xDuoo Link2 BAL

Review Date: 13 February 2022

SPECIFICATIONS

DAC Chip: Cirrus Logic CS43131 (Dual)
Input port: Type-C USB
Output port: 3.5mm+4.4mm
Output Power: 4 Vrms (3.5mm: 125mW@32ohm, 4.4mm: 270mW@32ohm)
Sample Rate Support: PCM: 16-32Bit /44.1-384kHz
DSD: DSD64-256
Frequency response: 20Hz~20kHz(±0.5dB)
THD+N: 0.001%1kHz (3.5 Headphone AMP), 0.0007%1kHz (4.4 Headphone AMP)
SNR: 123dB(3.5 Headphone AMP), 123dB(4.4 Headphone AMP)
Crosstalk: 3.5 Output: ≥77dB, 4.4 Output: ≥120dB
Weight: 28g
Size: 63mm23.5mm13mm

Headphones:

  • FOSTEX T40RP MK3 (Magnetic Planar, 50 Ohm, 91db Sensitivity)
  • Beyerdynamic DT880 (Dynamic Drivers, 600 Ohm, 96db Sensitivity)

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)
  • Shure KSE1500 (Single Electrostatic 200V, KSA1200 Energizer)
  • Kinera Idun Golden (3BA + 1DD Hybrid, 32 Ohm, 112db Sensitivity)

Earbuds:

  • VE Asura 3.0 FE (Single DD, 155 Ohm)
  • VE ZEN 2.0 SLQ (Single DD, 320 Ohm)

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)

Comparative Reference DAC/Amp:

  • iFi ZEN DAC V2 + ZEN CAN Stack (15.1 Vrms)

LISTENING EQUIPMENT USED IMPARTED HUGE INFLUENCE TO SOUND IMPRESSIONS & RATING

xDuoo Link2 BAL, a fresh re-entry by xDuoo into the ever growing Dongle DAC/Amp scene. About the only thing that this Link2 BAL shares with the predecessor, just the name. Internally and externally it is practically a different beast with different DAC chips altogether. Nonetheless, this is one of the many that I have been waiting for. Dual Cirrus Logic with xDuoo tuning – and I like their tuning philosophies, which focuses on the balance between musicality and technicalities.

Build, Functions, Usability

Serving AUX feed to Shure KSE1500 via 3.5mm SE

xDuoo Link2 BAL, built like a tank. Aluminum chassis sandwiched with glass faceplates. Holding it in my hands, I truly admire the industrial look and feel. The heft inspires confidence, the ruggedness indicate this thing is built to last. It is a gadget worth owning even just by the looks. However if I must nitpick, then I would have prefer the stock USB-C cable to be a bit more thicker than it is, the heft of Link2 BAL just seemed out of proportion to the thinly twisted cable. No biggie for me as I opted to use my own USB-C cable which are much thicker and robust. On the other hand, I must applaud xDuoo for providing iOS Lightning cable too, a rarity nowadays. Which means Link2 BAL is natively capable working with iPhones. That’s a huge bonus.

The most prominent feature of Link2 BAL, on one side there’s two tactile volume adjusters placed conveniently with a huge red colored play and pause button. With regular usage daily, I have developed a fondness for these three buttons especially when used with UAPP. However the volume adjustments are not independent, which means they operate directly to alter digital volume levels on the source – this can be a hassle when used with HiBy Music Player USB Exclusive Mode since HiBy does not provision for volume adjustments while off screen. Otherwise, when used with UAPP it worked perfectly and the increment of volume steps can be refined based on UAPP settings.

On the other side, there’s two toggle switches which will allow for switching between UAC Modes. UAC 1 or UAC 2 – I find this very useful especially for wide range of compatibility element. It is quite apparent that xDuoo considered Link2 BAL ability to adapt to any host as paramount. It means Link2 can also be used on many gaming consoles which may only operate in UAC 1. I personally prefer UAC 1 for the simplicity and primarily use my own Link2 BAL on that mode as it works better with HiBy Music Player.

The other toggle switch, it is for switching between Normal or Turbo modes. Normal being normal gain and Turbo being High Gain. It is quite simple really, I will always use the Normal mode when driving highly sensitive IEMs and the Turbo modes for anything above 45 Ohm. Loudness levels difference being audible between modes.

