The NextDrive Spectra X is the newest of Nextrive’s DAC modules and it will be available on the market soon!
Disclaimer: NextDrive sent me Spectra X units to review here. They aren’t quite on the market, but should go on sale in the next weeks for around 190$ USD. X uses the same ESS SABRE 9018Q2C DAC, adds a bit of noise dumbing magic called Xtra Sound, among other advanced features. You can find out all about it here: Spectra X: Unleash the power of your sound.
The original Spectra blew me away. It went for 129$, performed great, was plug-and-play easy with a lot of computers and phones, and it showed serious upgrade potential from on-board sound boards, even if those boards were high-quality. It sure as heck beat out a my iMac. Here’s how RMAA sees my iMac. And now here’s how RMAA sees Spectra X.
Spectra X one-ups Spectra, adds a bunch of invisible back-end features, and performs better still. It is a great device. One of the most impressive I’ve plugged into any computer or smartphone or iPad at any price.
Because I’ve inundated with some pretty impressive Bluetooth DACs, I really miss a few features delivered by the likes of FiiO, BlueWave, Radsone, and others. What I miss most is asynchronous software and hardware attenuation, which make it simple to independently raise and lower volumes precisely. Both today’s and yesterday’s Spectras wholly rely on your iPhone, computer, iPad, or other’s built-in software attenuation system.
With an iPhone it means access to sixteen or so volume steps from the volume rockers. If you want to be precise, you have to somehow accurately thumb the software volume nib left and right for precise adjustments, which, unless your fingers are needle-narrow, is impossible. Because UI elements are larger, precisely adjusting volume on an iPad is a lot easier. Of course, on a computer, you have myriad options available.
Still, it would be great to have independent attenuation built into Spectra. That aside, I’m impressed. Spectra X is just as small and thin as Spectra, and comes clad in sturdy, and well-insulated aluminium- this time black rather than smoke. It shines less, and bears a bolder marque, but otherwise looks and acts the same. It also still hows up as Spectra from the USB output menu of your computer or phone. A more detail-oriented approach would have inserted an ‘X’ after it. It would also be nice if it came in USB-C, or even lightning, so that you’d not have to use a dongle to attach to an iPad or iPhone.
Overall, it’s a great unit.
NextDrive know this. They even pack in a protective case with a tiny tongue. It’s over-sized and I’ll never use it, but it’s there. The box is sturdy if a bit big. Marketing copy gems like “Unleashing the power of your sound” are good for a bit of roll-eye, as is ‘XtraSOUND’, NextDrive’s trademarked noise cancelling circuit. When does noise cancelling give you ‘extra’ sound? Maybe that was the point. Maybe NextDrive want pedants looking it up. Could be, could be.
The narrative I’ve come up with is that Spectra X, while pretty much performance gold, really could do with a few hardware additions and a new marketing department or copy writers.
Sound and more after the jump: