Portable DAC/Headphone Amp Recommendations

Well I’ve dropped my Audioquest Cobalt Dragonfly a few too many times and the right channel keeps cutting out. Those little dongles are slippery. Audioquest told me that they would replace it for fifty percent of the retail cost but I’d rather not be without a portable DAC during the time it takes to exchange it. Anyway, there are some other options out there, i.e. the Mojo Chord 2 and I was wondering if any of you Goners had your own opinions and recommendations on the matter? I most often use my DAC and iPhone combination at the gym so something smaller in size would be preferred. I’ve looked at Earmen, iFi and others but remain undecided. Earbuds are Cardas and headphone are Aurora Borealis. Thanks!


I have the Chord's Mojo 2 and it sounds great.  I will use it when I'm walking the dog or just out and about outside - I haven't used it for working out because I don't want to deal with cables and such. 

If you use your iPhone for music - something like Focal's Bathys a wireless headset with a built DAC may be an option.  

I’ve had a couple of the AQ dongle models too.

For my iPhone and iPad portable enjoyment, I went with the TEAC HA-P50 a number of years ago. (…this  model is now discontinued ) .

Beat the AQ in performance IMO, and its still going strong for me,

I’d look at something in current make and model options in this pricepoint strata (or this one Pre-owned …just sayin’) as your next go-to unit. Fugeddaboud the AQ USB  models, as you have already pointed out.



@akg_ca The thing I do like about the Audioquest is that it’s so small that it doesn’t interfere with my activities. I’ve even done my Muay Thai kicks on the bag while listening to it. Out of all the options, I believe the Chord would be my first pick but it seems too large for my purposes.

You might find the Topping DX3 Pro+ is a good fit for your requirements. At 4.75 X 1.25 X 5.5" it's pretty compact, it uses a decent ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip and supports coax and optical inputs up to 768/32 and USB up to DSD512; and Bluetooth 5.0 with LDAC and aptX HD. As a headphone amp, it delivers 1800mW into 32 Ohms, meaning it will drive just about any dynamic headphone with lots of headroom - including my notably inefficient HiFiMan Sundaras - with a very quiet, detailed, clear and neutral signature. Setup-wise, it offer 7 different rolloff filters, and +6 or +19dB HP amp gain, for starters. And it comes with a nice big display and a remote. That it does all this for under $200 is quite an accomplishment.

@panzrwagn Thanks for the input. The Topping would be a bit awkward for my needs. My primary goal is to find something that I can use at the gym. I know that may seem odd however, I spend a lot of time there and music is a motivator to make me get out of my chair. At this point, I’m wondering if I can justify both the cost and the size of the Chord Mojo 2. I’m thinking Velcro, rubber bands, etc…to make this endeavor a workable solution.

Sounds like the Dragonfly works well for your needs.  I’d just suck it up and listen without it until the exchange comes through, and a 50% discount doesn’t exactly suck.  Oh, and try not to drop this one so much.  FWIW.

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@srinisr The iFi Hip DAC 3 looks like a good value but the volume knob is awkward unless I could lock it in place to avoid accidentally turning it up.

@soix Yes, the Dragonfly is convenient but I was thinking that I could get an upgrade in sound quality however I’m starting to believe that all of these portable DAC’s are probably very similar in sound quality. 

@chrshanl37 I also noticed there’s a Cayin Ru7. Assuming it’s generally the same thing as the Ru6. I’m rather fascinated with the R2R design principle but not 100% on whether that’s what I would want for a daily driver.

Thanks to all for your input. I purchased the Cayin RU7 and a quality ddi usb c cable.