Why do I need a DAC? Have you ever wondered if the sound of headphones from a laptop and from a hi fi system is very different? In simple words, the DAC increases the sound detail. We have tested several devices and will describe them in more detail.
Attention, before conducting your tests, check the rest of the equipment: high-quality digital content, a source with digital outputs, good headphones/speakers with an amplifier.
1.FiiO Q3 – portable DAC : development of the classics
From the very beginning, we were pleased with the kit. In addition to the DAC, the kit includes: Type C and Lightning wires, a regular USB-A wire, a set of two pairs of rubber bands of different sizes, a rubber sticky ” gasket”, a 3.5 mm-3.5 mm cable for using the Q3 as an amplifier, as well as a case. While other manufacturers try to save on everything they can, FiiO pleases us with pleasant little things.
- DAC: AK4462
- Amplifier: THX AAA28
- Low Pass Filter: OPA1662
- Output connectors and power: 3.5 mm (160mw/32 ohms), balanced 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm (300mW/32 ohms)
- Inputs: USB Type C digital, 3.5 mm Linear
- Digital audio formats: DSD (up to 22.5792 MHz / 1 bit), PCM (up to 768 kHz/32 bit)
- USB chip: XMOS XU208
- Weight: 110g
- Sizes:105 × 59 × 13 mm
- Built-in battery: 1800mAh
The DAC FiiO line develops in a single style. Q3 was no exception. We also believe that there is no point in changing something that works well. the matte black metal body, rounded edges and the volume control wheel on the top edge clearly hint at the manufacturer. due to the rounded edges, the device fits perfectly in the hand and conveniently clings to the phone.
We tested the FiiO Q3 on several headphones and will try to describe the overall experience in the context of the frequency range.
Low frequencies-sound very dense and natural. Because of this, they can hardly be called monitor-based. They are detailed, technical, deep and with excellent control — something that a high-quality amplifier can do perfectly. What pleased us, the LF does not creep anywhere and makes the sound really cleaner. With the help of a bass boost, you can increase their lower part, which perfectly emphasizes electronic music.
The midrange frequencies are also colored in the direction of additional weight, but here it feels even weaker.The stage is not striking in its size due to the strong density of the instruments, which can confuse the buyer. But it is transmitted very naturally and correctly.
High frequencies have a good length, do not hide the charms of good recordings. Despite the fact that the device is from the middle segment of the budget, it is able to impress the audiophile with good headphones like the Byerdynamix DT990 pro
2. Creative Sound BlasterX G6 – External USB sound card with DAC/AMP
Game positioning and compatibility with game consoles is seen by us more as an attempt to reach a large audience and interest the rapidly growing community of gamers in high-end sound. In fact, the device can easily be called “musical” and it will cope with any genre of music paired with good headphones and headsets of the upper price range.
Creative Sound Blaster G6 is compatible with PC and game consoles. In its arsenal: support for 32-bit/384 kHz audio, 130 dB USB-DAC, Xampp headphone amplifier with Dolby Digital decoding, virtual sound 7.1 and SBX sound enhancement technologies.
- Sound Processor: SB-Axx1
- Digital-to-analog Converter: Cirrus Logic CS43131
- Analog-to-Digital Converter: Cirrus Logic CS5361
- Maximum playback quality DSP mode: PCM 16/24/32-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz;
- Direct Mode: PCM 16/24/32-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz*;
- DoP 24-bit / 176.4, 352.4 kHz;
- * 384 kHz playback is only available on Windows 10 or later.
- Max. recording quality (microphone input) 16/24/32-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
- Max. recording quality (optical input) 16/24/32-bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
- Supported headphone impedance: 16-600 ohms
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 130 dB (DAC), 114 dB (ADC)
- The possibility of up-mixing stereo sound to virtual surround sound According to the scheme 5.1, 7.1
- Connection: 1 x 1/8″ Line In / mini TOSLINK Combo Connector;
- 1 x 1/8″Line Out / mini TOSLINK Combo Connector;
- 1 x 1/8″ Headphone or Headset Jack;
- 1 x 1/8 ” External microphone jack.
