DAC Chip: Synaptics (Conexant) CX31993 Single
PCM 32bit–384khz, SNR: -128dB, Power: 2 Vrms 65mW x2, USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: YES), 12mm, 5g, Powder coated Aluminum Chassis with compact cable
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
Abigail is a variant of the CX31993 (CX-Pro) which has been widely popular among Audio Enthusiasts ever since its exposure through #donglemadness a few months back. Wild Lee the founder of Venture Electronics (VE) has procured prototype version of a Dongle built on Cirrus Logic (Synaptics) CX31993 DAC from the same factory that produced and tuned Avani/Xumee.
Similar to Avani, Wild Lee have asked me to test the new CX31993 and ascertain if it is a legitimate unit to be introduced to the Audio consumers, focusing on budget segment. VE has sent several samples to others including Yannick Khong and a few people to get better perspective and evaluation.
After undergoing lengthy and extensive tests on my end, I am satisfied that the prototype CX31993 is indeed a very refined unit exhibiting all the adept implementation similarly found on Xumee/ZOOAUX/iNassen/Avani, all from the same manufacturer with their signature tuning. Cross checking with Yannick Khong and several other recipients of the prototype CX31993, the assessment seems to be aligned towards general agreement on the sonic characteristics of this prototype.
Much similar to the situation with Avani, Wild Lee has asked me to name this CX31993, I have chosen Abigail. This is the story of Abigail, the elder sister to Avani.
- Neutral balanced timbre, natural density and texture
- Polished and crisp airy dynamics, great coherence
- Crisp smooth Treble with polished decays, deep extensions
- Naturally balanced Mids/Vocals with rich textures, realistic tonality
- Punchy, dense Mid-Bass responses, great texture, smooth decays
- Deep, subtle Sub-Bass responses, smooth decays
- Realistic guitars and stringed instruments tone, polished edge
- Great balance between technical and organic musical ability
- Wide soundstage depth with excellent spatial imaging
- Great Macro & Micro details retrieval, superbly transparent
- Amazing speed and transients, zero congestion/compressions
- Great resistances to sibilance, forgiving to Lo-Fi recordings
- Drives stubborn IEMs/HPs with satisfying fidelity
- Black silent background for super sensitive IEMs
- Very clean and rich output for AUX/Line Out purposes
- Great resistance to heating even used for long hours
- Conservative on power draw from the host
- Synergize great with ALL type of IEMs/HPs/Earbuds
- PC, Android and iOS compatible (both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0)
- Great rugged and durable build and construction
- Driving power maxed out below 100Ω and with no less than 91db sensitivity.
- Less euphonic compared to Avani/Xumee
- No volume adjuster
Abigail. It’s simple. Abigail is the natural progression that was started with Avani. As how Yannick put it “Avani nailed the tone. Abigail continues the story, taking more risks at handling more technicalities and succeeds” – and I couldn’t agree more.
So it seems CX31993 has indeed made history in the audio scene, for being highly affordable yet delivering values beyond the asking price. There are several CX31993 variants already released out there to cater for varying needs. Shamelessly I would say Abigail can shine brighter than most of them, simply because the dongle itself has been built to impress. From the physical rugged build quality to DAC chip implementation, not just solder-on solution and hope for the best OEM approach like the others.
Abigail, Avani & JM6 Compared
IEM Test: TForce Yuan Li + TACables Obsidian
STRICTLY HiBy Player USB Exclusive Mode, Samsung Galaxy S20 USB 3.0 Power Delivery, EQ: Always Off, FLAC
- Alison Krauss “Goodbye is All We Have”
- Diana Krall “Don’t Dream it’s Over”
- Hoff Ensemble “Polarity”
Avani (Vol: 14/100), Abigail (Vol: 14/100), JM6 (Vol 14/100)
- Deep, crisp Sub-Bass extension for Avani vs Abigail & JM6 deep, smoother responses
- Smoother vocal decays on Abigail vs crisper & bold presentation of Avani. JM6 in between.
- Mids 1 step more intimate on Avani & JM6 vs Abigail
- JM6 has the thickest sounding Mids vs both Abigail & Avani
- Soundstage 1 step wider for Abigail vs Avani & JM6
- Abigail & JM6 has more air between notes vs Avani
Driving Power Test: FOSTEX T40RP MK3 50Ω 91db Magnetic Planar + VE Standard DIC OFC Cable
- Avani, great timbre density, texture, dynamic range and coherence. Amazingly crisp and smooth sound with volume of 20/100
- Abigail, similar drive as Avani, with better headroom and sense of space. Less crispy but smoother instead
- JM6 equally adept to Abigail on this test. Practically no difference that my ears can pick up
Among the three, what is apparent to my ears how spacious the headroom and spatial staging is with Abigail. What is common between Avani and Abigail, very marginal superiority on timbre coherence over JM6 (this is extreme nitpicking), transients sounded more polished on the two sisters. If I am to draw my own conclusions, I will always pick Avani for Mids centric intimacy, sharp imaging and overall crispiness, and I will use Abigail when I need a bit more of airy neutrality, space, headroom and smoothness to the sound. Either way, it is great to have options especially considering how insanely cheap these Dongles are. The two of them at $10, 😆
Best Pairing: Flexible for anything less demanding under 100Ω
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