DAC Chip: Realtek ALC4042 (Single)
PCM 24bit – 96khz, SNR: -98dB, Power: 1 Vrms, USB Type-C Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: YES), 10g, Aluminum Chassis, SPC Cable
LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING
- Smooth clean timbre that sounded natural and realistic
- Silky airy note to the timbre exhibiting pristine coherence.
- Dynamics presented in very controlled manner
- Great Treble textures and extensions with polished lush decays
- Realistic Mid-Bass punch with rich textured body and smooth decays
- Lush Mids that’s not too forward nor recessed, richly textured and smooth.
- Lush Sub-Bass with tingling and smooth seismic feedback
- Beautifully nuanced and smooth details retrieval, very transparent
- Realistic tonality to guitars, cello, percussions, and piano
- Reference class speed and transients handling, amazing dexterity
- Properly sized soundstage with natural feel to the spatial imaging
- Great separation of layers with precise holographic projection
- Impressive driving power, 75/100 volume to drive Tin HiFi P1 at great fidelity.
- Stellar synergy with about anything (no lower than 95db of sensitivity & over 100Ω)
- Very forgiving on poor quality recordings and Lo-Fi music despite being very detailed
- Stellar sibilance resistance all the time
- Clean background as observed with Moondrop Aria (122db) & HZSOUND Heart Mirror
- Very conservative on battery drain and does not get hot easily
- Power limited to below 100Ω 96db Sensitivity
- NOT suitable for sensitive IEMs or Hybrids
- Dynamics slightly less vibrant to match the top 3 performers
- Spatial imaging and separation not as razor sharp as the top 3 performers
- May be perceived as laid back by those preferring bright, energetic sound
- No hardware volume adjuster
VE Odyssey HD (SE). The version that I have with me now is the 2nd Gen Odyssey HD that was re-released in May 20 2020, standard Single Ended 3.5mm model optimized for 24bit playback. Apparently Odyssey HD have 3 other models to cater for 3.5mm Balanced, 2.5mm Balanced and 4.4mm Balanced with 32bit options. Honestly I was quite an ass when I first came across VE Odyssey, I dismissed it totally from my initial list of #donglemadness – the largely unglamorous ALC4042 DAC chip specification blinded me from any interests of even wanting to try it. Alas throughout the journey I have learned my lessons, especially from the likes of JCally JM04Pro and Hill Audio ALC4050 of which both are beautifully implemented and tuned ALC DAC chips. While largely ALC remained the cattle-class for most of JCally or AliExpress dongle line-ups, the JM04Pro shone above them all and even impressed me more than the JM20 and CS46L41.
And so I chucked the VE Odyssey HD into my list and eventually have the SE version in my hand to play with. Oh boy, I have never felt so idiotic for my smug Lannister dismissal of the Odyssey HD early on. What I am hearing is a performance which reminded me a lot of what I heard from Lotoo PAW S1 – the level of polished smoothness that makes for a very indulging listening experience. And by now you would have noticed how I prefer the JM04Pro over JM20, that already indicated that I value disciplined smooth presentation over the sparkier energetic sound – and I am still on this trajectory, preferring the polished warm maturity of Odyssey HD over the sparkly euphonic CX-Pro.
I took a step back trying to dissect the fact that I am facing here, how it is possible for such an archaic DAC chip sounding as polished as this? For one we are talking about Venture Electronics here. My first experience with VE was the VE Monk+, and that ultra cheap $5 earbuds impressed me greatly for the asking price. Despite the insane price tags it oozes with great sound quality and many have attested to this (SQ wise). So at least there’s indication of great tuning competency here on the sound aspect, and it is reflected here as well with the Odyssey HD.
Odyssey HD was able to drive my finicky TIN HiFi P1 and Monolith M565c with great dexterity, yes I do have to crank the volume up to 75-80/100 to make it sound proper. But once volume is set it is not thin sounding at all. Despite being almost maxed out on the volume I don’t hear any stress or timbre coherence being sacrificed. That feat alone is already beyond my earlier expectations. Paired with HZSOUND Heart Mirror, Etymotic ER4SR and VE Monk GO – this is where VE Odyssey HD performed the BEST. With Moondrop Aria the overall presentation is tilted towards being warmer and will greatly appeal for those preferring this sound characteristics. It is also markedly clean from any background noise of which my Aria would have exposed easily (Aria sensitivity is 122db). With this clean output apparently it worked surprisingly great serving as AUX Line In feed for my Shure KSE1500, the smooth characteristics of Odyssey HD complementing the ultra-resolving nature of that Electrostatic unit.
Stellar control over timbre coherence is strongly evident with exemplary level of neutrality, yet it is far from being boring because somehow VE Odyssey HD managed to squeeze some vibe out while at it. Another impressive element is how VE Odyssey HD was able to retrieve Macro and Micro details with smooth nuances, perhaps not as sharp as the top 3 but this is assuredly the most detailed Realtek I have listened to so far.
With this level of tuning proficiency and maturity VE exhibited, I dearly hope they would come up with some solidly built unit to inspire confidence, something that can offer at least 2 Vrms of power (and VE would surely leapfrog to 5 Stars group if they can retain VE Odyssey HD quality in more powerful and solidly built package).
16 July 2021 Update:
With the arrival of my FOSTEX T40RP MK3, much more stringent test has been conducted to the top performers and surprisingly the Odyssey HD was able to drive this 91db sensitivity Magnetic Planar beast with amazing prowess at volume of 80/100 (running on USB 2.0 power of iPhone 7 via ddHiFi adapter). The output was as meaty as how it should be, the dynamics remained coherent and smooth. Fidelity level was not impacted at all despite being subjected to very demanding load from the T40RP – there was no hint of strain, jitter or distortion being forced to run such high volume. This is totally beyond my expectations and with this taken into account, It was not a hard decision for me to upgrade Odyssey HD to top performers group.
