Input power: USB bus (no external power supply needed)
Gain switch: 20dB range
Internal power supplies: ±9V, dual, super-clean analog rails
Dimensions: 3 x 1.1 x 0.4 in (7.6 x 2.9 x 1.1 cm)
Weight: 2.5 oz (72 g)
How’s the build?
The build of the CEntrance DACport HD is fairly simple – it’s a bit larger than a USB stick (think DragonFly Red), but is still plenty small enough to fit in your pocket. It’s about the size of a pack of gum or a Bic Lighter.
The front of the unit rounds off nicely, containing a super convenient volume dial that I can easily adjust while it’s sitting next to my laptop. I can reach down and adjust, or put the unit in my hand and adjust. In that sense, it does kind of function the same way that a lighter does.
“CEntrance DACport HD” is plastered over top of the unit in big bold italicized letters, indicating that this is indeed a product not to be f’d with. Lol. Kind of like the Wu Tang Clan.
On the front end where the volume is, there’s a micro USB slot for use with your PC/Laptop, etc. and on the back is the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The left side facing away contains a gain switch, but it’s very hard to tick on or off without a toothpick or something similar. A bit disappointing in that regard, but I’m sure they did it to minimize damage to the switch while it’s in your pocket on the go, and to ensure that you don’t accidentally switch it to high gain and damage your hearing if it happens to be on low.
Weight wise it comes in at 1.2 Oz. (35g) on my scale, but feels pretty substantial in your hand all things considered. It doesn’t feel cheap at all!
Do be aware that because it’s a class A amp, it does run fairly warm, which is especially noticeable the more albums back to back that you listen to. Still, it’s not as bad as the Chord Mojo, which gets flat out hot after a spell.
Class A amps run warmer because 100% of their energy, while on and drawing current, is converted to heat (when idle). When playing a track, the wattage travels to your dome piece (via the drivers) and is then converted to the analog sound that you hear.
This little puppy boasts 775mW of total power, making it one of the best tiny portable options with a wide variety of headphones and Impedance ranges.
I’ve been having a blast with this thing inside Tidal; in fact, out of all of the gear I’ve been demoing lately, I’ve listened to the most albums through the DACport. Part of that is surely the convenience of it: I can get it fired up within seconds, and it’s a total breeze. Literally plug it in and it’s always ready for action, doesn’t need a battery charge, and runs off of bus power exclusively.
CEntrance claims it can power 600 Ohm headphones and I wouldn’t doubt it. I have plenty of headroom on high gain with my 300 Ohm HD600’s, but would feel comfortable driving a K240M 600 Ohm with it. With some tracks you will end up maxing out on gain, but that has more to do with how the song was recorded than the DAC itself.
Speaking of songs, how the heck does it sound?
In a word, excellent.
I’m loving it like McDonald’s (and I hate McDonald’s). Because the CEntrance utilizes Asynchronous USB, what’s known as jitter (basically timing errors in the conversion that lead to distortion) is less likely given that the DAC is controlling the flow of data rather than your PC. Instead of it being pushed through by your PC, it’s pulled by the DAC in a more fluid manner.
Because of this, and because of the fact that it is indeed a class A amp (Class A = less distortion), do I perceive the sound to be a bit cleaner, a bit smoother, and a bit more fluid than a DAC that does not utilize Asynchronous USB?
Meh. I mean, it’s really hard to tell and you may not even notice a difference to be honest. Does it sound ultra clean like Windex? Absolutely, but so do other amps that don’t utilize Asynchronous USB.
With that said, clarity and detail here is nice and pristine. This thing pulls out detail with relative ease, so sit back and chill the f out homie! It ain’t no big thang.
On Common’s “The Light” (a track I’ve heard hundreds of times), I hear the faint singing in the background, more so than in years past. I’ve always been able to hear it somewhat, even in my early middle school days during the year it came out (in 2000 I was in 8th grade).
I’ve never heard it more prominent than now, but it’s still extremely subtle. It’s hard to explain. With good headphones and a good DAC like the CEntrace, it becomes fairly revealing. It sounds exactly like what you’d expect out of an audiophile type of experience. When people talk about music they’ve heard all their life sounding somehow “different” this is what they’re talking about. “The Light” sounded slightly different than I’m used to, which was a really neat experience!
“Nag Champa (Afrodisiac for the World)” off of the same album sounded incredibly revealing as well. You can make out a lot more of what Common says in the intro before he starts rapping. At :25 you can clearly hear his ad lib “Ya’ll n***as come toward the stage”, as it pans from left to right. I used to bump this song frequently, and I could never really make out any of what was said during this intro, nor did I even attempt to try. Here and now with the DACport and a pair of HD600’s, I’m able to with relative ease.
Steely Dan’s “Peg” off of their 1977 album Aja, displays an effortless, near perfect soundscape paired with my HD600. It’s just a match made in heaven. High hats sound incredibly natural, and the track is rendered with a speed that surprises even me. The 600’s are generally not that fast in terms of transients, but the attack here sounds marvelous.
The decay and instrument clarity on the opening “Black Cow” sounds equally as stunning and revealing.
Overall, the CEntrance provides a picture perfect, clean backdrop to all of your music. This is a big reason why I have demoed 10+ albums with it. It just sounds right.
It’s the type of sound that makes you want to kick back and put your feet up with a glass of scotch.
Here’s what I listened to:
Comparison to DF Red..
Comparison to the DragonFly Red (Coming Soon!)
Video Review (Coming Soon!)
Click to see the DACport in action!
So what’s my final grade?
The CEntrance DACport gets an A from me. I’m docking a few points for the inconvenience of the gain switch’s location, but other than that this Amp/DAC combo is nearly perfect.
Easy to hook up, sounds great. Not much more to say.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.