Last but not least, there’s two ports for Audio output which is fast becoming the normal standard for compact DAC/Amps nowadays. 3.5mm Single Ended and 4.4mm BAL. The circuitry on the BAL side I believe very much similar to the implementation of TempoTec Sonata E44, another CS43131 which I liked a lot. Even better, when tested with my own Multimeter, Link2 BAL employ the use of 5th pole Common Ground similar to E44 as well. It suggests that Link2 BAL is running some sort of discrete circuit, each channel Left and Right having their own grounds, the common GND being reserved to the 5th pole of Pentaconn 4.4mm socket for hybrid usage.

Endurance wise, Link2 BAL scored a respectable 6 hours of continuous play on Sony Xperia X Compact (Android 8, 2700 mAH Battery, UAPP, driving TRN VX Pro on 4.4mm BAL, Low Gain). That is practically on par to Cayin RU6 and Lotoo PAW S2.

And here’s the most interesting bit. Link2 BAL has superb heat dissipation and management!. Despite used for long hours, I can barely feel any heat emitted. It remained cool to the touch. This is something I find very rare among tons of Dongles I have tried so far. In comparison, CEntrance DACport HD and Apogee Groove operates hot enough to fry some eggs, hahahaha.

Sound Impressions

From the first listen, with my Etymotic ER4SR, I was immediately greeted with a sound that I regard as rich, wholesome, neutral, natural and organically realistic. Link2 BAL markedly has that near analogue timbre and tonality that I adore so very much. It is quite evident to my ears, how polished and mature dynamics presentation are – dynamic transients being fluid and effortless, a sign of proper power to drive the paired partners. On the subject of tonality, I must admit that Link2 BAL tuning is more preferable (subjective to my personal taste) to the more euphonic TempoTec Sonata E44. Both being dual CS43131. I would describe it this way, E44 has a bit more of aggression and vibrancy, less organic, more modern sound sort of tuning, Link2 BAL on the other hand, slightly more refined, smoother on attack and transients, appearing less aggressive – but it also mean Link2 BAL ended up being smoother in comparison to the crisper/energetic E44.

To complement the great tonal and timbre balance, Link2 BAL exhibited Desktop grade dynamic range presentation. No, I am not making this up out of thin air. Extensively comparing the output from my iFi ZEN Stack and Link2 BAL, I would say Link2 BAL performs 98% to that desktop stack. No joke. The depth of extensions on both end of the spectrum are practically similar. Bass being deep, Highs being realistically extended, and Mids being rich in density. Perhaps, I would admit that ultimately the ZEN Stack has an upper hand on Mids overall texture, depth and intimacy, not a surprise considering that the ZEN Stack operates up to 15.1 Vrms as opposed to Link2 BAL 4 Vrms. But for a small dongle to even traverse the territory of Desktop DAC/Amp is simply mind blowing – these sort of thing is not even achievable before this (with an exception to CEntrance DACport HD and Apogee Groove that performs on similar level, even earlier).

Going back to Link2 BAL dynamics handling. I will say that this is one hell of capable DAC/Amp. The balance of sound is nothing short of amazing. Treble, Bass and Mids all well articulated to not overshadow each other. This is one Dongle that is faithfully neutral with no hint of coloration on any frequencies. At least this is what I conclude from the pairing with the highly resolving and flat diffused field Etymotic ER4SR, or the naturally neutral Shure KSE1500 – both being my reference IEMs for determining the characteristics of the sources.

Treble is crisp, polished and smooth, exhibiting proper decays. Good amount of sparkle and shimmer, never overcooked to make it unnaturally bright, yet there’s substantial amount of Treble details to satisfy even the most discerning Treble junkies.

Bass being well balanced with great speed, never sluggish or unnaturally boosted. It all depends on the nature of the paired partners. With my Fostex T40RP MK3 and Shure KSE1500, I am hearing very satisfying Bass responses. Mid-Bass super solid and commanding, Sub-Bass audibly present with strong sensations and smooth decays. Lots of texture while at it.

Mids appeared very neutral but rich. There’s great density and texture to the presentation. This is a consistent trait I am hearing on most of my listening gears. However if I must nitpick, then I would say that I observed Link2 BAL does not seem to work that great with open backed earbuds. Both of my VE ZEN 2.0 SLQ and Asura 3.0FE sounded slightly off key, with Mids appearing somewhat hollow despite a rounded exterior. But this is an isolated case as Link2 BAL works perfectly with the rest of my gears. The general theme of Link2 BAL Mids being neutral and natural, and I love it just the way it is.

