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:
 

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msankadi

Well-Known Member
Adept
I have bought a usb c to 3.5mm dongle from one plus which is similar to this and again is reviewed very fairly as well. I use it to attend calls and works perfectly very loud and clear. Have to keep the volume to about 25%.Listened to a couple of music songs as well, sounded atleast as good as my lenovo p2 3.5mm jack output.

Just cost me 350 bucks.

However the market is flooded with duplicates of one plus' usb c to 3.5mm adapter. Would recommend you to buy it directly from one plus website. Most times it is sold out but i got it in 2 days, you can set a notification on their website.
 

prime

Well-Known Member
Adept
I am using PCM2704 to run Swans M10 (or JBL 104BT) on Windows 10 desktop and I am somewhat happy with it.

If I replace PCM2704 with A2155, will I get better audio?
 

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
I am using PCM2704 to run Swans M10 (or JBL 104BT) on Windows 10 desktop and I am somewhat happy with it.

If I replace PCM2704 with A2155, will I get better audio?
According to a user on audiosciencereview, it does seem so:
 

prime

Well-Known Member
Adept

TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
Not sure about buying a type c to a convertor myself since I use it with my laptop's type c port, but I would venture a guess that generic ones may not be up to the task - they are pretty low quality and might have grounding/noise issues. Personally I'd go for this one since one of my friends got this after going through 2 or 3 generic ones which crapped out in a week or so (which were bought not for this dac but for more general purpoe use).
Or maybe @PoBoy and @SunnyBoi could guide you, since they seem to be using a convertor as well?
 

prime

Well-Known Member
Adept
Not sure about buying a type c to a convertor myself since I use it with my laptop's type c port, but I would venture a guess that generic ones may not be up to the task - they are pretty low quality and might have grounding/noise issues. Personally I'd go for this one since one of my friends got this after going through 2 or 3 generic ones which crapped out in a week or so (which were bought not for this dac but for more general purpoe use).
Or maybe @PoBoy and @SunnyBoi could guide you, since they seem to be using a convertor as well?
Thanks, Placed order for "Apple USB-C to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter". :)

Will wait for @PoBoy and @SunnyBoi 's suggestions for USB adapter.
 

prime

Well-Known Member
Adept
According to a user on audiosciencereview, it does seem so:
Got it. It's no more fragile like apple cables because of heat shrink wrap (idea taken from the audiosciencereview thread). :)
 

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TheCoolerPlayer

Well-Known Member
Disciple
Got it. It's no more fragile like apple cables because of heat shrink wrap (idea taken from the audiosciencereview thread). :)
Ayy that looks damn good. I'm also interested in doing the same actually but where do I begin? Any links/tutorials would be much appreciated, thanks!
 

deezcnuts

Well-Known Member
Disciple
I am thinking of buying the apple dac with kz Zsn pro to get a taste of audiophile audio. Will this be a good pairing? Or do I need to spend a bit more to be able notice some difference? Would like to keep budget below 3k.
 

SunnyBoi

Branch Manager
Patron
I am thinking of buying the apple dac with kz Zsn pro to get a taste of audiophile audio. Will this be a good pairing? Or do I need to spend a bit more to be able notice some difference? Would like to keep budget below 3k.
I was using the apple DAC with my UE triplefi IEMs and I can say they are a very good match.

Are they good? ofcourse they are!
Is it worth 900rs? Hell yes, nothing else comes close and gives you more than 900rs worth of improvement
Is it the best? Nope.

I next tried the apple DAC with my hifiman devas. It surprisingly was able to drive it but it sounded flat. Maybe its not a good match or a better pair of headphones will bring out its deficiencies.

Shameless plug : I'm putting mine for sale soon :D too many DACs not enough ears lol
 

fanboiapple

Member
Recruit
I was using the apple DAC with my UE triplefi IEMs and I can say they are a very good match.

Are they good? ofcourse they are!
Is it worth 900rs? Hell yes, nothing else comes close and gives you more than 900rs worth of improvement
Is it the best? Nope.

I next tried the apple DAC with my hifiman devas. It surprisingly was able to drive it but it sounded flat. Maybe its not a good match or a better pair of headphones will bring out its deficiencies.

Shameless plug : I'm putting mine for sale soon :D too many DACs not enough ears lol
buddy I've started conversation with u do check it out...
 

quaratineinthesejeans

Justiceforall
Skilled
This is possibly the best hardware Apple is making these days. Bought a pair after returning APM from the same Apple store ( it was the cheapest thing available there) and completely forgotten about them.
LG's gram series of laptops have very clean headphones outputs ( something that no reviews mention) Used one of the dongles with the laptop...oh boy!! It's really pristine clean with pitch black background.
It's so difficult to hate Apple at times..they have everything to make beautiful audio products..it's so clean that I can completely ditch the UAD Apollo Twin ( the older one) interfece and mix using NDH20 ( don't know how this puny dongle is driving them fairly well without any distortion!!
Now I'm completely sold to M1 Air. Will stick this thing permanently with one of the USB C ports.
Thank you Apple...you got one customer back.
 
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