Today I’m checking out the Zorloo ZuperDAC-S, a new portable DAC/AMP currently up for offer on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. I intend to put up a full review very soon, but today I just want to give my first impressions of the product.
The ZuperDAC-S is a follow-up to Zorloo’s original ZuperDAC which was a portable DAC/AMP with a USB Stick form factor, similar to AudioQuest’s Dragonfly Black, but the ZuperDAC-S has a female micro-USB port on one end, so you can plug in different USB cables depending on what type of device you are connecting to, as opposed to plugging directly into your computer with a male USB-B connector.
I like this a lot for many reasons. For one, because of the micro-USB port, the ZuperDAC-S is very slim and light which makes it a lot easier to carry around than something like the Dragonfly. The female micro-USB port also makes it possible for Zorloo to include several small USB adapter cables in the box, three to be exact. They give you one with a USB-C end, which is nice since most of the new smartphones and laptops have this connector, then they also give you two more cables with USB-A and Micro-USB ends to ensure compatibility with any other tablets, phones, or laptops you have lying around. For a gadget junkie like myself, this versatility is very nice.
The only cable that doesn’t come with the ZuperDAC-S is a lightning adapter for Apple phones and tablets, but Zorloo advises to use the micro-USB to USB-A cable along with Apple’s Lighting to USB Camera Adapter and it should work fine. Apple folks can let me know how that goes, because I don’t plan to make a offering at the Apple altar for that extra dongle.
Regarding fit and finish, the ZuperDAC-S feels very nice in the hand, with it’s slim profile, rounded edges, and metal body. It is also like I mentioned before, very light, weighing only .34 ounces. The separate volume up and down buttons on the face, also made of metal, are also a nice touch, and they press in with a nice firm reassuring feel. It feels like they will hold up for awhile. The volume adjustment also works independently of the device it is plugged into.
The back side of the unit is blank except for a Zorloo logo and tiny blue LED, letting you know the unit is powered on. There is no power button, it powers up automatically when you plug it into a USB device.
The ZuperDAC-S uses a highly-regarded ESS Sabre 9018Q2C System On Chip which combines a DAC and modestly powered headphone amp, but we all know that the sound quality is highly dependent on the implementation, which I will be critiquing over the next couple of weeks.
That being said, I don’t want to give too many impressions on the sound yet, I want to give it it a listen with several different headphones and sources and also plug it into my desktop system and listen over some speakers. I also want to do a comparison with the Audioquest Dragonfly Black which lists for $20 more and also uses an ESS Sabre Chip.
I will say this, I am already impressed with the unit’s size and weight, ease of use, independent volume control, and versatility coming from it’s variety of included adapter cables. My early critical listening impressions over the AudioQuest Nighthawk have also been positive, with the sound being very clean and noise free with decent detail. I am also impressed with it’s native playback of hi-res files up to 24/192 , something I haven’t seen at the sub $100 price point. My 24/192 copy of Eric Dolphy’s “Out To Lunch” sounded very lush during 192K playback on USB Audio Player Pro.
The quality is good enough that i’m willing to give a conditional recommendation right now at the $49 early bird price on Indiegogo (units expected to ship in April) as of this writing. If you don’t have a portable USB DAC/AMP like this already, the early bird price puts this unit into impulse buy territory. It’s nice looking, well built, lightweight, and It will greatly improve the sound coming from the integral DAC on the majority of smartphones, tablets or laptops, especially if you have a decent pair of headphones.
If you are in the market for a portable USB DAC/AMP to use with your Smartphone and/or Tablet, and don’t have $100 or more to spend, I say go for it. You will not do better for $50 plus a small shipping fee.