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Speaka USB DAC and Headphone Amp Dongle Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of an "old friend," the Speaka portable USB DAC and Headphone dongle. I say old friend as it is one of the first devices I tested and I gave it high marks. The unit was donated to me from a member in Germany. Shortly after the unit was no longer available at least in US. But another one, the
XtremPro X1-1 seems to be the same guts and is available for US $31 from Amazon including prime shipping.

I was requested -- and literally bribed with money -- to remeasure the Speaka with my new analyzer and metrics so comparisons become easier.

If you have seen one dongle, you have seen them all:

Speaka USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier Dongle Review.jpg

There are a couple of LEDs on it but I did not pay attention to what they do. :)

USB DAC Audio Measurements
Here is our usual dashboard:
Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle Audio Measurements.png


I had to dial down the input by 1 dB as otherwise it clipped and performance dropped good bit.

SINAD (distortion and noise) is not competitive with desktop products of course:

Best USB Audio Dongle DAC Headphone.png


Dynamic Range is good enough for 16 bit music:
Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Jitter performance is surprisingly good and is not what we typically see in dongles:

Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle jitter Audio Measurements.png


Linearity falls in the same category:
Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Intermodulation distortion versus level shows the large gap between desktop DACs and dongles:
Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle IMD Audio Measurements.png


Here are the power measurements into 300 and 33 ohm loads:
Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle Power into 300 ohms Audio Measurements.png


Speaka USB DAC Headphone Amplifier Dongle Power into 33 ohms Audio Measurements.png


Better yet is to look at how they rate relative to other portable products:
Most powerful headphone amplifier 300 ohm.png


The above is difficult to achieve since it requires high output level. Speaka does very well there far outperforming products like AudioQuest Dragonfly Black.

Similarly good performance exists at 33 ohm:
Most powerful headphone amplifier 33 ohm.png


Output impedance is very low (and hence good):

Best headphone amplifier output impedance measurement.png


Headphone Listening Test
I connected my Sennheiser HD-650 to Speaka and once again I was impressed with level of fidelity and loudness. There certainly was enough to enjoy music with this little dongle. I sensed no distortion from the Speaka even at full volume in the few clips I tested.

Conclusions
It was a relief to find the Speaka to perform well as a dongle. No, it doesn't come remotely close to Desktop Amps and DACs. But for a little dongle that costs the same as a reasonable dinner out for one, it provides good and usable performance.

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

Have to go and buy a bunch of mulch today to cover the massive amount of weeds that have grown in the front yard which I have not trimmed due to review load. Since you all are my partner in crime here, I appreciate you all donating as much as you can toward the purchase of the mulch using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

beefkabob

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#2
Best part of this review is you admitting you can be bribed to review something. Just made my donation. Now go review... the stock stereo on a 1969 drop top Datsun 510!
 

Tks

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#3
$31,

96db DR,

Jitter under audible levels,

Power that can be taken all the way to low IMD levels without blowing your ears to pieces,

1.5ohm Output impudence.

Am I the only one who enjoys seeing how much performance can be squeezed out at such ridiculously low prices?

And all wrapped up in a lovely bribed review?! Thanks bossman!
 

bobbooo

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#5
Thanks, decent measurements, but it doesn't seem to be any better than a smartphone (or the Apple dongle). I suppose it might be worth it if you need a bit more power on the cheap, in exchange for higher distortion.
 

bunkbail

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#6
Thanks for the review, I was the one who requested for it. I own an XtremePro X1 dongle, it sounds better than my SMSL iDEA and sounds the same vs Chord Mojo. I'm a bit surprised it doesn't measure as good as the other two, but still decent nonetheless.
 

Rja4000

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#7
it doesn't seem to be any better than a smartphone (or the Apple dongle).
We'd better stop with refering to this ridiculous Apple dongle, in my opinion.
In Europe its performance is just awful.
And for all countries its reliability is nonexistent.
 

bunkbail

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#8
We'd better stop with refering to this ridiculous Apple dongle, in my opinion.
In Europe its performance is just awful.
And for all countries its reliability is nonexistent.
Agreed. I already got 2 units died on me. And it doesn't even output 2V (only 1V IIRC).
 

bobbooo

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#9
We'd better stop with refering to this ridiculous Apple dongle, in my opinion.
In Europe its performance is just awful.
And for all countries its reliability is nonexistent.
The US version is one of the best performing dongles @amirm has measured, for just $9. Don't think you can expect much more than that. As for differences with the European version, maybe he can get hold of one to measure and settle that for sure. Having said all this, neither are likely much or any better than a modern flagship smartphone with a 3.5mm jack, so the use case is mostly limited to cheap smartphones or PCs/laptops with poor onboard audio.
 

