DAC Chip: Realtek ALC4042 (Single)
PCM 32bit – 96khz, SNR: -98dB, Power: 1 Vrms, USB Type-C Male & iOS Lightning MFi, 3.5mm SE, 4.4mm BAL, Aluminum Chassis, 7N Analogue Cable
Listening Equipment: Etymotic ER4SR, HZSOUND Heart Mirror, VE Asura 2.0, Moondrop Aria, FOSTEX T40RP MK3. USB 3.2 Samsung S20 & USB 2.0 iPhone 7 (Deezer Hi-Fi)
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Smooth clean timbre, balanced neutral and natural
- Silky airy note to the timbre, exceedingly coherent
- Matured dynamics that’s not overly euphonic
- Great Treble textures and range with crisp lush decays
- Commanding Mid-Bass punch with rich textured body and smooth decays
- Crisp Mids with natural staging, richly textured and smooth.
- Rich Sub-Bass with smooth seismic feedback
- Crisply nuanced and smooth details retrieval, super transparent
- Crisp tonality to guitars, cello, percussions, and piano
- Reference class speed and transients handling
- Good width soundstage with precise spatial imaging
- Great separation of layers with precise holographic projection
- Impressive driving power, 80/100 volume to drive FOSTEX T40RP MK3, great fidelity.
- Stellar synergy with anything (up to 91db of sensitivity)
- Good sibilance resistance (except on very poor quality sources)
- Clean background even with Moondrop Aria and HZSOUND Heart Mirror
- Conservative power draw and does not get hot easily
- Power limited to no less than 91db Sensitivity
- Transparency not forgiving to Lo-Fi and poorly mastered sources
- Spatial imaging and separation not as razor sharp as the top 3 performers
- No hardware volume adjuster
HAKUGEI. First thing first. This is the MOST BEAUTIFUL Dongle I have ever owned, period. End to end the build oozes luxury look and feel with breathtaking bespoke craftmanship. I can just look at these Dongles all day long. HAKUGEI legacy of making stunning cables clearly evident on the two units in my possession now.
Secondly, both units that tested – Type-C and iOS comes with 4.4mm Pentaconn female jacks. Much similar to VE Odyssey HD, these 4.4mm are not true balanced , natively Realtek ALC4042 is a single ended DAC. The purpose of this is to allow for flexibility to use 4.4mm jacks (which many people own now) without the need for a reducer adapter (hence eliminating the chance of SQ degradation).
Sound wise, this is the second Dongle running ALC4042 that I ranked as 5 Stars. Not difficult for me to do so as the refined tuning and implementation was immediately evident from the first time I listened to them. As a regular user of VE Odyssey HD (also ALC4042), I recognized the smooth, analogue fidelity immediately. While largely similar in many ways, the HAKUGEI does sound slightly different – it is not as warm sounding as the Odyssey HD, it offered a bit of upper register brightness and is still well balanced and smooth. Never sibilant or sharp as would be observed from ESS range of Dongles (not all).
Driving power is nothing short of impressive. With my FOSTEX T40RP MK3 at 91db sensitivity, the HAKUGEI needed 80/100 volume to get proper listening loudness. Once loudness dialed in, I was greeted with wholesome sound. Dynamic range as wide as the T40RP can stretch to the limit of ALC4042. Rich smooth Treble with equally smooth decays, Realistic neutral Mids that is well staged, Commanding Mid-Bass with audible Sub-Bass responses. All cleanly layered with precise imaging. There is no hint of stress or timbre/dynamics coherence instability even cranked on 100/100 volume maximum load for some of my Lo-Fi music. Simply Impressive.
With Etymotic ER4SR, HZSOUND Heart Mirror. Very well balanced timbre and tonality which is not as “Diffused Field” neutral – meaning, not as flat as well. As observed with T40RP, the sound is wholesome and meaty. No hint of any attempt to overdo anything in any frequencies – and I like it so very much just the way it is. This is transparency served faithful to the nature of the sources.
Moondrop Aria & VE Asura 2.0, on both of these natively warm sounding IEM/Buds, the HAKUGEI mildly bright timbre imparted natural balance that is smooth and lush – yet still technically competent with speed especially on Bass responses, it is tight and tidy. Overall the sound is crispy clean with no hint of sluggishness or compression. Honestly Aria and Asura no longer sounding as warm as they normally would when paired with the likes of VE Odyssey HD or Hidizs S9, but I totally enjoyed this very balanced performance (basshead may disagree with this). To my ears these two synergize great with HAKUGEI.
HAKUGEI vs. VE Odyssey HD
- HAKUGEI is audibly a little brighter vs the warmer Odyssey HD
- HAKUGEI a little bit flatter neutral vs the slightly euphonic neutral Odyssey HD
- HAKUGEI less forgiving to Lo-Fi and poor sources vs Odyssey HD
- HAKUGEI has slightly lower driving power (loudness) vs Odyssey HD
- HAKUGEI looked much more luxurious to the spartan simplicity of Odyssey HD
PS: Both unit, Type-C and iOS versions exhibited identical sound in general. However when used on my Samsung Galaxy S20 (USB 3.2 with USB 3.0 power), my ears telling me the bass performance is a tad stronger and Treble decays even slightly crisper. So HAKUGEI, just like VE Odyssey HD seems to scale great with more power feed.
Best Pairing: Flexible for anything over 91db of sensitivity.
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