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.

22 January 2022 Update

Windows 10 64bit (USB 3.0 Power Delivery)
Sinne Eeg: We’ve Just Begun (FLAC 24/9.6 kHZ)
Diana Krall: The Look of Love (FLAC 24/9.6 kHZ)

Headphone 1: Fostex T40RP MK3 (91db, 50 Ohm, VE SDIC BAL Cable)
Headphone 2: Beyerdynamic DT880 (96db, 600 Ohm, VE SDIC BAL Cable)

iFi ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN Can (4.4mm BAL 15.1 Vrms, 3780mW combined)
Fostex T40RP MK3 Vol 40/100 Gain Stage 2 of 4
Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm. Vol 35/100 Gain Stage 2 of 4

CEntrance DACport HD (3.5mm SE 4.1 Vrms, 775mW combined)
Vol 44/100 High Gain (T40RP MK3)
Vol 50/100 High Gain (DT880)

  • Performs 98% to ZEN Stack output, overall
  • Both exhibited similar analogue organic signature. Polished, crisp and smooth
  • Both equally great with macro and micro details
  • Both practically on par with technicalities

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ($179.00)

Best Pairing: Anything

Back to #donglemadness

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

47 Comments

  1. Wei says:

    Exceeding E44? Wow!!

    Like

  2. kadinh says:

    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.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andy.EF says:

      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. kadinh says:

        Worth selling the E44 and paying 2x the price to get the DACport HD?

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        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

        Liked by 1 person

  3. ken says:

    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. Andy.EF says:

      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

      1. ken says:

        Cool! Thanks for all the help to the community!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Gan says:

    iOS compatible?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Compatible but NOT recommended. The power draw of DACport HD is too big for the generally weak iOS USB 2.0

      Like

  5. Jeffrey Marimat says:

    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. Andy.EF says:

      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. Jeffrey Marimat says:

        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

  6. Benito Guison says:

    We’re you able to use it with the Samsung s20 for any other app other than the hibby music player?

    Like

  7. Krishna Rivera says:

    Since you don’t recommend this for the iPhone, what is your best choice for iOS users then?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      It just will not work with iOS, just like Apogee Groove and Ovidius B1. The best you can hope for is Cayin RU6 which has been designed to work with iOS in mind

      Like

      1. Krishna Rivera says:

        RU6 seems to have such a steep price point. Any suggestions for iPhones without having use the apple lightning adapter?

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        Check my review on TANCHJIM Stargate, you can also consider TempoTec Sonata HD Pro which has iOS version

        Like

  8. Antonio says:

    How does the CEntrance DACport HD compare to desktop amp+dac combos and stacks, like Schiit Magni and Modi 3+ Stack, Fiio K5 Pro ESS, and iFi ZEN DAC V2? (if you happen to own or have experience with one of them or similar).

    Looking to primarily run off my laptop as I’m using wireless iem for on the go.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      I don’t’ have Schiit or FiiO stacks so I can’t say on that comparison. But if you check again my DACport HD update on 22 January 2022 (added a new note), DACport HD performs 98% to the performance and quality to the stack of iFi ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN Can (15.1 Vrms) driving my Fostex T40RP MK3 and Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm. DACport HD missing that tiny 2% on the element of total headroom and dynamic transients. However on it’s own, ZEN DAC V2 is no superior than DACport HD. I also used to have Topping D10s/A50s which I find unnaturally sterile, lean and dry compared to DACport HD. Hope that helps

      Like

  9. Antonio says:

    Hi Andy, I just received my Dacport HD in the mail, a slightly older revision from eBay. Still says HD/Slim on the PCB.

    Strangely, on max volume on my laptop and setting the dial to max, it has significantly lower volume on then my Dragonfly Black on pretty low volume setting. I even installed Centrance’s ASIO driver before plugging it in.

    Any idea what’s going on?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      What I do know, DACport Slim is a weaker version of DACport HD which was originally sold through MassDrop. The way you described it, apparently DACport HD Slim is an inferior version of the one sold directly by CEntrance

      Like

  10. SK says:

    Hi Andy, I pulled the trigger on dacport hd…I am wondering will there be any issues of connection with tidal, UAPP etc?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      In all fairness, DACport HD is a 2016 DAC/Amp, so it will be finicky with Tidal app. But works perfectly with UAPP and HiBy Music player. In fact Tidal app itself has been very erratic even with latest Dongles. Hope you enjoy your DACport HD 😀

      Like

      1. SriV says:

        Hi Andy, i agree what you said balanced is not important but the implementation is.

        I have a question does dual dac implementation like e44 which i own currently is superior than centrance in case of separation dynamics 3d etc.

        I can hear the difference when i used e44 to feed my MT604 class A. Excellent pairing e44 completely switched off amp section and just LO (not even warm). Will i get same separation and dynamics with dacport hd using alone since e44-mt604 is not portable.

        Thank you.

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        No, E44 is not superior to DACport HD on separation or dynamics as you put it, because it is dual DAC. DACport HD remains #donglemadness champion because it is the best in every area accounted for. About the only thing DACport HD is not great on battery drain and heat emitted from the Class A amp. Apogee Groove is SE, Questyle M12 is SE, Ovidius B1 is SE, yet they sound bigger and more expansive then most BAL Dongles. Again, how they are implemented matters more

        Like

      3. Mirko T. says:

        Actually, DACport HD works perfectly fine with Tidal HiFi Plus through old MacBook Pro. I keep it on low gain and connected to Lake People G100 headphone amp. This combination gives little more ‘analog-like transparency’ although it is hard to pinpoint what exactly gets slightly better. DACPort has zero problems with Tidal hi-res material.

