Maktar Spectra X2 Review

maktar-spectra-x2-review-headfonia (39)

Sound performance

For the purpose of this review, I used three ear/headphones: The FiiO FA9, my Onkyo IE-C3, and the Meze 99 Classics, for good measure. All files were played from an iPad Pro 10.5” and iPhone 11, in USB DAC mode.

Overall signature

So, once plugged in, how’s the Spectra X2?

It’s pretty good in fact. As I suspected, it’s definitely not the king of power and you should avoid big cans like the Sennheiser HD800S or Hifiman’s Arya, but otherwise, it’s a clean sheet.

maktar-spectra-x2-review-headfonia (39)

You get (far) more details than your usual dongle, and I’d put the Spectra X2 at the same level as AudioQuest Dragonfly Red. Both sound equally wide, but the Dragonfly seems a bit softer where the Spectra X2 sounds surprisingly straight.

The sound signature definitely leans more towards precision and neutrality, than musicality and warmth. With the FiiO FA9, I got the usual 3D effects but had to toggle the switches to really enjoy the sound. I could hear every detail, but missed the low-mids I liked with those ears.

On the other hand, paired with the Meze 99 Classics, the Spectra X2 really began to shine. Always in control, the DAC gave me smooth mids, tight bass, and clear highs, at all volume levels. Head to head with my EarMen Eagle, the difference became thinner, when I favored the Eagle once connected to my Onkyo.

maktar-spectra-x2-review-headfonia (39)

Previously, Nathan pointed out how much the X1 was sensitive to the source, his MacBook falling far behind his iPad Pro. Nothing of the sort here and on my test track, with the same headphones, I couldn’t discern any difference between the iPhone and iPad: both sound equally superb.

Last but not least, I have to point out the exceptional level of dynamic Maktar achieved to output with its X2. On good recordings, I was baffled by the sound and how clear every detail seemed to appear. On lazy tracks, it’s more subtle, but still audible, even with simple IEM like the FiiO FH3.

Very nice!

maktar-spectra-x2-review-headfonia (39)

Tonality

Highs: uncluttered symphony. The Spectra X2 achieves a very good job here, with a good amount of air and fast transient. It’s almost too clean though and I’d love a little bit more life, at least with my Onkyo. Again, paired with the Meze 99 Classics, it sounds exquisite.

Track : Steal – Maribou State

Mids: great layering and good spaciousness. The mids blend perfectly with the rest of the spectrum. The soundstage is excellent, and the wide dynamic range makes for outstanding performances, at any given volume.

Track : Everything I wanted – Billie Eilish

Lows: right and sharp. The Spectra surprised me here. No shallow echoes nor dragging sensation, even on power-hungry headphones. Don’t expect the same level of power found on devices like the Sparrow, but if you want finesse, it’s all there.

Track : Memories – Ady Suleiman

maktar-spectra-x2-review-headfonia (39)

Comparison

iBasso DC01: small and versatile, this small DAC is one of the few to offer a balanced output, in a dongle format. It’s one of the best bang for a buck you could get in this format and thanks to its USB-C port, it works with almost any device you can think of. Soundwise, the Spectra X2 remains superior, but remember that we’re talking about a device almost 3 times cheaper.

NuPrime Hi-mDAC: one of my favorite devices or the moment. Bigger form factor, different chip but same audio prowess, all thanks to a new Cirrus-logic chipset. I really like the square-design and paired with my Onkyo, the synergy is sublime. It’s also more powerful than the Spectra, so keep that in mind, if you want to drive a big/hungry headphone.

EarMen Eagle: still bigger than the Spectra, but cheaper too, the Eagle feels equally impressive once you’ve plugged it to your IEM. Soundwise, it follows the same path – dynamic, accuracy, great transient – but all-in-all the Eagle feels more natural. A great choice if you just need an affordable DAC/Amp.

maktar-spectra-x2-review-headfonia (39)

Conclusion

The Maktar Spectra X2 offers great value for the money. Flawless build, hassle-free connection with your iPhone and, most importantly, it offers excellent sound performances.

The design is pretty cool and over the last weeks, I was surprised by how versatile It was. Even though, keep using IEM or portable headphone, not big ones, the X2 won’t be able to drive them properly.

Long story short: if you’re on the hunt for a pocket, MFi certified, linear-sounding DAC/Amp, the X2 will be the obvious choice. If you need more power in a slightly bigger case, check EarMen’s Sparrow and FiiO’s Q3, but otherwise, the Spectra should definitely be on your list

4.4/5 - (194 votes)

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A nerdy guy with a passion for audio and gadgets, he likes to combine his DAC and his swiss knife. Even after more than 10 years of experience, Nanotechnos still collects all gear he gets, even his first MPMAN MP3 player. He likes spreadsheets, technical specs and all this amazing(ly boring) numbers. But most of all, he loves music: electro, classical, dubstep, Debussy : the daily playlist.

2 Comments

  • Reply March 16, 2021

    Franz

    Thank you for the review, Nanotechnos. Very helpful in my process of buying a tiny DAC for my iPhone.

    A note on output power. The Spectra X outputs 49mW at 32 Ohms. Why does the Spectra X2 output only 15mW? Could be the new Sabre chip, but that seems too large a difference to be the result of moving to a very similar chip. So I went to the Japanese Maktar site and, lo and behold, it says the X2 outputs 49mW at 32 Ohms. I’ve written to them and we’ll see if they reply. Meanwhile, mine is arriving in two days.

  • Reply March 23, 2021

    Franz

    Update: Maktar Japan got back to me. They have corrected their web page: the X2 outputs only 15mW. Why does it output less than 1/3 of the Spectra X? They didn’t say.

    I have had my unit now for almost a week and I can report that it definitely creates a better soundstage than an iPhone SE (1st generation). It is also a bit louder and definitely goes deeper into the bass (without smearing or booming). I do like it, but for $200 I really wanted more output, even though that would drain my phone battery faster. The Spectra X2 drives my Etymotic ER4SR IEMs adequately and my HifiMan Sundara headphones barely, but I am going to need a more powerful amp for the latter. Perhaps my old phone is unusually weak, but Nathan’s desire for a hardware attenuator bears no relationship to my experience. But again, this little DAC is still a lovely piece of kit.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.