CEntrance DACmini CX DAC/Headphone Amp (Playback 52)

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
CEntrance DACmini CX DAC/Headphone Amp
CEntrance DACmini CX DAC/Headphone Amp (Playback 52)

On the track "Sanctuary" from Red Horse’s eponymous album [Red House], the instrumental and vocal layers are clear and the space is well represented. There is a general bias toward warm midrange and very slightly sweet treble, which sounds a little rolled off. This is about as euphonic as the DACmini ever gets, though it still consistently manages to sound lifelike—sort of a "tubes without the fog" sound.

Turning to Norah Jones’ album The Fall [Blue Note], the cut "Youngblood" has great instrumental separation and the frequency balance is pleasantly warm. The DACmini tames the treble spike of HE-5LE, which usually distracts from this track, though the resulting dynamics are slightly reserved.

On the Eleventh Dream Day album, El Moodio [Atlantic/WEA], listening to "Figure It Out" shows off the drums with impressive clarity, but some dynamic softness. Even so, the DACmini does an amazing job of uncluttering a very thick mix.

On the title track of the Decembrists’ The Crane Wife [Capitol], I heard an accurate acoustic guitar sound and excellent deep bass, combined with a good sense of rhythm (which is a useful test of low-mid balance). This track shows a bit of grain with theDACmini powering the Ultimate Ear IERMs. When driving the Sennheiser HD 800s, the DACmini makes the headphones’ characteristic upper mid dip just barely noticeable. Still, I would say the DACmini tis probably not the ideal amp for correcting midrange-reticent headphones; it’s far too honest for that sort of thing.

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