User Review The best (budget) USB DAC AMP - Apple USB C to 3.5mm

Hi all,
This might seem a bit of a strange review but this has been one of the most surprising purchases for me. I had been searching for USB based DAC AMP from about 2 months, and came to know about Apple's type c to 3.5 dongle about 2 weeks ago (made for the newer iPad Pros which don't have a 3.5mm jack for some reason only God knows), and in one word I would review it as: fantabulous!

First things first, the primary reason tjic caught my eye was because it was the cheapest USB DAC AMP on Amazon from a known brand (to me) at INR 900. I did a bit of research and lo, it's actually really good. Other reviewers online, who've done a far better review on the technical aspects of it than I ever will be able to, have found that the noise floor and signal to noise ratio of this little thing is comparable to stuff which costs more than 100USD! I even saw one review (for the A2155 version specifically which is sold here in India) that it actually had db higher Snr than even the Chord Mojo, a DAC AMP which retails for 35k on headphonezone!

Coming to my usage and experience, I will be using these primarily with my triple driver IEMs - Signature Acoustics Raven. Before coming to how theey sound through the dongle, a bit of background - I like listening to a slighly V shape sound quality, and value detail. Before getting this dac amp, I was listening to music via my laptop's (Acer Nitro 7 i7 9750H GTX 1650) internal audio header via MusicBee (sometimes via Dolby), and through my phone (Vivo V15 Pro) using JetAudio+ and heavy use of equalisers. I listen to 320kbps MP3 (with the occasional flac/wav thrown in) and YouTube for recommendations.

My benchmark for sound quality was the detailed preset through Dolby Atmos' Gaming preset, and those were previously the best my IEMs had ever sounded. The stock audio quality from my laptop was very muffled with muddy bass and no Soundstage.
With Atmos, I experienced (relatively) wide Soundstage in IEMs for the first time, and started noticing much mkre details. But bass was still mostly muddy. I was willing to accept this compromise, and did so for the past 8 months or so.

Now, I'm not exaggerating when I say this, but this 900INR dongle blows even Atmos's sound quality away. Superb clarity, wide Soundstage, much tighter and very well controlled bass, comfortable yet very smooth highs and all that. Music had never sounded so good before.

As a bonus, even the mic sounds better through these dongle, and the one button remote on my IEMs actually works via these on Windows which wasn't the case before.

So in a nutshell, to all beginner and budget audiophiles (and actually even those higher up in the game) , I would absolutely recommend these. The best QoL improvement I've experienced yet in my audio journey.

The only thing that is a hit concerning is the build quality, but since I'm still using my stock iPad cable from 2016 hopefully this will last at least as long as that. You do need to be a bit careful handling it since the 3.5jack is quite tight and if you aren't careful, you might easily break the thin wire.

PS: doesn't really work that well with Androids, or at least on a Xiaomi Mi A1, Samsung S8+, Poco X3. Volume is really low and I don't think the dongle's DAC is being utilised since there's no difference in SQ for Android phones.
Also my reference point for reviews of this dongle while researching was chiefly the below website:
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20210402_022128.jpg
    IMG_20210402_022128.jpg
    72.6 KB · Views: 79
  • IMG_20210402_022214.jpg
    IMG_20210402_022214.jpg
    128.8 KB · Views: 77

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
You may want to try and use USB Audio Player PRO in Android and see if it detects it.
Ah I'll try that out next time, tho not sure when since my primary phone is the Vivo which had only a micro USB in 2019 for some reason. Anyway, thanks for the advice! And yea I'm quite staggered at the quality difference, and moreover at the fact that Apple has actually managed to produce one of the best dacs at some of the lowest prices.
Going back to the laptop's stock aux port feels like I'm listening to headphones under water lol, compared to the super good nature of these.

Also a small update: I've cancelled my Dolby Atmos for Windows subscription lol
 
Last edited:

Nalin

Well-Known Member
Skilled
I have used this adapter and though these offer really good tonality for the price and certainly lot better general Androids. But nothing can beat the early Apple devices like iPad Mini, iPhone 5s with Cirrus Logic/Wofson imho. I had Shanling UP2 and that was lot, lot better then this dongle.
 

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
I have used this adapter and though these offer really good tonality for the price and certainly lot better general Androids. But nothing can beat the early Apple devices like iPad Mini, iPhone 5s with Cirrus Logic/Wofson imho. I had Shanling UP2 and that was lot, lot better then this dongle.
Yea I had a look at the Shanling UP2 and would love to have it but I didn't know audio equipment could be so expensive haha. I can only imagine how good it would sound and other better audio equipment. For now I'm happy with this, but in a year or two once I have a bit more vitamin M I'll look at another upgrade perhaps XD
 

Goodfella

Member
Disciple
I got a question. Maybe its a silly one, so bear with me.
My laptop's 3.5mm jack is not working, as well as the the speakers. :/
But it has a usb type-c port which I never used. So, my question is can I use this dac or whatever to connect ear/headphones. Will it work ?
 

