smartphone (usb type c)?
  6. Hal Rockwell
    I was looking for the same exact thing some time ago but apparently it doesn't exist, even if the product page states that it does. There are tons of otg hubs being sold on eBay and AliExpress that can be connected to a USB charger, but it only supplies power to the thing you connect to the phone through the hub, but not the phone itself for charging.
    Rocketval likes this.
  7. Rocketval
    This means I'll try to build one by myself :D
    I've done it yet for my pc external soundcard to power it, maybe changing something it could be possible..
  8. Hal Rockwell
    It will be great if you succeed. Please update on you progress with this. If it will turn out fine, I'll make one for myself.
  9. Hal Rockwell

    I know it's not the SMSL iDEA, but is anyone interested in a shootout?
    antdroid, pkkaou and PlantsmanTX like this.
  10. antdroid
    I have a USB-C hub with power passthrough that works great for my windows tablet. I was able to use it for my android phone as well with a usb flash drive. I didnt check to see if it worked with my usb dac but I can try that tonight. The one I bought was by Pluggable:

    You can search using USB-C Passthrough
    Rocketval likes this.
  11. maxxevv
    Just answered a similar question on another thread.

    Not sure if its what you're looking for but it allows the plugging in of a powerbank to supply the external device ( at least that's what I read in the descriptions). So it will help to minimise the power draw from your phone by the DAC .
    Rocketval likes this.
  12. tworule
    How is btr1 compared to da2? I like the convenience of wireless but is da2 better sounding if source is a phone with streaming service like Deezer - Spotify ? Thanks
  13. antdroid
    I use Spotify (extreme) and Poweramp (Flac) and I enjoy both. I listen to all music genres, but primarily rock, indie, electropop, americana/roots, and new wave music.

    I use these primarily with Audeze Sine headphones at work or VE Monk+ or K300 (300 ohm earbuds). They are able to power the planar magnetic Sines just fine. If I'm at my primary desk at work, I plug the DACs into my SMSL VA2 headphone amp for more juice, but it works fine standalone and I dont need to crank either one to max to hurt my ears.

    The Fiio BTR1 is warmer sounding and this may be due to the AK DAC, which seem in general to sound more warm than Sabre DACs, in my experience. The DA2, which uses the Sabre 9018 is colder and crisper sounding, which I expected using a laptop with the same Sabre DAC built-in, and using the Schiit Stack which uses the AK series giving a warmer sound. The DA2 also has slightly better music instrument separation than the BTR1 which tends to match the specs given. Neither of these sound as good as my desktop setups though.

    That's really the biggest difference between the two imho. Warmer sound vs a slightly clearly, colder sound. Other things to consider:

    The sabaj DA2/Idea is usb-c based so it does drain more battery than the Fiio which uses BT 4.2, so that may be a consideration.

    In practical uses, I have tended to use the Fiio more often because I can charge and use it at once without using a hub so far. It's also easier for mobility since it's wireless and has a built-in clip.

    So I guess to summarize (and I apologize for the random train of thought):

    Fiio BTR1: Warmer sound signature - which makes music sound fuller
    Pros: Wireless/no dongle required, uses less power on phone, built-in clip, nice design (my co-worker buddy wants to get one after seeing it)
    Cons: Needs to be charged if not near power source, slightly less music separation, can be slightly bloated sounding because of warmth on some songs

    Sabaj DA2: more precise sound signature, colder, higher resolution support
    Pros: higher res support, better music separation, independent volume controls, comes with OTG cables (I dont use them though)
    Cons: drains battery more than BT, dongle'd

    Let me know if you have any further questions.
    tworule, pkkaou and PlantsmanTX like this.
  14. antdroid
    As a follow-up to a previous question, here's my Essential PH-1 Phone with USB-C power passthrough hub, powering the phone while using the Sabaj DA2 Dac.

    A few observations --
    It's a messy cord set up obviously. If I went this route, it would be with my phone dock, attached to the hub, and permanently situated on my desk.
    The USB-C hub was the smallest one I could find that provided power pass through and a power out that was on the opposite end of the power in (That makes the most sense to me!).
    I had a heck of a time getting the phone to detect the DAC through the hub. I am using PowerAmp in the screenshot. Anyway, after several disconnect and reconnects, it finally detected USB audio and music played just fine.

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
    PlantsmanTX likes this.
  15. tworule
    thanks for great review. I plan to use it at gym so btr1 seems a better option.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
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