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Sabre Android USB DAC

Hi there, I just received today my little dac and I noticed a problem while connecting it to my phone. I have a Oneplus One with CyanogenMod 13 marshmallow installed, the problem is I'm experiencing different outputs based on which Android player I use to play the music. With most of the players (Spotify, Neutron, jet audio) I'm getting really low volume output and the sound quality is clearly lower than the standard headphone out of the phone. I tried to attach an headphone amplifier on the chain and only the volume got higher, the audio quality is still low with those players. The strange thing is, when I use USB audio player pro + dac I have a completely different and better response. The soundstage is sensibly wider, the volume is just perfect even at half the bar and overall quality is outstanding. The Headphones I'm using have low impedance, I tried the Grado SR80e, Philips fidelio x2 and yamaha eph 100, all these works very well with the standard headphone out. I'm thinking the problem might be related to a software issue with drivers or something like that given that maybe usb audio player pro has some dedicated usb drivers. Can you please help me to understand this issue? It's really a shame not being able to use spotify along with the dac :( Thanks in advance, Claudio

1 person has this problem

Hi, There, 

  I have the same issue with the android sabre dac and Lenovo P-70 (on Lollipop).

  The sound volume is very low and and quality is worse than the regular headphone output, when using any generic player - Spotify or Built In Music Player. The dynamic is also very bad at less than 80% volume.

  Also it seems the music is being played in both DAC and Headphone output.

  I tried this player and also tried trial USB audio player pro and the resuld is very much completely different.

  Both get access to the USB device and play exclusively through the dac. The volume is enough even and 45%.

  As far as i researched i also found that the USB hub does support hardware volume control, but it does not seem to work with USB audio player. Control is shown in the app but it does nothing. So it implements some "software" volume. 

  Could you please ellaborate on these issues and tell more about the volume control implementation since it seems the PCM2706 chip do support volume control, and it is detected by the player but it does not seem to do nothing.

Best Regards, Chavdar

It seems from your experience that your phones with Cyanogenmod doesn't work correctly with the DAC. It is difficult to test and support all phones/software versions. in our tests Cyanogenmod did not work at all, while Samsung's Android versions normally works. You can try to update or change the kernel which might solve it, as the DAC function relies on the kernel.

Yes, USB audio player pro uses it's own drivers which explains why it behaves differently.

The volume control on USB level is not supported by PCM2706. However on most Android phones the volume up/down buttons works to adjust the USB DAC volume. So it means that Android is doing this in software.

Sorry that we don't have a better solution for this issue other than to recommend you try to update/change the OS software or kernel. 

Thanks for your answer, i was expecting a kernel related solution so for now i tried to downgrade my phone to Cyanogenmod 12.1 (Lollipop) latest stable version and i did notice an improvement in quality, i can't quantify it but the sound seems more spacious than before with the nightly version of cm13, still not the same as USB audio player pro though. The volume problem is still there, the output needs at least 90% of media volume to be enjoyable, i don't know if this is the intended behavior of this dac not having the hardware volume included. I will try different kernels / roms in the next days and keep you updated if I find a better solution. If you have any advice on which rom/kernel I should try please let me know,I'm willing to test everything and find a solution. From what I am experiencing right now (and from what you've said) I'm starting to think all the problems are related to the volume levels of the PCM2706 not correctly set from the standard android media volume, USB audio player pro can overcome this having a separate volume setting inside the app like Chavdar said.
Well, I decided to try the Boeffla kernel on my OPO on top of cm 12.1, this kernel not only turned my phone's headphone out into something beyond, it somehow gave the external usb dac a much more refined output. The low volume problem with the pcm is still there ,I have to set the volume up to 14/15 while listening on headphones but the sound quality is amazing and truly comparable with the output I get from USB audio player pro, if not the same. One thing I promptly noticed is that now USB audio player pro is not affected by Android media volume anymore, it works exclusively with his built in volume when paired with the dac. Overall I'm quite happy with this setup and I also donated to the Boeffla guy because he made a freaking awesome piece of software and the result is I'm stuck on my music.
More considerations after some days of testing different setups on CyanogenMod 12.1 : The only thing that can unleash the DAC's full arsenal is USB audio player pro or Onkyo HF player but Onkyo seems bugged and I can't adjust the volume. With these players the sound is delightful when using HiFi headphones or simply attached to the car's stereo. The volume is optimal too when you can control it outside android. When using other players without a dedicated driver (Spotify, Poweramp, Neutron etc.) the sound quality is simply good, less engaging and spacious than before but a little bit more consistent than the phone's standard headphone out especially when connected to the car stereo. The volume in this case is low, you have to use max volume or 14/15 volume, this looks like an issue. The kernel update didn't change the output as I stated before, I tried to go back to the standard kernel and it is the same. That kernel gave me more battery life through, and that's really important when using an external DAC. In conclusion, if you want to be blown away you still have to use a dedicated USB player, Usb audio player pro is pure gold in this case. The standard usage of the DAC instead (at least on CyanogenMod Lollipop) doesn't change the sound dramatically, only in certain situations is clearly better (car stereo). This behavior may be caused by the fact that the DAC is not working properly with CyanogenMod, or simply because it works much better with dedicated drivers.
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