I finally had a chance to have more than a passing listen to the headphones.

I had my doubts due to the style seemingly similar outwardly to the ATH-50 Headphones. I was wondering whether it might be a lazy OEM or rebranding etc.

Buuuuut i have known Michael since the days of the earliest Hifi-m8 development and hosted one of the threads to it on head fi before i started my own blog and also before head fi set up their own dedicated review section. I still have the Hifi-m8

‘We trust in Mike’

So i had slight doubts but trust Centrance and have always like the full bodied sound signature they have. Not bloated but even over all. I am not a fan of v or L shapes at all, or elegant treble focussed.

“Accurate low frequency performance

- Custom-tuned, balanced midrange and transparent high frequency presentation”

<<<The above is an accurate summary of its performance. And matched my experience.


At US$200 there is not much one can complain at.

No doubt the non detachable cable would be an obvious one.

Buuuut US$200

Very easy to listen to.


Nice even presentation.
Female and male vocals done well. Not too forward nor recessed.

Quite a good job.

I have not put it against other more high end headphones on the head phone switcher box. (Or $1000 daps)
I used iBasso DX160 and FiiO M11 to test.

*I also look forward to trying them with the PS4 on some FPS games.

Fit is comfortable (for me). I did not have to bend the headband to get a nice seal.

I will do an additional write up in due course as i work my way through the queue.

But i like it. And that makes my job easier.
 Smartly dressed in petrol blue with a touch of copper, the go-anywhere hip-dac is designed to slip discretely into a pocket and offers an extensive hi-res specification that belies its eminently affordable £149, (€159, $149) price tag.



The hip-dac replaces the inferior DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Convertor) and amp circuitry in smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs to vastly improve headphone sound.
Its design and performance set it apart from other DAC/headphone amps in its class.­– connect your playback device via USB, plug in your favourite corded headphones or in-ear monitors and the hip-dac delivers a sound brimming with bold dynamism and fluid refinement, effortlessly engaging the listener with all manner of music.
In the home, in the office, on a train or plane – the hip-dac is the music lover’s inseparable friend.
 


  benefits
•  Enjoy mind-blowing music at your fingertips quickly and easily with the user-friendly, compact hip-dac.
•  Connect the hip-dac via USB between your smart device, laptop and corded headphones while out and about.
•  Hook it up to your PC or Mac at home or in the office.
•  The hip-dac delivers hi-res, ‘bit perfect’ PCM and DXD up to 384kHz and up to DSD256 DSD256 as well as MQA.
•  Make the most of your balanced headphones wherever you are with the hip-dac’s 4.4mm sockets.
•  Reap the benefits of balanced even with normal headphones as the 3.5mm single-ended socket uses our unique S-Balanced technology to cut crosstalk and distortion in half.
•  The analogue output stage of the hip-dac is a balanced (differential) design which means less interference and crosstalk.
•  Tailor the sound of the hip-dac to your playback priorities with additional, exclusive iFi firmware.
•  Benefit from PowerMatch – switchable gain – to cater for headphone sensitivity.
•  Turn on XBass to add missing base to open backed headphones or IEMs
  



True Native
 The DAC section of the hip-dac is based around a Burr-Brown DAC chip that we use extensively in our products, selected for its fluid, highly ‘musical’ sound quality and True Native architecture.
MQA
The Burr-Brown chip, combined with our custom iFi circuitry, enables the hip-dac to deliver excellent sound quality across all manner of digital audio formats, including bit-perfect PCM, native DSD and MQA ­– the hi-res streaming codec, as used by Tidal’s ‘Masters’ tier.
Hi-res audio
Hi-res PCM and DXD audio data is supported at sampling rates up to 384kHz, alongside DSD from 2.8MHz to 12.4MHz (DSD64, 128 and 256). Either side of the rotary volume control reside a pair of LEDs that change colour to indicate the format and sampling rate of the digital audio being played.
   

  Jitter-free

Extensive clock-locking eradicates jitter (digital distortion), using our GMT femto-precision clocking system to maintain the integrity of the digital signal until conversion to analogue. The hip-dac’s USB input handles audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz and supports the ‘SuperSpeed’ USB 3.0 standard, as well as USB 2.0 for backwards compatibility. It is asynchronous, meaning that the data rate is regulated solely by the hip-dac’s specialised audio clock circuitry for accurate, jitter-free data transfer from the source device.
Exclusive firmware
The XMOS chip used in the hip-dac, which processes audio data received at the USB input, is programmed in- house. Off-the-shelf firmware is not typically optimised for audiophile-grade sound, so we program our own bespoke firmware to enhance audio processing. The hip-dac can also to be tailored to your playback priorities by download and installing different versions of iFi exclusive firmware. Experiment with different digital filters including the GTO filter from our high-end Pro iDSD.
   

  Balanced circuitry

 The hip-dac’s amp circuitry is of balanced (differential) design. Balanced audio circuits have long been championed by renowned high-end audio electronics engineer John Curl, now a technical consultant for iFi, given their ability to reduce noise within the signal path. John has worked closely with Thorsten Loesch, our chief engineer, and our in-house technical team to produce an analogue stage of exceptional quality for a device of this kind.
The circuitry incorporates a range of high-quality components, carefully selected for their performance in an audio context, including a custom iFi OV op-amp, TDK C0G class 1 ceramic capacitors, a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments and a high-quality analogue volume pot.
The headphone amp has a nominal power rating of 400mW and is capable of delivering over 700mW from the balanced output depending on the impedance of the attached headphones. It can drive all manner of headphone/earphone types with ease.
    



Balanced performance
The amp stage features switchable gain, which we call PowerMatch. This matches the level of drive to the load presented by the headphones, by adjusting input sensitivity and thereby signal strength. With high- sensitivity headphone types such as in-ear monitors, leave PowerMatch at its lower setting for ultra-low-noise performance. But if your headphones require more drive – most on/over-ear types, for example – press the PowerMatch button on the front panel to increase gain.

Two outputs are provided – a 3.5mm socket for headphones with a single-ended cable/connector and a Pentaconn 4.4mm output enabling headphones equipped with balanced connectivity to take full advantage of the hip-dac’s differential amp design.
In addition, the 3.5mm output benefits from our proprietary S-Balanced circuitry, cutting crosstalk and related distortion in half when used with regular, single-ended headphone connections – this is especially beneficial with high-sensitivity in-ear monitors.






  
  XBass
technologies
 This optional ‘bass boost’ enhances low frequencies without muddying the midrange, and is particularly useful with earphones and open-back headphones that may lack deep bass. It operates entirely in the analogue domain rather than messing with the digital signal via DSP.


USB ports
There are two USB ports – Type A for audio data and USB-C for charging. The Type A input features a ‘male’
connector, rather than a typical ‘female’ port. This provides greater mechanical integrity than USB/Micro USB
ports.. This is an advantage for iPhone and iPad users, because it accepts Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera
Adaptor directly without requiring an additional female-to-male USB adaptor. (The Camera Adapter is required to connect Apple iOS devices to third-party USB devices.)

Battery
The hip-dac’s 2200mAh battery lasts for around eight to 12 hours of playing time.
This depends on volume level and how power-hungry the connected headphones are.
   


  what’s in the box

  Formats supported:
specifications
DSD256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed DSD DXD(384/352.8kHz), PCM(384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1kHz)
MQA
USB 3.0 type ’A’
High-Speed Asynchronous USB 2.0, (32bit/384kHz)
Balanced 4.4mm
Single-Ended S-Balanced 3.5mm
2.0V/400 mW @ 16 Ohm
Lithium-polymer 2200mAh
Charging via USB-C, BC V1.2 compliant up to 1000mA charging current <2W idle, 4W max

Digital Inputs:
Headphone Outputs:
Power Output: Battery:
Power System: Power (max):
 Dimensions:
102(l) x 70(w) x 14(h) mm Weight: 125g (0.28 lbs)


   ifi-audio.com/products/hip-dac media.ifi-audio.com/portfolio/hip-dac
















Greetings!

Today we're checking out the Link from xDuoo, a type-C USB amp/dac intended for use with mobile devices and PCs

As the number of phones with headphone jacks decrease, the options to replace it increase. Dongles are an unfortunate way of life for many consumers in this harsh, modern climate, but we'll get by. Products like the Link help ease the pain. However, in the past easing pain was not necessarily something xDuoo did for me.

Don't get me wrong, things started off great with the the X3 and it's wonky button layout that worked wonderfully for my left-handed self. The limited time I spent with a friend's X2 showed it to be a pretty darn capable little player too. Then came along the Nano D3 which ruined a perfectly good relationship. Sluggish software and a cheap housing (metal or not, it flexed harder than a small, shivering mongrel trying to prove he's a big, bad dog) mixed with sub-par sound, all topped off with a firmware update that killed the screen. Nope, the D3 was a piece of dung patty. Then came the “portable turntable” X10TII. Neat product, pointless existence. Anything it did a DAP could do just as well, but with more functionality and in some cases, within a more compact shell. I passed my review sample onto someone else for coverage since I couldn't be bothered to waste any more time with it. The Link on the other hand has proven to be a wonderful addition to Xduoo's lineup.

P1050770.JPG

Packaging Any positive experience starts with a good first impression; the packaging! The Link arrives in a fairly unique box, highly elongated with a vibrant orange and pale, matte black colour scheme. On the front you find the xDuoo logo and model info, while out back are some retail-ready stickers and contact information for the brand. Tugging on the ribbon protruding out the top of the box, a inner tray slides out revealing a tri-folded product information card and the Link nestled in a glued down, cardboard-coated foam insert. And that's it. No other extras or accessories.

