CypherLabs Picollo DAC: The Android DAC/AMP Combo

Even though the technology used is completely different, I find the PDAC and Picollo to sound very much alike and that actually doesn’t surprise me. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the way Cypherlabs intended it to sound. I wrote the next part for the Picollo review but it goes for the PDAC as well:

“Left/right balance is very good but 3 dimensional wise there is room for improvement. Sound stage width and depth both are good. So is overall detail. But Picollo can’t reach the same level as either the Theorem and Duet. You get a smaller sound stage, not as much detail, and all of that is more centered. It is a more ‘inside your head’ sound. That doesn’t mean the Picollo doesn’t sound good, it means the Theorem and Duet, which both cost more, are extremely good”.

The difference between both units to my ears is in the bass and mids. Like with the Picollo I still find the bass to have that bit of extra presence in the PDAC. It’s not that it is overly present but it has good body, it’s fast and tight but it’s always there. The PDACs bass is a bit tighter and faster. You could call the Picollo’s bass more romantic, or the PDACs bass a little more aggressive but it’s not like the difference is night and day. But yes, it is noticeable.

“The amp sounds pretty linear and correct or uninfluenced as you might call it. It has really good detail but I wouldn’t call it an analytical amplifier either. The mids, like with all CL gear, are gorgeous: musical, detailed, and clear”. The mids on the Picollo sound a little smoother compared to the PDAC. The Picollo’s mids sound more like tube amp mids while the mids on the PDAC are more solid state sounding to me, missing some “feeling”. Personally I prefer the mids of the Picollo but I’m sure a lot of people will love both just as much. Again, the difference between the units isn’t huge. “The mids have good body and complement the bass perfectly but aren’t the most airy (hence why I say centered). Mids are fairly neutral but very musical – just don’t mistake musical for warm.

Treble is good and not hot by far but for my personal taste could have had a little more sparkle and extension”.

The Duet and Theorem are still livelier and more dynamic. They put you further into the music, whereas the Picollo and PDAC place the music inside your head. Just like the Picollo, the PDAC works great with a lot of earphones and full size headphones. From the brand new RHA T10i to the Hifiman HE-560, the PDAC powers them all and makes them sound great. Do check out the Picollo review for more info on pairings.

So there are no bad things to report? Well there is one: sometimes it ticks, I don’t know if that’s related to my cell phone reception or the USB port but it sounds like the typical crack like when you’re listening to an LP. Luckily that’s not happening all the time and I haven’t found a pattern for it. I did want to mention it though.

Conclusion

I have mostly used the PDAC as and amp only but I have to say it is handy to have the DAC option for when you only have your phone with you. It’s actually more than just handy because the sound quality the PDAC produces is pretty good. I didn’t expect it to be different though. Once you’ve listened to your Android phone with the PDAC you probably wouldn’t want to go back to using the headphone out.

I wouldn’t really recommend it as a DAC for your computer as there are better and cheaper options out there, my favorite being the Resonessence Labs Herus. It cost $350 and also works on Android. Unfortunately the amp section in the Herus is not that outstanding, but the DAC makes up for that.

Some find it a downside the PDAC only works on Android and not on their iPhone. I get that but then again, CypherLabs has so many Apple compatible products already, take the awesome Theorem in example. And it even charges your Apple device. So stop complaining. All kidding aside though, I’m pretty sure CypherLabs will come up with a mini DAC or Mini Theorem for all the iDevices out there.

The Picollo, at $399 is the cheapest amp CypherLabs offers. With the addition of the DAC its price has gone up to $549. That maybe a bit on the high side in my opinion, I think a $499 price tag would have been more appropriate. It is for sale in the CypherLabs shop or via one of their dealers. If you are planning on going to Canjam at RMAF this weekend, you really should check out the Cypherlabs booth and check out their gear. I’m pretty sure you’ll love the typical sound. And say hi to the guys from us 😉

The PDAC comes in the awesome carrying case with a Mini to mini interconnect (20cm), two black micro USB to micro USB cables (20cm), a black USB A to micro USB cable (0.5m), the famous CypherLabs leatherette pad to protect bundled devices from scratching and of course some straps to bundle the device when on the go.

CypherLabs Picollo DAC: The Android DAC/AMP Combo
3.8 (75.71%) 14 vote[s]

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

16 Comments

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    ohm image

    I can only imagine. The regular Picollo was phenomenal. Add the DAC and whoopee!

    • Reply October 7, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Theorem still is the better unit but this is a mall DAC/AMP combo for Android with a really good amp

      • Reply October 7, 2014

        ohm image

        That’s fine. For earphones, of course, the Picollo circuit is much better suited. But Theorem is quite the treat.

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Ford

    From my experience, turning the airplane mode on help eliminating the crack while using external DAC. I guess it has nothing to do with the DAC.

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Tony

    would be really curious to see how this compares to the competition(android dac/amps)? ALO international+, JDS labs C5D, Headstage arrow 5G. Anything else in that price range?

    • Reply October 7, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      I never received the International+, the JDSLabs C5D can’t touch the PDac. PDac has a wider sound stage, smoother sound, more detail and a more musical open sound. I haven’t listened to the Arrow lately. HErus has a DAC that’s a lot better than the Pdac but the amp section of the Herus pretty much sucks while the amp section in the Pdac is the strong point.

      Hope this helps!

      • Reply October 8, 2014

        Tony

        nice thanks! How about the PDAC vs the original international? reading over your review of the international my impression was that you were a bit “meh” about it because of the price

      • Reply December 10, 2014

        digitldlnkwnt

        OK easy on the Herus…it’s 1/4 the size of the PDAC Pick on someone your own size and price range 😉
        Given the size and price difference plus room for more robust electronics, it’s plain to me the PDAC would be able to squeeze in a better amp section. Herus is really designed to be a swiss-army DAC that for less than 400.00 bux allows any amp to play DSD/DXD files.

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Tibor

    Hey, cool stuff you’ve got there 😉 This is what I am looking for and when I’ve seen the headline, I was so happy! Picollo with an Android dac! Yes! This is what I need, but then sadly, it’s not the same triode amp inside 🙁 Never mind, I really want to buy either this or International+, but you said you never received one, so you can’t help in this. This one has a better battery life, hmm, I really don’t know now, because I was already decided for International. Maybe I will wait until Christmas and see who will have a better offer 😀
    Thanks for the review anyway! 😉

  • Reply October 8, 2014

    Tibor

    I have one more question, I just want to know how many steps down is PDAC’s amp section compared to Vorzuge Pure ii? If Pure is 100%, how many % PDAC will have? Thank youuu 😉

    • Reply October 8, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      If the the Picollo amp = 100%; the PDAC amp is like 95%. And Nathan said this about the Pure ii: While I prefer the sound of the Vorzüge PURE II, Picollo’s
      gain stage is better tuned to a wide variety of earphones, from the
      most sensitive, to earphones that exhaust the outputs of some players.

      So Picollo for IEMs is the winner 😉

      • Reply October 8, 2014

        Tibor

        This is what is important for me, he prefers the sound of Pure ii. I don’t own any iems yet, I am very happy with my VK-1 and looking for an amp or amp/dac for them 🙂 Hmm will see, will see 😉

        • Reply October 9, 2014

          ohm image

          I’ve not heard the Picollo DAC, but the regular Picollo is great. Chase Emory, a crazy-eared mate of mine, also likes the Picollo. He tends to agree that Pure II is tip top. For me, there is no substitute for the minute, but wonderful patina the PURE II introduces, but the gain stage is better on the Picollo, hands down.

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