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

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

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Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S


The Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S is a rudimentary, highly portable USB sound card. It's equipped with a 3.5-millimeter audio input/output and works on all relevant desktop platforms without any additional drivers. PlayStation 4 and Android support (through OTG) is also available. It offers plenty of power to drive various headsets and headphones and comes in at an attractive price tag of a mere €30.

Specifications

  • DAC: 24-bit/96 kHz
  • Headphone Amplifier: 2 V output voltage, 250 mW maximum power, 16–300 Ω recommended headphone impedance
  • SnR/THD: 100 dB/0.002%
  • Connector: USB, 3.5-mm audio (TRRS)
  • Dimensions and Weight: 42 x 17.3 x 9.7 mm, 8 g
  • Compatibility: Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, and Android

The Package


Compared to the Mobile DAC and Mobile DAC PD, the Gaming DAC Pro S comes in a significantly thicker, sturdier box. On its front, you can see a glossy photo of the sound card and a massive "Hi-Res Audio" logo. On the back, you'll find a list of technical specifications and some audio sampling graphs illustrating the benefits of higher sample rates.


Inside the box, you'll find the Sharkoon Gaming DAC S and accompanying user manual.

Closer Examination


The Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S looks like a small USB stick. It plugs directly into a USB port on your desktop PC or laptop. It's made out of aluminium, which makes it feel very sturdy.


On its rear is a 3.5-millimeter 4-pole TRRS audio port, which works as a combined audio output and input. Most analogue headsets nowadays come with a 4-pole audio connector, so you should be able to connect them without 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.


Three LEDs on one of its sides will light up depending on the currently selected sample rate (44, 48, or 96 kHz).

Sound Performance


The Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S is equipped with the Bestech BES3100 DAC chip (up to 24-bit/96 kHz), which has been combined with a trimmed-down implementation of the Maxim Integrated MAX97220A headphone amplifier chip. This amplifier chip normally has an output voltage of 3 V (at 250 Ω), but Sharkoon lowered it to 2 V, with a maximum power output of 250 mW. As such, it can handle headphones in the impedance range of 16–300 Ω.

Don't misinterpret these technical specifications—the Gaming DAC Pro S will push your gaming headsets and headphones to significantly higher volumes than the Mobile DAC/Mobile DAC PD. I didn't push any of my headphones over the 60% volume mark for longer periods of time as that would have most likely resulted in hearing loss.

Just as importantly, the Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S stays coherent and distortion-free even when pushed as hard as it can go. Its sound signature is surprisingly punchy, lively, and energetic, as well as satisfyingly detailed. The chosen DAC/amp pairing obviously has nice synergy because I wouldn't in a million years expect a rudimentary €30 sound card to sound this good. One slight drawback as far as sound performance goes is a faint background hiss I was able to hear whenever I connected low impedance headphones, such as the Meze 99 Noir or SteelSeries Arctis 1. On higher impedance models, such as the Sennheiser HD 660 S, the hiss was completely inaudible. In reality, most users probably won't pick up on it on any headphone, and it's not audible when there's something playing. With that in mind, this isn't an issue worth losing sleep over.

Unlike the Mobile DAC/Mobile DAC PD, the Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S doesn't offer an equalizer, nor does it come with any additional software, so there's no straightforward way to change the acoustic characteristics of your headphones.

Microphone Performance


The Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S 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 Gaming DAC Pro S was connected to a USB 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 recorded with the V-Moda BoomPro microphone connected to the Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S. 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).




The quality of the microphone input is again 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 this inexpensive USB sound card. If you're experiencing any issues with your integrated sound card in terms of microphone input quality, it's worth considering getting the Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S to instantly solve them.

Value and Conclusion

  • The Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S can be bought online for €29.99.
  • Good sound performance
  • Excellent microphone input
  • Respectable amount of power—it drives any gaming headset and many hi-fi headphones
  • Light, compact, and practical to use
  • Excellent price-performance ratio
  • Slight background hiss on low impedance headphones
  • No software or any extra features
The Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S is a simple, inexpensive, portable USB sound card. After you connect it to your desktop PC, laptop, PlayStation 4, or even Android smartphone (through an OTG adapter), all you have to do is plug your headset or headset into its 3.5-millimeter audio port, and that's it—you can start using it with no additional drivers or any other kind of software. Its true plug and play nature makes it highly practical. On the flip side, that also means there are no options or extra features to play around with. If you're after a system-wide equalizer, microphone monitoring, or anything else you might expect from a "real" sound card, the Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S isn't for you.

Thanks to a well-balanced selection of electronics—I'm primarily talking about the DAC chip and headphone amplifier IC—the Gaming DAC Pro S performs very well. It offers a surprising amount of power, and with that comes the ability to capably drive pretty much any analogue gaming headset on the market, as well as many hi-fi headphones. When combined with low impedance headphones, slight background hiss can be heard, but this isn't something I'd worry about—it's completely inaudible when higher impedance headphones are connected, and average users are unlikely to pick it up at all regardless of the headset or headphones they're using.

Except for a lively, energetic performance, the Gaming DAC Pro S offers an excellent, clean, and loud microphone input. It's completely comparable to microphone inputs offered by sound cards five times its price. It's also a clear upgrade to the microphone input of my ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula motherboard, which uses a high-end SupremeFX S1220 audio solution. With that in mind, the Gaming DAC Pro S is an interesting option for anyone looking to instantly solve any microphone quality-related issues they might be facing.

At €30, the Sharkoon Gaming DAC Pro S offers excellent value for money. Should you be looking for a simple but good USB sound card, this one is definitely worth checking out.

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