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I was looking for an ESS-SABRE-based portable DAC/Amp to drive my low impedance office headphones 32ohm & 45ohm and give me clarity of sound and a little extra gain. I'm not a fan of loud volumes as I listen to music for hours.
The SMSL IDEA portable DAC caught my attention during research as did the identical Sabaj DA2 but I've read 80% of reviewers claim the micro USB port is so flimsy that it won't last even a few months. In the end we're talking $75-$85 (regular price) that can go into the bin or go through the hassle and wait of returning faulty items.
I guess someone needs to incorporate this "phenomenal" SABRE9018Q2C DAC into a portable thumb drive style DAC+Amp with the design and build quality of an Audioquest Dragonfly Black 1.5 and price it at $90 (IT MUST HAVE a soldered USB-A at one end, not a micro USB port) I believe this would be a true winner given what's on the market. I won't spend $200 on a thumb-drive style DAC, sorry Dragonfly Red.
I've decided to not take risks with both SMSL Idea & Sabaj DA2 (awesome products on paper just reviews say they are fragile and have compatibility issues). The Dragonfly Black V1.5 still retails for $120 where I live.
SO I ORDERED a HiFime UAE23HD USB DAC (ES9018K2M+SA9023) for $69 (ex-shipping). It is purposely limited to 24bit 96kHz and does not play DSD in exchange for lower power consumption. Will share my opinion when I get the HIFIme if it's worth its money.
UPDATE: I've just found that the NextDrive Specta actually adopts the ESS Sabre 9018Q2C with a USB A on a cord. Thinking more about it USB A on a braided cable should be durable, the only problem is if the cable breaks you cannot replace it yourself, whereas if USB A is soldered onto the DAC you can buy cables. However, this DAC has great reviews but the cost is $149. @MassDrop this needs to be dropped on your marketplace!
« I won't spend $200 on a thumb-drive style DAC, sorry Dragonfly Red. »:
Well in my humble opinion you should, I strongly recommend the Red. With its 2v output, It can drive 150 or 300 ohms headphones like the HD660S/HD58x or HD600/650/6xx easily, and the sound quality is stellar. No it’s not a power beast, but don't Be fooled by its form factor and size. Some have even compared its sound quality to the Mojo, although I don’t agree, nevertheless for 200$ in my opinion you cannot find a better super-portable DAC/amp, which can be powered by your phone or tablet with the proper Apple or Android adaptor with a Lightning/USB connector