Portable Headphone DAC/Amp

I recently bought the new Neumann NDH20 headphones, which I find really nice and very detailed sounding – especially when driving them with the headphone amp on my audio interface. They can handle the most busy music at high volumes with ease.

Since I really enjoy the Neumanns, I now feel like I really want to use them everywhere in the house, not only in the home studio, but also on the couch, in bed, etc … so the question arises: how to drive them in a portable setup?

I use Tidal on my iPhone, but the Apple Adapter Dongle/DAC from Lightning to 3.5 stereo jack sounds bad and does not have enough power for the Neumanns – especially with classical music or jazz recordings with a lot of headroom.

What possible solutions are there to use the Neumanns with the iPhone?

I was looking into portable DACs/Amps that claim to work with Apple (and preferably with Tidal MQA). The recently released Dragonfly Cobalt by Audioquest is getting a lot of praise, but also mixed reviews from more independent reviewers. The small form factor seams great, but could also be a potential risk to loose it easily (and is not really needed, since I don’t necessarily want to go out in the streets with it).
There’s also the chinese manufacturerer FiiO with the Q5s and Q1 Mark II – not sure about these since I never heard of FiiO. Finally, there’s the Chord Mojo, which is quite expensive at ca. 400 € (4/5 of the price of the headphones itself!)

On a more general note, I am not sure if these devices really sound much different compared to each other or if most of it is Hi-Fi esoteric.

Does someone have experince with any of these, other recommendations or general thoughts about this topic? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!

I use a Chord Mojo and its great - would definitely recommend. Think they just got a price drop down to £299 too. I use it with a pair of Beyerdynamic DT1770s. Don’t use it with an iPhone though (have a Chord Poly, which is great when it works, less great when it doesn’t…), and also don’t really use it portably - it just sits by the sofa plugged into a charger all the time - so can’t really speak to what the battery life is like. But sound-wise, fab.

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+1 for the Chord Mojo. I don’t have any experience with the other mentioned DACs, but the Mojo sounds great – and definitely much much better than the iPhone’s DAC.

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I have the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt (paired with Beyerdynamics) for listening to FLACs while in the office, and I’ve been very satisfied. Admittedly, it’s my first portable DAC, so I can’t compare to others. I also appreciate the color coding to indicate bit depth of the file being played.

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+1 more for the chord mojo . I initially balked at the price ,but after a week or so it’s apparent the cost is well worth it.

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Thanks @therk @rklem @jkbrogan @Dellamorte for sharing your thoughts.

What makes me hesitate regarding the Mojo is the fact that it doesn’t support MQA (used by Tidal Masters).
However, as far as I understand it, the Tidal app would act as the “Core Decoder” and send a digital 96kHz/24bit stream to the Mojo (which can theoretically handle 768kHz/32bit) – so it should be just fine. Not sure if I would be able to hear the difference in audio at higher rates than 96 kHz anyway.

On the other hand, I read that the Dragonfly Cobalt (although limited to 96kHz on its USB input), since it is a “MQA Renderer”, should be able to complete the “unfolding” and deliver the final MQA resolution of 352kHz/24bit. Again, I’m not sure, if it really makes a audible difference.

Finally, I can’t really find detailed information on the resolution of Tidal Masters, but it seems they are streamed at 96kHz/24bit?

Maybe I am just overcomplicating things …

You’re talking well beyond the realm of human hearing.


Yes, you’re right… sorry for my rant, I guess I was just thinking out loud.

Any other recommendations on a portable high quality DAC?