New Level Of Awesome – Singxer SDA-2 Balanced DAC / Headphone AMP
SDA-2 from Singxer is the Next Level of a Midrange DAC/AMP with balanced XLR outputs at the back, Hi-Res processing, a Balanced Headphone Output, and a price of 700 USD. It will get compared to the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+, M2Tech Young MK III, and Denafrips Ares II. For the pairings part of this review, I went with Headphones, but really good ones, including iBasso SR-2, Kennerton Thror and HIFIMAN Arya.
Singxer is not a new company, but a pretty well-established one with a history. The ones who got their products have always been quite impressed, and everyone who owns a product from them seems to love them. Nonetheless, everyone whop ever interacted with them had only good things to say about them including me. They provide quick and reliable service, they have a nice selection of products and despite being from china, their products arrive quickly and in excellent condition to their customers.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Singxer. I’d like to thank Singxer for providing the sample for this review. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Singxer SDA-2 Balanced DAC / Headphone AMP find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
I’m happy to unbox the Singxer SDA-2. I am simply smiling while doing this, because it comes with a really nice-looking cable, and I’ve been missing one for a while now.
There’s a way to configure the settings of the SDA-2, as it has switches on the bottom, and it even comes with a remote, making the whole thing awesome, and rock the hardest I’ve seen in the past few reviews I posted.
Output level (0dBFS):
PCM: RCA single-ended output is 2V RMS, XLR balanced output is 4V RMS
DSD: RCA single-ended output is 1.8V RMS, XLR balanced output is 3.6V RMS
Output impedance: 22 ohms (RCA single ended) / 44 ohms (XLR balanced)
Frequency response: 20-20kHz +/-0.2dB
Signal to noise ratio: 125dB
THD+N (1kHz, 0dBFS) 0.00025% at fs=44.1Khz (PCM)
THD+N (1kHz, 0dBFS) 0.00030% at DSD256
Dynamic response (1kHz, -60dBFS) 125dB
Left and right channel separation >125dB
Balanced output noise floor: 2.2uv RMS
Amp balance maximum output power 3480mW@30Ω, 0dBFS
Distortion of the amp balanced output, 0dBFS, fs=44.1Khz (PCM)
75Ω load THD+N -105dB
600Ω load THD+N -110dB
1, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10; 32/64 bit, need to install a dedicated driver
2, Native MacOS 10.6 and later, using the system comes with a driver
3, Native Linux with UAC2 compliant kernel, using the system’s own driver, (tested on Ubuntu and Daphile systems, based on INTEL X86 platform)
4, Android OS 4.2 and above, the device needs to support OTG function, and the following 5.0 recommendations are used with a dedicated player.
The I2S interface is input using an HDMI socket:
1. LVDS differential signal with a level of 3.3V;
2. The I2S interface is compatible with multiple I2S output signal definitions, and the FPGA has built-in PCM/DSD signal automatic identification algorithm;
3. The DSD ON signal can also be defined by itself. The DSD ON signal can be input to the PIN13, 14, 15, and 16 pins of the socket.
4. The phase of PIN1-3 and PIN7-9 is adjustable, and the user can configure the phase of the two pairs of outputs through one switch.
The body of the SDA-2 is nice, but it comes with a little display, as well as a series of buttons at the front. There’s a Headphone Output at the front too, but it is in either Balanced 4-Pin XLR or 6.3mm shape, and it has the speaker / computer selection at the back.
It can take in USB, optical, Coaxial, I2S, and even AES. The power delivery is handled by a cattle plug, next to which it has a fuse and an on/off switch.
The Speaker output comes in the shape of either XLR cables, or a pair of gold plated RCA outputs. The XLR outputs tend to sound a bit better, but the cables used for this connection tend to be different, and the channel processing it may be designed slightly different on most of the AMPs I tested it with, so this may contribute to the differences.
The unit has thick feet with rubber on the bottom so it doesn’t slide on your desk, and it doesn’t get hot during usage. I wouldn’t stack something above it, but since for Stereo systems it will be a DAC, it won’t get hot.
I loved the fact that it has a ton of driving power, and that it is silent. The USB input is dead silent, you don’t need iFi iDefender or iFi iPurifier to clean the USB cable input and enjoy the SDA-2. It is helped a bit by power conditioners like the BAC400 from Plixir, but the power delivery stage is really good already, so I’m happy to report you don’t need to think too much about the inputs.
The volume wheel at the front is a digital controller, so it can turn indefinitely, and the buttons at the front are used to make minor changes. The buttons on the belly of the unit are used to make serious adjustments to it, but you can switch between the filters with ease. The filters are pretty interesting and make a change to the sound. We have Sharp, Slow, S-Sharp, S-Slow, NOS and Low-Dispersion. They mostly affect the way instrument textures are presented.
All in all, everything is plug-and-play, there were no issues, no bugs, and it worked with every computer I tested it with. The Optical input doesn’t take into account what the source is, as long as it is optical, and the same goes for Coaxial.
The sound of the SDA-2 from Singxer can be described as effortless, clear, musical, smooth in textures and treble, but detailed and airy.
The bass is presented a smidgen wartm, and it has very little coloring, but it has a smooth texture that’s pleasing to the ear. There’s an amazing detail to be found with SDA-2, and multiple basslines are no trouble for it. Even better, songs that have a large amount of bass, and with a lot of distortion on guitars still sound really detailed and crispy, without becoming boomy or boring. I appreciate SDA-2 a lot as it is in the price range where things start to get interesting. It is the most affordable unit that makes it a delight to listen to complex music, and going for some Dream Theatre is a totally engaging and captivating experience.
