DAP or portable DAC/Amp. Which to choose?

I’m fairly certain my Fiio M5 is starting to kick the bucket. While it’s given me the chance to try out the wireless lifestyle, I miss having a headphone jack.
I’ve considered dongles, but I can’t really find myself wanting to go that direction. Thusly, I’m back in the direction of a DAP or portable DAC/Amp. Taking stock of budgetary concerns right now, in budgeting ~$350, though I might be able to stretch to $400 max.
Bluetooth would be nice, but not necessary. Balanced would be a big plus. Something that can throw a little more power would be preferred, though it doesn’t “need” to be t50rp level. Would be nice, but I understand that’s asking alot at this price range.

Qudelix 5K is great. Balanced, up to 4V / 240mW. ESS ES9218P DAC in a dual DAC configuration (dual DAC on balanced only). More than enough for any IEM, but can also drive relatively demanding over-ears. This is I think 10x the power of your current M5.

Bluetooth with good range (better than Fiio BTR5 which I also have) and LDAC, or you can use it wired. It also has some nice little features like you can lock the LDAC sampling rate to 44.1kHz on the device, so your Android phone will always connect at this, without having to mess around in the settings. Also shows you the LDAC bitrate, so I can confirm my phone is doing 909kbps reliably. I can’t tell the difference between 909kbps LDAC (which is above average FLAC 44.1/16 bitrate) and wired. Very good PEQ built in, and AutoEQ profiles for hundreds of headphones built in on the device. Very small and light with a built-in clip, and you can just leave it clipped while you do the control from your phone.

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What? That’s not true. Data transfer rate for FLAC 44.1/16bit varies a lot and for my own library, most of them are above 909kbps. Even if the source file’s bitrate is lower than LDAC’s bitrate, it’s still not a lossless one. So don’t expect a lossless quality. The rest of the statement however is okay.

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44.1/16 is 1,411 kilobits per second
909kbps is 64% of this

Wikipedia reckons “Digital audio compressed by FLAC’s algorithm can typically be reduced to between 50 and 70 percent of its original size”

64% is on the higher end of this range

Looking through a few FLACs I have here, most 44.1/16 are actually below 909kbps. Not all. But most are.

I didn’t say LDAC was lossless, and I didn’t say FLAC compresses everything below 909kbps. But I do think it will with most stuff. It does indicate that LDAC’s bitrate is in fact very close to lossless, and I don’t think you’ll be able to distinguish a quality difference. I certainly can’t.

Sorry for the misunderstanding. I thought you might implied that it may be lossless by the way you put the parentheses.

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It’s a question of prestige.

The dac dongles have become so modern that they deliver good quality sound but are somewhat limited in amplification.
If Mobil’s 16/44 format and amplification is enough for you, it’s fine.
The consumption is also within limits.
And there is enough choice for every price.

Dac/Amp combo mobile can do a bit more.
Mainly the amplification is better, the Dac of course also because there is more space than with the Dac dongel.
The disadvantage is the battery that has to be charged after use and the consumption depending on the application of the headphones.

Dac dongel and Dac/amp combos both benefit from the Usb Audio Player app on Android.
For Apple there are no apps that improve the performance.
In principle, both can be used with a tablet or smartphone as well as on a PC.

Personally, I struggle a bit with these things.
Usually very expensive if you want to use the full functions.
Like playing offline content with streaming providers, the cheap Dap’s can’t do it for example.
The expensive ones can.
The performance is otherwise solid, apart from the fact that you can choose the format, I don’t see anything big. Advantage.
Since everything is played in 16/44 anyway with the streaming providers.
Another advantage is that the internal computer makes it mostly stable in operation.
Consumption can also be viewed depending on the application.
If I listen loudly and play a certain format in high resolution, the battery is quickly empty.
That’s why I see the Dap more as a prestige object.

An Ify Hip 2 or Ify blu might be enough for you, these combinations of Dac/amp can also be connected anywhere Pc, smartphone, tablet.
And very importantly, no matter whether it’s a tablet or a smartphone, you can still use it depending on the streaming provider if you have downloaded your playlist and don’t have a mobile phone network.


Just as a fair warning, I got to wake up and deal with this before any morning coffee, so be prepared for that.

So for the price range, that’s the best you could recommend. Okay.

Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source, as anyone can change it’s contents.


Never even heard of that before. I think Mobil I think petroleum: particularly motor oil.

You don’t need to convince me to go a direction I already said I don’t want to go.

… Do I come across as being that new?

Vs a higher drain on your phone’s battery, potentiality killing it significantly faster.

When compared to… built in players? Or are we talking compared to things like foobar2000 or the HiByMusic app?

It’s a good thing I refuse to use Apple then. -_-

If you say so.

It’s a good thing I don’t plan on doing that then.

Never would have guessed.

I… feel like we went from oxymoron into… I don’t know…

I feel like this was trying to continue off the last bit, but was broken off for whatever reason. Either way, not all streaming services are 16/44, unless you buy a high enough package.

He’s my question now not the one brought up from the very start, why did it take so long to explain that, and why did this entire post come across as you sitting someone who you seem to think knows nothing and walk them through everything, without considering the fact that maybe they’ve done some research and are more looking for recommendations then a lesson?

I’ve never heard of Ify… but I’ve heard of ifi. The GoBlu from my understanding is currently experiencing some QA issue with one channel dying. The Hip 2 is just the Hip 1 with MQA (no thank you) and a new color, at least so far as I can tell.

Joy. More lessons about shit I might have actually been aware of!

In the words of an old teacher… Thank you Helpy Helperton.

I’m sorry if it came across as a lesson to you - I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be.

Very few people have informed themselves in advance and should perhaps be given a rough idea of the advantages and disadvantages.
I couldn’t see that you had already done it.:innocent:

Please also consider that other people may access this post later when they use the search function here in the forum or Google.

In response to your question, you yourself were not sure whether you wanted a dongle or a mobile dac/amp or even a dap.

Maybe it could be easier for you if you tell us what you would like to have and be able to do.
Since most of this is out of the way now.

To answer your question again about streaming providers.
Generally, it’s always 16/44, especially on smartphones.
The smartphone or tablet cannot output higher than 16/44 unless an intergrated dac is installed.
Ergo, you don’t just use a Dac in some form for better sound, but to upscale the format.

On the smartphone and tablet, you can only make bitperfect and small settings.
The rest is the same as on the PC where you can select the highest resolution in the system control under the audio settings.
On the smartphone and tablet, you can set the audio player in the USB player.
If you do not use the player, Amazon, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify ect will always output 16/44 in their app.
Even if you have booked a Hifi subscription.
The only requirement is that the resolution can be changed in the app, which is often not the case.

If you have a Qubozz Hifi subscription, for example, that delivers 24/192 max.
Your smartphone can only deliver a maximum of 16/44.
If you use the dongel or Dac/amp you can then go to this resolution if it can be set or the Dac recognises it itself and displays it with control lights like the Dragonfly or the new Ify Dac/amp.
By means of the colour, it shows you the format being played.

If this function is important for you to check, you should consider buying a new device.
It’s a nice gimmick, but you can also see what you are paying for in the streaming provider’s subscription.

Z review also criticised the mobile Xudoo Dac/amp and chose it as one of its highlights for 2021.
Maybe it meets their expectations.

Incorrect. I said I considered dongles, but had ruled them out. I was considering mobile dac/amps or dad’s within that price range.

I want to be able to use my headphones or iems when I’m not at my desk again without having to resort to tws. Bluetooth is a nice to have, but not a must. Balanced tends to give more power, and I have headphones I’ve modded just so they can run balanced. I’m understanding that I can’t expect to be able to grab my Dekoni Blue (t50rp mkiii variation) and expect to be able to power it while sticking in this price range. However, I am aware that Planar Magnetic drivers, like my 7hz Timeless, can benefit from more power.
Now, if you need a more lengthy novel depicting how I would like to bring something to work and enjoy my lunch break with some music, I’ll be happy to come up with something JRR Tolkien style for you.

So Amazon music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, etc… All at the base level (free on those that have a free level) stream at 16bit/44.1khz? Or I don’t have to go up to a high tier paid version just to get that CD quality sound?

Do you have a large music library that doesn’t fit on your phone?
I have a hiby R5 that is a fantastic player but I rarely use it since I stream with my phone majority of the time instead of listening to my personal library.
I definitely recommend going amp/dac if you are streaming all the time.