Build Tipping over the tray, the Link falls out of the insert and into your hand where you find it is very well constructed. On the usb-C end you find a single piece of neatly formed, black painted aluminum wrapped around a chunky piece of plastic that houses the Type-C port and cable entry. The orange cable is extremely thick with a dense rubber sheath. It doesn't bend easily. Good because there isn't any strain relief. On the control side of things you have another chunky plastic section wrapped around the cable. The rest of the body is aluminum composed of two pieces, clamped together with a prominent but uniform seam.

On the face of the Link is a bright orange metal button that handles play and pause functions, while a metal rocker switch handles volume control. These buttons feel fantastic and give off a very notable 'click' when pressed. They are the sort of buttons you find yourself pressing absentmindedly because the visceral feedback is so addictive. This also means they're easy to find and I never had any problems with mispresses, even when I wasn't looking at the device. Everything has a very distinct feel to it. A pin hole can also be found above (or below?) the rocker switch within which you find a bright orange LED that lights up when the Link is being powered. Last but not least is the 3.5mm port tucked into the end cap. While fairly long at around 6”, the Link remains reasonably light (13g) and since it's also not very thick, isn't all that intrusive when plugged into your phone, DAC, or laptop.

Overall the Link feels pretty darn solid since it is made from almost exclusively metal, with the selected plastics being very dense and chunky. In additional to looking nice and feeling good in the hand, I suspect that the choice to make an aluminum shell had a practical side to it as well. After only a few minutes of use, the Link gets quite warm and that heat needs to be dispersed. Aluminum makes for a great heat sink. This warmth is never enough to be worrisome or uncomfortable, but it is certainly enough to be noticeable.

P1050763.JPG P1050766.JPG P1050768.JPG​ 

Sound Warmth is something that can be said about the sound quality too, but we'll get to that in a second. Know that the Link is my first modern product of this type. I also have the Creative Soundblaster Recon 3D usb DAC/AMP, but that thing is a dinosaur compared to the Link and is in no way comparable. Usb 2.0, cheap plastic construction, and enough hiss to make Channel 3 sound good (a reference for the older readers). It's beyond obsolete. As such, I'll make reference to other products I use in conjunction with the Link with some descriptions of what I hear and how it works with various headphones and earphones.

So, as mentioned the Link adds some warmth to whatever it is you happen to be listening to. This device does not provide the sort of untainted, completely uncoloured experience you'll get with something like the Radsone ES100 in usb DAC mode. It ends up being quite similar to the Shanling M0 in usb DAC mode, with a smooth, creamy presentation that adds some mid-bass and general low end umph to your beats. Outside of that, the Link does a fantastic job of avoiding altering the signature of whatever it is you're listening to. Micro-detail is retained meaning the EarNiNE EN2J maintains it's crazy detail monster character. Earphones that tend to emphasis mids and treble more so than bass end up being a good pairing, like the Hifiman RE400 and Tinhifi T2. The Link's extra low end fills out the somewhat lacking bass of those models. Products that are quite dark and/or overly bassy, such as the Brainwavz M100 or Massdrop x MeeAudio Planamic are not an ideal pairing for the Link since it exacerbates their main qualities in a negative way. Products with a capacious sound stage, like the Fearless S6 Rui and Campfire Audio Cascade, maintain this quality. Compared to my typical test phones, the LG G5 and LG G6, the Link's thicker, warmer sound leaves the LG models feeling a tad light and weedy. The Link also offers better dynamics making for a more engaging listen than anything the G5 or G6 can output.

In terms of pushing power, there wasn't anything I used with the Link that left me unsatisfied. The planar Hifiman Sundara was easily driven to comfortable volumes with plenty of headroom remaining, as was a notoriously difficult to drive earphone, the Havi B3 Pro I. Another earphone that I like to use for testing is the Nuforce HEM6 because it only sounds good at high volumes, and the Link did a great job getting it to where it needed to be to come alive. Hard to drive gear isn't an issue, but sensitive iems are. Products like the Campfire Audio Andromeda and Astrotec Delphinus 5 are more or less unusable with the Link because even at the lowest possible volume, they are unbearably loud. On the plus side, unlike other products that suffer the same fate with sensitive gear (ex. Walnut F1), the noise floor on the Link remains fairly clean with very little background hiss present.

