Moondrop Dawn Review

Today we review the $69 USD Moondrop Dawn ultra-portable USB DAC/AMP dongle.

 

Disclaimer: ShenzhenAudio sent us the Moondrop Dawn for this review. As always, I am here to share my honest opinion with you.

 

Moondrop

Moondrop is a company that specializes in the research & development of a wide range of audio equipment. They have been in the industry since 2014 but the Moondrop brand was established in 2015. In the first years, the Moondrop team focused only on earbud design and later added IEMs to their product line-up.

By using new technologies in their products and launching successful products, they managed to become an impressive company that designs & produces products for every price range of the market in a short time.

Although Moondrop is best known among audiophiles for the IEMs they make nowadays, they have also designed products in different categories in the past. One of them is Moonriver 1. The Moonriver 1 is a product that was designed and produced before USB DACs became so popular, but did not go into mass production.

Moonriver 2, on the other hand, is both a tribute to the MR1 and a product that shows how far technology and Moondrop, have come. You can read our Moonriver 2 review through this link.

Today, we have the latest addition to Moondrop’s portable DAC & AMP family, the Dawn. The Dawn is available in two versions, the 4.4mm version and the 3.5mm version. The 4.4mm version retails for $69 USD whereas the 3.5mm version costs $64 USD. Let’s take a closer look at the Dawn.

Moondrop Dawn 4.4mm – Portable USB DAC/AMP

First of all, I want to say that I am quite excited about this review. I can easily say that I am satisfied with the VariationsKato, and Moonriver 2 products that I have reviewed from Moondrop company recently, so I am quite curious if this success story would continue or be limited to these products.

The Dawn has very aggressive and competitive pricing and considering that the portable DAC and AMP market is more vibrant and tougher than ever before, it’s not hard to understand why Moondrop has gone this route.

The Dawn is an interesting device, Moondrop states that it is fully balanced with full utilization of two pieces of Cirrus Logic’s CS43131 DAC chips. It shows really good performance numbers on paper and offers a good amount of power for its form and factor.

The Dawn does not come with a detachable cable like the MoonRiver 2 but it still features the silver-colored SPC cable that we liked very much in our MR2 review. 

Specifications & Highlights

Dual Cirrus Logic CS43131 DAC chips

Dual Crystal Oscillator

132dB DNR

117dB SNR

USB Type-C

32-bit/768kHz / DSD256 Support

4Vrms Max LO Output Power

4.4mm BAL HPO

[email protected]Ω

Packaging & Accessories

Moondrop preferred a very simple and elegant presentation for Dawn. The Dawn comes in a round, low-profile metal box. Moondrop’s logo and product model name are on the front of the metal box. On the back of the box, we see that Moondrop provides technical details of the Dawn in both English and Chinese.

A round metal box is aesthetically superior to any cardboard box in my opinion. It felt like I was unboxing a much more expensive device.

When you open the round metal box, you will see a compartment made of dense foam. The Dawn and the adapter that comes with it are being held by this foam, safe from damage. The nano USB-A to USB-C adapter is the only accessory that comes included with the Dawn.

If you want to use the DAC & AMP with an iPhone or any other Apple device that uses a lightning port, you’ll need a Lightning to USB-C adapter. Moondrop told us that they are working on this adapter and it will be available soon.

Design & Build Quality

Moondrop is a company that prioritizes design and incorporates unique design elements in all the products they have designed and developed so far. Just like every other Moondrop product out there, the Dawn has elegant and fine design lines. Size-wise, the Dawn is slightly fatter than its big brother, the MoonRiver 2.

Both of the devices are pretty similar in form factor, and they both are quite portable. The Dawn has an undetachable cable by design and does not come with a female USB-C socket compared to the MR2. After spending some time with the Dawn, I honestly believe that Moondrop did their best not to cut any corners about the build quality of the device. 

The chassis of the Dawn is made of aluminum alloy. The aluminum chassis features a matte white finish and does a great job of repelling fingerprints. The 4.4mm headphone socket is gold-plated and feels very secure. Apart from that, the Dawn uses the same SPC cable that comes bundled with the MoonRiver 2 but it is not detachable.

I had durability concerns but after inspecting the Dawn up close, my concerns were gone. Moondrop put a strain-relief on the end that is going into the chassis of the Dawn and on the other end, they used the same reliable USB-C plug which I’ve been using with the MoonRiver 2 since March. 

The device layout is as clean as it is physically possible. The Dawn has no buttons or HW volume control. It only has a single status LED that lights up in different colors according to the active sample rate. 

Overall, I am satisfied with what we get under $70 USD, build-quality and design-wise. Of course, the Dawn lacks the premium details of the MoonRiver 2 like the glueless design, detachable cable, geometric layer-by-layer CNC milling, etc. but the price difference is rather large. 

