23 October 2021, After doing some recalibration of my Dongles inventory, I have achieved my target of 100 Dongles owned and tested.
Before I proceed any further, there’s two person that I would like to personally thank for the success of #donglemadness. Yannick Khong for his passion and care from the start until today. Helping me with sanity checks and guiding me to better understanding of sound appreciation. Wild Lee for tireless support and keeping things exciting with his unique perspectives.
And of course, too many for me to mention here. Those who has been supporting me tirelessly through thick and thin. You know who you are, and you have my eternal gratitude.
As I reflect how all this madness started, it actually began in March 2021 when I accidentally bought a seemingly unassuming JCally JA21. Suffice to say that tiny thing shocked the shit out of me for being good sounding. And I was curious enough to find out what else is in store down the rabbit hole….
My experience can be read here: JCally JA21 – The $6.75 USB DAC with BIG Personality
That encounter triggered a madness that went to unprecedented depth way beyond my initial expectations . I was convinced that if a $6.75 dongle can produce 70% of sound quality to my pair of Cayin N6ii E02 and N3 Pro (both with combined price of $2000), then it is entirely plausible that there are Dongles out there that can actually scale the heights to compete on equal terms to these mid tiered DAPs, and perhaps exceeding them ultimately. That curiosity got me here today, with over 100 Dongles owned and tested extensively. And now I have my answers.
The reality is, these Dongles are no different in many ways to the DAC/Amp which are contained within those DAPs. I see them as soundcards. One being internal and permanently imbedded into the unit, the Dongles being totally modular and external. Both running on similar power feed not exceeding 5V. Based on this logic, especially with the use of HiBy Music App USB Exclusive Mode, all limitations (Android SRC) for the external Dongles are removed and literally the Dongles now perform to their fullest potential in their true form – similar to the DAPs.
Perhaps the biggest learning for me personally on this subject, #donglemadness convinced me that Synergy plays an even bigger role than initially perceived. The art of pairing it right with the right partners. In an Audio chain, no one unit can function without the others. A DAC/Amp can only be enjoyed, judged, and used when it is connected to a listening device, and it goes the other way round too – the listening devices can only sound as good or as bad as how the source partner that feed them.
Additionally, how these DACs implemented determines the final output. The very same DAC can sound entirely different depending on how good they are tuned. What’s evident to me, ultra compact Dongles largely retain their native signature due to the limit of their real estates. And the bigger ones has more options to develop their own “personality”.
Lastly, Balanced or Single Ended – this is not the ultimate yardstick for sound quality. As I reflect back on my final 5 choices out of the 100 tested, all of them are Single Ended!. If I am to ponder on this, yet again the element of implementation matters. Apogee Groove, CEntrance DACport HD, Ovidius B1, A&K PEE51 and ASUS ROG Clavis proved that the 3.5mm SE is still very relevant especially in this form factor where space is limited.
Now that the target has been achieved. I have made my final decisions on my 5 Dongles that I actually use regularly. These are the ones that clicked to my taste the BEST:
- CEntrance DACport HD
- Ovidius B1
- VE Odyssey HD
- NotByVE Avani
- NotByVE Abigail
Practically, DACport HD represents everything that I wished for in a portable DAC/Amp. The sound, the functions, and the build. In fact, if I am forced to own just one Dongle then it is an easy choice for me to keep just this one. For ultra portability, the trio of Avani, Abigail and Odyssey HD completed my arsenal.
I only keep what I use, the remaining 95 Dongles has been given away to their respective new owners.
Again, my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for being directly or indirectly involved to this #donglemadness project
PS: I will no longer be actively getting new Dongles from this point onwards. Real life commitments will not make it feasible for me to continue buying and testing Dongles like before.
Original #donglemadness ranking page here (links):
- RATING AND GRADING
- TEST EQUIPMENT
- YANNICK’S REVIEWS
- CHEN HANG MENG REVIEWS
- MAIN PAGE
- #donglemadness MY Tour (UPDATED)
- Wild Lee on Dongle Tech (YouTube)
- BIGGER IS BETTER?
I actively post updates on the progress of my #donglemadness activities to the Facebook group Chifi Audio Reviews