I had the same issue a couple of years ago and bought a Chord MoJo for “computer” listening. I was astounded just how good this little black box was. Obviously lots of DAC options exist out there, but the MoJo gets my vote!! That said, I have now upgraded to a Hugo 2, - a step up in quality for sure, but it is approx 5x more expensive…
If you are thinking of a desktop solution attached to a laptop/PC then there are many decent DACs that would do the job.
If you are looking for something more pocketable, then I would go for a DAP.
I own a MOJO and have had it since they first came out, there are things I like about it and things I don’t. It is a neat package with its inbuilt battery but combined with a mobile phone as a portable player I found it to be cumbersome. I find battery autonomy poor and it takes an age to charge. It does have an excellent power output to drive demanding headphones, I even remember one reviewer who used it to drive a pair of Tannoy Westminster speakers! I use it for all manner of ‘computer to audio’ functions, just not for music on the go.
You could consider a small dongle DAC like the Shanling UA2 or the Hidizs S9 Pro. Both sport the same chip as the Dragonfly (ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M), but at a bit lower price ($85 and $115). They are USB-C and have both a balanced 2.5mm (200mw) and an unbalanced 3.5mm (100mw) port. Very affordable and practical, but nonetheless also good sound quality.
Mojo isnt very practical I found also overated for sound I actually preffered the AQ cobalt . I would get a DAP and forget the dongle DACs I did and I am much happier. You don’t have to spend the earth to get a good sounding one either.
After looking at some review videos the Shanling fell off the list.
The intention was to use the device in combination with my computer. Was not really considering usage with my phone. I guess if it opens up that door as well I would not complain but as an iPhone user I expect that one would have to buy some ridiculously overpriced piece of wire just to make it work anyways.
A selling point for me would be if I can sent all computer sound through the DAC. Is this possible with something like the Cobalt?
Hmmm this is an option I did not even consider. But where to even start with this. I read elsewhere you have the Hiby R5 but that is not available in Europe, it would seem.
My main usage would be when my computer is started up which means switching cables between the player and the computer when I need sound from the computer.
However, depending on the price vs quality equation it could make this an attractive option.
Yes any of the AQ dacs work on a computers USB port. I have my old Black as a backup still. Best thing with the AQ dacs is they dont need any drivers and they just tend to work, only need the application to update them. They only go to 96/24 for standard PCM due to the USB bus but if you have Tidal and it gets an MQA stream then it will go higher as the USB bus doesnt go over 48/24 for MQA the rest is in the DAC itself.
I ordered mine from the Hiby store on Ali Express and it comes with Play store to install apps as its set up for Europea market, you can also order direct from Hiby. Came pretty quick. You can sometimes get them via Amazon but you pay more. Plenty of other DAPs from Fiio you can buy in the UK though M11 is one to consider.
Thanks. I had a look and from what I can see the Shanling would have more of the sound profile I like. More rounded, less neutral and not an edgy top end.
Thing that stops me from just pulling the trigger and trying it is that the device must at least do some justice to the Focals. Whereas I have no illusions that I won’t be getting a portable Atom HE, I may actually be putting in quite a few hours on the device while at the office.
So the reviews I have seen so far all agree that the Cobalt gives superior sound and to be better suited to this segment of headphones.
Don’t want to be that guy who asks for advice and then ignore it but I won’t be able to demo either of these easily and I cannot think that a 89 Euro device will do a 1000 Euro headphone justice
That sounds perfect for me really. So you can confirm that it plays ALL computer sounds?
I know so little about this that I actually dunno if I want to open this door as well LOL Especially if I already know that a lot of usage would have me switch the cable between device and computer.
And an added extra. Due to a little word starting with a big B I now have to pay a large overhead on anything I buy from the UK while a few months ago it was as easy as ordering locally…
I wouldn’t use an iPhone with a Dragonfly or similar DAC as it’s a nuisance having it dangling off the phone and it will drain the battery. Better to have a separate portable player. I really like my Sony DAP, and it has a huge battery life and excellent sound quality. However, all of the above is great with IEMs or other headphones that are easy to drive.
A Dragonfly is a great option for sticking in the USB port of a computer too, so I wouldn’t rule it out.
If you want to use more demanding headphones of the sort that your Atom can drive you should look at a desktop DAC. I really enjoyed my Mk1 Hugo as a headphone DAC, but there’s loads of choice out there these days.
The Celestee has an impedance of 35 Ohm so I don’t think it would be too hard to drive it elsewhere.
My Atom HE is my desktop solution. I plan to spend most of my time working from home still but due to social pressure the odd office day will happen and then I want something that is super portable and easy to power and setup. It’s all gotta fit nicely in the computer bag.
I also plan to spend no more than 500 Euro on the solution. If I cannot get something suitable for that price I will rather leave it or I will end up trying to compete with the HE.
In that case I reckon a Dragonfly would be ideal. The top of the range Cobalt would be within budget and they are tiny. Obviously you would be dependent on your computer as a music store or streaming source. If that’s a problem maybe consider a DAP.
Mine is the discontinued NW-ZX2 which was their top of the line model at the time. It runs a version of Android so you can use it with streaming services and other apps as well as internal storage. Other Sony models use internal storage only so you would need to decide which would suit you, but I’m not familiar with their current range.