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Cheap small portable DAC/AMP with no or minimal hissing

HissingFree

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So I wanted to improve the audio of my ASUS laptop, it's just barely enough even for a DT 770 32 ohm with no EQ, and not enough with some EQ applied to it with the corresponding preamp lowering, obviously way too weak for AKG K701, I suspect the jack has a high output impedance watching measurements of other ASUS laptops and that causes the vrms to be lower at lower impedances like 32 and 63 ohm, so even an Apple dongle would have considerably more power than this jack output with lower impedance headphones probably, also another reason to upgrade, the high output impedance could mess with frequency response from what I've seen.
But I use it for IEMs most of the time, power is fine there obviously, but there is hissing present in these iems which is not there on the over ear headphones, of course due to much higher sensitivity of these IEMs.

So I searched for a solution with both more power and lower hissing, and I thought the Jcally JM6 pro was perfect for what I wanted, something really light in weight and small in form factor that has decent power, around double the power than an Apple dongle, but at the same time very cheap, I got it for like 8$, I thought it would be the same to the Meizu Mblu Lifeme Pro reviewed here and measurements looked good enough, or so I thought, it also had good comments on Reddit and other places, I always check measurements first and foremost though. Well, it has much more power and it works great, can even power the K701 decently, but with IEM, the hissing... oh boy, now the IEMs have much more hissing than the onboard jack of laptop! and not only with the laptop, I thought, maybe my laptop is a very noisy source, it's the same if I plug it into my smartphone, the same terrible hissing. I tried connecting the same IEMs to a desktop pc I have, with a motherboard that has a realtek ALC892, hissing is there but much reduced compared to the laptop. If I connect a very cheap random usb-c dongle that I got in these chinese local stores to the smartphone (doesn't work on laptop), IEMs have zero hiss! I suspect there is no DAC on these and it's just pass through to the internal dac of smartphone, Poco F3, maybe the DAC is really good on some of these snapdragons?

The IEMs I've tried are KZ ES4 and CCA CA2 for now, I will be getting Salnotes Zero soon, but yeah, ES4 doesn't look like a really high sensitivity one compared to the worse offenders, 104 db/mw, and still has considerable hissing.

So yeah, I'm baffled to see how it's possible that a cx31993 + max97220, which didn't seem to perform that bad, has considerably more hissing than internal audio of laptop, which has a realtek chip that can't even do more than 48KHz! so not high end by any means, more like lower end, I have a much older laptop with 192KHz support. Maybe it performs worse than the Meizu Mblu reviewed here? maybe the review didn't focus on the noise (no 50mv chart).

I would like to know which options would be the best for minimal hissing with IEMs, I would like a cheap and light device, I have an O2Dac that works great, maybe I will sell it, but I want something that doesn't need AC power and simply plug on a usb port and doesn't need to lay flat on a surface, so something small and light that can be hanging if that makes sense. Something around 30$ or so at most, maybe 40 if it's really good. I like the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro from what I've seen, I could get it for 30$, but I'm not sure about the hissing, there is no 50 mv measurement, but the power vs distortion looks really good at low mw, not sure if it's related to low noise though, but comparing to Meizu Mblu it's like 24db lower at 10uw, is this a sign of low noise if you don't have 50 mv measurement?

index.php


Also Fiio KA11 looks perfect from a power standpoint, 200mW at 32 ohm from such a tiny device looks very enticing, 30$ or so, but there are no measurements so I don't know if it would hiss with IEM, in specs it says <1.7uV of floor noise a-weighted, I guess that's very good but it could be just unrealistic specs that measure different in more realistic testing and conditions, anyone has experience with it?

So I want something with a bit more power than an Apple dongle but very light and simple, please suggest other options if I have missed them.
 

johny_2000

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I recently got FiiO KA17 to use on my laptop. There is absolute silence with regular headphones. I can’t say anything about IEM, since I don’t have one.
Noise floor<2.2µV (A-weighted)

If the KA11 has a noise level of <1.7 µV, then it will be dead silent to anything connected to the output.
 