Technically, without a doubt Link2 BAL is now the new king of Soundstage alongside DACport HD. This was something that has been held by THX Onyx for quite a while. The expanse, width, depth and spaciousness of Link2 BAL soundscape is quite evident even when paired with the natively narrow sounding ER4SR. Even more obvious with TIN HiFi T3+, TRN VX Pro and Kinera Idun Golden. Link2 BAL also exhibited great prowess in spatial imaging and resolution, it is right there alongside the top dogs of #donglemadness. The staging of instruments, notes and passages are super clean and crisp – yet smooth enough to instill good sense of maturity. Details are resolved properly depending on how resolving the pairing partners are – and it should be that way, transparent as it is realistic. Despite all that, I am pleased to find out that Link2 BAL is a bit more forgiving on poor sources or Lo-Fi, unlike Ovidius B1 which can be quite finicky on those stuffs. Last but not least, Link2 BAL is assuredly excellent with speed, hugely evident when subjected to playback of complex or outright fast paced tracks – there’s no chance for things to get muddy or compressed sounding.

Driving Power

Battle of the juggernauts, ZEN Stack Vs DACport HD Vs Link2 BAL

xDuoo Link2 BAL Vs iFi ZEN Stack Vs DACport HD

Tested on Windows 10, USB 3.0, Foobar 2000, Song: Diana Krall “The Look of Love” FLAC Lossless.

iFi ZEN Stack 4.4mm BAL (Gain 3/4)
Vol/Loudness: 10/100 (Etymotic ER4SR)
Vol/Loudness: 30/100 (Fostex T40RP MK3)
Vol/Loudness: 40/100 (Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm)
Soundstage: Surprisingly not as wide as DACport HD or Link2 BAL
Headroom: Very spacious despite with less than wide Soundstage
Sound Observation:
Very forward and intimate Mids, rich dynamics density with very crisp note weight. Solid attack and decays. Close to analogue sound, very organic

CEntrance DACport HD 3.5mm SE (High Gain)
Vol/Loudness: 18/100 (Etymotic ER4SR)
Vol/Loudness: 40/100 (Fostex T40RP MK3)
Vol/Loudness: 58/100 (Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm)
Soundstage: Wider than ZEN Stack by a step
Headroom: Equally spacious to ZEN Stack
Sound Observation:
Neutral placement for Mids, slightly less aggression and attack Vs ZEN Stack, smoother but crisp. More air compared to either ZEN Stack or Link2 BAL. The most analogue and organic sounding unit between the three of them.

xDuoo Link2 BAL 4.4mm BAL (High Gain)
Vol/Loudness: 12/100 (Etymotic ER4SR)
Vol/Loudness: 32/100 (Fostex T40RP MK3)
Vol/Loudness: 50/100 (Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm)
Soundstage: Equally wide to DACport HD
Headroom: Equally spacious to DACport HD & ZEN Stack
Sound Observation:
Neutral placement for Mids, solid dynamics density almost comparable to ZEN Stack, crisper but slightly less smoothness Vs DACport HD. Close to analogue sound, equally organic to DACport HD & ZEN Stack

The fact is, aside from volume loudness, I find all three being very similar sounding sonic wise. The difference described only evident with critical A/B listening, and they are miniscule really. If I am to do a blind test, I would probably fail to identify which one is which, especially between ZEN Stack and Link2 BAL. However no mistaking that airy characteristics of DACport HD which makes it unique (the same sort of airiness found only on Ovidius B1). Another big surprise, both DACport HD and Link2 BAL actually performed marginally better than ZEN Stack on resolving Micro Details.

Link2 BAL 3.5mm SE vs 4.4mm BAL (Both High Gain)
(HiBy Music Player USB Exclusive Mode)
SE Vol/Loudness: 16/32
BAL Vol/Loudness: 13/32

Sound Observation:
Tested with Etymotic ER4SR, while the sonic characteristics remained similar, I can hear the BAL port being more spacious and wider sounding. Dynamics density and note weight appeared stronger too. So it is quite apparent that the 3.5mm SE is optimized for highly sensitive stuffs, something at around 32 Ohm and below, with over 100db of sensitivity.

VERDICT

xDuoo Link2 BAL. To sum it up. I am impressed with this one hell of a Dongle. Minor cons aside, I found myself using it regularly. Articulate balance between musical and technical element being one of Link2 BAL greatest strengths. Not forgetting how powerful the 4 Vrms output is. Practically among the best with overall loudness and drive. While at it, Link2 BAL being consistent at synergizing with many partners, be it super sensitive stuffs or outright stubborn juggernauts, imparting great sonic indulgence that will not fail to make me smile. There’s a lot of things to like about this Link2 BAL, most important to me, how well executed the tuning, offering great near analogue sound that is neutrally, naturally realistic and believable. I must commend xDuoo for putting the right focus on this tuning approach, they opted not to get carried away with overcooking anything – there’s moderation and articulation in the implementation of Link2 BAL – and for that reason, it is one of my firm favorites now.