- EAX EAX Advanced 5.0 Audio
- Codec AAC, SBC, aptX Low Latency
- Bluetooth 4.0, support
- Bluetooth Multipoint (two devices), profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP
- Range Up to 10 meters
- ASIO Playback and Recording
- Microphone type: Built-in microphones with device orientation sensor (portrait / landscape orientation)
- Supported operating systems: Mac OS X version 10.8 or higher;
- Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10.
- Supported game consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
- Product dimensions (B x W x D) 111 x 70 x 24 mm
- Weight 144 grams
Creative Sound Blaster G6 Package Contents, Quick User Guide, Warranty service information booklet, Card with a welcome message, microUSB 2.0 Cable?, 3.5 mm Mini-TOSLINK optical cable.The case of the Creative SoundBlaster X G6 external sound card has not changed since the release of the Sound Blaster E5. The difference is only in small design decisions. The area marked NFC disappeared and the highlighted RGB logo appeared. When connected to compatible game consoles, such as PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, no software installation is required. Work with mobile platforms is not declared. You will need to install the Sound Blaster Connect 2 software on your PC to deeply configure the sound and sound processing modes. You can download it for free on the official Creative website.
When using SBX sound processing effects, including presets in the Sound Blaster Connect 2 program, you can achieve a pleasant and juicy sound of any music style, not to mention audio effects in video and sound environments in games.
The Creative SoundBlaster X G6 doesn’t just reveal the headphones to the full, it literally pulls them up a level higher in sound! If you’ve listened to your ears directly from the motherboard before, you’ll be surprised what your headphones with a good sound card are really capable of. It gives a very clear, cohesive, melodic, deep, and most importantly – very, very detailed and detailed sound throughout the entire sound spectrum. As well as great and clear sound positioning. With this ZK, you can hear literally every little thing, and everything sounds as if every instrument is in its place – as it should be. The complete absence of any extraneous noise when the music is turned off is also a worthy result.
At room temperature, in an unventilated place, the temperature rose to 40 degrees from the top and 50 degrees from the bottom (at the bottom on which the map lay). In a ventilated place, the upper part remained cool. Since the G6 does not contain a battery, in my opinion, there is no point in worrying about the temperature.
3. iFi Hip-dac – Portable DAC
What comes with: a blue USB cable for connecting to a PC and a power adapter. And two short cables for connecting to the digital signal source and from the powerbank. After unpacking, you have everything you need to satisfy your audiophile appetite. Our dac is 12 cm x 7 cm x 1.4 cm, the material is aluminum.
- Functions: Power Match and XBass /400mW
- Type: Digital-to-analog Converter + Headphone Amplifier
- Manufacturer: iFi Audio, brand country-United Kingdom
- DAC: Burr Brown / DSD1793
- Inputs: USB-A 3.0 (High-speed asynchronous USB 2.0 32 bit/384 kHz)
- Support for audio formats:
- DSL 256/128/64, octa/quad/double/single-speed DSD
- DXD 384/352. 8 kHz
- PCM (384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1 kHz)
- Headphone outputs: 3.5 mm unbalanced, 4.4 mm Balanced
- Output power: 2.02 V/400mW @ 16Ω
- Battery: 2200 mAh
- Dimensions: 12cm x 7cm x 1.4 cm
- Weight: 125 g.
To work with apple products, you need a lighting audio adapter, which you probably already have. For android devices, everything is included. USB type-C is used to charge the device. Working hours 10-11.
For listening, we took our favorite byerdynamic DT 250 and DY990. The signal source was an iphone 11 pro, a PC, and a Laptop. The sound of Hip Dac is balanced, smooth, without peaks and dips. From the first minutes of listening, the sound fascinates with its musicality, correct sound delivery, neutral and warm. You can listen to your favorite songs for a very long time. Mid-frequency and low-frequency stand out a little. It turned out very lively and beautiful.
The stage is of medium size, the space of musical instruments is felt. Of the three devices presented in our review, the Dac with volume control iFi Hip Dac is the most balanced sounding, with the right accents, due to this, when listening, everything is naturalistic, holistic. And it will please fans of vintage melodic sound. Turning the XBass bass boost button back and forth, I returned it to the “off”position. Once again, I am convinced that I personally have enough low frequencies in the tracks I listen to, which were originally written there