Disclaimer: We got the Cypherlabs Picollo DAC a few weeks ago right after they announced its release. Headfonia has covered every single CL product and I’m proud of that. Ok, I’m lying; we still need to do the Prautes, if only it wasn’t so heavy!
Put the Picollo and PDAC together on a table and you wouldn’t be able to distinguish which one is CypherLab’s latest creation. They look as good as identical apart for some text on the front of the unit. All the rest looks the same. From the outside that is because on the inside it’s a whole other story. I advise everyone to read the Picollo review first as we won’t go into as much details this time. Basically because a lot of things are the same.
Yes, the PDAC is also analog amp (3.5mm input) but there’s more to it than the eye reveals. The PDAC, as the name says, is also a DAC. But not just any DAC: it was developed especially for Android devices yet it works on PC too. CypherLabs chose a simple Texas Instruments PCM2704 as DAC chip and it’s limited to 32, 44.1, 48 kHz @ 16-Bit sample rates. I was somehow surprised with the choice of that DAC and I talked to Cypherlab’s CEO Mr. Maudlin about it: “The 16/48 DAC is there for all those existing Android devices. Almost all 500 million of them can only play 16 bit and with the AlgoRhythm Picollo DAC, they don’t need any drivers or apps so it is an easy plug and play”. Agreed, but still…
Besides it having a DAC inside it also uses op amps for the headphone output instead of the discrete design of the Picollo. The triode design of the original Picollo is not compatible with the DAC output, so they had to use op amps. That does result in some changes to the sound which I’ll get back to later. Like the Picollo there is a 3.5mm line in and a 3.5mm single ended headphone out. If you need balanced connections you’ll have to go to the other CypherLabs models.
The PDAC has a very large output spread that supports ultra sensative IEM’s and large headphones: low gain -12db, mid gain, high gain +11.5db. Both units are exactly alike in that way but the power they put out is different. Where the Picollo has more power for 32Ohm and 50Ohm headphones the PDAC delivers more at 300Ohm and 600Ohm. Both have less than 1Ω Output Impedance.
Output power PDAC Output power Picollo
160mW into 32Ω 200mW into 32Ω
90mW into 50Ω 100mW into 50Ω
60mW into 300Ω 35mW into 300Ω
30mW into 600Ω 10mW into 600Ω
Both units have a CNC machined aluminum enclosure with laser engraving. The PDAC measures 20mm x 53mm x 88mm (100mm with knob) which exactly the same as surprise surprise: the Picollo. The PDAC weighs 5 grams more than the Picollo (140grams) and also comes in three colors: Black, Silver and Gold.
The Lithium-ion UF103450P 2000mAH/3.7V type battery from Sanyo is used again but it doesn’t go as long with one charge. Where it did between 24 and 30 hours in the Picollo it will only do between 12 and 18 hours when used as Android DAC and between 16 to 24 hours when used as analog amp. Still more than enough and way more than a lot of the competitor’s units. The battery life time is one of the unique selling points of the CypherLabs gear and I can only applaud them for that. Of course you can charge the battery while the unit’s is being used as amp or DAC.
The Difference in sound
Using a Sennheiser HD650 or Beyerdynamic T70 with my Samsung S4 is not a good idea. Even with the volume maxed out I can’t get it loud enough and the quality is below acceptable. The PDAC is plug and play. Connect it to your Android phone with the supplied micro to micro cable and your problem is solved. I like the S4 headphone out a lot with IEMs and easy to drive headphones but I never imagined my S4 to sound this good.
Sound goes on after the click