💚Highlights

  • Great near analogue tonal and timbral sound, highly organic
  • Faithfully neutral and uncolored
  • Clean and crisp dynamics
  • Reference grade technicalities
  • Amazing 4 Vrms power
  • Great heat management
  • Great compatibility to many devices
  • Good battery endurance

💔Lowlights

  • Volume adjustment is still digitally dependent to the host
  • Stock USB Cables a bit thin for my preference
  • Does not seem to work too well with high impedance earbuds
  • Fingerprint magnet! (on the glass faceplate)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ($149)

Best Pairing: Flexible up to 600 Ohm

Back to #donglemadness

88 Comments

  1. dongle enthusiast says:

    Where were you able to find the voltage spec? I’ve been unable to find them. Is the 3.5 and 4.4 both 4Vrms?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      xDuoo did not listed it on their site, but Link2 has the exact identical power level to E44 which is a known 4 Vrms dongle using the exact same chips. Usually the 3.5mm SE is halved and sounds like 2 Vrms to me

      Like

    2. r31ya says:

      If you have tried BTR5 before, hows the sound compared to that?

      Right now i’m looking for my Laptop audio dongle replacement, the current setup is HE400i (2020) + Dragonfly Red.
      I don’t quite fond of DFR sound, i’m planning to sell it and change to either this, KA3 or Hidizs S9 pro.

      Like

      1. Andy.EF says:

        Sorry I never tried BTR5 so I have no idea how they compare. I am not into BT DAC/Amps

        Like

      2. Marcin says:

        Late answer but BTR5 VS Link 2 bal is night and day difference. Go for Xduoo.

        Like

      3. Andy.EF says:

        Unfortunately I never tried BTR5 as I don’t have use for BT DAC/Amps. So I can’t say for sure

        Like

  2. ruff says:

    Finally, onyx dethroned(soundstage). Surprised that this little guy has an advantage over the zen stack in terms of soundstage. The moment I read that this is the new king of soundstage, I thouhgt to make a comment asking its performance vs zen stack(soundstage). But you covered that too!!
    I must commend you for this incredible review. So detailed, it covered every query I had.
    I am underwhelmed that it doesn’t have synergy with earbuds which is what I use mostly.
    “Volume adjustment is still digitally dependent to the host” — But I see that it has volume rockers.

    Like

    1. ruff says:

      sorry, my bad….I after reading again, I understand now: The volume is not to hardware level.

      Like

      1. Andy.EF says:

        No worries 🙂

        Like

  3. phil says:

    Is the “hi-res audio” marking on the side permanent or just a sticker?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Just a sticker

      Like

  4. Watson says:

    Does this work with USB-C 2.0 phones, i used to have an E44 that worked at first but then stopped working, i suspect it’s due to the usb 2.0 but not sure, and this has the same chip. Also is there any difference in soundstage + imaging between the 3.5 and 4.4mm output, i don’t care much about the driving power or volume since i mainly use it with IEMs anyway.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Yes works perfectly with USB 2.0. I tested it with my old Sony Xperia X Compact. The great thing is, you can easily switch to UAC1 for older devices and that will solve any parity issues. Soundstage for Link2 BAL is wider than E44 definitely even on 3.5mm. The tuning makes difference even with same chips

      Like

      1. Watson says:

        Thanks for answering. I know it’s wider than E44 but i wonder if there’s any difference in soundstage between the 3.5 and 4.4 output of the Link2 BAL, is the 3.5 sound narrower or are they the same ? If they are the same then i would keep using my 3.5 cable, but if the 4.4 sound wider then i need to buy a new balance cable to use it, since i want my iem to sound as wide as possible.