2.5mm & 4.4mm 32bit
There was lot’s of question on the differences between the 3.5mm SE and the optional 2.5mm and 4.4mm BAL socketed VE Odyssey HD. The only way to find out for sure was to get those two and test them extensively. Here’s my findings:
2.5mm & 4.4mm (32bit)
- They are NOT true balanced as the internal DAC of ALC4042 is natively single ended with common ground.
- The intention for this design is to allow for users with existing 2.5mm and 4.4mm terminated cables to use VE Odyssey HD without the need to chuck in any adapters in between.
- Fidelity and everything else remained the same.
- It is best to use a dedicated IEM/Headphone cable that is natively BAL 2.5mm or 4.4mm without any adapters.
- Volume level remained the same with SE versions.
- To maximize this setup I used it exclusively on USB 3.2 (USB 3.0 power) of 900mA (4.5 watts) as opposed to the normal 500mA (2.5 watts) of USB 2.0 found on many iPhones or Android phones.
- On USB 2.0 it does NOT sound any different from the 3.5mm SE Version (iPhone 7 & normal Android phones).
- On USB 3.2 (Samsung Galaxy S20) and Laptop USB power, the sound is audibly smoother and crisper.
- Removing the use of adapter does exhibit some refinement, to my own ears – a sense spaciousness to the soundstage and layer separation.
- VE Odyssey HD truly has great scalability with better power feed.
- Existing 24bit 3.5mm SE unit can be flashed with 32bit FW, need to check with VE site for the link and instructions (my balanced Odyssey HD already shipped with 32bit so I don’t have to do the flashing.
VE Odyssey HD vs. CX-Pro CX31993
- Odyssey HD exhibited better overall smoothness and timbre coherence
- CX-Pro crisper (slightly brighter) edge vs Odyssey HD polished rounded warm presentation
- Odyssey HD less dry sounding compared to CX-Pro
- Both Odyssey HD and CX-Pro still a step behind Ovidius B1 in terms of overall coherence
- Odyssey HD less likely to suffer inconsistent tuning issues over CX-Pro
Best Pairing: Low impedance IEMs/Headphones not exceeding 100Ω
Back to #donglemadness
VE Odyssey HD: The Earbuds Dongle – Yannick’s Review 27.8.21
The VE Odyssey HD is often bundled with VE earbuds (and it should remain so for ETERNITY). After listening to it with IEMs, some earbuds (duhhh) and some hard to drive Cans, it’s easy to understand why it’s the ideal companion. To prove my point I’ll compare IEMs-Cans listening with Earbuds listening using OHD and Avani.
IEMs and Cans listening : Not ideal
First lets get the elephant in the room out: Yes it does hiss, I wish this dongle was bundled with an impedance adapter of 20-30ohm just to lower the noise floor for iems. Then the other issues (on my iems and cans):
- Strong midbass build up. It’s almost midbass forward, veiling the mids with some upper-mids glare.
- Sub-bass is cut-off, it’s nearly inexistent.
- Stage feels narrow-ish in comparison to the other Non-VE dongle called Avani.
- Technicalities fall behind the Avani….
USING AN IMPEDANCE ADAPTER OF 30OHM SOLVES SOME OF THIS:
- Hiss is gone
- Upper mids don’t glare anymore. Mids become quite smooth and musical.
- The inexistent sub-bass is still inexistent.
- The stage still is quite narrow in your head.
Earbuds listening: holy shit!
But why is it so good then? Cuz it’s really awesome with earbuds
- It plays to the strength of that type of headphones.
- There’s higher note density in the audible areas of most earbuds.
- Most of them can be enjoyed “naked” without foam or at the very least with donuts.
- Note weight is superior to Avani which almost sounds too cold and dry in comparison.
- IT GIVES BASS TO EARBUDS, enough to have it roll off less fast
- Mids become warm, thicc and honeyed near liquid smooth
- Soundstage is more intimate than Avani but there’s perceivable depth.
Wild once told me that density of sound was one of the tenets of his brand and this oHD dongle achieves this goal with excellence by increasing density where it matters.If you wish to start an #earbudsmadness journey, you need this!
24-96 vs 32-384 firmwares
There’s a firmware update you can give to the dongle for it to play at a higher “numbers”, feel free to try it for yourself! Here is the guide written by Delta Fyre in the VEClan group (https://www.facebook.com/…/52vecn/posts/4181512725259394)Lets call it the new and old firmware in this comparison.
NEW ONE (IEM + CANS)
- Will start at MAX volume when flashed. Be careful.
- Hiss still present.
- Sounds wider and more extended in the sub-bass
- Midbass still quite elevated and veiling the mids which seem behind the bass.
- Upper-mids aren’t glary anymore.
- Wider stage (narrower with impedance adapter lol you can’t win with IEMs!)
- Treble still one noted and blah…
NEW ONE (EARBUDS)
- Okay wow, wider stage but weirder imaging
- Mids are the most affected, they seem out of phase and wobbly.
- Upper mids feels uncomfortably rolled off.
BACK TO OLD FIRMWARE (EARBUDS)
- Starts at the volume you left it at.
- again, it hits that earbuds audible area so darn well.
- mids are rich crisp and detailed.
- bass is just right.
- The ultimate earbud dongle is back!
All in all I feel the new firmware was to satisfy the “number/specs” people and those that really want to use it with IEMs without taking much time to tune it properly for earbuds.