Suggestion for USB powered headphone/DAC

I’ve been using a Meridian Explorer 2 for headphone listening. I’m attaching it directly to the USB port of my laptop and I get a decent enough sound with my Mr.Speakers (now Dan Clark Audio) headphones.

The Explorer is starting to get old, and it’s coming apart :slight_smile: Any suggestions for a replacement? Ideally, the replacing unit can do high res and, maybe decode MQA?

I know I can get much better units if I get one that plugs in, but the operative word here is unobtrusive and my wife wouldn’t tolerate another box in the living room, specially one which will compete with her iphone/ipad charger to boot !

You could look at the astonishingly capable Audioquest Dragonfly headphone DACs. I have a Dragonfly Red which is seriously good, but there is now an even better one Dragonfly Cobalt. The cost here in UK for the Cobalt is under £300 and they are all tiny and USB powered.




I’ll second that.


Ditto. My Cobalt does sterling duty as my travel system.
Happily drives Sennheiser HD 700’s.


Chord Mojo?

Any DAC with a USB input will do, so your choice is huge. Naim’s V1 was designed to take a USB output from a computer, and I suspect prices might drop now that the Atom HE is here.
If you want something compact that will also work with an iPhone the Dragonflies are a good choice. Then there’s the Chord Mojo and Hugo, etc. etc.

Much too big. Ideally, I would want something that hangs off the USB port of my laptop.

Looks like it could be the Cobalt or the Mojo, which goes up the resolution scale, albeit at a higher price. The Mojo needs another cable for charging, which is not in its favor, but it might be livable if I plan my charging sessions carefully. Any idea on how long does the charge on a Mojo last, if not in use (but disconnected from power obviously)?

Thank you all for your recommendations

No idea for sure, but would expect it (mojo!) to keep charge for quite a while if disconnected and not on. Not noticed a reduction in charge level from mine whilst disconnected in the few months I’ve owned one. I do not get 8 hours from mine running into Shure 1540s, but can easily plan charging around my listening. I probably charge after 4 or 5 hours listening. Not cos its battery is flat, but to keep the battery from fully discharging. In a perhaps misguided attempt to maximize battery serviceable life, I also try and avoid fully charging it.

My Mojo had been much more reliable since turning my phone’s radio off whilst listening. Turn it to airplane mode, switch wireless back on. With the phone’s main radio on it was regularly having trouble. To be honest that was very annoying, and almost made me look for alternatives. As ever the internet saved the day, for some reason the USB input can be sensitive if connected to a phone. Using a better cable, and/or turning the radio off, suggested fixes, the latter has completely fixed the issue… and who wants to take a call whilst listening to music…?

It sounds great btw!

(Sony Xperia 1, unbranded OTG cable)

It’s unobtrusive, though not as discrete as a Dragonfly.


Since Chord recommend charging the Mojo when not playing, you only need one cable and switch it from the charging port to the play port as needed. So no extra cables.

The Dragonfly would be the simplest solution, and they do sound pretty good for what they are.
The Mojo will probably give you about 8 hours on a full charge, and takes about 4 hours for a full recharge. My Mk1 Hugo was great with headphones, and I just left it with the charger connected.

Thank you all for your suggestions - all of which I looked at in depth. I was a bit in 2 minds whether to stick to an Explorer2/Dragonfly type of solution or go the mojo way, meaning bigger and not powered by the USB.

In the end, as any self-respecting audiophile would do, I completely blew my budget and went for an iFi Diablo unit. An all-singing dancing unit that seems to handle an resolution thrown at it. Once I looked favorably to having a separate power arrangement, it was a small step to go all the way…

I’ve just received it, so will be putting it through its paces in the coming weeks.


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