Ztella Review – Portable DAC

Ztella review, introducing Ztella from Zorloo, it?s a portable USB DAC mainly for your phone but you can use it for your laptop or pc as well.

This is not the first product from Zorloo, Ztella it?s the third generation. Their brothers are the ZuperDAC and ZuperDAC-S.

Design

Ztella Review

The slim profile of the Ztella is a welcome and major improvement from its predecessor.

It has a metallic gray color aluminum chassis and 11cm Long and about 5 grams.

There?s also a small led indicator that will light up once the DAC supplied with power. The Color will change depends on the incoming Audio quality:
Blue for idle or SD audio <= 48kHz Red for HD audio > 48kHz
Magenta for MQA content

The default connection of Ztella is USB-C. It comes with a bundled USB-A adapter that allows you to connect to mobile phones and computers. ?the USB categorized as 2.0 high speed and USB Audio 2.0.

Wondering why they don?t have USB 3.0? I don?t think it?s necessary for audio, The speed of USB 2.0 is more than sufficient to deliver high-quality audio.

For iOS devices with lightning cable connections, there?s also a lighting cable to the USB-C converter. With the additional lighting cable, it looks a little bit bulky and the length becomes longer. It?s good if Zorloo could develop a much more compact connection to iOS devices.

On the other side, you?ll see the 3.5mm audio jack connector. One thing that I would like to have is feedback, a ?click? sound when you insert your earphone to the connector. Well, for now, I need to remind myself to be gentle. “According to Zorloo, Ztella should’ve the click sound when inserting the audio jack”

There?s no volume control! I was a little bit confused because the ZuperDAC volume control must be done from the DAC itself but thankfully Ztella supports all functions from your headphone control directly (from mic input to key control).

The integrated headphone amplifier will automatically detect and analyze the connected headphone to generate the ideal output levels.

It can deliver an output of 2Vrms and more than twice the power of a standard smartphone.

Sound Impression

Ztella is supporting Superior sound quality with ESS Sabre DAC technology and also MQA technology.

MQA is a British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download.

The DAP (Digital Audio Player) that supports MQA is still limited, Pioneer XDP-100R, Onkyo DP-X1, Sony NW-ZX300, and others. In a way Ztella a budget-friendly device to get the best out of MQA. It?s a win that you don?t have to spend for DAP to enjoy the MQA.

Listening to Tidal Master recording (MQA) come together, here comes the sun – Beatles, You can hear that the bass has more body with ztella. With the iPhone adapter, you have the bass but with the Ztella, it has more refined impact and thump.

I Dare you – the Regrettes 0:16 0:18 the separation also sounds different which gives more depth on the sub.

Listening to Out of love – Alessia Cara, Small Talk – Katy Perry, 10.000 hours – Dan + Shay, Justin. On the mids, things are smoother and I feel that the voices and mids area moved a little bit backward perhaps this caused by the normalization on the bass and the highs.

Voices are still the way the intended to be, it?s natural and without any artificial modification.

The highs that normally harsh somehow have improvement it becomes gentler. Good separation and more polished sound.

Time – Hans Zimmer 2:33 (it?s not MQA quality) when all the high notes start to kick in, it?s able to bring out the music with the separation and overall dynamic from the Low to highs.

Funny observation, not all songs marked with master is MQA in Tidal. I?m not sure whether this cause by Ztella or Tidal didn?t stream the correct quality. Restarted and unplug everything it?s still the same that ztella giving a red LED indicator, quickly switch to another master song it?s fine with the right purple LED.

Songs marked as master but stream lower quality in Tidal: The End of Game – Weezer, Can you hear me – Korn, Black Bull – Foals, and many more …

Ztella Review Summary

Comparing it with ZuperDAC-S, I would say Ztella is way better in every aspect.

ZuperDAC-S VS ZTELLA

  • Smaller form factor, Ztella doesn?t get as hot like their predecessors.
  • There?s no physical button and control can be done from the phone itself.
  • A faster connection, In ZuperDAC-S you need to wait about 6 seconds after you plug into your iPhone before the sound starts streaming to the earphone. While Ztella is about 4 seconds.
  • Ztella supports MQA. Sound signature is more natural, better clarity, sound stage, and separation while ZuperDAC-S is warmer in sound signature.

ZuperDAC-S was a good DAC at that time but now Ztella simply outperforms it.

Ztella is a portable DAC that gives you better separation and harmonized sound.

It depends on your earphone and source if you asked me how big is the improvement. I would say you can expect improvement about 10-20% as general and if your earphone is under power right now you might see a better improvement about 20-30%.

On the other hand, I would love to see that the converter (lighting connector) to iOS devices will be improved in the future to become a much smaller form factor.

The feedback ?click sound? when you insert the audio jack is also something that is missing (which the ZuperDAC-S has it).

According to Zorloo, Ztella should’ve a click sound when I inserts the audio cable. perhaps mine it’s not working well.

Ztella was released from Kickstarter but now You can purchase the Ztella directly from the Zorloo website.

Take a note that there?s a standard and MQA version and bundle with a lightning cable for iOS devices.

How do we rate? The rating explained here

Ztella Review Portable DAC
Overall
4
  • Ztella Verdict

Summary

Overall we like the Ztella, it does improve the sound especially if you’ve a crappy sound card in your laptop.? You don’t have to bring or buy an extra device to play MQA standard with Ztella you can use your existing phone or laptop.

Pros

  • Slim design and doesn’t get hot while playing
  • Great sound signature
  • Support MQA?

Cons

  • iOS converter is a little bit bulky?
  • No feedback sound when you insert the audio jack

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