P1050753.JPG P1050754.JPG P1050756.JPG​ 

Final Thoughts The Link is small and unobtrusive enough to have it with me at all times without it being an inconvenience. The build quality is fantastic thanks to a mostly metal construction. The buttons are distinct from each other and provide excellent visceral feedback when depressed. Output volume is more than enough for me and the vast majority of earphones and headphones I run, but it's not a true replacement for the volume and overall audio performance you're going to get from a dedicated desktop or portable amp. Regardless, the sound the Link outputs is engaging and dynamic with a low noise floor that only gets in the way with overly sensitive earphones/headphones. It also adds additional warmth to the music, so products that are already warm or dark sounding from the outset are not an ideal pairing.

Overall I am quite pleased with the performance of the Link and have rolled it into my EDC rotation. It saves me the need to carry a dedicated amp to stack with my phone or DAC, unless of course I'm in that rare mood where I want the absolute best sound quality on the move. In that case, in comes the much more expensive Period Audio Nickle or bulky but cheap and powerful Walnut F1, pending I'm not running overly sensitive headphones.

If you've been looking to pick up a DAC/amp dongle to pair with your phone or laptop, the Link seems like a safe choice.

Thanks for reading!

- B9Scrambler
*Originally posted to https://thecontraptionist.blog*

Disclaimer Thanks to Nappoler with Hifigo for arranging a sample of the Link for review. The thoughts here are my own subjective opinions based on almost a month of use. They do not represent Hifigo, Xduoo, or any other entity. At the time of writing the Link was retailing for 51.99 USD but was on sale for 49.99 USD: https://hifigo.com/products/xduoo-link-hd-digital-amp-dac-type-c-to-3-5mm-decoding-hi-res-adapter

Specifications
  • Output power: 32mW @ 32ohms
  • Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz (+/-0.5dB)
  • THD+N: 0.0018% @ 1KHz
  • S/N: 115dB
  • Crosstalk: >/= 77dB
  • Support sampling frequency:16-32Bit/44.1KHz-384KHz, DSD64-256
  • DAC chip: ESS9118EC
  • Output interface: Type-C
  • Output port: 3.5mm jack
  • Size:60x13x7.2mm
  • Cable length: 90mm
  • Weight: 13g



Totl dap - check ✅, special edition amp8ex - check ✅, totl IEM - check ✅. Possibly poor recording of a great punk band - check ✅πŸ€£πŸ‘




Penon Audio Sphere


US$169.

























PENON Sphere 

Balanced Armature 

2Pin 0.78mm HiFi Audiophile In-ear Earphone IEMs

Description

In 2019, Penon released the SPHERE IEM.

PENON SPHERE is made with the concept of simplicity is beauty. It uses a simple resin housing and logo, and uses Balanced Armature, it has excellent sound signature, Very Balanced. Quick Bass, Smooth Vocals and Airy Treble.

Specification

Driver: Balanced Armature

Frequency Response: 20Hz-20000Hz

Impedance:6Ξ©@1kHz

Sensitivity:118dB/1mW

Passive noise reduction: 26dB

Earphone interface: 2Pin 0.78mm

Plug:3.5mm

Cable Length: 1.2M

Package

SPHERE IEM

6 pairs of silicone eartips





















Thank you to Penon for sending Head pie the Sphere.






Later that day...














CEntrance CERENE DB: 

Transparent reference headphones






















Specifications

- Closed back, circumaural design for superior acoustical isolation

-  Foldable design with two-way, 180° cup rotation for flexible storage options

- Tailored frequency response (10 Hz - 26 kHz)

- Accurate low frequency performance

- Custom-tuned, balanced midrange and transparent high frequency presentation

- High power handling capability (1800 mW at 40 Ohm, 900 mW per channel)

- 45 mm dynamic, neodymium drivers for high sensitivity and improved transient response

- Sensitivity: 96dB,  +/- 3dB

- Cable length: 1.5 meter, perfect for desktop and portable use

- Cable type: Shielded pair of 28G, oxygen-free braided copper wires

- Cable jacket: Straight, ultra-flexible TPE jacket, designed to minimize cable memory

- Cable plug: 3.5mm (1/8") gold-plated stereo plug with molded strain relief. 1/4" adapter available separately.

- Weight: 364 g




Price

US$200

*Now on sale for US$179







Size
*Next to an ipod touch 6G



CEntrance Cerene dB headphones.

Overall main points:

- Slightly larger to avoid a tight fit, yet folds nicely for easy travel.

- Features a balanced frequency response, making them suitable for music production as well as listening enjoyment 

- Features tightly controlled bass for accurate reproduction in a recording environment

- Features a smooth top end and a gentle presence peak in the vocal range, great for voice recording sessions.

- Designed for comfortable wearing during extended listening sessions

- Features premium-grade padded leather material designed to feel great in the studio as well as out and about.

- The 1.5M cable length strikes the right balance between desktop listening and on-the-go listening, where the music player is stowed away in the pocket.




Hifi-m8 V2 coming soon!














Thank you to CEntrance for sending Head pie the Cerene dB headphones.