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USB-C to 3.5mm adapters (DAC) - Let's find the best

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by halcyon, Jun 13, 2019.
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  1. halcyon
    Now that 3.5mm headphone output is nearing extinction in smartphones, it's time to start compiling the list for the best USB-C to 3.5mm adapter DACs. Many phones don't even offer analog output anymore on their USB-C output , so the only option is to have a dongle/adapter with a built-in DAC.

    Unfortunately, the output power and sound quality of these DACs is mostly mediocre or downright poor (here's looking at you Google with your useless Pixel adapters).

    So, what are the highest quality and best bang for your buck USB-C to 3.5mm Digital output DAC adapters (small size)?

    The short list so far (6/2019):

    Apple USB-C to 3.5mm adapter ~ $10 USD
    Output power: 31mW @33 Ohm (tested)
    Sound quality: good (for a dongle/adapter)
    Volume control: digital
    Line-in mic support (in Android): ?

    Hidizs Sonata HD Dac Cable II aka TempoTec Sonata HD ~ $35 USD

    Output power: 60mW @32 Ohm (mfg rating, not tested by 3rd party)
    Sound quality: apparently good (for a dongle/adapter)
    Volume control: digital
    Line-in mic support (in Android): has multiple different firmware and with firmware D it has in-line mic support

    Musiland MU1 $ ~ $33 USD

    Output power: 28mW @33 Ohm (tested)
    Sound quality: good (for a dongle/adapter)
    Volume control: digital
    Line-in mic support (in Android):?

    Musiland MU2 Plus

    Output power: 45mW @33 Ohm (tested)
    Sound quality: excellent (for a dongle/adapter)
    Volume control: digital (in-line control buttons)
    Line-in mic support (in Android):?

    NextDrive Spectra X DAC ~ $200 USD
    Output power: 49mW @33 Ohm (tested)
    Sound quality: excellent (for a dongle/adapter)
    Volume control: digital
    Line-in mic support (in Android):?
    Sound quality: excellent (for any DAC)

    E1DA 9038S balanced DAC ~ $70 USD
    Review: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ents-of-e1da-9038s-bal-portable-dac-amp.8424/
    Output Power: 37mW @300 Ohm balanced output (tested), 340mW into 32Ohm (tested)
    Output Impedance: 0.3 Ohm (tested)
    Volume control: none
    Line-in mic support: none
    S/N (SINAD) ratio: 110 dB (83 dB at 50mV SNR)

    Potentially good adapters - but no proper information on them yet (will fill in later, when / if new information arrives on them):

    iBasso DC01 (balanced DAC) ~ $51 USD
    Output power: 113 mW @32 Ohm (mfg claim) (balanced amp, 2.5mm balalanced out), 1.9V (32Ω) (preliminary data from mfg)
    Sound quality: 32bit/384kHz max, DSD256, THD+N: <0.001% (32Ω, 1.2Vrms),
    Volume control: hardware 64-levels with provided iBasso software appp (via UAC 2.0)
    Line-in mic support (in Android):?
    Other: AK4493 DAC chip, only balanced 2.5mm output (not standard stereo single-ended 3.5mm)
    Weight: 119g

    Hifime Tiny Type-C Dac ~ $30

    Plussound USB-C 3.5mm mini adapter (preorder)
    Output power: ?? (power consumption is 15mA)
    Standby power (current): 1.5 mA (mfg data)
    Sound quality: S/N 104 dB, THD 90 dB, 24bit/96kHz (all mfg data, not 3rd party verified)
    Volume control: digital ?
    Line-in mic support (in Android):?

    Venture Electronics Odyssey HD (several terminations available) $10-30 USD

    Iconic High Res USB-C DAC (performance unknown)

    Meizu Hifi-Dac (CS43131) ~ $34 USD
    Output Power: 30mW (@ 32Ohm), mfg data)
    PCM decoding capability: 32bit / 384kHz
    DSD: DSD64/DSD128
    SNR: >120dB
    DNR: >120dB
    THD+N: <0.0003%
    Output load: 16Ω ~ 600Ω
    Chip: Cirrus Logic CS43131

    All of the above have also considerable power draw budgets, so take that into account if you use a phone with a smaller battery capacity.

    I'm not personally interested in large AMP-DACs (Fiio, Hifime) or dangling USB-A type DACs (Dragonfly), but perhaps somebody else can make a list of those, if they are interested.

    If you know of any other good USB-C 3.5mm DAC dongles, please chime in. Especially if you've found out competent test for their output impedance, output power and audio performance.

