Distortion and IMD figures are low, as is signal noise. This is a high-performance part. The only thing to really keep in mind is that its low pass filter softens high frequency signals. I’ve been bumping with the Koss Porta Pro- its both a semantic, and sonic fit. Ditto the DT880. Ditto ZMF headphones. In other words, it sounds good, even with thick-sounding headphones.
As noted above, drive capabilities are best suited to headphones with medium-high impedance ratings. That, and the medium amount of background noise makes it less suitable to listening with sensitive earphones.
Again, even at high volumes Porta DAC supplies good current to headphones such as the DT880/600, and harder to drive high-current headphones, so clipping and other drive artefacts are next to nill.
Naturally, Porta DAC’s standout feature is its inclusion of a Bluetooth receiver. TENTO’s version works far better than the prototype I tested two years ago, which at best, managed to catch signal from a smartphone or computer at distances up to 50cm, but was best used 20cm from the source.
TENTO’s version manages 5-6 metres in a country home. Add in Wifi signals and that distance drops to about 4 metres. Add mobile phones, and neighbours, and it drops to about 3 metres before signal breaks up here and there. Next to its Venturecraft competitor, that is a shame.
As long as the DAC sits within a metre of your source, its signal is strong and will remain uninterrupted. Computer/iPad/smartphone users: need for cables!
No need for cables!
Of course, bandwidth is something to watch out for. My lossless 16 bit files get on just fine over Bluetooth, but only in that country home, and after shooting the neighbours. Lossy files always get on fine.
But Porta DAC has a much richer sound. And, Bluetooth is just one input. Despite not boasting a great antenna implementation, the receiving end is tip-top. I’ve yet to meet a single person that could tell the difference between the Porta DAC decoding Bluetooth signal and coaxial, or optical. USB is another thing. As is often the case with decoders, signal quality drops over USB, mainly putting out lower stereo separation, and introducing different noise.
That’s all to say that if you just have to have the best signal, keep to coaxial, optical, or if you dare, Bluetooth. And if you do, you will get all the goods this DAC can spit out.
If you’re not keen on using headphones, Porta DAC works peachy as a pass through. Its line out is high quality, and thankfully, like every other input, is situated aft, making it a breeze to use in a HiFi, or on your desktop.
On a Mac, it’s plug and play, from Bluetooth to optical, to USB. Ditto when syncing over coax or optical from other sources. I couldn’t get it to play via USB with an iPad. The error was that the iPad couldn’t supply enough voltage to power the hungry DAC. Which I’m totally fine with. This thing’s Bluetooth is a life-changer.
No need for cables!
I’m quite surprised. While you won’t get 20 hours, or even close, getting more than 10 hours per charge is absolutely possible. I measured battery rundown time by hooking the Porta DAC up to my Edirol FA66 and had Sound Studio record how long it could playback John Denver. Thanks to having to use the computer for work, I wasn’t able to ever run the battery completely down.
When I get the chance, I will complete the test again.
TENTO Engineering’s take on MyST Audio’s masterpiece is just what Porta DAC needed. While it does look like a cigar case, it is tasteful and understated. Bluetooth signal quality has received a notable bump. Not enough to survive without hiccup on the commuter train, but perfect for desktop use. And then there’s the sound: rich, thick with micro contrast, and otherwise relaxing. It’s a sound that stole much of the show at the world’s most trafficked headphone shop: Akihabara’s e-earphone.
The price at 599€ is high, but then again, prices for DACs and amps have risen across the board. I think it is well worth it.
Correction: The price has been corrected to 599€.