#donglemadness

#donglemadness Concludes

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 #donglemadnessYannick 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.

REFLECTIONS

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.

LESSONS LEARNED

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.

THE AFTERMATH

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: (EDIT: Added Questyle M12 to my final list of Dongles, which now makes it 6)

The 5 that I love the most
  1. CEntrance DACport HD
  2. Ovidius B1
  3. Questyle M12
  4. VE Odyssey HD
  5. NotByVE Avani
  6. 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.

The only Sabre ESS based Dongle that I decided to keep for good. There’s something special about the Questyle M12 sound. Probably the most well balanced Sabres in existence

I only keep what I use, the remaining 94 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):


Facebook ◼ Email: andyaudiovault@gmail.com ◼ Head-Fi: OspreyAndy

I actively post updates on the progress of my #donglemadness activities to the Facebook group Chifi Audio Reviews


199 Comments

    1. It’s really nice that you’re back because i really love your work. Can you please update them regarding if yoy find them cold/bright, warm or neutral so I can better pair them with my stuff? Thanks!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. Usually my definition of warm will be analogue or organic sounding. My Equipment for listening are all neutral by design and largely the dongles are neutral as well. Take a look at Hidizs S9, Tempotec Sonata BHD or CS46L41, they are as warm as I can put it

        Like

  1. Nice to see you again here.. please keep on fire and keep your wallet thicks 😋😋

    I have some request if you would..
    Please add dragonfly red since the red still affordable by many people than cobalt..
    And may you add some bluetooth dac into consideration here? They are not dongle but they are still for portable use and may be used as usb dac…? 😁😁

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy, first off… Man thanks for coming back… The work you’ve put in speaks for itself and is very important for the hobby IMO. Anyways, I don’t want to ask any more out of you but have you ever tried the DDHIFI TC44B. I was really wondering what your thoughts were. I know you can’t review them all but I was simply wondering. Take good care and thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is all very impressive, Andy.
    I’ve noticed you’re using Hzsound Heart Mirror in your rotation, a great IEM that I also own. In your opinion, which are the dongles that work best with the Heart Mirror? I’m currently looking to buy a dongle and your advice would be really appreciated. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Heart Mirror is such a beautiful IEM and exhibited great synergy with many Dongles. So depending on your budget the selection can be quite big to choose from. For me personally I love my Heart Mirror with Ovidius B1, VE Odyssey HD and Hidizs S3 Pro

      Like

      1. Thank you for the quick reply. Right now I’m probably looking for a sub $100 device but I’m always willing to spend more for better quality. I’ll check the dongles you suggested. Thanks again

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi bro, very good post, i have now a dragonfly red and i want to upgrade it, this list help me a lot!
    i’m thinking between the s9 pro and the fc3 (somebody is selling me this one in 60 usd), my question is, must i buy the fc3 for the price or buy the s9 pro for the sound? or may i wait till you finish your list? thanks dude, greetings from Colombia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. S9 Pro does everything right with the sound perspective and it earned the 5 stars rating for a very good reason. FC3 is great especially if you prefer bright neutral timbre and depends on the type of IEM/Headphones you use. Hope this helps

      Like

  5. Amazing work! Can you please add FIIO BTR5, Shangling UP4, Shangling UP5 in your list? And listed to them exclusively in USB DAC mood? It’ll be big help for lot of people I think. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excelente comparações, continue assim!! Está de parabéns, e obrigado por testar tantos dacs, já até comprei o cx31993 pra comparar com o sonata HD e sonata HD pro. Bom trabalho!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for all of this.
    Just like to ask, if you only have your Tin P1 and a phone/DAP(only these two), which one of all the dongles reviewed will you choose as daily driver.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mantap bang Andy! Persetankan semua komen negatif.

    Semoga abang sentiasa maju jaya dan ditebalkan poket 😜 (murah rezeki). Salute sebab sanggup berkorban demi kami pencinta audio untuk ‘mengenal bare’. Hehehe…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Then, Hidizs S9 is better than Hidizs S9 Pro? right? or now you are retesting S9 Pro? Thank you.

        Like

  9. You earn my respect bro.. it’s really not easy to compare all of them. Excellent job and thank you. I really appreaciate your hard work

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi. Does your assessment take into account the cost-performance ratio? Or do you only assess the performance as it says in RATING AND GRADE?

    Like

    1. Not always. Sometimes I was compelled to factor in prices vs performance if I feel it is applicable. If I am to purely judge on Price to Performance ratio then the likes of ZOOAUX and Odyssey HD would have been topmost on my list. Sheer performance and quality is what I ultimately value

      Like

  11. Hai Andy, thanks a lot for your job to someone like me who very exciting about ultra portable audio gears.
    Can i read your review on jcally jm10?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because I don’t have it with me now. More than half of my Dongles has been given away. There is another #donglemadness Tour ongoing now in Canada organized by Yannick with 1/3 of the Dongles I sent him

      Like

  12. how do these dongles compared to desktop dac? in my case, the ones in the $100-$200+ like Ifi Zen, Fiio K5 Pro and Topping DAC’s? Trying to find out If I could save money skipping Desktop DAC in favor of these dongles in my stack for desktop use. Driving power isn’t a problem since I already have an amp

    Like

  13. how do these dongles compared to desktop dac? in my case, the ones in the $100-$200+ like Ifi Zen, Fiio K5 Pro and Topping DAC’s? Trying to find out If I could save money skipping Desktop DAC in favor of these dongles in my stack for desktop use. Driving power isn’t a problem since I already have an amp

    Like

    1. For my own scenario, all of the 5 Stars Dongles performed better in terms of sound quality compared to my Topping D10s DAC + A50s Amp which sounded to me very clean but not musical. Even some of the Four and Half Stars Dongles can substitute for desktop DAC/Amp like the E1DA 9038D or iBasso DC04 Dongles

      Like

  14. Hello, Andy. To improve this page load, try compress the dongle images in the top section to reduce the file size. Have a good day!

