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Recommendation of USB c DAC for use with Sony MDR-1R

moench3992

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Hi @everyone !

I stumbled on this forum while searching for a decently compact USB C DAC/AMP for my Samsung Tab S7 (no 3.5) and Google Pixel 3a XL (3.5 but kinda meh).
Up until now I have used a Nexum Aqua from a Kickstarter campaign, but since it is micro-USB with 2 adapters in between it gets quite unwieldy.

The headphones I want to drive are the Sony MDR-1R, which according to Sony are 48 Ohm and 105 dB/mW.
The player app that will be used is Neutron.

From looking at the reviews here and elsewhere I narrowed the selection to these 5 :

  • Audirect Atom 2: very compact and plugs in directly, very nice cable less USB adapter form factor, uses ES9281AC, but unsure if enough power, claims 62 [email protected] Ohm
  • Hidizs S3 Pro: Also compact but not cable less, uses ESS9281C, less power than Atom with [email protected] Ohm as measured by Amir, weird SINAD difference between channels
  • Hidizs S9 Pro: Considerably bulkier but also way more power, uses ESS9038Q2M, claims [email protected] Ohm
  • E1DA 9038D: Also bulkier, high customizability, uses ESS9038Q2M, measured at [email protected] Ohm, doesn't work with CTIA cable, unsure if ordinary 3 pole 3.5mm would be ok?
  • Fiio BTR5: Big but is active so no battery drain+Bluetooth, uses ES9218PC x 2( unbalanced uses only one?) , claims [email protected] Ohm less than S9 Pro/9038D, absolute price limit
My questions regarding these are:
Are there any other DAC/AMP combos in the style of the Audirect Atom 2?
Is anything missing from the above selection you would recommend instead?
Should the Atom/S3 be enough to drive the MDR-1R reasonably loud?
If yes, how likely would the other three show a better performance?
Is an ordinary 3 pole 3.5mm cable okay to use with the 9038D since my current one is CTIA?
How noticable would the battery drain of S9/9038D be, given 3700mAh respectively 8000mAh battery?

Thanks in advance for answering these questions.

Kind regards,

moench3992
 

TheHighContemplator

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I use the E1DA 9038D with Meze 99 Classics with Brainwavz Hybrid pads and Oratory's EQ profile for the combo. The 9038D powers this setup flawlessly. If my laptop is running on battery power, it drains really fast. Atleast 2x faster than without the DAC/amp dongle. I don't have any other answers for you. I hope you get the best product to fit your needs.
 
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moench3992

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Thanks for the answer TheHighContemplator!

Since your Meze headphones seem to be similar sensitivity wise, albeit with lower impedance, I would conclude that the 9038D should be more than enough power for my Sony ones. Though notable power draw on a notebook seems to likely rule it out for use with my phone, but the tablet might be okayish. Maybe someone else can tell how power draw looks for them?

According to https://medium.com/bedrock-reviews the power draw ranking seems to be:
  • S9 (non pro) 160 mA
  • 9038D 100mA
  • Atom 2 60mA
  • Aqua Nexum 30mA (according to manufacturer)
  • S3 Pro ??mA
  • BTR5 0mA with battery?
I also did a bit of testing with the Nexum Aqua today and found that it pushes my headphones to a way higher volume, past comfortable levels, than my phone's native 3.5 and achieves audibly better bass and overall sound quality. The manufacturer claims 50mW at 32 Ohm for it, so I guess anything greater or equal to that would be good enough for me.

Given that and the apparent power hunger of the S9 Pro and the 9038D, I would tend towards one of the other three.

Has anyone tried one of them and could give their opinion on them? Or the manufacturers in general?
 

TheHighContemplator

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@moench3992 , No problem. The other option is to use a breakout cable with one of the power hungry dongles and not drain your device battery.
 
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moench3992

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I looked around a bit more and have gone with the Hidizs S3 Pro for now as it is the cheapest option on my list, but is nicely compact and seems to be favorably reviewed by Amir and elsewhere.

While the Audirect Atom 2 would have been my favorite, due to the unique and very small USB-adapter form factor and a bit higher power, unfortunately I found a few mentions of it breaking pretty quick. And with the price being halfway between the S3 Pro and the vastly more powerful 9038D, I didn't want to take the risk for potential gains over the S3 Pro.

Should the S3 Pro leave me unsatisfied, I will probably go for the E1DA 9038D even though I am a bit worried about the power draw. And while this could be remedied with a splitter cable, I hope for my use the ~100 mA draw would still give me enough battery life to not deal with an additional cable and powerbank.
 

TheHighContemplator

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@moench3992 , The S3 Pro is a solid choice. I hope it is everything you need/want. I debated between it and the E1DA for a while. Shipping times were the ultimate selector for me.
 

