DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9281AC PRO (Single)
PCM 32bit – 768khz DSD512 MQA, SNR: -118dB, Power: 62mW 32Ω Adaptive , USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: Unspecified), 90mm, 18g, Aluminum Chassis, Direct Mount
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Clear and clean neutral timbre with balanced tonality (very soft V curve)
- Well controlled dynamics, with smooth airy body
- Great, well nuanced Micro and Macro details, very transparent
- Balanced Mids with great textures and definition, natural toned Male/Female vocals
- Smooth sparkly Treble with crisp decays, great extensions
- Fast, impactful Mid-Bass with equally fast decays
- Sub-Bass offers audible seismic response with mild decays.
- Crisp guitars, piano, percussions (chimes, bells) and drums and taps
- Well-rounded soundstage size with good depth and placement
- Great holographic spatial imaging with precise placement
- Amazing speed and dexterity on complex passages and transients
- Super clean background, zero floor noises
- Exceptionally clean layers and well-defined separation lines
- Great for modern music as well as instrumentals
- Commendable driving power for magnetic planars at 75/100 (good listening level)
- Driving power could be a bit more.
- Treble focus may exhibit some sheen bordering on sibilance.
- Not as forgiving on Lo-Fi or poor-quality sources (being very transparent)
- The focus on clarity takes away a small chunk of organic characteristics to the sound.
- No hardware volume adjuster
- Direct mount design not good for clumsy and careless users
- Best paired with later models Android devices since ES9281AC PRO is a bit demanding on power supply.
hiliDAC Audirect ATOM2. This is literally the same Audirect BEAM 2SE in compact form factor (direct mount) and with outright driving power halved (BEAM 2SE runs on 120mW @ 32Ω). The biggest appeal for this ATOM 2 is the scalability up to 768khz with DSD512 if you ever need anything that high, and the max MQA unfolding capability. So, if you plan to max out on Tidal, Apple Lossless etc. this one will fit the bill. The compact form factor can be a worry if you are the clumsy type. When sitting on the sofa or lying down on the bed, make sure to remember where you place it else your elbow could accidentally place undue pressure that can result in nasty breakage. Just don’t be clumsy and all is good. Would have scored similarly to BEAM 2SE but the weaker driving power knocked off some points. This ATOM2 like the siblings, offer very clean and transparent sound quality, while maintaining a good measure of lower frequencies.
Best Pairing: Flexible, anything up to 100Ω
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