What is a Good Portable DAC for Tidal and Qobuz (that supports 24/192 and MQA)

Currently, when traveling, I use a Dragonfly Cobalt DAC with my Dell laptop (Roon), iPhone, or iPad and Sony headphones. It sounds great but maxes out at 24/96.

What is a good portable DAC that can do 24/192 and MQA?

Thanks for your input, and please don’t turn this into another “MQA sucks” thread.

The Dragonfly Cobalt when paired with Roon will give you 24/192. So will the TIDAL desktop app.

I suspect you’ll be struggling to find an MQA DAC that’s both decoder and renderer that’s powered by the iOS device. The Meridian Explorer2 is the only DAC that comes to mind … if you can get one.

Otherwise you’ll need something a bit heftier, e.g. iFi xDSD.

iFi Audio micro iDSD Black Label

Although, MQA is not useful to me so I’d go with the Monolith™ THX® Portable Headphone Amplifier and DAC. And if I wanted MQA, I’d use UAPP with the MQA add-on to bypass the Android OS’s USB system.

Thanks. I use a Dell laptop or iPhone and iPad. Don’t use Android. That looks like a possible good alternative.

I guess I should also ask, can a human even hear any difference between 24/96 versus 24/192? I’m not talking about up-sampled files, but music recorded at those resolutions. Everything I read is a human cannot hear any difference. I don’t want to spend money on something that makes no difference. I haven’t yet fallen for the snake oil audiophile theory that if it cost more, it must sound better.

I find it to be DAC dependent. I’m going to say that a bus powered USB device is unlikely to blow your mind. Differences are subtle at best in my experience and those are between 44.1 and higher rates. Not necessarily between 96 and 192.

Thanks for your reply. So, do you think I might as well stick with my Dragonfly Cobalt 24/96 versus upgrading to a 24/192 of some sort?

Everything in the chain will make a difference…and most importantly use your ears to decide…they are the only thing that matters. I don’t get hung up on bit rates these days, long as my sound is acceptable to my ears

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All I get from it is the satisfaction of not seeing the indications of downsampling in Roon. I can’t honestly say it sounds better, more I feel better.

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Is that worth $600?

Well, the question is can YOU hear any difference. Whether I can or not should not determine what you do. Do you have any DAC which can do 24/192 comparison test at home?

As, Henry said, different DACs can sound very different playing the same material. How a DAC reconstructs the audio and the filters it applies (or not in the case of NOS) DOES make a perceptible difference. Please note, I’m not even talking about higher than CD res at the moment.

Now what is best, can only be determined by you and testing out all the different methods and hardware with your own ears. I am not fond of any DAC based on ESS chips, for example.

Not to me! Getting something that works well in your given setting is paramount. For instance the Explorer2 did the numbers but was unable to drive any of my headphones. The output direct from my iPad Pro is much better.

My Oppo 203 does 24/192. I have RCA to 3.1 mm output to headphones, but I usually use my Sennheiser headphones for that. I guess I should use my Sony headphones and compare some 24/96 versus 24/192 and see if I can tell any difference. If not, my Dragonfly Cobalt should be all I need for use with iPhone, iPad, and Dell laptop when away from home.

Thanks for the input.

PS: My iDevices are older iPhone 6S Plus and iPad Mini 4. They have old wood burning DAC’s, I think.


Perhaps, I should have spelled things out for you. With Roon performing the first unfold, you’ll have resolutions up to MQA 24/192. I thought you’d understanding this since the Dragonfly is only a renderer.

Or at least can you discern the difference on the go in a crowded train etc.

The DAC in the Cobalt is capable of 384/24 it’s the xmos usb bus that’s the limiting factor to make it more compatible. If listening to MQA it will go up to this as it’s encapsulated no higher than 96/24 so will pass through. I have had it playing 352/24 quite happily form Tidal with MQA.

You could look at the Ifi range of DACs if you want to go pcm higher as they will go to DSD. I preferred the sound of my Cobalt thoigh over my Ifi Nano which does go into 384/24 ,DSD128 and is MQA.

@Jim_F I have a dragonfly black at the moment and I’m considering getting the cobalt. Would you recommend it? Also would you recommend the Sony headphones you use? Sorry, can’t remember the model number…

Yes, to both. https://www.sony.com/electronics/headband-headphones/wh-1000xm3

Cheers :+1::+1: