CEntrance DACportable review - expatinjapan

CEntrance DACportable review
 - expatinjapan

CEntrance and myself
I have had had a long relationship with CEntrance now, starting from my early investing in their CEntrance Hifi-M8 and like other Head-fiers contributing my thoughts to its final design of which they ended up with eight different versions to choose from.
This lead to an ongoing correspondence with Michael of CEntrance and we later met several times at shows in Tokyo, Japan.

Later on CEntrance sent me a Mini-M8 which I gave feedback for, reviewed on Head-fi and later reproduced on Head Pie as an archive piece.

Then recently CEntrance stepped into the crowd funding world with their Hifi-Skyn which was a DAC/Amp case for Apple iphones and the ipod touch.
I reviewed The Hifi-Skyn on Head pie (As did rudi0504 and Dr Sheep).

I found the Hifi-Skyn to be a TOTL performer both in sound and power.

Now CEntrance has sent another of their great products to Head pie for review, the DACportable.

*CEntrance DACportable with Campfire Audio Andromeda IEM. 

I emailed Michael at CEntrance with a few questions about the DACportable that they had kindly sent Head pie for review and he emailed back a nice summary of what the DACportable is:

`The DACportable is basically a HiFi-Skyn, in a universal package (not tied to any particular phone model, it works with Mac, PC, Android and iOS).

HiFi-Skyn pioneered our newest Amp Extreme (TM) circuit, a modified Class A circuit, that takes its power from an extra clean, bipolar, 16V power supply. The internal Li-PO battery gives us plenty of clean power that we later transform into 7 different voltages for different parts of the product. Separating the power supplies allows us to achieve perfect isolation between analog and digital circuitry. This offers lowest jitter, noise and distortion, and improves soundstage, definition and clarity.

The EQ is subtle and musical. It's the same hardware circuit as in the HiFi-M8, which was so popular and well-regarded when it was introduced. Nothing beats well-designed analog circuitry in the age of digital audio.

With the EQ, we've kept a low degree of boost, just enough to accentuate the music, but not to much to overwhelm the senses. The bass switch offers a energetic boost, perfect for dance music enjoyment, while the high switch engages a smooth shelf that adds sheen to the very top of the range. This helps definition and adds sparkle for all music types, and allows better matching to various headphones.` - CEntrance.

Now, ...on with the show!

Whats in the box(?).

The box contains the CEntrance DACportable, USB-A to micro usb for charging and connecting to a CCK (Apple camera connection kit) If needed, and also for charging, Micro usb to micro usb cable. 

More variety of cables can be purchased on the CEntrance website  (Lightning to Micro-USB cable, single (+$39.99) ).

As per usual with CEntrance products (I already had three: The Hifi-M8, the Mini-M8 and the Hifi-Skyn) the build is excellent and robust. Solid as a rock. Full metal jacket on the DACportable.
I have not encountered any problems with the CEntrance products I already have.

Chassis Material: Scratch-resistant, lightweight anodized aluminum.

On the left a switch for low and high gain to suit sensitive IEMs and headphone users. 
On the far right top corner we see a volume wheel.

From the left side we see the micro USB charging port(and LED), then in the middle (top) LED lights to show the amount of battery charge remaining, the bottom middle shows the on/off button and on the right is the headphone jack port (Gold-plated 3.5mm headphone jack).

On the top left we see the volume wheel again, in the middle a Streaming LED/ Music LED that lights up and confirms music is playing, on the right is the audio in micro USB(This is an input jack for digital audio).

Here we see the two hardware (not software) switches for added bass and treble.
Subtle adjustments.

Specs (From the CEntrance website)

`DACportable is a reference-quality audiophile listening device. The sound quality is so awesome, you will hear detail in your music you never thought was possible.
Featuring the amazing AK4490 Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) coupled with AmpExtreme—our own powerful, Class-A Headphone Amplifier with digital volume control, this product will transport you musically to new heights.

DACportable supports full 32-bit, 384kHz resolution and DSD, so your equipment investment is future proof. There is plenty of clean output power. This means you can use your favorite headphones without worrying if it will be loud enough.`

CEntrance DACportable pictured at Bar Zingaro in Nakano, Tokyo - which is a café produced by the internationally known contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
Digital specs

Resolution                      32-bit (Also supports 24-bit)

Sample Rate                   44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.2 kHz, 192 kHz, 352.4 kHz, 384 kHz

DSD Support                   DSD64 and DSD128

Clocking                          Two custom, mil-spec clocks, 1 ppm precision, 1 ps jitter

Jitter                               Unmeasurable

Streaming LED                 Lights up when digital audio is streaming

Compatibility                    Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS.

Analog Specs

Freq. Response                 20 Hz...40 kHz

S/N Ratio                         110 dB

THD+N                            0.002 %

Crosstalk, 1kHz                -111 dB

Output Impedance            1 Ohm

Output power, 32ohm       775 mW (total)

Supported Headphones     16...600 Ohm

Max Output Level, 1kHz     4.1 V rms / +14.5 dBu

General Specs

Audio Output                     Gold-plated 3.5mm headphone jack

Headphone Amp                Class-A with super-clean, bipolar power supply

AC Adapter                        Standard 5V adapter with USB "micro B" plug

DC Powering/Charging       +5V (2.1A) from external adapter, such as iPad charger

Internal supplies                Battery-isolated, triple-filtered ±9V, analog power supply rails

Unit Dimensions:                98 mm (L) x 41 mm (W) x 21 mm (H)

Shipping Weight:                550 g

Chassis Material                  Scratch-resistant, lightweight anodized aluminum

Battery Specs                      Rechargeable Li-Polymer, 8 hours play time

Cables                               Same cable can be used for Audio or Charging

Flacplayer app by Dan Leehr (ipod touch 6G) showing native Hi-Res play back at 24/192 kHz.
The CEntrance DACportable goes up to 32/384 kHz.


