CEntrance DACport HD

DAC Chip: AKM AK4490 + AmpExtreme™ Direct Class-A
PCM 32bit – 384khz, SNR: 7µV RMS, Power: 4.1 Vrms 775mW, Micro USB, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: NO), Aluminum Chassis


Listening Equipment: Etymotic ER4SR, FOSTEX T40RP MK3, 7Hz Timeless, VE Duke, TForce Yuan Li, VE Monk SM, SeeAudio Bravery, Shure KSE1500. Samsung Galaxy S20 (USB 3.0), Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (USB 2.0), HiBy Player (USB Exclusive Mode). FLAC

LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING


💚PROS

  • Neutral, natural timbre, analogue-organic, slightly warm-ish
  • Effortlessly realistic dynamics, superb transients density
  • Reference grade coherence, pristine clarity & transparency
  • Neutral Mids, detailed and richly textured, realistic Male/Female vocals
  • Polished smooth Treble, great finesse, depth, extension, and textures
  • Rich & realistically textured Mid-Bass, visceral and smooth decay
  • Deep, smooth Sub-Bass with realistic decay
  • Excellent details retrieval, Macro and Micro
  • Crispy smooth guitar, piano, cello, and instruments, vivid, realistic
  • Natural/realistic percussions (chimes, bells), drums and taps
  • Massive soundstage with great depth, height and spacing
  • Reference grade imaging, razor sharp precision, spacious spatial staging
  • Reference grade speed, zero congestion or compression
  • Completely black background, zero floor noises
  • Devoid of any coarseness or grainy edges, at all frequency
  • Amazing sibilance resistance
  • The most powerful Dongle tested as of September 2021
  • Great synergy with all type of IEMs/HPs/Earbuds
  • Best in class independent rotary volume adjuster, very refined
  • User selectable Gain switch

💔CONS

  • Archaic Micro USB port on Dongle side
  • Available only in 3.5mm Single Ended Audio Out
  • Performs the best connected to a Laptop or USB 3.0 (900mA) capable phones
  • Runs very warm being a true Class A amplifier, equally as warm as Apogee Groove
  • Sucks battery life a lot faster than most dongles (similar to Apogee Groove)

VERDICT

CEntrance DACport HD. When I placed the order for a unit directly from CEntrance over 2 months ago, I was not sure what to expect. There were moments during the wait that I actually forgotten about it altogether. With USPS taking forever to “ship” my DACport HD probably by sea, hahaha.

Well. I must say the wait was worth it. 15 minutes into the first listen and I already knew that DACport HD is a 5 Stars performer. The unmistakable analogue, organic and believable natural timbre, with effortless dynamics exhibiting equally elegant transients. And that power, majestically commanding drive to make my stubborn FOSTEX T40RP MK3 (91db sensitivity Magnetic Planar) sounding like it was driven on a dedicated desktop amp, with better airy dynamics than any Dongles that I have heard from the other 5 Star #donglemadness performers so far. DACport HD does not pretend to be a desktop amp, it actually sounded like one. The sense of ease by which sound reproduced with all available details accounted for, there was no hint of strain or edginess even when tasked with very complex recordings. The output is rich, airy, detailed and with sharp imaging – while retaining the natural signature of T40RPMK3 without any added coloration.

Similar results observed with my longtime favorite, the Etymotic ER4SR – which can sound utterly shitty on poor sources. DACport HD deftly inject lively, soulful musical output through the ER4SR. Gone are the lean and dry timbre ER4SR normally associated with. There’s rich density to the entire spectrum of sound, even in the lower frequencies I can actually appreciate the normally flat Etymotic Bass responses with cleanly defined Sub-Bass and Mid-Bass. Convincing life like attack and decays. On the other side of the spectrum, DACport HD introduced amazing control to keep the highs as sparkly as an Ety could without emitting any unrealistic, metallic or sibilant prone Treble. There’s smoothness to the edges with proper and convincing decays, not overdone nor does it being rolled-off. In fact my ER4SR does not sound sterile as typically a single Knowles BA would sound like. In the middle section. things remain truthfully uncolored. Vocals sounding clean transparent, with varying degree of intimacy depending on how they were recorded and mastered. I am falling in love with my ER4SR all over again, thanks to DACport HD. And yes, not forgetting that my ER4SR seems to actually have proper soundstage! hahahaha.

On the other side of the spectrum, one of the biggest surprise to me is how great DACport HD synergize with stupidly sensitive IEMs. Recently I have acquired and loving the pair of TForce Yuan Li and SeeAudio Bravery. Both of which are neutrally balanced sounding (with warm-ish timbre and tonality) – and both exceedingly sensitive. Both will be hissing like snakes when paired with my longtime favorite the Ovidius B1 and VE Odyssey HD, with less than favorable background exhibiting floor noises especially between silent passages. None of those observed with DACport HD – simply amazing.

Transparency remained consistent with both IEMs, despite DACport HD being an already warm neutral and organic source, both Yuan Li and Bravery retained their native sound without any hint of added warmth (or getting darker).

And the theme consistent with the rest of my gears. Be it VE Duke, VE Monk SM and 7Hz Timeless, all synergize great while retaining their individual traits. DACport HD has the flexibility and agility to work with anything, literally – even with my TOTL IEM the Shure KSE1500 Electrostatics (serving as AUX).

