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.
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.