I tend to use streaming apps when I’m driving, as I’m not as focused on the music and more on the road. My library will fit on my phone (though I can’t say 25GB doesn’t take up an insignificant amount of space). I’m running a Galaxy S21 right now, and spaced, forgetting the lack of expandable storage. Beyond that, the move to a phone with no headphone jack is the other complaint I really have with it. On a lunch break, doing grocery shopping, or when I’m doing chores, it would just be nice to forget the nonsense and enjoy my music.

So some recommendations I have and used would be ifi xcan, fiio Q1 mk2, earstudio es100 and for tws fiio utws3. All have their merits, I really enjoy the warm sound of the xCAN and the utws3 for convenience with my iems.

What phone are you rocking?

I’ve been a long-time iPhone user so using a DAP under $800 can be incredibly frustrating. Tried a lot of different options from HiBy and FiiO in the sub-$650 (up to the M11 Pro basically) and found all to be wanting (mostly in processing power and battery life) and ultimately returned them. I do have a ZX507 (that was about $800) that I’m content with.

All that to say, I find you want to spend more to get a DAP - you figure you aren’t just buying a DAC and an amp, you’re buying a lot more, namely a processor and some sort of OS, so your dollar is going to be stretched thinner. The simpler the device, the more bang for your buck potential. I have a collection of dongle-DACs for that reason. $300, or even $400, in the DAC/amp arena can get your pretty far.

There’s the usual offerings from iFi - Hip DAC (or Hip DAC V2 if you want the most recent one). I’m really enjoying my iFi GO Blu, BUT there is quite the hiss out the balanced port on sensitive IEMs. The FiiO Q3 is also great, but I frequently have to deal with interference sounds because of its proximity to my phone. I’ve had my eye on the XDuoo XD-05 for some time. The base model can output 500mW at 32ohms which is pretty great for only $155. If you need bluetooth, you can buy the bluetooth module for another $65. If you spend more, you can get the XD-05 Plus for $290 which can output a full Watt. And… if you want to get the top-tier version, you can get the XD-05 Balanced with (obviously) a balanced port, built-in bluetooth and that same 1000W output at 32ohms. Given your budget (and reviews), if you don’t need a balanced port, I’d go for the XD-05 Plus and add the bluetooth module (if you feel like you need it). It seems to have great reviews and that’s a lot of power output for really not that much money (comparatively).

Personally… I like variety, so I’d probably go from the XD-05 Basic (500mW is still pretty darn good) and with that extra cash in my budget, I’d spring for the GO Blu (if you aren’t trying to drive really sensitive IEMs on the 4.4 Balanced port).

I find smaller devices much easier to lose, and can be much more of a hassle. I’ve already indicated I’m not interested.

I have an xDuoo XD-05 (og), but found I like a warmer sound, like what I get from my Zen DAC v1 and TA-10. Kinda why it’s been relegated as a DAC for my TV. It and my Zen go into my Ol Switcher, which then output to my TA-10 and A100.

I’m not expecting to drive my Dekoni Blue (t50rp), but I do understand things like my 7hz Timeless with it’s Planar driver can benefit from more power.
The headphones I’d be taking portable (that I currently own) would probably consist of 99 Noir, m40x, 4XX, and SR80e. IEMs would be the Timeless of Starfield. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to take others with me, particularly if I get something that works well with my other headphones, but those would be the most likely.

Love the Hip DAC for 4XX!

I think the v2 would just be out of interest of getting the newest thing.

Ill keep an eye on my GO Blu, I haven’t had any issues with it yet.

If you like warmer sound, then iFi is probably you’re way to go. FiiO Q3 is on the cleaner side.

That’s nice…

Except I’m not on iPhone, and magsafe is an Apple technology, not a Samsung technology.

Are we starting to see a trend, or do I need to break this trend of not paying attention to what seems to exclusively be iPhone users about not paying attention, or going back and reading?
Or could you possibly explain to me how this little tid bit has any possible relevance to me what so ever?

Perhaps Hiby R5 Sabre could fit your bill or Xduoo XD05 Bal

I’ll probably wait and see what comes of the monthly yard sale and if nothing else, see any making my call then.


Yeah, put in my bid for a few items. We’ll see what comes of it

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