My CEntrance DACport Slim Mini-Review and Windows 10 Clarifications
My background: Audiophile noob.
Primary amp/dacs: xDuoo TA-03 (work). xDuoo TA-01 (home).
Primary listening environment: Desk at work, ~4 hours/day w/ AKG K553 Pro headphones. Also have a set of LZ A4 IEMs that I mix in and travel with.
Musical tastes: 1) Anything electronic. 2) Everything else, except country and rap.
Over the past year or I purchased my first tube amp, my first headphone amp, my first pair of "good" headphones, an my first pair of "good" IEMs. Now I can add "first travel DAC" to that list. I purchased the DACport Slim because I wanted a "good" travel DAC and because my setups both at work and home left me longing for their clarity and warmth when I was on the road. Once you hear the clarity of a nice amp/dac, you can't "unhear" all the interference and noise that your phone or laptop picks up with it's integrated mini jack. I wanted a small DAC that I could use on both my phone and computer, and definitely one that didn't need a separate power supply.
Today I listened for about two hours on my phone (Windows 10 Mobile, Lumia 950XL), and about another two hours on my PC (Dell XPS 13, Win 10 Pro), both on my pair of AKGs. So far I'm very impressed and happy with my purchase. Reminder while reading below, I'm not claiming to be an audio expert, just really enjoying my current audio experiences that I had no idea were out there the first 40 years of my life.
Small. Lightweight. Great sound quality. The gain switch in the "high" position really boosted the sound on my phone, and wasn't necessary when listening via the PC (kept it in "low"). Had no problem driving the AKGs. Definitely a higher volume level than I could get straight out of my phone (at the cost of higher battery drain - see below). Couldn't hear any distortion/noise/etc. when silent. Only slightly warm to the touch after 4 hours of use. Nowhere near that "hot" feeling your phone can get sometimes. Did I mention sound quality? Listened to some mellow, ambient stuff (Recondite, Joey Fehrenbach), some hard stuff (NIN), and some bass-heavy electronic (deadmau5), and closed out the "test" with industrial/techno (VNV Nation). I'm not experienced enough to tell you how this "colored" my listening, but I can tell you it is light years better than a stock mini jack (duh), and a surprisingly strong contender to my TA-03 (at only 1/3 the price!). Very much looking forward to taking this on the road with me soon. The Slim feels solid too. Machined metal with smooth curved corners. Doesn't affect the sound, but feels good in the hand.
The only thing "bad" to say (and I was aware of this prior to purchase) is that all the statements about battery drain are true. Over the course of about one hour with the gain switch in the "high" position, I noticed that the battery on my phone was draining slightly faster than it could charge (via wireless charging). After an hour I switched the gain to the "low" position and it seemed to level out maintaining its current charge without draining or charging. In the "high" position I had my phone volume set at 15/30. In the low position it was maxed at 30/30 and was just loud enough. FWIW, my computer is currently set at 100% volume for the DACport Slim device, and VLC is playing at 80% and it's noticeably louder than the phone at 100% (both with DACport set at "low" gain). I'm interested to see how my LZ A4 IEMs compare to my AKGs both in battery drain and volume level. I expect to do some listening with those over the weekend.
I played a few tracks on both the DACport Slim and the xDuoo TA-03 to compare sound. The TA-03 had a noticeably warmer sound, but that's to be expected from a headphone tube amp that weighs about as much as 30 DACport Slims. Also, the only difference I noticed between the PC and phone was the volume. I attributed that to the PC having more power to draw on, and apply to its audio devices.
Hope this helps. Plan to do some more listening with it this weekend. If anything changes my opinions I'll come back and post about it the next time I'm at work late. :)
Windows 10 & Windows 10 Mobile Notes
Connected to both with a Fusion4K 1 Foot USB-C to Micro USB cable
Both systems updated with the Windows 10 Creators Update and latest weekly updates since.
-- No additional driver necessary for either system.
-- In Windows 10 Mobile, Groove Music plays both FLAC and 320k MP3 with no issues. *
-- In Windows 10 Pro, VLC shows it in the list of audio devices, and plays all my FLAC with no issues. **
* In W10M, when you first connect it, an alert says something like "There may be an issue with this USB device." The system also shows it connected as an "external screen." However neither of these issues affected the audio.
** In W10Pro, when you first connect it, it grinds for a few seconds and then says device installed. The Bluetooth and other devices section shows it as an "Audio Device" and shows "Driver is unavailable." In the Device Manager it shows under "Other Devices" noting that "The drivers for this device are not installed."