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Review and Measurements of ENCORE mDAC DAC & Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the ENCORE mDAC battery operated portable DAC and headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. As far as I can tell, the mDAC came out in 2014/2015. It cost USD $129 when released.

It is chunky metal box with sharp edges which bother me a bit:

ENCORE mDAC DAC and Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

The on/off button is quite hidden on the side. The volume controls are on top but controlling the down button is a challenge with headphone jack plugged in.

The mDAC runs a bit warm so good thing it has battery or it would suck up the phone one down.

PC connectivity is a bit strange in that the data USB jack does not charge it so I had to connect two cables to charge and use it.

I won't bore you with more and will post the Z reviews on the functionality.

Audio Measurements
Testing the mDAC as a DAC was not that functional as at full amplitude, it clips even into a very high impedance load (i.e. not stressed at all). So I had to dial down the output to get decent THD+N:

ENCORE mDAC DAC and Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


So despite what the name says, it is not a good "DAC."

Dynamic range was good:
ENCORE mDAC DAC and Headphone Amplifier Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Portable DAC Dynamic Range Review.png


So pretty quiet for IEM use.

Most important for any headphone amplifier is power. Here is how mDAC does with 300 ohm load:

ENCORE mDAC DAC and Headphone Amplifier Power at 300 ohm Audio Measurements.png


You can see the clipping that I talked about in the dashboard. As such, power output is quite low at just 6 milliwatts before distortion sets in.

This is the results with 33 ohm load:

ENCORE mDAC DAC and Headphone Amplifier Power at 33 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Putting them in context of other portable DAC+Amps we get:

Portable DAC Amplifier Power 300 ohm Review.png


Portable DAC Amplifier Power 33 ohm Review.png


So mDAC is more suitable for low impedance loads than high. Then strangely we find that the impedance is a bit high:
Headphone Amplifier Output Impedance Review.png


So be careful with headphones with impedance of less than 60 ohm that varies a lot with frequency.

Listening Tests
My ears are at a spa getting cleaned up. That, and my cold are stopping me from performing listening tests at this point.

Conclusions
Given the size of the mDAC I expected better performance. With use of lithium battery it should have been able to pump out fair bit of power and not clip at 300 ohm. It should do OK though with low impedance planar type headphones though. And the battery may provide dynamic power that is not visible in my measurements.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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Roen

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#6
I purchased this for $59 back in 2015.

At the time, I thought it was a pretty good purchase; we didn't have the plethora of accurate DACs like we do today for affordable prices.

I'd also edit the title to include DAC & Amp as well, similar to the mDSD title.
 

Blumlein 88

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#9
I don't know it is subpar for such small products in 2015. Also, the distortion probably isn't audible, and the noise floor is low enough. Probably sounds just fine for all other than extreme situations.

Also find us a better one for $59.
 

Jimster480

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#10
Subpar for 2015 standards?
Yea I would say so. I bought my K1 in early 2016 and it costs only $39.
The price of this is like $129. I would be willing to bet that one of the creative dongles or even those c-Media based dongles will perform the same for a fraction of the price.
 

Roen

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#11
It's $129 now, solely because it's discontinued and priced on the third party market. It retailed for $59 in 2015, that's what I bought it new for from Amazon from the manufacturer.

You'd do well to rid the $129 figure from your head and replace it with $59.
 

Jimster480

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#12
It's $129 now, solely because it's discontinued and priced on the third party market. It retailed for $59 in 2015, that's what I bought it new for from Amazon from the manufacturer.

You'd do well to rid the $129 figure from your head and replace it with $59.
Ah okay well if it was originally $59 then its not a bad showing for 2015.
 

Roen

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#13
I wonder if anyone sent amir the K1, now that you've brought it up lol.

V peak to peak is spec'ed at 3.25V so V rms is 3.25 * 0.5 * 1/sqrt(2) = 1.149V ish V for the K1, with 35 mW @ 32 ohms. So won't get as loud as the mDAC.
 

Jimster480

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#14
I wonder if anyone sent amir the K1, now that you've brought it up lol.

V peak to peak is spec'ed at 3.25V so V rms is 3.25 * 0.5 * 1/sqrt(2) = 1.149V ish V for the K1, with 35 mW @ 32 ohms. So won't get as loud as the mDAC.
he has one, he just hasn't tested it in the past year :p
 
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