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Budget DAC for Android? And mini-review.

Discussion in 'DACs' started by Nixxuz, Dec 29, 2017.

  1. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    So I finally caved. I figured that there wasn't anything in particular I could do as an upgrade to my system that didn't involve a lot more money than I can justify spending right after the holiday season. So I started looking at DACs as I run most of my music from a larger tablet, straight out from the 3.5 to the preamp. I didn't figure there could be much that an expensive DAC would do compared to a cheap one. Most of the recommendations I see for DACs are either trying to get less noise because PC mobos have tons of interference, or people claiming a huge jump in quality and then explaining how much better 192khz sounds than 96khz...which really isn't physically possible.

    But I had a few bucks burning a hole in my pocket and figured EVERYONE out there posting reviews can't all be suffering from buyers confirmation right?

    So I just did a little dip into the waters. Got an FX-Audio DAC-X6 because it was cheap, and I figured there wasn't much to lose if I bought from Amazon. I could just return it if it made things sound worse, made no difference, or just didn't make enough of a difference.

    Got it today. I'll say I was somewhat impressed. I wasn't at all sure that it would function with Android, but I plugged it into a full sized USB port and it was off to the races. No drivers or anything. Tablet automatically cut off the 3.5 output and it shot right through the DAC. I was fairly impressed because nothing ever works that way.

    And the sound...it quite possibly could have been some sort of coloring from the DAC or just a volume boost, but it DID sound better. Crisper highs, same mids roughly, and quite as bit of additional low end signal, as evidenced by my subwoofer walking right up to the door for a visit. I thought I could discern a bit more separation on "Aja", and Michael Hedges came through with a bit more vibrancy on Taproot.

    Then within 15 minutes I heard a definite "tap". It was like a digital metronome behind the music. Tuned my preamp down and my source all the way up and there it was "tk...tk...tk...tk...tk" Damn, I thought, it's already going to hell...or maybe I just didn't notice it before because of the way my volumes are setup. Full on my power amp. Half mast on my preamp. Use the tablet volume for actual adjustments. Then I hoped that maybe it was some sort of "breaking in"...but I know enough about digital to know that shouldn't be a thing.

    About 5 minutes after this it died. It turns on, but plugging or unplugging the USB cord causes the indicator light to flash momentarily and then go dark, and no signal is coming out of it. I tried with both my PC and the tablet and nothing.

    So back to Amazon it goes, and now I have around $65+whatever I add to it because I can't NOT get another DAC right?

    So what should I be looking at?
     

     

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  2. NeedForSpeed

    NeedForSpeed Living In The Past Subscriber

    Messages:
    24,565
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    The Maverick D1 or D2 Tube DAC has a nice smooth sound, Is easily upgraded. There's a huge thread here on AK on the upgrades.
     
  3. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    They seem very nice, but I think I'm looking at around $80-$120, not quite up into 2 or 3 bills, since I didn't really even get enough time with the FX Audio to know how much of an upgrade it was.
     
    NeedForSpeed likes this.
  4. NeedForSpeed

    NeedForSpeed Living In The Past Subscriber

    Messages:
    24,565
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    I see them used from time to time. Understand budget limits, Good luck!
     
  5. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Starting to look at the SMSL Sanskrit 6th. Decent price and supports Android.
     
  6. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,202
    Location:
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    Audioquest Dragonfly would be my suggestion.
     

     

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  7. gvl

    gvl Super Member

    Messages:
    1,044
    You want a self-powered DAC or a powered USB hub between Android and the DAC to avoid battery drain. Many here are happy with their Topping D30. One problem with Android is that it tends to resample everything when using stock media player or say Spotify. There are player apps out there that can do bit-perfect out to DAC - do some reserarch. If you don't play hi-res Chromecast Audio for $35, or often $25 when on sale, could be your ticket to happiness too.
     
  8. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I use PowerAmp for my tablet. It labels both bitrate and res for each file. And I usually try and get the highest quality available. Also, I should explain that the tablet is a fixed media player. Its not brought around with me. And I don't really ever use headphones. The tablet also has 2 full sized USB 2.0 ports in the detachable base. So I don't need a portable DAC.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  9. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

    Messages:
    233
    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    I use a schiit fulla 2 ($99) and USB Audio Player Pro (10 bucks, and a lot of F2 users find it necessary in android for that DAC)

    The F2 is a nice little combo - USB and analog in, headphone, line and variable out. No battery, but a power-only USB port.

    Sounds good, the I/o jacks are all mini with very little room around them - I needed to whittle one of my mini to rca adapters to get proper seating.
     
  10. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Well, being as I'm semi-broke from the holidays I'm going to give "FX Audio" the benefit of the doubt and just get it replaced as opposed to buying something else. I did like the sound, and I know it works with my music player. I'm gonna cross my fingers and hope the other one was a one-off QC issue. And if this one craps out they lose a customer. It's not like all this ChiFi stuff isn't all made in the same factories and has different company names stamped on them anyways. It could have been a Douk or an SMSL or any number of other components that failed right away. It seems that if they work, people are generally really happy with a cheap piece of equipment that does what it's supposed to do very well for the price point. It's just that whole "1-10 don't work for more than a few days" aspect that puts a person off. But considering I put it in the mail yesterday around noon and within 28 hours got my refund, I'm confidant in Amazon, even if not so much with FX Audio.
     