    16.6.2019 - Added more data on iBasso DC01
    18.6.2019 - Mfg claimed data for Plussound adapter
    20.6.2019 - More info on iBasso DC01 (first batch)
    25.6.2019 - Added Meizu Hi-Fi DAC (CS43131)
    14.8.2019 - Added E1DA 9038S portable Balanced DAC
    15.8.2019 - Fixed E1DA 9038S output power data and added link
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
    amirm and pilgrimbilly like this.
  2. artpiggo
    There are more

    - HTC
    - ibasso dc01/02
    - meizu
    - ve odyssey hd

    I believe ibasso dc01/02 should be the best since it is made from DAP company.
    lantian and halcyon like this.
  3. Oscar-HiFi
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
    halcyon likes this.
  4. halcyon
    Thanks! Unfortunately there is zero information on iBasso DC01 as of now.

    We will have to wait for actual measurements, usage tests and listening impressions.

    I'll add the info to the list of the others, as I get information on them.
  5. artpiggo
    upload_2019-5-30_13-18-27.png 6f9bad014a90f603be7c9be93712b31bb151ed6e.jpg
    halcyon likes this.
  6. snip3r77
    $10 Apple single can’t be beaten
    CoryGillmore likes this.
  7. halcyon
    pstickne likes this.
  8. snip3r77
  9. halcyon
    Sure. And for somebody else who's headphones cannot be driven by the fairy low power output of Apple dongle it's not enough.

    Apples and oranges.

    Absolute best for all doesn't exist, hence the list. Needs vary.
    pstickne likes this.
  10. artpiggo
    Back to the topic. There are some Thai developer who creates usb c dac adapter also.

    1)Frigga usb c adapter which uses Brise audio cable.


    2) Triangle hires cable

    halcyon likes this.
  11. Galeonero
    Hi, I had the Hidizs HD sonata Cable v2 for about 2 months, what I remember is:
    1. Comparing it with the v1 dongle of Google Pixel 2 that came inside the box, it had much more power and it showed, I'm listening to a reasonable volume not high but if just because I like to take care of my ears, with the adapter Google used it between 50-60% and with the Sonatada between 20-30%
    2. The sound was a little better, but not as extraordinary as its website says, it did not seem better than the output of my notebook that is not focused at all on sound.
    3. The construction of the connections was very good in metal but the cable still has that fragility of the adapters that break, but in this case it is not like a cable that comes to you inside the cell phone that is semi rigid to say it in a way , instead it has none and I can move it to any side as if it were a chain (but without the weight of that chain xD).
    4. The good thing about it was the versatility to connect it to the computer that was using only the usb-A adapter
    5. I liked the case a lot, it was very rigid and the adapter was not hit at all.

    I like it a lot but I do not recommend it for the following reasons:
    1. When I connected it with my cell phone and I keep it in my pocket, with the minimum effort it disconnects, there is a lot of difference between the 3.5 mm connection and usb-c in terms of strength of the ports to call it in a way, nor is it I pull with a lot of force of the cable of my headphones and that causes that the cable is disconnected, is very light the force.
    2. It has to do with the previous one, it ruined the usb-c entry of the smartphone, I realized that after connecting and disconnecting about 4 times a day + 1 time by charging the phone, the port of my smartphone became excessively worn to such an extent that any cable that wanted to place was disconnected. And this using only 2 months.
    I completely ruined the entrance, I could not load it well because the cable was loosened.
    This was the reason why I sold it, something that breaks another device does not help me.
    And also the fact that I expected a slightly better sound.

    My recommendation is that you go for a Fiio BTR3, Es100 something like this to avoid breaking your smartphone.
    Or better buy a DAP
    amirm, gr8soundz and halcyon like this.
  12. Chessblitzer2017
    I have the Sonata been using it for months with a Google pixel, I Much prefer the sound of Sonata over the es100 which I thought was trash sound, sent that back fast. And that's 100$ and bigger, this is ultra portable 30$. And too be frank, I prefer the Sonatas energetic lively decent soundstage over the 600$ sony 300zx which sounded warm,smooth, and very boring too my ears. Smsl idea competes with it.
    halcyon likes this.
  13. artpiggo
    gr8soundz and halcyon like this.
  14. halcyon
    Great, thanks!

    Looks like so far iBasso DC01:
    - c. 51USD
    - 2.5mm balanced output only (no single-ended 3.5mm)
    - no microphone pass-through for inline call functionality
    - very nice 113mW output power (needs to be measured/confirmed)
    - nice AKM AK4493 DAC
    - hardware level volume control if you use the provided iBasso volume control app

    To me this looks like a great great addition to the dongles: good sound quality, enough power, balanced. I would love to see a 3.5mm single-ended version (with less power) and a MIC passthrough for inline calls.
  15. Chessblitzer2017
    2nd 3.5
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