#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:

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


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


165 Comments

      1. Thank you! There doesn’t seem to be a 3.5>USB-C option here though, which is what I’m after! Any ideas?

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  1. Hi Andy! I may be getting a S20 soon, if you plug a dongle to it, will all sounds be routed through the dongle then to your wired headset? Or would you need UAPP for this?

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    1. You plug in any USB DAC/Amp and all digital audio processing will be routed to the USB device. Not just S20 but practically any Android phones that use OTG functions. No need for UAPP. But UAPP and HiBy Player are used to bypass SRC sampling and thus giving us bit perfect output. I use HiBy Player Exclusive Mode to do it

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  2. Hi Andy. Any plan to acquire iFi Go Blu? It implement a Cirrus Logic CS43131 and an S-balanced jack (iFi version of single ended balanced circuit to eliminate crosstalk). Hope you can review it here. Is it worth the $199 price for an interchangeable DAC Amp (wired/wireless use case)?

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  3. Hi Andy! I stumbled on this series by chance after venturing beyond Ugreen/Vention USB offerings for my laptop, as my mic is rather quiet on it.

    Before I found you I had bought two dongles from Keysion, both using the ALC5686 for under $9 each. They also had a version using CS46L41+SA9302L for under $15. I didn’t consider the CX31993 since the ones I found at the time didn’t support a mic.

    No datasheets but I know the ALC5686 has a dynamic range of 100dB, CS46L41 having 120dB. Would a larger dynamic range play a role in improving my mic volume? I don’t know how much power each option passes to the mic.

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    1. Hi Shane, I am sorry as I am clueless as to how the dynamic range you mentioned would impact the MIC volume, my #donglemadness practically omitted any tests on MIC as I focus on playback quality only. I only mention if they support MIC or no (based on manufacturer details)

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      1. Ah, I understand. As far as playback goes, how much different is a 100dB dynamic range from a 120dB one? I would assume the noise floor is much lower on the latter to achieve the increase.

        Before I forget, thank you for your #donglemadness testing! I have non-dongle DACs like the Fiio K1 and Q1 but if I get more into dongles I’ll be sure to keep your thoughts in mind!

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  4. Hi andy, is jcally jm10 consider an upgrade over my cx pro and ve ohd? or should i go for tempotec sonata hd pro/ e35 instead.

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  5. Hi, looking for dac/amp for my IEM (22 Ω, 117dB / Vrms @ 1kHz) and want the best SQ. According to your ranking list E44 or S9 Pro should be the best, but since I don’t really have headphones I don’t need the extra power or probably balanced output. I have few questions.
    1. Does going balanced improves SQ on my IEM? (seems like a no, but want to be sure)
    2. Is E44/S9 Pro significantly better in Sound quality comparing to Sonata HD Pro (with IEM)?
    3. Could you compare power consumption with some IEM with E44/S9 Pro vs Sonata HD Pro? Want to know if the better DACs eats more battery.
    4. Is dual dac better than single dac in terms of SQ considering it’s the same DAC?

    If you could review this DAC someday if you would be great 🙂 it has ES9038Q2M, while it isn’t really powerful it says that it has low battery consumption which means it might be what I am looking for.
    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002858873451.html?spm=a2g0o.search0304.0.0.7d186dd6plbiXa&algo_pvid=0476d39e-c328-4d9a-b211-f61fcdb8c0b3&algo_exp_id=0476d39e-c328-4d9a-b211-f61fcdb8c0b3-29

    Thanks

    Like

    1. 1. It depends on which DAC/Amp we are talking about. For something like TempoTec Sonata E44 yes because E44 is a true discrete balanced which will offer great SQ even for sensitive IEMs. The healthy driving power will enhance dynamic performance even at lower drive
      2. E44 and S9 Pro are 5 Star dongles for good reasons, they are just better sounding than Sonata HD Pro even for high sensitivity IEMs
      3. Power consumption is higher on S9 Pro on balanced mode. E44 a bit more forgiving. Sonata HD Pro a bit more efficient that the two
      4. Dual DAC will perform better if implemented correctly. But not always. If you look at the 5 Star Dongles, Ovidius B1 and Apogee Groove are Quad DAC setup, E44 & PEE51 Dual DAC, only S9 Pro, S9 and E1DA 9038SG3 are single DAC

      Like

  6. Hi Andy,

    Did you receive a faulty E1DA Power DAC v2.1? I dont remember if you did or not. Curious if you have any interest in reviewing it. It claims to output 600mW and is either 3.5VRMS or 35VRMS, i can’t tell by the picture, but i assume its 3.5.