User Experience & Power

I am an Android 12 user, I also have UAPP and Tidal. Both of the applications detect the Dawn right away as “Nano audio 1”. Will there be a 2, or a 3 in the future? Perhaps, we are going to wait and see.

My phone initializes the Dawn in seconds and listening to DSDs in UAPP is a seamless and easy process. Tidal works great also, without any bugs. It is just as stable as the MoonRiver 2. 

Moondrop released an app called “Moondrop Link” and now supports USB DACs. The app is available both on iOS and Android. You can play with a few settings of the Dawn through this application. Just plug it in, launch the app and allow the app to access your DAC.

Voila, you are ready to control it. In the app, you can change the active DAC filter between five options. You can also adjust the gain setting between 2vrms and 4vrms. Lastly, you can turn off the status LED.

The Dawn requires no drivers with macOS devices, however, if you want to use it with your Windows PC, you should click here and download its official driver for the best performance. You can also check here for future firmware updates. The firmware can also be updated from within the app.

Let’s talk about power and discuss what we can expect from this dongle. Interestingly, the Dawn is almost as powerful as the MoonRiver 2. It can dish out 230mW into a 32-Ω load without any clipping. It is quite powerful and will have no trouble driving any IEM that you can throw at it.

Just like the MoonRiver 2, the Dawn also has no hiss and features the same black background that I got used to. One of my new favorites, Yanyin Canon IEMs (8Ω) are quite picky about this issue due to their sensitivity and the Dawn passed this test without any issues.

One additional note, thanks to the thick, aluminum chassis, the PCB is well shielded. I had no noise/jitter/RFI while using 4.5G/5G on my phone. There was no interference or stutter and it was dead silent during my sessions with it. 

The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.

Page 2: Sound Signature, Low, Mid, High, Technical Capability, Comparisons, Last Words

 

4.5/5 - (256 votes)

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Long time Tech Enthusiast, an ambitious petrol-head, Yagiz likes his gadgets and always finds new ways into the tinkerer's world. He tries to improve anything and everything he gets his hands onto. Loves an occasional shine on the rocks.

14 Comments

  • Reply August 10, 2022

    Darren kinnersley

    What a great review, I’ve been thinking about getting a dongle like this, but I didn’t know which way to go, but you have pointed me in the right direction. My new iems will thankyou

    • Reply August 15, 2022

      Yagiz

      Thanks for your kind words Darren, it is a great little DAC indeed and I’m sure you’ll be content with it.

      Happy listening!

  • Reply August 11, 2022

    antonio

    would this work for a 300ohm headphone such as the HD 800S?

    • Reply August 15, 2022

      Yagiz

      I would not pair a 1500$ flagship headphone with a ultra portable USB dongle to be honest. We have reviewed wonderful DAC & Amp stacks, I’d recommend checking those out.

  • Reply August 16, 2022

    Pradeep

    Would it pair well with 7Hz salnotes dioko to use with my oneplus 9 phone.

    • Reply August 17, 2022

      Yagiz

      Hello Pradeep,
      Sorry, I do not have that earphone.

  • Reply August 17, 2022

    ND

    I have a Samsung Note 10+ phone running Android 12. Do I need to have UAPP or Tidal to take advantage of this DAC, or will it work with other music apps such as Samsung Music, Amazon Music etc?

    • Reply August 17, 2022

      Yagiz

      Hello ND, I hope you are well.
      Many manufacturers have removed the 3.5mm port and started selling their own USB-C DAC dongles. This means that almost all applications on Android 12 now support USB-DACs, including default applications such as Samsung Music. So my answer to your question is yes, very likely you will be able to use Dawn without the need for UAPP.

  • Reply August 22, 2022

    Al

    Hi, May I know the IEM brand and model (Burgundy/red) shown alongside in the second picture on this page with the Moondrop Dawn? Many Thanks

    • Reply August 22, 2022

      Yagiz

      Hello,

      Yanyin Canon. A wonderful IEM that we will review soon! Stay tuned!

  • Reply August 29, 2022

    Bellamy

    Hello great review as always. I have a question, since my cans almost all come with 3.5mm jack so i want to know how about 3.5mm version of this dac is that good as the 4.4mm version? Or i just get the 4.4mm version and use converter? Thanks in advance

    • Reply September 3, 2022

      Yagiz

      Hello Bellamy, thank you for reading the review.

      According to official 3.5mm and 4.4mm specs, the 4.4mm version is superior on paper. I unfornutalely don’t have the 3.5mm version so I can’t really say if these numbers mean anything in real-life performance.

  • Reply September 14, 2022

    Matej

    Hello, loved the review. I have a quetion. Would this Dac pair nicely with the Moondrop Kato? Thanks in advance!

    • Reply September 14, 2022

      Yagiz

      Yes, definitely. Kato is one of the best monitors under the 200 mark, value/performance wise. The Dawn is also awesome and punches above its weight class. The syngery is great!

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