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HissingFree

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I recently got FiiO KA17 to use on my laptop. There is absolute silence with regular headphones. I can’t say anything about IEM, since I don’t have one.
Noise floor<2.2µV (A-weighted)

If the KA11 has a noise level of <1.7 µV, then it will be dead silent to anything connected to the output.

Thanks, yeah but then again, with Jcally there is no hissing with 96 db/mw DT770, obvious with even 104db/mw KS ES4.

But I think I will probably get the FiiO, since I've been checking l7audiolab who has reviewed some of the other portable versions like KA1 and KA2, and I like that they measure well and more or less inline with the promised specs, for example KA1 with higher noise floor according to specs already has very respectable 87 db at 50 mv, KA2 has 94 db, since KA11 is in between these two in noise floor, it will probably be around 90 db or so.
 

ZolaIII

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Puff get Apple A2155 (500 mV) for sensitive low impedance (15~40 Ohms) one's with let's say over 110 dB/V like DT770 32 Ohms needing 18 mV for 76 dB and a regular 2 V CS43131 based one for let's say medium impedance and sensitivity one's like K702 needing 42 mV for 76 dB. With self impedance lower than 1 Ohms for dongle of course. And so on for every - 12 dB of efficiency per V you go 4x more V. Sweet spot regarding performance is usually in - 6 to 12 dB as long as multitone SINAD stays at or above the SPL you listen at and to those you are transparent.
 

mc.god

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If you don't need hardware volume buttons on it, Jcally JM20 is dirty cheap, measures essentially identical to this (and to Sonata HD), if you are on Windows you can also install this asio drivers.
Dead silent on all my iems.
K11 surely is an interesting model that I'd like to see measured, it has an additional op-amp giving it the juice at low ohm loads, if you think you'll need the power I think you can safely go with it.
 

ZolaIII

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Capture.JPG

R.M.E. ADI DAC FS in balanced (green) and IEM deticated mode (blue) vs Apple A2155 (red) THD vs load to V (0 is 1 V) at 15.8 Ohms as extreme.
 
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HissingFree

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So I tried the KA11 and very happy, now there is zero hissing with any of the IEM I have and it has even more power than the Jcally. Unless this thing has a weird measurement, it looks really good for the price imo.
So it looks like 1.7uV noise floor is more than enough for me, at least with this 112 db/mw IEM I have.
 
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HissingFree

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I have to update this thread, after a bit more than a month, it doesn't work properly anymore, it's not that the connector got bad, it's just that after a minute or so audio cuts out and you can't hear anything anymore, device is still recognized by windows and by Android in Fiio control, but there is just no audio, I have to disconnect it, let it rest for a while and then it works but only for a short amount of time (few minutes) until audio cuts off again, this happens in both Windows and Android. There are a lot of complains about this product our there and I've seen a few reports about this particular issue too.

So I say avoid and look for something else. It's a shame because for 30€/$ it would be a great value for the power it offers and no hissing.

If I can't get a refund or an exchange, what do you think about this one?


It's a cs-pro CS43131, it advertises 0.9uv noise, and from what I've seen in another thread, you can increase the power into 32 ohm by using a 3.5mm male to female adapter from 30mw to like 70mw, I like that it has a detachable cable too, it would cost 17€.
 
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OK1

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I have to update this thread, after a bit more than a month, it doesn't work properly anymore, it's not that the connector got bad, it's just that after a minute or so audio cuts out and you can't hear anything anymore, device is still recognized by windows and by Android in Fiio control, but there is just no audio, I have to disconnect it, let it rest for a while and then it works but only for a short amount of time (few minutes) until audio cuts off again, this happens in both Windows and Android. There are a lot of complains about this product our there and I've seen a few reports about this particular issue too.

So I say avoid and look for something else. It's a shame because for 30€/$ it would be a great value for the power it offers and no hissing.

If I can't get a refund or an exchange, what do you think about this one?


It's a cs-pro CS43131, it advertises 0.9uv noise, and from what I've seen in another thread, you can increase the power into 32 ohm by using a 3.5mm male to female adapter from 30mw to like 70mw, I like that it has a detachable cable too, it would cost 17€.
I also almost bought the KA11, had to exclude from my shortlist after reading about its issues.
 
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