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    1. I did have a V2.0, which is essentially the same as V2.1. The difference being V2.1 comes with SE and 2.5mm BAL while the V2.0 only SE. The first 20 minutes I listened to it (before that thing went self-destruct by overheating) was a super clean sound. Very clinical clean if you ask me, similar to Topping sort of clinical sound. And with my current preference of organic analogue sound, while it is impressive SQ wise, but I don’t think I fancy that sort of clinical sound, somewhat lacking character and soul, but then this is just my personal preference, many others will assuredly love the PowerDAC

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  7. Hi Andy. First of all thank you for your amazing dongle madness reviews. I have owned my first ever dongle JM04 Pro, I was going for JM20 but after your review I have changed my mind and went for JM04 Pro and its very good for the asking price. I have Blon Bl-03 and KZ ZS10 Pro(will use with my OnePlus 6t) and was wondering is CX pro 31993 better than JM04 Pro if I go for it for overall sound quality upgrade or should I stick with my JM04 Pro.
    Also if you can please confirm among JM20, Jm10 and IBASSO DC03 which will be best for more open, airy, refined and lively sound with great adaptability with different IEM as I want to own a Cirrus logic equipped dongle as well and Do not want to go for tempotec as they are costlier in my country.

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    1. If you already like JM04Pro then the you should consider getting Avani which uses the same ALC5686 DAC but tuned better. CX-Pro offers slightly different sound approach where it is a bit brighter (not too much). For CX-Pro options I would recommend Abigail instead which also uses the same CX31993 but tuned by the same factory as Avani. I am not sure how easy it is to get either Avani or Abigail from your country, but if not then the CX-Pro is a great unit still and will offer different sound experience vs JM04Pro

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      1. Unfortunately in my country Avani and Abigail both are not available and we cannot buy from Aliexpress as well due to the restrictions and recently one seller listed JACALLY products on amazon so I grabbed JM04 PRO. BTW the reason I was asking for CX-PRO is because though JM04 PRO sound really good but While using with my laptop type C port directly and with my one Plus 6T as well, sound quality is way too soft, though clarity is really good for the price but I love my music to sound a little bit alive, raw and I love more airy sound with enough Bass, as I feel JM04 PRO has little softer approach for bass and overall sound so will CX-PRO will be suitable option as you said that it is totally different sound. And if not then among JM20, Jm10 and IBASSO DC03 which will be best for more open, airy, refined and lively sound with great adaptability with different IEM

        Like

  8. Hi Andy thanks for your contributions to the community. One question. What is the best match for my HZSOUND ?, since I want the biggest sound scene with very good technical skills.With an incredible naturalness, and very good instrumental separation.me compre a Abigail viene en camino que sería lo mejor respecto a lo anterior para sentir una gran actualizacion.muchas gracias y saludos

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      1. Hi Andy, did you tested the Earmen Eagle or is it on your list to try it? I recently bought it and it works great with my Hzsound in terms of soundstage and detail. I would be curious to see if you think the same.

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  9. Hola buenos días andy una pregunta como es el sonido del topping nx1s con Abigail, como se compara con el tempotec e44 y ya dada tu respuesta mejor compro un nx1s para mi abigail o compro mejor el e44.muchas gracias y saludos

    Like

  10. Hello good morning andy a question how is the sound of the topping nx1s with Abigail, how does it compare with the tempotec e44 and once your answer has been given, I better buy an nx1s for my abigail or better buy the e44

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    1. Abigail + NX1s will still be not as powerful as 4.4mm Balanced mode of E44 with that 4 Vrms. NX1s is not that powerful to begin with and more suitable for pairing with less demanding IEMs. So I would pick E44 over those two any which way I look at it

      Like

  11. Hi there.
    Thanks for the great write up. Could you please consider doing some dongle reviews with USB-C power delivery pass through? Or if there are all ready some in the list adding it into the name? Thanks and keep but the massive good work!

    Like

    1. Thanks! At this moment this sort of PD pass through will be coming with the arrival of VE Megatron. I hope receive the unit soon when pre-orders starts flowing

      Like

  12. Reposting as the earlier comment didn’t seem to stick
    Hi Andy,

    I’m planning to pick a dongle for my Thieaudio Monarch+S21 ultra phone combo.
    The Monarchs are a little too bright and shouty for my taste. I’m currently using them with an ibasso DC02.
    I’m looking for an option with good sounstage, slightly reduced treble and otherwise uncolored, clean sound. Thx Onyx looks promising. What would you suggest?
    Thanks for all the reviews and the effort!

    Like

    1. Yes THX Onyx is one of the most neutral sounding dongle and absolutely the one with the widest soundstage. It is also very smooth sounding. You will like it a lot. Otherwise you can also consider the Hidizs S9 (non Pro) which is even smoother than the S9 Pro

      Like

  13. Hello
    this is my first time buying an IEM and I bought the Moondrop SSR. What do you think is the best budget dac dongle ($5-$10) i should get? I’m all new to this so I really don’t know which fits for my IEM.

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    1. Within that budget it’s easy for me to recommend Abigail or Avani. Can’t go wrong with any which one of them. Abigail being a bit more neutral and Avani warmer

      Like

  14. Hello sir,
    I’m planning on buying my first DAC. I’m using Sennheiser HD 280 and I want a DAC to use both on my Android phone and a laptop. What dongle should I get? (I’m terribly sorry if this message is posted several times, I’m not sure how commenting on this website works)

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    1. For a very small fee of $10, you can start with Abigail or Avani Dongles. It’s so cheap it will not hurt your budget at all. And then you will get used to the idea of Dongles and if you decide you need more then you can start looking for something else

      Like

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