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Review and Measurements of ENCORE mDSD DAC & Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the ENCORE mDSD portable DAC and headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The mDSD costs USD $126 on Amazon with free (non prime) shipping.

The encore is quite chunky and blocks adjacent USB ports as a result:

ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

It is a solid chunk of aluminum so no worries about throwing this in your case/backpack when travelling.

There are a set of volume up/down controls. They adjust the output level without being connected to the Windows/OS volume control which is nice.

There is not a whole lot to talk about here as far as operation other than it running a bit warm so power consumption is going to be on the high side.

DAC Audio Measurements
Our dashboard shows that typical of many of these portable DACs, the output level is insufficient (less than 2 volt) to be reliably used as a pure DAC:

ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


THD+N is just slightly over the spec (which is measured using different conditions). That places the SINAD at 84 dB or so which is not great news as DACs go:
ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier SINAD Audio Measurements.png


For grins I ran the linearity test and was surprised to see how clean it is for a portable product:

ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Some care has gone into the design of mDSD.

The main usage here is as a headphone amp so let's measure that.

Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements
Most important thing here is power versus distortion. Here it is using 300 ohm load which emphasizes amount of voltage to drive high impedance headphones:
ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier Power at 300 ohm Audio Measurements.png


Definitely not a competition for desktop products. Ditto for 33 ohm load which measures amount of current available for lower impedance headphones:
ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier Power at 33 ohm Audio Measurements.png


We are clipping at just 38 milliwatts.

Putting these in context of other such "dongles" we get:
Portable DAC and Headphone Amplifier 300 Ohm Power Ratings.png


Portable DAC and Headphone Amplifier 33 Ohm Power Ratings.png


With 300 ohm, we have good distance between mDSD and $9 headphone dongles. At 33 ohm though, the gap is much smaller and this is a miss.

Output impedance is excellently low at just 1.1 ohm (very close to limit of what I measure):
Headphone Output Impedance.png


Here is the dynamic range at full volume and 50 mv with the latter being a better indicator of performance of IEMs with respect to noise:
ENCORE mDSD DAC and Portable Headphone Amplifier Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Putting the 50 mv number in context of others we get:
Portable DAC and Headphone Amplifier Dynamic Range at 50 mv Ratings.png


So not great.

Headphone Listening Tests
My ears are on strike for a week longer due to having a cold. So no listening test but you should be able to determine performance from power levels.

Conclusions
$125 is a lot of money for a dongle. While I can't find anything broken in mDSD, there are other choices with more power which is my preference. At the same time, mDSD does better than some branded products like Dragonfly Black.

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

I read an unusual cure for my cold: turn your monitor upside down and try to read it. Apparently it makes your sinuses drain better even though it is the monitor that is upside down and not your head. Anyway, my monitor won't turn upside down so need money to get one that does. So please donate generously using:

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Roen

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#2
Encore's target at the time, I believe, was in between the Red and the Black, and I think they've made it.

But since they've released it, there's been many better.

I believe I bought my mDSD for either $79 or $99, as it's discontinued now.
 

Roen

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#6
I just checked.

I paid $620 HK on 9/29/2016
FX rate was 7.75672438 USDHKD

So I paid $79.93 USD.
 
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