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        The 4.4mm port does sound wider compared to the 3.5mm, it is a simple fact of more power will project bigger staging. That’s why people use high powered device even on highly efficient IEMs, power does not necessarily mean louder

        Like

  5. SriV says:

    Great review Andy.. i have e44 do you think link2 bal is worthy upgrade 2 times more price.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      E44 is already an amazing unit. The difference being Link2 BAL is something I personally prefer because of the near analogue timbre and organic tonal balance. Otherwise they operate on similar level of quality. And oh yes, Link2 BAL has the widest soundstage alongside DACport HD

      Like

  6. Eko Sulistiyo says:

    Hi Andy, does the asio driver any good on Windows 10? Stability wise

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      I only use Asio driver for iFi ZEN Stack. Otherwise it is very stable so far

      Like

  7. phpaschoal says:

    Thanks fot the review! Would you say this dongle (xDuoo Link2 BAL) is considerably better than the Ibasso DC05? Would it be worth buying the xDuoo Link2 BAL even though I already have the DC05?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      If you look at the main page and see where Link2 BAL is and DC05, that would already give an indication how much better Link2 BAL is over DC05. But then, we are not comparing between good or bad here. We are talking about two devices which are already amazing for what they do. The appeal of Link2 BAL is that, it has more power, more features and plus all other good things while at it. Sound wise it is closer to being analogue and organic than DC05 which still sounds digital when used with my equipment. So if you are happy with your DC05, then there’s no reason to upgrade unless you are certain you want to experience the stuffs that Link2 BAL has

      Like

  8. Dez says:

    Hi Andy, what are your thoughts on the tonality and technicalities of link2 bal compared to RU6?
    i love the holographic soundstage of the RU6 and I’m hoping the link2 bal would be an upgrade to that.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Tonal wise, RU6 is the most analogue sounding compared to Link2 BAL. RU6 is as analogue as DACport HD. And being analogue (realistic) scores high on my personal ranking. Link2 BAL is close enough, however what I do like about Link2 BAL, the timbre balance is organic (not digital) despite being not quite analogue. As I mentioned, Link2 BAL is the king of Soundstage, that means it is wider than RU6 and equally holographic

      Like

  9. Rafael says:

    Hi Andy!
    One big question and a dealbreaker today, is if the DAC can do Bit perfect with Tidal. Some people is listening on UAPP or Hiby, but some folks are using the Tidal User Interface on Android. The bit perfect is a must and a dealbreaker. I have 4 DACS (Tempotec Sonata Hd Pro and Sonata MHD, Hidizs S9 and S9 Pro) . The Sonata MHD is the only capable of bit perfect on Tidal. With Sonata HD Pro, Tidal asks for bit perfect, but then stop working(freeze).Both Hidizs option don’ t do bit perfect on Tidal. Since you are testing and have some options available, including a topic of Tidal Bit perfect is a good idea. Thank you for you work!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Unfortunately, Link2 BAL does not work properly with native Tidal App on Android. Be it in UAC 1 or UAC 2 modes, the app will hang when I attempt to enable exclusive mode. Tidal will still work fine via UAPP

      Like

  10. Red says:

    Hi there. May I know how do you verify the use of the 5th pole common ground using a multimeter? I have no idea how to do that. Thanks for the knowledge. 🙂

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Simple, check continuity of the 5th pole by tapping one end on the USB jack side ground. On any DAC/Amp that uses the 5th pole, it will always show continuity. Those that does not have 5th pole connected of course will not show that

      Like

  11. Wasu Chaiwan says:

    I hope She come to Thailand quickly. I try L&P W2 .She kinda lack of power in Amp-stage. I think Link2Blanced might be the Anwser than I must go with W2-131.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      LOL. W2 is weak and I have been saying that many times already…

      Like

      1. Wasu Chaiwan says:

        ํYes amp-stage so weak i think if they allow more juice to the Dong W2 will be one of Legendary Don

        Like

  12. Freddie says:

    Just curious Andy, how big of an improvement is Link2Bal over Link2? I’m very tempted getting the Bal following your recommendation but found it a little bit on the pricy end.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      The improvement that is evident to me, Link2 BAL tuning which is more balanced than Link2. Having dual CS43131 (Link2 BAL) instead of ESS Sabre (Link2) does provide tonal improvements which I regard as closer to being analogue and organic. So it depends also on synergy, if you already find Link2 sound to suit your taste and headphone/IEM, then you don’t have to worry too much about it. Unless doing comparison side by side, you will not feel that you are missing much. Ultimately Link2 BAL is the flagship dongle for xDuoo and it is decidedly a better unit overall, however the older Link2 is already a great unit too

      Like

      1. Freddie says:

        Hi Andy, went on and purchased the Link2 Bal, it works perfectly on my laptop. However, I get this weird static/background noise when I plugged it to my phone and can’t seem to be able to figure out what’s causing it. Could it be my phone or is it because the IEM has a relatively low sensitivity?