The CEntrance DACportable is compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS.

The CEntrance DACportable pictured here with an ipod touch 6G and Cyberdrive lightning cable to micro USB cable. Using Flacplayer app by Dan Leehr and Campfire Audio NOVA IEMs.

The CEntrance DACportable pictured with an ipod touch 5G connected via CCK (Apple camera connection kit) to Cyberdrive USB-A to micro USB cable. Flacplayer app by Dan Leehr 
and JOMO 6R IEMs.
The ipod touch 5G seems to require the CCK.

*I preferred the sound of the lightning to Micro USB cable over that of the CCK set up. It had better clarity and detail.


At US $349 it is priced quite decently in the scheme of all things audio.
The build is excellent.

Size is portable, although I would like it to be a bit thinner...but that is the price to pay for a decent sized battery and enough output power for a full bodied sound, and also so that the ipod touch/iphone/ipad/android devices battery does not drain.

Audio is typical of the CEntrance in-house sound we have been accustomed to: Clear, great details, full bodied, fairly neutral.

If the DACportable in terms of its size, power and quality of sound makes the larger DAC/Amps on the market quite redundant.

As per usual I let the device acquire a decent amount of hours and playing time before completing  my review, this is to check for any possible changes in the sound signature as demanded by a percentage of readers of audio reviews ;)
I used a variety of IEMs in my testing (some of them pictured in the photos) and also two headphones: the MEZE 99 Classic and the ATH-ESW11.

The DACportable has already been described by Michael at CEntrance as `basically a HiFi-Skyn, in a universal package`.
This is true for sure, although it seems to have been tweaked a little more as is to expected, it sounds slightly clearer and less warm than the Hifi Skyn to my ears.
I preferred the sound from my ipod touch 6G straight to the DACportable over the ipod touch 5G with the CCK cable. It seemed to have slightly more sound stage, depth and a 3D effect.

*Using the Campfire Audio Andromeda which has been my go to IEM as of late all I can say is that everything seems to be where it should be sound wise. Bass is full but not over riding, vocals are nicely balanced with the music and slightly forward, large sound stage, excellent and effortless width and height, fast decay but lingers where it should, mids are lush, sweet but also full of clarity and tight, treble is perfect as it reaches out just far enough.

The DACportable is a large sound in a small package.
Bass is fast and accurate, punchy when it is present and needed.
Mids are clear, crisp and not bleeded out.
Treble is well balanced, non fatiguing and extends far enough to be pleasurable and satisfying to the listener without encountering any sibilance.
Sound stage is very wide, with excellent instrument placement and separation.
Virtually zero hiss on low gain with sensitive IEMs such as the Campfire Audio series.
A 3D-ish, holographic listening experience. Height and depth extends tall and wide.

*Using the Jomo 6R IEM which is a more airy experience. I enjoyed the laid back sweet, sensual sound whilst listening to Lana Del Rey. The key words being clarity, detailed and wide.

*With a more moderately priced earphone such as the Shozy Zero everything is a bit less of course, the highs partly more subdued, and the sound stage more medium. 
As it is a single driver I was able to use high gain and this bought back much of the 3D effect, depth and width. Still great clarity, detail, separation and performance. Very musical.

Meze 99 Classic headphones pictured with the CEntrance Hifi-Skyn.

*Next I tried the Meze 99 Classic headphones on low Gain they were a bit quiet and un energetic as to be expected as the low gain setting is more geared towards sensitive IEMs.
Switching up to the more appropriate High Gain  I got what I was expecting, a decently wide sound stage, great details and instrument separation. 

*The Campfire Audio Nova performed excellently on both low and high gain. 
Using high gain gave the DACportableextra oomph using gain 2 which gave it a bit more punch at low volumes.
On low gain it was also fantastic but retained more clarity and coherancy at higher volumes. 
The Nova sound is XXx, more centered around the bass and mids, light on the treble.
I have found the Nova to be picky at times with sources and daps, but it seems to be a nice fit with the DACportable.

For those who have owned a CEntrance product before you will already be familiar with their products` excellent build quality and the CEntrance in-house sound signature. 

The DACportable takes all the great points of the previous CEntrance portable range from the Hifi-M8 to the Mini-M8 and the more recent Hifi-Skyn and re-imagined them in a smaller foot print.
Keeping the Hifi-M8 power and hard EQ switches, the portability of the Mini-M8 and its friendliness towards IEMs, added the new AMP Extreme(TM) of the Hifi-Skyn and made it universal in its usage with Mac, PC, Android and iOS.

Though a bit chunky due its height, the overall size is well within acceptable parameters.
With a solid build and silky finish of the scratch-resistant, lightweight anodized aluminum it is easy on the eyes and feels robust in ones hands.

The Amp Extreme (TM) has oodles of power to drive most headphones to the users satisfaction.

With my sensitive Campfire Audio Andromeda with no music playing on gain 1 there is virtually no hiss. Very near a black back ground.

Whilst the DACportable retains the CEntrance in-house sound signature, it appears to my ears to be a lighter, clearer and more detailed product. It loses a little of the warmth that some of the earlier CEntrance products` had but retains the power and fullness of them.

I found the DACportable overall to be an excellent performer on all points, this is my favorite CEntrance product release so far. CEntrance has taken all that is good from their earlier products and folded it into this smaller package.

CEntrance DACportable with EN700 Simgot/Suzuka.

Thank you again to CEntrance for sending us the DACportable for review


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