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CYBERDRIVE XMOS+ CS4398 Headphone DAC/MAP Review

CYBERDRIVE XMOS+ CS4398 Headphone DAC/MAP Review

Author:Andy.EF

DAC Chip: Cirrus Logic CS4398 with XMOS (Single)

PCM 24bit - 192khz DSD256, SNR: -129dB, Power: 40-110mW, USB Type-A Male, 3.5mm SE (Microphone: No), Solid Plastic Chassis

 

Strengths:

  • Neutral and natural sound with great coherence level, organic & analogue timbre
  • Classic sounding tonality all around, airy and no hint of overemphasis
  • Dynamics exhibited matured vibrancy, not trying to overdo it needlessly.
  • Velvety smooth mids with natural texture. Realistic male/female vocals
  • Fast and snappy Mid-Bass and with decent Sub-Bass presence
  • Smooth edged treble and upper mids, natural sounding decays
  • Great spatial projection with realistic imaging, spacious
  • Great soundstage that offers depth and width
  • Flagship grade speed and transients, fast attack, handles 250BPM effortlessly.
  • Impressive driving power, runs Planar Magnetic HP with ease

 

Weaknesses:

  • Limited to 192khz, this standard is archaic now.
  • Treble and bass extensions fall a bit short of reference grade.
  • A little laid-back dynamic for CS standards. May not appeal to everyone.
  • Piano and cello tone not as vivid, natural but somewhat soft edged
  • Detail’s retrievals fall short of being reference grade.
  • USB-A Jack will require adapter for portable use.
  • Separation layers are clustered a bit too close together, the lines slightly hazy.
  • The hardware volume adjuster not as tactile, need to press a few times.
  • May not sound the best with already warm sounding IEMs or Headphones.

 

VERDICT:

CYBERDRIVE XMOS+ CS4398. Not many CS4398 DAC/Amps can be found in the market in this compact USB form factor. In fact, I came across only 2 units offered in AliExpress. This CS4396 DAC is old and was popular for implementation on desktop DAC/Amps. It is limited up to 192khz which is quite basic by today’s standard. Sound wise, this CYBERDRIVE I classified as matured and smooth with natural and neutral timbre, no hint of being digital-ish sounding – it is organic and analogue for sure. What stand out the most for this unit is how spacious and wide the soundstage is. Even with my close quartered Etymotic ER2XR, the staging gave me the impression of space – never a moment I felt confined in. However, the laid-back nature is a two-edged sword, it allows for long listening sessions with no over emphasis on the highs or lows, but also it means things gets dampened or rolled off short for those preferring deep extensions and long decays.

It is also observed, this CYBERDRIVE synergize best with an already bright and resolving IEMs/Headphones, pair it with a warm-ish type and it will not be as stellar. The value of this unit is when you want to have a classic feel to the sound, great coherence with smooth deposition – but don’t expect razor edge precision as you would find in the newer offering of current DAC/Amps.

 

OVERALL RATING: 80/100

Recommended Pairing: Pairs best with already bright and sparkly IEMs/Headphones.

 

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