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        It sounds to me your phone USB port may have grounding issues. Link2 BAL is a very silent dongle. But even any silent dongles can get static noises if there’s issue with the host power and grounding. Try on different phone and see if it is the same

        Like

      3. Freddie says:

        Yeah it’s the phone, tried on a different phone and there is no static

        Liked by 1 person

  13. XH says:

    Is the volume precise when adjusting volume steps in windows? I was afraid that adjusting one step will be too loud or too quiet 😅

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Link2 Vol adjustment is not independent. So it will change the volume based on the host volume steps. If the host has refined steps then it will follow. If not then the same rule applies

      Like

  14. Steven Montgomery says:

    Great sounding DAC/AMP! Thanks for your rec, but I agree the stock USB-C cable is a little light for the heft of Link2 BAL. What USB C cable did you find to replace it with that might be a bit stiffer and robust? Thanks!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      In my own case I actually swapped in HiBy FC5 or Questyle M12 cables to use with my Link2 BAL. Those two cables are more robust and flexible. But any OTG capable USB C cable should work and I have seen many being sold in Amazon or AliExpress

      Like

  15. SriV says:

    Hi Andy got the Link2 bal as per your advise and enjoying it…thought of sharing my experience. I have several dongles like tempotec sonata hd pro, abigail, cxpro but nothing comes close to dual dac dongles like e44 and finally this L2B beats them all in holographic presentation excellent.

    But L2B is little soft on bass attack then i tried using as input for my beast amp…xduoo mt604…oh my slams lile anything and warm tune sound 100% analogue which L2B cant beat on ots own for 2w class A output of mt604.

    My setup….phone…uapp…L2B feeding mt604 and BLON BL01 gun with single crystal copper litz cable and final e tips.

    Yes this iem having special driver that takes lot of power and tightens up the bass is beatiful textured slam and because of great separation from l2b does not bleed into mids.

    Thanks for all youe efforts now looking for moonriver2 dongle.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Bat says:

    Any compare to Haa Fee? Thx

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Overall Link2 BAL is slightly better and more well balanced. Otherwise they both performs very closely

      Like

  17. Dian Pranata says:

    Hello, thanks for suggesting to buy this dongle to play FPS games.
    By the way, currently the stuff is still on the way so I haven’t tried it yet and I’m planning to buy a ddhifi dj44c after reading your comparison between 3.5mm vs BAL.

    I’m currently using Final vr3000 audio (18 ohm, 101db/mw) with a 3.5mm jack, is it worth buying a ddhifi dj44c ($40) so I can use the BAL output for a wider soundstage?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Hard to say as you are basically converting a 3.5mm SE to a a 4.4mm BAL jack which has two grounds. I will work fine but I don’t think it will be true balanced since the 3.5mm singular ground will effectively cancel the two grounds from the Link2 BAL. Better option will be to totally swap out the whole cable and use dedicated 4.4mm. Later adapting 4.4mm to 3.5 SE is not an issue with proper adapter. But adapting a 3.5mm to a 4.4mm (the other way round) is not recommended

      Like

      1. Dian Pranata says:

        OK, looks like I’ll have to settle for a 3.5mm output. Because changing the cable will change the sound of vr3000.
        Thanks for your reply.

        Like

  18. Abir says:

    If I consider only technical prowess –
    Should I go for questyle M12 or xduoo link2 bal ?
    PS: My phone has USB C 2.0 port.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Both equally great technically

      Like

  19. cod6793 says:

    Hi Andy, can this kid play an HD600 or HD650/HD6XX decently? Thanks!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Absolutely. As you can see I uses much harder to drive headphones like Beyerdynamic DT880 600 Ohm and Fostex T40RP MK3, HD600 series are easy compared to those headphones

      Like

  20. Matthew Gordon says:

    Hi Andy
    Just a quick question. I want to use this with my iPhone. Dongle DAC power output is generally less when connected to a phone than when connected to a PC. Do you think that the Link2 will have enough juice (when powered by an iPhone) for something like the Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 Noire (13 ohm impedance, 92db/mW sensitivity)?
    Thanks!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Yes it will work just fine, Link2 BAL has been designed to work as efficiently on iPhones as do Android

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Matthew Gordon says:

        Thanks! And what is battery life like running on mobile when using your Fostex T40RP?

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        Around 5-6 hour on a 2700mAH battery powered Android phone of Sony Xperia X Compact. Will run longer on my 4000mAH LG V50

        Like

      3. mattgordon11 says:

        Thanks! What is battery life like when running on mobile using your Fostex T40RP?