  11. E.Auer

    E.Auer Super Member

    Messages:
    2,024
    Location:
    Lobster Pot
    There are thousands of manufacturers in the electronics field in China, that all offer quality based on pricing deals.

    To assume that all "Chi-Fi" is made in some fictional "Central Peoples Manufacturing Plant" is a tad naive.

    Read up on what's going on in Chinese tech manufacturing, It's not what it used to be and hasn't been for a while...

    Eric
     

     

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  12. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Well, I mean you can literally SEE that SMSL stuff is the exact same as Douk Audio which is the exact same as NobSound...etc.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The difference is the power switch being in front on the SMSL and the back on the NobSound. ALMOST all of these units are shipped from Shenzhen, which IS an admittedly large city. I understand that there are many quality units from China, notably Yaquin and Oldchen to name a couple.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    E.Auer likes this.
  13. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,887
    Location:
    Las Vegas
    Now that I think about it, except for the speakers my entire main system is Chinese.
     
  14. John James

    John James "Bob's your uncle" (Stolen) Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,416
    Location:
    Piney Flats, Tn.
    ^ ^ ^

    Do you feel a hunger to listen to it again shortly after a session? :)
     
    Wildcat and ldatlof like this.
  15. timblade68

    timblade68 Active Member

    Messages:
    210
    Location:
    Sunshine State.....U.S.A
    you got a lemon no doubt. I have been running 2 FX-Audio DAC-X6 for about a year, for the price they are very, very good, great audio from usb laptop to headphone.The 2d DAC is integrated to my Yamaha main system, awesome, I use it for Pandora steam and even the optical connect from the cd player is top notch.
     
  16. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Well, considering Amazons return policy, I'm going to audition the X6 for a week, then give the Sanskrit a try as well, then maybe the Dragonfly Red. Amazon doesn't seem to have a problem with returns for any reason, and I get credit with them the next day. So I'm out a buck a pop for UPS dropoff and it allows me to try out a few units at different price points and see what I really like. I'm sure there is more to it than just measurements, but I did read the teardown on audio science and it fared kind of badly there. Though it's possible it's deficiencies were outside the range of hearing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018

     

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  17. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    So I'm the dumbest guy ever. It turns out that the X6 I sent back PROBABLY worked fine. I was unaware that the USB indicator light on it didn't actually light up unless you have an ACTIVE signal running to it. So unless I was playing something through the tablet, it didn't show that it was getting a signal.

    Doh.

    And on top of that, I got the new unit and hooked everything up AND... that goddamn metronome tick tick tick again. Now I knew it was something on my end. First assumation, (not that word!) was that my cheap giant tablet keyboard/docking base had shitty USB ports. I figure it's worth the hassle to just plug it directly into the tablet via mini USB. BUT WAIT! the X6 only has USB Type B to USB type A connector. No big deal right?

    THERE ARE NO DAMN USB B TO MINI USB CONNECTORS IN MY TOWN.

    Seriously, I had to buy a $20 adapter kit, and then mutilate it to make my own connection.

    And then it didn't work. No signal to or from the tablet. Worked with the base USB, but not directly to the tablet...

    In desperation I looked up the problem on Google and found something stating that it was obviously the signal from the tablet getting degraded in some way. I figured it wouldn't hurt to try, so I downloaded a copy of Foobar2K and tried playing tracks on that.

    SUCCESS! But I hate FB2Ks interface and lack of certain things, and I PAID for PowerAmp. So I try PowerAmp again.

    No damn ticking. It's perfect now. What. The. Hell.

    Unplug the X6 and try it again. Ticking. Run a track through VLC. No ticking. Run it through PowerAmp. No ticking.

    Apparently, somehow PowerAmp was my problem and that problem is rectified if, and only if, another program does a proper handshake with the tablets USB controller and allows correct output. PowerAmp THEN seems to take over that handshake and functions just fine. I'm still not entirely sure why it works, but it does.

    And I'm happy with the sound I'm getting from the X6. Although it's almost TOO analytical. I think I just need time for my ears to adjust. Failing that, maybe a tube swap in my Little Dot. In any case, it's got more punch, and what APPEARS to be a better frequency range. I'm very happy for $65. But I still might audition the Sanskrit. I'm just not sure how much of a difference it'll make compared to the X6.

    Anyway, thought I'd share.
     
  18. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,301
    Location:
    MI, US
    @Nixxuz You might try USB Audio Player Pro--it was designed to utilize the USB port on these devices to send audio to an external DAC. It will even handle DSD if your DAC can take it.
     
  19. olderroust

    olderroust AK Member

    Messages:
    233
    Location:
    286 miles south of arcata
    I wound up buying USB Audio Player Pro so I could use my fulla 2 in Android - it's the only reliable way to get the F2 to work in Android for many people, me included. It works well and if you don't have your DAC connected it will fail over to using the onboard audio.
     
  20. Nixxuz

    Nixxuz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    797
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Thanks for the advice. I ended up liking the FX Audio. My tablet defaults to onboard as well if the DAC isn't connected. Next purchase is probably going to be some room treatment, as I really can't afford some of the "next step" kind of gear. I will say that, to my ears, the X6 has made a difference. I'm not as sure of how much a difference a better DAC will make before I get some of that stuff out of the way.

    (as I start eyeing a different, more expensive preamp...)
     

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