The downside of DACport HD, perhaps just two that I can think of. CEntrance designed and built the DACport HD as a “laptop/desktop” dongle, wasn’t meant to be paired with phones or anything in that manner. But that didn’t stop me from using my DACport HD portably. With HiBy Player app offering USB Exclusive mode (bypassing Android SRC), it is entirely possible to feed the DACportHD with proper 5v 900 mA output from the 3.0 USB Power Delivery (Samsung Galaxy S20) – which is equal to a laptop feed running via ASIO drivers. In fact I was even more surprised that my older Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (USB 2.0 500 mA) worked as great as the Samsung Galaxy S20, I am hard pressed to observe any difference between the two of them. So it is entirely plausible to use DACport HD as true portable Dongle for as long as the power feed taken care of. HOWEVER, these came at the cost of power consumption which is way higher than any of the other 95 Dongles I owned. This is a legitimate Class A device after all. The Samsung Galaxy S20 (4000 mAh Battery) was able to remain alive for 5-6 hours of continuous play, Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (2700 mAh Battery) worse at 3-4 hours. But then this is expected and in fact similar to the case of Apogee Groove which drain power as much. No biggie for me, I can use my DACport HD anywhere I go and that is something I thoroughly enjoy for a price I am willing to pay.

Secondly, this thing runs really warm. Being Class A is no joke. Lots of power underneath the hood. Good thing is I am not a fussy user at all. For as long is it will not explode or burn a hole through my pockets (pun intended), I can totally ignore this Cons.

My DACport HD goes with me wherever I go. Pictured with TForce Yuan Li

So how much do I like this DACport HD? simply put this is my absolute personal No.1 now. I have been ignoring the other options I have around me in favor of this unit. I just love everything about this DACport HD. The build, the usability and the sound just clicked to me like a clockwork. CEntrance does know how to make a device intended to allow the listener to enjoy music. Another key factor that I find amazing is how acutely precise and refined the rotary volume adjuster works. I was already a huge fan of this volume adjuster type, something that I have grown to love though my time with the venerable MiniBox E+. Last but not least, the spartan all black finish with CEntrance and DACport HD decals just made the whole package even more exquisite with that professional gadget outlook.

If I am to stop #donglemadness now, I would be totally satisfied that I have found the device that sings to my soul. Just like my lifetime love for Etymotic ER series, Shure KSE 1500, VE Duke, Ovidius B1 and VE Odyssey HD, DACport HD made it to that exclusive spot.

PS: I am considering of getting another unit as a spare, I simply must.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ($179.00)

Best Pairing: Anything

Back to #donglemadness

My Endgame in one pic, Shure KSE1500 + DACport HD
Majestic pairing with 7Hz Timeless Magnetic Planar

14 Comments

  1. Thank you for the review.

    The microUSB just kills it for me. I’d be interested in trying it out tho. Since it was released 6 years ago, I have a hard time paying retail price for it. After 6 years, I think it’s due for an update, USB-C connectivity and maybe a balanced output.

    Like

    1. Balanced output does not guarantee great sound quality. Great implementation does. From what I am hearing what DACport HD has to offer, other competitons will need to pull out something really extraordinary to match it. Truthfully musical and not sounding like a small device at all 🙂

      Like

      1. I cannot make that decisions for you. #donglemadness ranking system is a reflection of what I personally like and should not be used as a buying guide, I will always say this over and over again. What is great to me may not necessarily be the same for others.
        Having said that, all of the 5 Star dongles are already beyond awesome and I don’t see that could go wrong with any one of them. A matter of preferences and taste

        Like

  2. Hi, just want to ask if this have thicker note weight than S9 pro and W2? Does the low-end have a good body and not boomy? Am finding the S9 pro too neutral for my preference. Thanks

    Like

    1. Yes, DACport HD has better notes density than both S9 Pro and W2. Obviously it is not boomy otherwise it will not even qualify for 5 Stars rating and being No.1 at that

      Like

  3. Hey Andy, Hope all is well. Is the DacPort HD significantly more power hungry than the B1? For me, the B1 is fairly okay for portable/smartphone use. As to sound, I am enjoying the B1 but still curious how the Centrance sound compares specially the bass qualities. If the sonic differences are not that far, I don’t think I need to get the latter (resisting).

    Like

    1. DACport HD is way more battery consuming that B1. Perhaps 3x more battery drain. This is legit Class A amplifier we are talking about. Ovidius B1 on the other hand is a very well designed Class E. But really if you don’t compare them side by side, there’s nothing much that B1 can be ashamed of. About the only Cons that I would say on B1 is that the floor noise being higher on more sensitive stuffs while DACport HD being silent. Also, B1 has more intimate Mids while DACport HD sits between B1 and Apogee Groove on this aspect. Bass qualities are quite similar on both, smooth and detailed

      Like

      1. If it’s 3x more battery drain than B1, I think I can live with it since Im only at my office desk or at home when I listen to music. You are correct about the B1 being intimate which plays well with most of my earbuds but the DacPort HD could also give a different flavor to the table. Thanks again Andy.

        Liked by 1 person

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