        Like

      4. Andy.EF says:

        Around 5-6 hour on a 2700mAH battery powered Android phone of Sony Xperia X Compact. Will run longer on my 4000mAH LG V50

        Like

  21. Stu says:

    Picked up the link2 bal a few weeks ago partly as a result of your review. Love it. It brings out the best in the Kato’s. My favorite pairing at the moment is the midnight and link2 bal.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Patrick Aisida says:

    I have been following your article for a while. You are doing a great job. Concerning the Xduoo link Bal dongle, can it power planars like Sundara, Aeon 2 Noire & even Susvara?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Thanks. Absolutely. As you can see in my reviews, one of my primary headphones is the FOSTEX T40RP MK3 Magnetic Planar, which is undoubtedly a much harder planar to drive with that low sensitivity of 91dB, only Susvara is lower at around 83dB. So the only thing that would probably be too difficult for this dongle would be the Susvara. But otherwise Aeon 2 Noire and Sundara are both less demanding than my T40RP MK3

      Like

      1. Patrick Aisida says:

        Awesome. Thanks for the reply.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Kris says:

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks to your helpful review, I purchased Colorfly CDA M1 2 months ago and very happy with it. Still, I can’t stop myself from wondering if this Link2 BAL worths the upgrade from Colorfly?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Yes it is an upgrade from M1. But you have to remember we are now comparing devices which are already great and most of the time the rule of diminishing returns will apply. The differences are usually subtle

      Like

  24. tej says:

    Hi Andy. Shame about the website, love your work. Bought an Ovidius BQ. Absolutely love the sound and timbre but hissing is a pain with IEMS. impedance adapters wreck the sound and lack of hardware volume adjustment means I have to switch it off in Neutron, making volume adjustment quite a hassle. Thinking about the Link2 Bal, is it timbrally similar? It would be nice to set and forget and just use the links buttons.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      B1 is special, only DACport HD and RU6 I count as similar in sound to B1. Link2 BAL is the bridge between RU6 and PAW S2. You want great volume adjustment independently, then it has to be DACport HD, RU6 or PAW S2

      Like

  25. Rakai says:

    How does this dongle DAC compare to fiio ka3 in terms of sound, I have ka3 and it sounds neutral to me, also do you have any recommendation for a warm-sounding dongle DAC with microphone support? (if it has a balanced output I prefer that more)

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Link2 BAL is a superior unit in every way versus KA3. As noted in my article, Link2 BAL is among the best with neutral sound. The rating I gave for all of them should give you an idea where they stand. Link2 BAL is a 5 Stars and KA3 is a 4 stars

      Like

      1. Rakai says:

        Thanks for the answer, but do you have any recommendations for a warm-sounding dongle DAC with microphone support? (if it has a balanced output I prefer that more)

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        Unfortunately I have no idea on Mic support for the Dongles I owned, as I never have a need for Mic

        Like

  26. Jeane Doe says:

    Does Link2 BAL supports mic input with its 3.5mm se? (i know M12 does, so it might a dealbreaker for me to not buy the Link2 BAL)

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      No idea really. Since I never tested any sort of mic functions

      Like

  27. Marcin says:

    I have tried Sonata E44, Cayin RU6, Xduoo Link 2 bal, Chord Hugo 2, Xduoo XD05 bal with Burson opamps and guess which I have chose as best for my taste ? Xduoo Link 2 bal was the winner 🙂 Most natural, organic, smooth, subbas impactful, great control, best musicality and the greatest listening pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Kenny Chew says:

    Hi Andy, just came to notice this great website of yours few days ago. Read all TOTL dongle you’ve review, I must say your reviews are the best among all others dongle websites, and I am feeling so lucky that I still have to chance to read your great reviews.
    I have a Samsung S22 Ultra and Sony MDR-Z7M2 together with Chord Mojo 1. If I going to upgrade, between Questyle M12, M15, Xduoo Link2 Balls and Cayin RU6, which one will you highly recommended? And with your recommendation, how much more improvement are it over the Mojo1?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Thanks. If you like Mojo sound signature then Ovidius B1 and RU6 falls within that category. In fact B1 is eerily similar sounding to Mojo. If you want something a bit different, something a bit more “modern” then it is M15. I personally love DACport HD above them all because DACport HD provides the balance between RU6 and M15. M12 is less clinical compared to M15 but I would still use it if I feel like having “warmer” presentation. Link2 BAL is close to DACport HD sound. At this level, for the most part improvements and differences between top performing DAC/Amps are marginal really, what you are pairing them with and personal preferences will ultimately decide what you will like the most

      Like

      1. Kenny Chew says:

        Thank you so much for your reply Andy.

