Sharkoon Mobile DAC, Mobile DAC PD & Gaming DAC Pro S Review 6

Sharkoon Mobile DAC, Mobile DAC PD & Gaming DAC Pro S Review

Sharkoon Mobile DAC PD »

Sharkoon Mobile DAC


The Sharkoon Mobile DAC is a compact €15 DAC with an integrated headphone amplifier. It features a USB-C connector and a 3.5-millimeter audio port, which works both as output and input. That means you can connect your headphones and headsets.

Specifications

  • DAC: 24-bit/96 kHz
  • Headphone Amplifier: 1 V output voltage, 100 mW maximum power, 16–250 Ω recommended headphone impedance
  • SnR/THD: 100 dB/0.003%
  • Connector: USB-C, 3.5-mm audio (TRRS)
  • Dimensions and Weight: 30x14x7 mm, 5 g
  • Extra Features: Built-in equalizer
  • Compatibility: Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, and PlayStation 4 (with an adapter)

The Package


Considering it weighs only 5 grams and fits into any pocket, its box is surprisingly large. On its front, you can see a glossy photo of the DAC and a massive "Hi-Res Audio" logo. On the back, you'll find a list of technical specifications.


Inside, you'll find the Sharkoon Mobile DAC along with a multi-language user manual and some safety instructions. Don't throw away the paper insert to which the DAC is initially attached as that's the only place where Sharkoon mentions that the built-in equalizer technically has four presets instead of the three the manual and the official website mention.

Closer Examination


The Sharkoon Mobile DAC is 14 centimeters long end to end. The braided cable connecting its ends is 9 centimeters long.


The cable and both connector casings feel sturdy and durable.


One end of the Sharkoon Mobile DAC is supposed to be plugged into any device with a USB-C port. For most users, that's going to be an Android smartphone, although it should be noted that connecting it to any other USB-C-equipped device is entirely possible, like a desktop or laptop PC. The DAC supports Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. Regardless of the platform, it works out of the box without any additional drivers.


The case of the USB-C plug has three LEDs and a button. The LEDs are marked 44, 48, and 96 for the respective sample rate of the incoming audio signal. They also double up as notification LEDs for the built-in equalizer. When you press the EQ button below the LEDs, the LEDs will temporarily light up to tell you which one of the four equalizer modes is currently active. In Mode 1 (44 kHz LED lights up), the equalizer is V-shaped in order to boost the bass and highs and subdue the midrange. Mode 2 (48 kHz LED) only boosts the high frequencies (potentially useful for darker-sounding headphones), while Mode 3 (96 kHz LED) only boosts bass. In Mode 4, all three LEDs light up, which means the equalizer has been flattened to leave the acoustics characteristics of your headphones untouched. The aforementioned equalizer settings cannot be edited or changed in any way. The EQ button is frustratingly hard to press, which is pretty much the only gripe I have with the Sharkoon Mobile DAC.


On the other end of the Sharkoon Mobile DAC you'll find a 3.5-millimeter audio connector for your headphones or headset. Since this is a 4-pole (TRRS) audio port, it works as a combined headphone output and microphone input. Most analogue headsets nowadays come with a 4-pole audio connector, so you should be able to connect them without purchasing any extras. If your headset doesn't, a splitter cable with two female 3.5-mm TRS connectors and a single male 3.5-mm TRRS plug will do the trick.

Sound Performance


Sharkoon doesn't reveal what's being used in their Mobile DAC in terms of electronics. All we know is that the built-in DAC supports 24-bit/44 kHz, 24-bit/48 kHz, and 24-bit/96 kHz playback, and that the headphone amplifier has an output voltage of 1 V, a maximum power output of 100 mW, and a recommended headphone impedance range of 16–250 Ω.

I used the Sharkoon Mobile DAC to successfully drive various mobile over-ear and in-ear headphones, every analogue gaming headset I had at my disposal, and several hi-fi headphones, such as the Sennheiser HD 660 S, Philips Fidelio X2, Meze 99 Noir, and Oppo PM-3. I got a clean output without any distortion and more than enough volume on all of them. That being said, if you own a pair of low sensitivity/high impedance headphones, you'll have to seriously manage your expectations or look elsewhere. This little gadget simply wasn't made to drive very demanding headphones.

The Sharkoon Mobile DAC generally sounded surprisingly good, especially considering its affordable €15 price tag. It's an instant upgrade to pretty much every smartphone or laptop audio output I ever had the misfortune to plug my headphones into. The built-in equalizer presets aren't set up too aggressively, so you're welcome to try them out, especially if you find the bass or treble of your headphones lacking.

Microphone Performance


As I've mentioned earlier, the Sharkoon Mobile DAC uses a 4-pole TRRS 3.5-mm audio connector, which means it also offers a microphone input. To analyze the quality of its microphone output, I used a combination of the Philips Fidelio X2 hi-fi headphones and the V-Moda BoomPro omnidirectional microphone. The Mobile DAC was connected to a USB-C port on my ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard. Testing was done in Audacity, and I also used Audacity to record the sound from the microphone. The sound was not postprocessed or edited in any way.

Here's a microphone sample recording with the V-Moda BoomPro microphone connected to the Sharkoon Mobile DAC. For comparison, I've also included a sample recorded with the same microphone, connected to the excellent Creative Sound Blaster X3 external USB sound card (reviewed here).




As you can hear, the quality of the microphone input is excellent. This is as good as the V-Moda BoomPro microphone can sound without adding filters. The quality difference to the Creative Sound Blaster X3 is indistinguishable, which is quite a feat for the €15 Sharkoon Mobile DAC.

Value and Conclusion

  • The Sharkoon Mobile DAC can be bought online for €14.99.
  • Good performance both on output and input, especially considering the price
  • Sufficient power amplification for mobile headphones, gaming headsets, and even various hi-fi headphones
  • Several equalizer presets
  • Light, compact and practical to use
  • Excellent price-performance ratio
  • EQ button is annoyingly hard to press
It's very easy to recommend the Sharkoon Mobile DAC as it does everything right for a very reasonable price. This practical device will essentially serve you as a mobile USB-C sound card. Assuming you own wired headphones, you can use it to get better, cleaner, and louder sound performance from your USB-C-equipped Android smartphone, laptop (Windows, macOS, or Linux) or even desktop PC.

It works with no additional drivers—you simply plug it in and it's ready to go. Its 3.5-mm 4-pole TRRS audio connector doubles as output and input, meaning you can easily connect an analogue headset and use its microphone. The microphone input is loud and clean.

They even implemented an equalizer with four presets, which you can use to adjust the sound of your headphones by optionally slightly boosting the bass and/or treble. The equalizer button is annoyingly hard to press, but that's the only drawback of the Sharkoon Mobile DAC I was able to find. For €15, you really can't go wrong with this pocked-sized DAC with an integrated headphone amplifier.

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