Have you ever dreamed of being able to drive a full-size planar with a simple usb dac/amp dongle? I have, and I have always wanted a portable device with plenty of power and a parametric EQ integrated. It exists and its name is PowerDAC V2.
What is it?
The PowerDAC V2 is what we usually call a portable dac/amp combo but … without a dac. How? Well, it is a Full Digital Amplifier (FDA), it receives the digital input from the source, it converts it to PWM which is fed to output transistors and then filtered.
Specs and pictures
- Dimensions: 75×45.5x19mm
- Weight: 68g
- Power: USB 5V power rail no internal battery, 250mA idle current, the device contains up to 5000uF of capacitance and IOS/Android devices can start OTG operation only with Camera_Adapter and USB OTG Y-splitter cable respectively
- Input: USB PCM up to 24b/192kHz
- Output: digitally generated PWM 384kHz + passive LC demodulation balanced output 2.5mm jack 5mm shaft stopper, A&K pinout
- Output impedance: 1.5Ohm@1000Hz FFT flat top -6dbFS 32Ohm/open load, -.4db drop
- Output power: >320mW@32Ohm@1kHz@THD=1%
- Output power: >580mW@16Ohm@1kHz@THD=1%
For full details check the website linked at the end of this review.
As we can see from the specs this device fills the niche of transportable dac/amps, perfect to connect to your laptop while working or studying. If you are asking yourself if you can use it with a mobile phone the answer is: technically yes, practically no. If you try you would have: smartphone, usb y-splitter, PowerDACV2 and a powerbank. This is not my definition of portable so I don’t advise to use it with a phone as source.
As you can see from the pictures it is a shiny little metal box. I really do like the mirror-like plates although they will remain like this only for the first 2 minutes, after that they will be covered by your fingerprints. On the back you can read how is the internal circuit composed, geeky!
When it is powered on it will become warm, don’t put it in your pocket and make sure to use it in free air if you don’t want it to become uncomfortably hot!
I’m currently testing the PowerDAC with my 1MORE Quad Driver, I’ve bought a balanced cable for my Hifiman HE-560 and I’ll update the review when it will arrive.
On the website the sound is described as “razor-like detailed” and “max transparent and max detailed” and the description is completely realistic. Don’t expect to have a warm, colourful sound of a tube amp. The sound is as it should be: detailed, neutral.
With my hybrid iem the background is not completely black, there is a very low background noise so I don’t recommend to use it with low impedance, high sensitivity multi BA iems. (If you use them check the website at the bottom of the review, E1DA produces a portable dac/amp based on ess9038q2m that would be more suitable for you)
Only while playing certain songs I could notice some sibilances and, in general, a slightly harsh sound on highs. My main hypothesis is that the cause is a bit of third harmonic distortion.
All in all I’m really enjoying the sound and the huge amount of power that the PowerDAC is able to delivery to my 1MORE iem (It is important to mention that the PowerDAC was designed to be able to drive a pair of HE-400i, certainly not the easiest over-ear headphone to drive).
Finally the 2.5 TRRS balanced cable for my Hifiman HE-560 has arrived. My main concern was: will the PowerDAC V2 be able to drive them? The answer: mostly yes, but not at 100% as expected. In theory (and practice) a “perfect” amplifier should be able to drive your headphone at 120db peak, given the sensitivity and the impedance of your headphone you can calculate what voltage and current is required. With my HE-560 I can listen to some compressed music at high volume but when I try to listen to a track that is not over-compressed I reach the 0db on the HPToy app and I’d like to go a bit more over. In conclusion with the PowerDAC V2 you can’t drive a pair of Hifiman HE-560, but you have to consider that the HE-560 are one of the most difficult to drive planars on the market. You can drive with plenty of power pretty all the Audeze HPs (excluding LCD-4) and Hifiman HPs (exluding HE-6, Arya and HE5)
HPTOY App and the DSP
To control the volume and all the DSP functions you need to download the HPToy app, available both for Android and iOS. The communication between your smartphone and the PowerDAC is via bluetooth low energy. Due to the metal housing the bluetooth range will be fairly short.
In the app there are the following controls: volume, bass/treble, loudness, filters (pEQ), compressor.
For a detailed explanation of every single feature check the official website, in this review I’m going to write only about the most important: the parametric eq.
When you tap on “filter” the app will rotate in landscape mode and you will be able to use a 7-band parametric equalizer. Below you can see a screenshot and a video tutorial about how to use it.
I think it’s totally useless to say how much can be powerful this feature. The only thing you need to do is visit the following repository: https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/tree/master/results, look for your headphones, download the .png image, import it in HPTOY, stretch it to match X and Y axis, mirror it and then create the EQ following the error curve (the red one). I do not recommend to use the written pEQ values if you want a good result.
If you have an iPhone or an iPad you can create an EQ using biquad coefficients too! This allows you to build a more precise equalization and to use also different type of filters like: low shelf, high shelf, notch, high pass, low pass, band pass. To calculate the coefficients you can use a website like this: https://arachnoid.com/BiQuadDesigner/ (set SR to 96000Hz)
Once you have made your EQ you can save it and even export it as a preset. There are already a lot of in-app available presets for a long list of headphones, but being able to export and import them is a huge advantage for all the PDV2 users.
I usually try to be always objective about audio quality and to not jump on “the hype train” when an interesting product is released. The PowerDAC V2 is a good all-rounder with tons on features, a good audio quality and a lot of power to drive pretty any kind of headphones on the market. The website is full of technical details and you won’t find a single line of marketing bullshits for audiofools. I would easily pay 150€ without any problem for this little shiny metal box and even at 150€ it would be competitive compared to other dac/amp transportable combos. The main “problem” is that you can buy the PowerDAC V2 at 50€, and at this price is one of the best bang for the bucks that I have ever seen.
Official website: https://e1dashz.wixsite.com/index/pdv2
E1DA Products Discord chat: https://discord.gg/nkUBYSv