        With your recommendation and I wanting different sound from Mojo, now I’m lean towards both M15 and Link2 Bal. Of the 2 said dongles, I am mostly listening to female Jazz and Folk female singers, Fusion Jazz, Jazz music, at the same time classic Hard Rock bands, which one has better soundstage, vocal, deep but not bloated bass extension?

        Like

  29. Velmurugan B says:

    Hi Andy,
    I have a Tripowin Olina modded with Tanya Filter and Grado SR325. I have been using them with my Qudelix 5k wired so far. I recently got to try the Questyle M15 and I liked everything about it especially the bass and treble dynamics, but the slightly narrow and short soundstage even compared to Q5k (with min crossfeed 8) put me off. My main use would be from my iPad Pro m1(80%) and surface book 2(20%) driving mainly the Olina(80%) and occasionally the Grado(20%).
    Would you suggest a) Moondrop Dawn 4.4, (same CS chip as l2b reportedly sounding similar ($80)) and VE Megatron($80) or
    b) only link 2 bal($150) with both SE and Bal out.
    I am mainly looking to get the best synergy with the Olina. I value natural tone with good soundstage dimensions especially height, instrument separation and layering more than other aspects. MR2 is more expensive and reportedly sounds similar to the Dawn so I don’t see the point. Have you heard DAPS like the Hidizs Pro X, the price seems to be similar (~180$). Do you feel l2b lacks bass attack with the Olina? Also have you tried using an impedance adapter with VE megatron to handle background hiss in Olina? Would it change the tonality of the IEM when used? Sorry for many queries. Thank you in advance. (PS) B1 and Dacport aren’t available here unfortunately.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      In this case, you will be better served with Link2 BAL, the widest Soundstage coming from dongle form factor. I don’t know about Dawn as I have already stopped #donglemadness

      Like

  30. Velmurugan says:

    Thank you. Also have you tried using an impedance adapter with VE megatron to handle background hiss in Olina? Would it change the tonality of the IEM when used?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      No. I didn’t bother to use Impedance adapter for the most part, only once to test and that’s it. Megatron floor noises does not bother me really

      Like

      1. Velmurugan says:

        Got it. Thanks a lot.

        Like

  31. darkfear17 says:

    hi there Andy. which one would you recommend to use with Olina? I’m looking for a dongle that has good soundstage/ organic mids in combination to Olina. so I think the source should have a bit of warmth.
    do you think L2B is a good Option? or maybe B1 is better?
    Also have you tried Shanling UA3? I’ve heard it sounds very similar to RU6..!

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      The best partner for Olina is CEntrance DACport HD. Next would be either Cayin RU6, Link2 BAL, Ovidius B1 or Megatron. Can’t go wrong with any one of them since Olina is very versatile

      Like

  32. Rokas says:

    Is there any more DACs that have the kind of crisp, energetic, even aggressive presentation of e44 that you have tried? I’m in love with that sound and looking for more options even if they are not dongles. Could be DAP or whatever really as long as they have the analytical and DYNAMIC, e44 kind of sound. Any recommendation?

    I’ve also tried DC04, but it wasn’t quite as fun in the same way, plus it broke pretty soon due to the cable design.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      If you already like E44 energy, then I would say it will be difficult to find anything else that can compare to that. Perhaps you can also consider A&K PEE51, it is even more vibrant than E44 but also will appear a bit less neutral. But worth a try

      Like

      1. Rokas says:

        Warmth is good news, I wouldn’t mind the e44 to be a bit warmer too… But all my cables are 4.4mm…

        So you say A&K has that kind of sound… I was actually looking into investing in a DAP, so maybe I should check out their options..

        Do you have any advice in regards to DAPs of any company that could do the trick that e44 does, but perhaps even better?

        Like

      2. Andy.EF says:

        Yes A&K DAPs should suit your preferences

        Like

  33. Ray Cabrera says:

    Hi Andy,
    Wanted to know if I could use the Link2 Bal as a stand alone Dac and pair it an Amp? This way I can sit on longer listening sessions without worries the battery on my phone dying. I the answer is yes which am would you recommend. I’m using a Focal Elegia.

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Yes you can. Set the vol to 70% and it behaves like a Line Out. Otherwise if you need dedicated Line Out, I would suggest Lotoo PAW S2 or MUSE HiFi M3

      Like

  34. Brock W says:

    Is there any RF interference with the Link2 Bal?

    Like

    1. Andy.EF says:

      Link2 BAL is one of the few dongles that does not pick RF interferences easily

      Like

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