When it comes to usb dac/amps there are endless options from different brands.
I thought it would be a good idea to list all of them and ask you guys which one do you think I should get ?
If you have any experience with any of these please let me know.
Also I am going to use a pair of sennheiser Hd560s with them that is somewhat an easy to drive headphone.

Here goes the list:

  1. Audio Quest Dragonfly Red/Black
    Black : ESS Sabre 9010 45mw @ 32 ohms
    Red : ESS Sabre 9016 135mw @ 32 ohms

  1. Earman Eagle/Sparrow
    Eagle : ESS Sabre 9281 60mw @ 32 ohms
    Sparrow : ESS Sabre 9281pro 60mw @ 32 ohms (SE) 110mw @ 32 ohms (BAL)

  1. Monolith USB DAC
    ESS ES9018K2M 2Vrms

  1. Audio Engine D3
    AKM4396 2Vrms

  1. Xduoo Link 2
    ESS Sabre 9118EC 150mw @ 32 ohms

  1. Lotoo Paw S1
    70mw @ 32 ohms (SE)
    120mw @ 32 ohms (BAL)

  1. Fiio BTR5
    ESS Sabre 9218P
    80mw @ 32ohms (SE)
    240mw @ 32ohms (BAL)

  1. Ibasso DC03/DC04 & DDHifi TC44B
    DC03 : 80mw @ 32 ohms (BAL) 60$
    DC04 : 195mw @ 32 ohms (BAL) 75$
    TC44B : 120mw @ 32 ohms (BAL) 90$

  1. HIDIZS S9
    90mw @ 32 ohms (SE)
    125mw @ 32 ohms (BAL)

Any help is appreciated

I guess Fiio BTR5 for BAL and Xduoo Link 2 for SE are the best ones.

You can also look at iBasso DC03 and DC04, they are somewhat more affordable models, but my experience with DC03 is great so far…

iBasso DC03 3.5mm 80mW @ 32 ohms
and DC04 4.4mm 195mW @ 32 ohms

I cant say for sure, but I feel like its even soundwise comparable to btr5…

1 Like

Hidizs S9 is good,Massdrop have actually the Earman on Drop.

1 Like

M-Audio Micro DAC

Possibly the only one to get you SPDIF (via Coax) for under 100€

Reviews are okay, no personal experience with it.

1 Like

Just be careful with Dragonfly. Sound wise it is something to enjoy; construction makes it very fragile. If you plug it once on both ends (USB and headphones) and also headphones have light cable (weight light) you should be ok. Frequent plugging/unplugging will stress the PCB and soldering will break. Happened to me and couple of other people around.

1 Like

The list doesn’t have any specific order so just because I listed it on top doesn’t mean they are better than other things on this list. If u ask me audio quest uses older dacs and produce less power compared to other amps on the list so I usually find them to be overpriced for what they offer but a great dac overall if u can afford red or cobalt ones.

I don’t know what your use case is but Earstudio has some alternatives you might want to look at.

Well, Amazon price is BS; I got my Red from official distributor and paid like 100 EUR. Sounded like a bargain back then. It was HUGE improvement over laptop DAC, paired with Grado SR125 gave me lot of joy. At the time, it was obvious choice as I needed something very portable, also for eventual use on-the-go. It died after a year of use. With my current work-from-home situation, Ill make different choice now and go for bigger/more rigid solution. Looks like Audio-GD R2R 11 is on top of the list - also because I like such non obvious choices, and Im quite close to MagnaHiFi place…

100 EUR for the red one ?! Crazy deal bro. Definently a bargain at that price.

Are you interested in running these balanced? Which I believe is possible with an aftermarket cable (?)
Are you interested in using portably, or stationary?

If SE/Stationary, I will be contrary and vote for Eagle.

And it came with 3 months Tidal trial… I just had a look, they have RED at 120 EUR now and Cobalt at 208 EUR. So still better than average Amazon price.

1 Like

Portable and bal or se

Looks like Luxury & Precision is coming out with a couple of new models with similar form factor to the Lotoo Paw S1. W1 and W2 are the model numbers. I’m curious as to what those will sound like, but I imagine they should compete well.

Oldest trick in the book is to use a extension cable. That way the extension cable can break but in this case the Dragonfly stays in the other end of that cable. Bit of velcro tape, easy remove and stay solution with no stress on actual thingy Dfly.
Works with USB drives also.

1 Like

I’ve spoken to a few people that have heard or owned the Paw S1 and speak very highly of it.
If I was in the market for one, I’d snag one of these or the L&P


Same here…may even pick one up for ‘in a pinch’ situations where i don’t want to carry my DAP around. Will probably wait until there’s some more info out on the L&Ps.

1 Like

How does L&P compare against paw or btr5 and sparrow ? And how much will it cost ?

I believe the L&P is still in development and have not been released yet. There are some prototype information passed around, but nothing more. I also have not heard the other products personally so cannot chime in there. My main experience with L&P are their higher end DAPs, which is certainly TOTL sound wise. The UI seems like it’s programmed by a high schooler, but at least the sound is worth it.


I recommend the Lotoo Paw S1 very enthusiastically. I like mine a lot for IEMs and headphones. I easily preferred it to the Dragonfly Red I had previously due to its richer, fuller sound and the better form factor. It also replaced my iFi Hip Dac for similar reasons. More refined sound in a much more pocketable package.

1 Like