        On high gain it can drive literary anything I have connected to it directly (Sennheiser HD600, Fostex T50RP Mk3, Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm, HiFiMAN HE-X4, AKG K550) with plenty of power to spare. All these headphones work even on low gain.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Andy.EF says:

        Thanks for the feedbacks. Amazing to know DACport HD can work on Tidal even on Apple Macbook. What I was referring to is how finicky to setup Tidal native Android App to work properly with DACport HD, it could be a hit and miss. Absolutely spot on with power, DACport HD is a desktop DAC/Amp class as far as I am concerned

        Like

  11. SriV says:

    Ok Thanks Andy…i am not claiming e44 is superior but definately one of the best i have. Your answer convinced me to buy dacport hd…a must have in my/ this hobby.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      On the other hand, Using DACport HD as a preamp to feed another Class A amp is not something I am keen to do (DACport HD is already Class A). DACport HD is an amazing device on its own. For pre-amp DAC then Questyle M12 or even Avani/Abigail are my choices. Ultimately, taste and preference plays bigger role and DACport HD may not be everyone cup of tea since it is more analogue sounding than the modern sound of E44 or most other Dongles

      Like

  12. SriV says:

    Great many thanks for your comments…I agree. I like warm tube analogue sound of mt604 fed by e44 but it is not portable hence dacporthd will be same mt604 like sound but portable i guess. Anyway i also like e44 on its own paired with 7hz timeless.

    Like

  13. SriV says:

    I finally bought xduoo link 2 bal and hope i will not miss much to centrance dac port hd. It was way too costly 2 times to import from usa to india.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      You made a great choice

      Like

  14. Lepine says:

    I just took delivery of the Centerence Dacport HD. I have next to my desk laboratory grade electrical filteration, I have a Chord Mojo, Hugo2, HugoTT2 and M-Scalar. I have Focal Utopia, 64 Audio U18t / U12t.

    The first half hour with a brand new Dacport HD is enlightening. The Chord Mojo doesn’t murder the Dacport HD. The side by side comparison is pretty interesting. A $180 dongle is holding my deep interest as I shuffle through my library of 15K songs. There are aspects of the sound quality that the Dacport HD does better than the original Mojo. Mojo has a bit more weight in the bass, but the Dacport HD does have a wider sound stage and more airy presentation. Headphone pairing will really determine which source is “better” choice for playback.

    Great recommendation Andy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Yes, the keyword is synergy. Especially when paired with something truthfully neutral like Etymotic ER series, the richness of DACport HD is all revealed to the max, hence it remains #donglemadness champion until today

      Like

  15. Lepine says:

    It has taken almost an hour for this Dacport HD to reach its peak performance. Could be still too new. For anyone who is looking at one of these, you really want to seriously listen to this dongle after it has become hot (30 minutes to an hour). I tried it with various USB ports on my laptop and found it sounds differently. I have a super speed usb-c powered hub, this sounds the best. More slam to the subbass and upper bass. Midrange opens up as well, begins to truly sound like a desktop DAC.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Yes, some USB ports may be superior especially USB 3.0 with 900 mA of current. However, some devices with USB 2.0 unrestricted exclusive mode like found on HiBy Music Player or UAPP (both on Android), I observed that the performance is equally great. As with many Class A amplifiers, they do sound better when the temp has peaked up

      Like

  16. Lepine says:

    I believe it may be in my case to do with higher sustained data transfer speeds (DSD DSF 5.6Mhz) of the USB 3.2 Gen 1 as well as the higher amperage. I am using a Dell WD15 docking station with a 180 watt power supply. What a great dongle. The Hidizs S9 Pro was pretty good, but the Dacport HD really does sound very sold without the slightly overt brightness of the Hidizs.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Lepine says:

    The bass on the DACPort HD is impressive. Bass is so clear, solid, and reaches way down to subbass levels easily. I would say this is a bass head dongle. I noticed the sound stage depth is slighly shallow, something about the edges of the high frequency notes or rapid decay seems to flatten the sound stage and narrow it a bit. It does feel like the distance of the singers and instruments is only a couple of feet away. Left and Right channels are so distinctive as well.

    The clarity is wonderful, but I can hear how this maybe originally designed for a sound engineer.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. buster9600 says:

    If you get a chance try the Signature-Zen-Dac as it’s more detailed with better highs compared to the regular Zen-Dac. Also sounds less compressed, more open but still retains that warmer natural sound.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Thanks, I will try if I have the opportunity. But I don’t see myself buying it as I always prefer portable setups. My ZEN Stack is purely for reference purposes and I almost never use them casually

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Jr says:

    “Yes, the keyword is synergy. Especially when paired with something truthfully neutral like Etymotic ER series, the richness of DACport HD is all revealed to the max, hence it remains #donglemadness champion until today”

    I just purchased a CEntrance DACport HD, but I’m really struggling deciding between the DT880 600Ohm vs HD600. I’ve watched/read a lot of reviews, comparing them both, but I always end up remembering what you said in the quote above about synergy. I assume you own both of them (based on previous replies), so I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions on how they perform with said DAC/AMP, synergy and all. Personally I’m leaning for the DT880’s for the price but I could also instead save more for the HD600 based on your reply. Thanks a lot! ^^

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      No worries. DT880 and HD600 are like different beasts altogether with different tuning approach. While DT880 is more of V curved flavored, HD600 is closer to neutral target. I love both equally for their differences. DT880 series perhaps the more forgiving one among DT family, it is not as aggressive as DT990, and more refined than DT770. HD600 has markedly reined in presentation that can be regarded as laid back compared to the Beyers. If you want to get a Beyerdynamic, then you can’t go wrong with DT880 600 Ohm

      Like

  20. HansLau says:

    It was a great journey Andy! All the best!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Thank You!

      Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s