Rja4000

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#10
The US version is one of the best performing dongles @amirm has measured, for just $9. Don't think you can expect much more than that. As for differences with the European version, maybe he can get hold of one to measure and settle that for sure. Having said all this, neither are likely much or any better than a modern flagship smartphone with a 3.5mm jack, so the use case is mostly limited to cheap smartphones or PCs/laptops with poor onboard audio.
A2155 is NOT GOOD[/QUOTE
Click on the link (my username) above.
0.52Vrms, 79dB SINAD, stops working after a few days...

No need for a 30k$ device to measure such weak performance.
 
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bobbooo

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#11
Click on the link (my username) above.
0.52Vrms, 79dB SINAD, stops working after a few days...

No need for a 30k$ device to measure such weak performance.
Mine's been working fine for months, you must have just received a defective unit. That, combined with the fact that neither you nor Amir have measured both the US and EU versions on the same equipment, means an accurate, direct comparison can't be made unless that's done.
 

Rja4000

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#12
Mine's been working fine for months, you must have just received a defective unit. That, combined with the fact that neither you nor Amir have measured both the US and EU versions on the same equipment, means an accurate, direct comparison can't be made unless that's done.
Hi
Others have confirmed european version is limited to 0.5V, and reliability issues are not just with mine.
The measurement was of course done before the device stopped working completely.
No need for a 30k$ hardware analyzer to qualify a 20dB difference.
My Note 9's direct output measures way better.

I just want to say that we should stop refering to this as a proper DAC choice. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. That's not due to Amir's measurements, but to reliability and results inconsistency.
As for a demonstration that a cheap DAC may perform well, there are better examples, in my opinion.

Sorry for the digression.
 
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#13
What's the point of these mediocre full-sized USB dongles? Have you been able to compare the results vs a 3.5mm output from a middle of the road laptop?
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #14
D

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#16
Hi
Others have confirmed european version is limited to 0.5V, and reliability issues are not just with mine.
The measurement was of course done before the device stopped working completely.
No need for a 30k$ hardware analyzer to qualify a 20dB difference.
My Note 9's direct output measures way better.

I just want to say that we should stop refering to this as a proper DAC choice. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. That's not due to Amir's measurements, but to reliability and results inconsistency.
As for a demonstration that a cheap DAC may perform well, there are better examples, in my opinion.

Sorry for the digression.

There's no difference between European and US versions. It's simply an issue with Android. The dongle has low output power on Android phones. Evem Amir mentioned this compatibility issue on Android phones.

Put it in a Macbook or a PC with USB Type-C output and it works perfectly fine. I regularly buy things from US Amazon and I've heard no differences between US and European versions.
 

bobbooo

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#17
There's no difference between European and US versions. It's simply an issue with Android. The dongle has low output power on Android phones. Evem Amir mentioned this compatibility issue on Android phones.

Put it in a Macbook or a PC with USB Type-C output and it works perfectly fine. I regularly buy things from US Amazon and I've heard no differences between US and European versions.
I tried the EU Apple dongle from a PC and it outputs 0.5V. Have you tried it from a PC yourself?
 

Rja4000

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#18
There's no difference between European and US versions. It's simply an issue with Android. The dongle has low output power on Android phones. Evem Amir mentioned this compatibility issue on Android phones.

Put it in a Macbook or a PC with USB Type-C output and it works perfectly fine. I regularly buy things from US Amazon and I've heard no differences between US and European versions.
Sorry, but that's simply not true.

I tried it from the laptop USB-C and I get the same result. And same poor measurements..
Those dongles have different hardware for different markets. They also have different model number.
 
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D

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#19
I haven't done any measurements, so I will not make any comment there. But in terms of SPL, I found both to perform as good on a couple of Windows laptops and a newer motherboard with USB Type-C output. They also performed equally "bad" on Android phones.
 

bobbooo

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#20
I haven't done any measurements, so I will not make any comment there. But in terms of SPL, I found both to perform as good on a couple of Windows laptops and a newer motherboard with USB Type-C output. They also performed equally "bad" on Android phones.
Do you have a digital multimeter? It's very easy to measure the voltage output if you do.
 
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