Whizzer DA1 Cube

Review Date: 20 March 2022

SPECIFICATIONS

DAC Chip: ESS Sabre ES9281C
DSD: Up to DSD128 (DoP)
Indicator light: RGB LED status indicator
USB port: Type-C
Microphone: Support (Available)
Size: 23x23x10.5mm
Output: 3.5mm Single Ended
Input: Fixed USB TYPE-C Cable
Body Material: Aluminum
Recommended Headphone Maximum Impedance: 32-50 Ohm

IEMs:

  • Etymotic ER4SR (Single BA, 45 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)
  • TRN VX Pro (8 BA + 1DD Hybrid, 22 Ohm, 106db Sensitivity)
  • TIN HiFi T3+ (Single DD, 32 Ohm, 105db Sensitivity)
  • Kinera Idun Golden (3BA + 1DD Hybrid, 32 Ohm, 112db Sensitivity)

Sources:

  • Windows 10, Foobar 2000 (USB 3.0 Power)
  • LG V50 ThinQ (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • Sony Xperia X Compact (UAPP USB Exclusive Mode, Bitperfect)
  • HiBy Music Player App (USB Exclusive Mode)

LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING

Out of the blue, Whizzer came out with seemingly special looking dongle that is simple and robust. The perfect square look making it very unique among all other dongles I have owned so far. What is apparent, Cube DA1 was designed to be super compact and intended for portability.

Build, Functions, Usability

DA1 Cube comes in black powder coated aluminum chassis. Perfectly square, it is very well designed with beveled edges.

On the body itself, placed at the front, a single very visible led that will exhibit the resolution of currently played music. The color will change with the resolution. On the right side, there’s three color coded marker to remind the user what those colored led means.

DA1 Cube has a permanently attached USB C cable that is twist braided and seems to be robust enough for daily usage. However, just like many twist braided cables, it is also possible to accidentally unwind the cable the opposite direction and it can look somewhat messy. I would have preferred a solid sleeved cable over this.

As for the Audio port, DA1 cube offers singular 3.5mm Single Ended stereo jack and have opted to not include any BAL ports like what is commonly seen nowadays.

What I find most impressive with DA1 Cube, power drain appeared to be amazingly efficient. 8 hours of continuous play on my Sony Xperia X Compact (Android 8, 2700 mAH battery, UAPP Bitperfect, Airplane Mode, driving TRN VX Pro). That is over 2 hours longer than most competitors except for Ovidius B1 (10 hours) and Abigail (11 hours). Most other dongles has an endurance of 5-6 hours. Last but not least, DA1 Cube managed to stay sensibly cool with prolonged usage, just minor hint of warmth to the body when touched.

Sound Impressions

Just like most other ESS Sabre based DAC/Amps, DA1 Cube exhibited a familiar sound signature offering clean and crisp output. Timbral balance is still something I would regard as digital-ish neutral. It has good coherence with dynamic transients to keep things tidy, with proper level of vibrancy to not appear unnaturally aggressive as how it would be observed of ESS based tuning of yesteryears. So despite not being as organic or analogue sounding as how I normally prefer, I would say DA1 Cube has mature approach to sound output. I have not observed any pronounced edginess normally associated with the notorious ESS Sabre Pinna Glare – unless when paired with an already bright sounding partners. Something like bright-ish neutral Etymotic ER4SR or V-bright TRN VX Pro, then there’s a hint of that edgy glare within upper Mids to Treble region. With natively organic or what most people will call “warmer” partners, then it sounded smoother, less tendency to be edgy. Something like TIN HiFi T3+, Moondrop Quarks and Kinera Idun Golden, they just synergize better with Cube DA1.

Dynamics wise, DA1 Cube appeared as competent as can be expected. The expanse of dynamics range and extensions evident with crisp and clean presentation. The more competent the partners then the more audible these extensions are, on both ends.

Admirably, DA1 Cube neutrality does not impart any sort of coloration that I can hear of. Treble, Mids and Bass sounded right as how it is reflected by the nature of the connected partners. The measure of neutrality of course, when paired with Etymotic ER4SR where it is revealed that I am not hearing any unnatural elevation throughout the range. DA1 Cube has good texture and definition to the sound, there’s ample mass to note weight to make it wholesome enough for up to 50 Ohm of load. Most importantly, DA1 Cube does not exhibit any coarse, grainy or dry anomalies to the overall sound spectrum.

Technically, I would say the performances are as per expected of ES9281C. Nothing extraordinary than the rest of ES928X series that I have in my collection. Soundstage is tall but the width is average. Spatial imaging is sharp as it is holographic. Speed and resolution being great, with macro and micro details handling up to my expectations.

Driving Power

It is evident that DA1 Cube was designed and built optimized for driving IEMs, with impedance rating not exceeding 50 Ohm. As such I have only tested my DA1 Cube with Etymotic ER4SR (45 Ohm), and what I am hearing convinced me that DA1 Cube will not be as great with my very demanding full sized headphones. I suspect the power rating is lower than 2 Vrms. However I did briefly tested DA1 Cube with my Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm and Fostex T40RP MK3 magnetic planar, yes it is usable but the output is approximately 60% of the true potential of those headphones as compared to more powerful dongles.

So, keeping it to efficient partners is the best way to enjoy DA1 Cube. The silver lining of this, DA1 Cube will appear super clean when paired with highly sensitive IEMs, absolutely free of any hint of floor noises.

VERDICT

Whizzer DA1 Cube. The biggest appeal of this unit, it is super efficient for portable use. With 8 hours of endurance scored, it is hard to ignore when competitors mostly scored 5-6 hours. Sound wise, I will commend DA1 Cube for being well balanced and neutral for an ESS tuned DAC/Amp. It does sound better than most of the unnaturally bright ESS Sabre dongles of 2020. I wish it could be a bit more less of digital sounding. This is not uncommon with Sabre DACs, only a select few has that organic and near analogue sound which I regard as realistic. But then it could be just me, since I came from an era of cassettes and vinyl. Ultimately, DA1 cube will appeal greatly for efficient IEMs that are natively organic and “warm” sounding. May not be as great paired with something already bright.

💚Highlights

  • Neutral and uncolored output
  • Beautiful square body
  • Very clean sound and coherent dynamic transients
  • Good technicalities
  • Amazing battery endurance to the host

💔Lowlights

  • Optimized only for easy to drive IEMs
  • Still digital sounding
  • May appear edgy with natively neutral bright partners
  • No hardware volume adjusters

⭐⭐⭐⭐ ($79.99)

Best Pairing: Natively warm sounding partners, natively efficient IEMs

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