    Like

  15. eagerly waiting for kinsound type c reveiw, since it is one of very few in you list that’s directly available in India.
    but seriously, thank you for all the effort man .

    Like

    1. 2.5mm dongles not that many actually. But I personally like Aria with Hidizs S9 Pro. The cheaper options normally don’t have 2.5mm. If you don’t mind switching to 3.5mm, then Zorloo Ztella is the best

      Like

  16. Thanks so much for this site. I have the Apple USB-C, Meizu HiFi (non-pro), and can confirm that the JSAUX USB-C is better than either of those. After recently getting the summer special on the Sennheiser HD58x though, I found that I needed something with a little more power to get the most out of them. So I just got the $25 SYBA model with Bes3100 DAC and Max97720AA amp chips. With my easier to drive 32 ohm Phillips headphones it’s only a slight upgrade over the JSAUX but it’s made a big difference with the 58x. You might want to check this one out. They claim 125 mW max output, but don’t say at what resistance, so could be anywhere from 1.4-2.0 Vrms. There exists also a Sharkoon Gaming DAC using the same chip combination which is 2.0 Vrms.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Andy, though having just tried them now with my IEMS, the noise is terrible. So I’m afraid it’s going to be much more of a niche product than I realized. Good only for some slightly hard to drive not too hard to drive headphones.

        Like

  17. Thanks so much for this site. I have the Apple USB-C, Meizu HiFi (non-pro), and can confirm that the JSAUX USB-C is better than either of those. After recently getting the summer special on the Sennheiser HD58x though, I found that I needed something with a little more power to get the most out of them. So I just got the $25 SYBA model with Bes3100 DAC and Max97720AA amp chips. With my easier to drive 32 ohm Phillips headphones it’s only a slight upgrade over the JSAUX but it’s made a big difference with the 58x. You might want to check this one out. They claim 125 mW max output, but don’t say at what resistance, so could be anywhere from 1.4-2.0 Vrms. There exists also a Sharkoon Gaming DAC using the same chip combination which is 2.0 Vrms.

    Like

  18. A newbie here – your site has been incredibly valuable as I make my way back to an old hobby. I found your reply above intriguing and it leads me to ask the following newbie question – are there any issues with coupling one of the aforementioned high quality dongles – which will already have an amplified output – with an amp like the JDS Atom in order to drive higher resistance headphones? My apologies upfront if this is a bad question, but maybe there will be other newbies like myself who will benefit from my inexperience.

    Like

    1. Hey thanks. Good questions. Yes I use some of my Dongles to serve as AUX feed for my Electrostatic Amp for Shure KSE1500. But not all are suitable, for example Ovidius B1 is not a good AUX source due to an already amplified output that it produced, same goes for THX Onyx. However especially the smaller Dongles that do not have separated Amp stage in them will do AUX perfectly. Avani, Odyssey HD or ASUS ROG Clavis would be my choice to do this role

      Like

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply Andy and suggestions. Rummaging through your site I see that you answered this already pretty much in the question section of the Hidizs S9 Pro review (submitter: mahakit). Sorry for the repeat question but thanks for being gracious in providing a comprehensive answer – again!

        Liked by 1 person

  19. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. many thanks

    Like

  20. Hello! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

    Like

  21. Patiently waiting for Hidizs DH80S (with battery) review from you :). I bought S9 Pro after reading your review, and I’m amazed by how it sounds to me. But the battery drain is my only reason to look for another dongle, and maybe it (DH80S) will take the spot from S9 Pro 🙂

    Like

    1. Yes I saw that too and plan to test it. JCally may probably do it better than CX-PRO in terms of quality, but then it is still an Ultra Budget item so I will not expect anything spectacular from it. If it sounds great then consider ourselves lucky, this is illegally cheap great sound (possibly)

      Like

  22. Hοwdy would yоu mind letting me кnow which webhost you’re using?
    I’ve loaded ʏour blog in 3 different web browsers
    and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.

    Can y᧐u suggest a good hosting provider at a reasonable price?

    Cheers, I appreciate it!

    Like

  23. Hi Andy, just wondering how can a module like Jcally JM10 can be in the same rating with normal / simple avani dongle. So basically if we compare with same IEM, avani will provide audio quality as good as Jcally JM10?

    Like

    1. Yes. They are ranked as such because they deliver the quality deserved. #donglemadness is especially focused on the output quality and if a $5 sounding as great as Avani then I will say it so, not gonna put excuses as why I didn’t rate them higher or lower. As you can see I rated a $300 DF Cobalt 3 stars because that’s exactly the reflection of its quality when subjected to the listening equipment I used to test them against. Many other dongles performed much better sonically than the overrated Cobalt.

      Like

  24. Hello, which one would you recommed for the same price, Xnyocn Q2 or Tempotec Sonata hd pro? I’ll be mainly using it on my desktop PC with iems. Thanks

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      1. Qudelix 5K I have not tested yet. Furthermore it falls under battery powered BT DAC/Amp and up until now I focus primarily on Dongles that are not battery powered or BT based

        Like

  25. Hi Andy.EF.

    I’m CqTek from hiendportable.com. I’ve reviewed a few dongles, not as many as you.
    I just reviewed the Tempotec Sonata E44 and I see you are in the process of reviewing it. In my humble opinion, this E44 has become one of my favorites under $100. So I would like to read your very reputable opinion on it soon.
    Best regards and good luck with your dongle madness.

    Like

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