With songs from more rough bands like Linkin Park or Thousand Foot Krutch, I can hear a beautiful juicy midrange, excellent presentation for voices. Guitars are portrayed colorful, vivid, and slightly romantic, yet the soundstage is expansive and goes both wide and deep. For the price range, it has a natural presentation for everything, without forgetting detail. It makes you appreciate how it blends information with musicality, how you hear details in songs, but guitars don’t become scratchy.
The treble is slightly smooth and not the most intrusive. It works really well for Jazz, Classical, Rock and the only music style where it doesn’t fully compliment it is Metal, as there we need a bit more sparkle and excitement. It brings as much beauty to a headphone, when used via the headphone output as it does when integrating it in a Hifi system as the main DAC. I prefer listening to SDA-2 with both music that’s supposed to sound large (ensembles, live concerts), but also with intimate music (room music, downtempo, pop).
I’m afraid this review was always going to be a bit hard to take, but we need to compare the Singxer SDA-2 to Denafrips Ares II, which is dangerously close in terms of pricing. M2Tech Young MK III also makes a good comparison, and the DAC+ from Mytek is also a worthy competitor.
Don’t forget that if you want a new comparison you can always leave a comment and I’ll be doing my best to help!
Singxer SDA-2 vs M2Tech Young MK III (680 USD vs 1500 USD) – The first comparison is easy, because the signatures of the two are so different, yet the features are better on SDA-2. I mean, it comes with a fairly potent headphone amplifier, it has a similar design, but much better overall ergonomics. Young MK III sounds wider, but lacks depth, and it is quite bright / analytical, lacking the naturalness of SDA-2. Despite being much cheaper, SDA-2 works better for most music, unless you have a really warm / thick sounding system where Young MK III would be a better fit. Young MK III has better detail.
Singxer SDA-2 vs Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ (680 USD vs 2200 USD) – Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ has a similar feature set to SDA-2, except it lacks the balanced headphone output, and requires a very rare and complicated cable to use its two headphones outputs as a balanced output. The good part is that despite this, it is warmer and slightly thicker, more meaty and authoritative than SDA-2. The difference in price doesn’t reflect the difference in quality, and although DAC+ is better, it isn’t more than three times better, and SDA-2 is more convenient, since it would leave enough money for a good speaker setup, or for a really good headphone, like HIFIMAN Arya.
Singxer SDA-2 vs Denafrips Ares II (680 USD vs 800 USD) – Ares II is the biggest competitor, at the closest price, but it lacks some of the key features that make SDA-2 what it is. The most important two are the remote, which I find essential for a lazy couch potato, and the other one is the headphone output, which is actually quite excellent on SDA-2. Ares II is softer, more natural and has the characteristic sound of R2R, where SDA-2 has a more precise sound, with more punch, and is wider. Ares II is deeper and has more musicality, at the cost of impact.
The main pairings in terms of headphones are with Kennerton Thror, HIFIMAN Arya, and iBasso SR-2. There’s enough power in SDA-2 to also drive Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow, or Audeze LCD-MX4, but with IEMs, it tends to have some hissing in the background that’s fairly audible. Especially with hiss sensitive IEMs like Campfire Atlas, FiiO FA9, or even with Acoustune HS1650CU, I can hear the background noise level.
It is pretty clear that SDA-2 was designed with large, hard-to-drive headphones in mind, regardless whether we talk about Dynamics with high impedance, or planars with low SPL.
Singxer SDA-2 + Kennerton Thror (680 USD + 3000 USD) – Throat is the first headphone I recommend with SDA-2, both because it has enough power to drive and control them properly, but also because the natural, slightly warm sound of SDA-2 pairs nicely with Thror. In fact, once you adjust thror to your head, SDA-2 gives it a very controlled, quick and deep bass that’s surely welcome when you know their clear, clean and precise sound.
Singxer SDA-2 + HIFIMAN Arya (680 USD + 1600 USD) – Arya is the second headphone, because I already love it a lot, even when driven from a FiiO K5 PRO. This being said, Arya is detailed and appreciates a fairly detailed source, so the pairing with SDA-2 is totally worth it. The detail is nice, the midrange is warm and musical, while the treble is smooth and airy. The bass is deep, clear and clean.
Singxer SDA-2 + iBasso SR-2 (680 USD + 500 USD) – SR-2 is a new headphone for me, but one that totally won me over by providing a beautiful sound, great comfort, and lots of detail for a natural-sounding can. The pairing with SDA-2 works well because it has enough bass to make them rattle, yet a natural and gentle midrange that brings musicality with SR-2 to a new level.
Value and Conclusion
Honestly speaking, the value of SDA-2 is amazing. It has the performance to make me think that it is in line with really expensive DACs, it has a good price, tons of features, and can drive both Headphones and a Hifi System.
The package is awesome, and it even comes with a remote to control it, along with a USB Cable, that’s pretty cool.
In terms of build, it has good control via buttons, a volume wheel, XLR outputs, two headphone outputs, a mute button on the volume wheel, and has four inputs, including Coax, Optical and USB. I can safely call this a full plate, and it has and does everything it could for the price, being perfect regardless whether you’re a headphone or a hifi stereo system guy.
The sound is natural, slightly smooth, but blends detail with musicality nicely, and it has good dynamics, an airy presentation, and even good reach in both bass & treble.
At the end of today’s review, if you’re looking for a Balanced DAC / Headphone Amp with both XLR, RCA and 6.3 mm single ended outputs, that comes with a remote, has USB, Coax, Optical inputs, and which can drive even the mighty Arya from HIFIMAN, all while handling your stereo system, Singxer SDA-2 is totally recommended and an excellent purchase at the moment of making this review.
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Full Playlist used for this review
We listened to more songs than those named in this playlist, but those are excellent for identifying a sonic signature. PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality are all revealed by those songs. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new music!
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