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
I got a question. Maybe its a silly one, so bear with me.
My laptop's 3.5mm jack is not working, as well as the the speakers. :/
But it has a usb type-c port which I never used. So, my question is can I use this dac or whatever to connect ear/headphones. Will it work ?
Yep, this will work for that purpose. My laptops's 3.5mm jack never properly worked with my earphone's mic and one button remote, but this dongle works beautifully. Only caveat is that it's s a bit fragile so I wouldn't recommend unplugging and replugging it often.
 

nick.knack91011

Active Member
Disciple
I have used this adapter and though these offer really good tonality for the price and certainly lot better general Androids. But nothing can beat the early Apple devices like iPad Mini, iPhone 5s with Cirrus Logic/Wofson imho. I had Shanling UP2 and that was lot, lot better then this dongle.
The apple dongle also has a cirrus logic 46L06-CWZR which can amplify too. You can read about it.

You can always get better if you spend more but for the price and for qc that apple maintain this is best bang for buck usb c to 3.5mm cable easily.

Old wolfsons in earlier ipods / iphones though were very different yeah, sounded very musical ish. I am a fan too
 

PoBoy

Well-Known Member
Skilled
Two things I found out after I got this :

- It seems there are 2 versions of this adapter. The A2155 (European version) has 0.5 Vrms output while the A2049 (US version) has 1 Vrms output. I got the Euro version from Amazon.in,

- With a PC/laptop only works with Windows 10 (not 7 or 8.1). Actually I made the switch to 10 only after I got these.
 

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
It seems there are 2 versions of this adapter. The A2155 (European version) has 0.5 Vrms output while the A2049 (US version) has 1 Vrms output. I got the Euro version from Amazon.in,
I think the head-fit and audisoscience reviews linked above are for the A2155 variant. Also even this 0.5vrm version is pretty sufficient for most but very high impedance stuff. I find that I have to keep windows volume at just around 8-12 compared to 20-24 from the laptop 3.5mm jack. Also I'd ordered directly from Apple India store and still got the A2155 version if it matters. I think only the US gets the 1vrm version, rest of the world gets euro spec 0.5vrm version.
- With a PC/laptop only works with Windows 10 (not 7 or 8.1). Actually I made the switch to 10 only after I got these.
Oh that's unfortunate to know. I'll test with Linux (arch as well as Debian) in a few days/weeks and update if it works with it.
 
Last edited:

Nalin

Well-Known Member
Skilled
The apple dongle also has a cirrus logic 46L06-CWZR which can amplify too. You can read about it.

You can always get better if you spend more but for the price and for qc that apple maintain this is best bang for buck usb c to 3.5mm cable easily.

Old wolfsons in earlier ipods / iphones though were very different yeah, sounded very musical ish. I am a fan too
Wolfson was acquired by Cirrus Logic, Apple was using some of the best chips available back then no doubt.
 

nick.knack91011

Active Member
Disciple
Two things I found out after I got this :

- It seems there are 2 versions of this adapter. The A2155 (European version) has 0.5 Vrms output while the A2049 (US version) has 1 Vrms output. I got the Euro version from Amazon.in,

- With a PC/laptop only works with Windows 10 (not 7 or 8.1). Actually I made the switch to 10 only after I got these.

thats because of eu restrictions on sound limit above certain dbs, even daps etc released there cant output more than certain Vrms , phones sometimes tpo. But kinda wierd why they would sell that on Indian amazon or apple store , that shouldnt be the case normally i feel
 
Last edited:

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
For anyone wanting to get this dongle-like value but for harder-to-drive headphones, I will be doing a comparison between this and the Tempotec Sonata HD Pro in the upcoming weeks. Spoiler: If you have a budget of 5k for a DAC/AMP combo, skip the Apple and go ahead with the Sonata. It's well worth the 5x price increase, and can make even my Hifiman HE400i (2020) sing! The Apple dongle sounded hollow and underpowered in comparison.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_20210508_231752.jpg
    IMG_20210508_231752.jpg
    184.5 KB · Views: 40
Last edited:

deezcnuts

Well-Known Member
Disciple
I got an apple dongle recently and it works very well for me with UE TF10 for times where I dont want to turn on and use my tube amp and speakers. Pretty happy with the sound quality

How does it work on pc? Does it work plug and play? Or needs some setup? Do these dongles support mic input too?
Thanks.
 

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
How does it work on pc? Does it work plug and play? Or needs some setup?
Plug and play, no drivers or setup needed at all. Can't imagine anything easier.

Do these dongles support mic input too?

Yep. I've mentioned this in the review as well:
As a bonus, even the mic sounds better through these dongle, and the one button remote on my IEMs actually works via these on Windows which wasn't the case before.
 
Top