JohnBooty

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These are some of the worst headphones I've ever owned, or heard. Absolutely bizarre frequency response, bass that's bloated but not deep... just awful.

(Excellent construction and comfort, though!)

I realize this isn't constructive advice and I can't figure out how to phrase this kindly. Please check my posting history; I'm not ever negative on here.

But: it may be worth putting the $$$ towards a new set of headphones. A shiny new DAC for these headphones is like putting some top of the line Pirelli racing slicks on a 1978 Chevy Nova with major mechanical issues.
 

mansr

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I stumbled on this forum while searching for a decently compact USB C DAC/AMP for my Samsung Tab S7 (no 3.5) and Google Pixel 3a XL (3.5 but kinda meh).
Up until now I have used a Nexum Aqua from a Kickstarter campaign, but since it is micro-USB with 2 adapters in between it gets quite unwieldy.
Why not simply get a cable with suitable connectors at each end?
 
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moench3992

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Why not simply get a cable with suitable connectors at each end?
Well the problem is that the DAC has a built-in micro-USB cable, which rules out switching cables. Thus the best I could do would be Phone -> USB-C to micro-USB -> Aqua -> Headphones. Given that the Aqua itself already is 74mm without the cable that would be still quite a bit of stuff hanging around. Plus I suspect it might be close to failing since I had a few occasions in testing the past days where changing volume lead to a repeating sound until unplugged.
 
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moench3992

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@JohnBooty Well that certainly isn't constructive advice, especially given the fact that I already ordered a S3 Pro.

But it still prompted me to look around a bit and I found there measurements at reference audio analyzer: https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/report/hp/sony-1r.php#gsc.tab=0

Handily enough my preferred player app Neutron has a frequency correction EQ based on the RAA measurements, which indeed seems to improve sound a bit, even though to me it looks a bit counterintuitive looking at the MDR-1R frequency response on RAA.

Screenshot_20211014-171534_Neutron Player.jpg


Screenshot_20211014-171540_Neutron Player.jpg



The only trouble I have is due to the -7dB preamp I have to increase volume on the Aqua quite a bit, which in turn seems to run out of power on tracks like Metallica - S&M2 - The iron foundry, Opus 19 or Saltatio Mortis - Brot und Spiele - Brot und Spiele . Leading to nearly no bass response and shouty voice/mids.
At least this is my theory given the Nexum Aqua's RAA measurements ( https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/user-report-amp.php?id=1177#gsc.tab=0 ) seem to indicate a whopping 0.14 mW of distortion free power and a max of 38.57 mW at the impedance of 32 Ohm the Sony's measured at.

So my hope would be that the S3 Pro manages to drive the Sony's + frequency correction more properly. Not sure if that is a valid assumption?

Otherwise I might indeed have to look for better headphones, though that might be a bit problematic given that my requirements for them would be to have a form factor like the Sony's (over-ear, oval pad, comfy), to play well with a wide range of Genres (Classic, Film music, Pop, (classic) rock, Metal), fit the S3 Pro capabilitiesa nd probably all that ≤ 200€. So I would appreciate a pointer if such a headphone exists.
 

TunaBug

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+ 1 for the E1DA 9038D. I use mine on iOS and Windows so I don't benefit from their Android app, and have no idea what's in that app. But the device is a fantastic buy. It has been reviewed here on ASR, the company's owner posts here on ASR. For support (like "How do I make it work with my CTIA headphones?") you'll probably want to join their server on Discord. They are very responsive there. As for your CTIA vs 3-pin question: it's wired for 3-pin, and my understanding is that the contact for the shield is further back on the shield, which means if you're using a CTIA device then it makes contact with the microphone pin instead of ground. If you have an OMTP (but who does in 2021?) then it correct contacts the ground pin. And if you're using a 3-pin TRS then all is well. If I'm using my CTIA headset then I use https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07149JNBB/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1. Note, though, that your microphone will not be connected to anything: it's just stereo headphones.

Another dongle I would recommend is the Qudelix-5K, which you can also find reviewed on ASR. It's analog section is not as highly rated as the E1DA devices. But it's app is fantastic, and they regularly tweak/enhance the functionality. It's a great toy for a gearhead! It also does bluetooth, has a battery, and has a 2.5mm balanced output in addition to the 3.5mm single-ended, and a builtin clip to hang it on your shirt or pocket when you're using bluetooth: that's great if you're using bluetooth, or unwanted bulk if you'll never us it. It's about the size of a 9V battery, so bigger than the E1DA. Oddly enough, the pictures online make it seem bigger than it is, so when I unboxed it I was surprised at how small it is. Still bigger than the E1DA, though. I have never tried this with my CTIA headphones, it might work, it might not. The device also has a built-in mic, but I have never played with that, either.
 
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