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A beautiful and lightweight combination of ample power and refined sound.
Fosi Audio provides good quality home audio solutions for budget-conscious audiophiles with a versatile product catalog. Their offerings are technically quite competent and relatively affordable, providing a high performance-to-price ratio.
Most recently, they have begun their foray into the portable dongle DAC/amp market. Their first product was the DS1. While this is a high-performing and powerful dongle, the weight makes it a bit impractical for portability. And that is precisely where the DS2 comes in.
- High power output with low battery consumption
- Warm neutral tonality, reasonably transparent, with nice note weight
- Crisp notes with sufficient details
- Slightly laid-back presentation with evident control in the whole spectrum
- Quite good separation
- Well-rounded soundstage
- Small size, lightweight, and pleasant aesthetics
- A bit flat sound signature
- Intimate presentation
- The volume button is not independent and controls the source volume
- Differences in high and low power modes are not discernible
On paper, the DS2 promises a surprising amount of output power from a very compact and light body. And it looks better than its predecessor as well. Let’s take a closer look.
- Format: Portable DAC/amp
- Output Power: 120mW(SE, 32Ω); 250mW(BAL, 32Ω)
- Impedance: 16-300Ω
- Input: USB Type c
- Output: 3.5mm + 4.4mm headphone
- Frequency Range: 20Hz-20kHz (±0.5dB)
- THD: 0.0006%(32Ω SE); 0.001%(32Ω BAL)
- SNR: ≥108 dB
- Sampling Rate: 32bit/768kHz
- DSD: DSD 64/128/256/512
- DAC Chipset: Dual ESS ES9018K2M quad DAC chips
- Material: Tin Alloy
- Device Weight: 15g
The flat packaging of the DS2 is very similar to the DS1’s box. Inside, the DAC/amp, accessories, and literature are arranged within a foam cutout.
In the box
- Silicone sheathed type-c to type-c cable
- Type-c to USB-a adaptor
The DS2 is a looker. The steel gray body with minimal curves looks really classy. It appears Fosi has taken customer feedback regarding the DS1 and improved accordingly.
There are no sharp corners, and the design is sleek and attractive.
It is significantly smaller and lighter (55x19x12mm, 15g) than the DS1 (50.8×25.4×25.4mm, 36g). Despite the lesser weight, the build still seems solid.
The SE 3.5mm and balanced 4.4mm headphone sockets are located side by side at one end, and the opposite end houses the type-c port. The volume buttons are on one of the longer sides, and a small LED is on the top.
This is a new DAC chipset for me. The ES9018K2M is reportedly a high-performance DAC offering a high dynamic range and ultra-low distortion – the DS2 has two inside.
The DS2 offers playback of 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 files in native mode.
- Red: Low level, playing PCM
- Blue: Low level, playing DSD
- Yellow: High level, playing PCM
- Purple: High level, playing DSD
The DS2 offers a high power output for the small size – up to 120mW@32ohms SE and 250mW@32ohms balanced, sufficient to cover almost all IEMs, earbuds, and some full-sized headphones.
The DS2 has two different power levels, very conventionally named High and Low – appearing similar to the high and low gain modes in other models. Upon start-up, the default power is set to low. Simultaneously pressing both of the volume buttons swaps the power levels.
I can not detect any actual jump in volume output from the low to high power level, irrespective of the output load.
A portable dongle DAC/amp needs to have a low battery consumption rate to be considered a reliable on-the-go partner. The DS2 proves itself worthy by only consuming 3% of my phone’s (Oppo Reno7 5G) battery (4500mAh) over 20 min, playing on-board 16/44 FLAC files, and connected to a pair of 32ohm IEMs via the balanced output.
The magic of the DS2 lies in its considerable power output and well-articulated neutral sound with a slightly warm touch.
Fosi Audio has a house sound. The DS2 carries a presentation similar to that of its elder, the DS1. The difference lies largely in the presentation of macrodynamics and (less so) of microdynamics. The DS2 sounds noticeably more controlled than the DS1.
The DS1 is the boisterous party animal, whereas the DS2 is the studious gentleman.
The DS2 tonality is still neutral, with a slightly lesser warm touch due to its more controlled bass. The bass slam is quite good, with a nice amount of body. Sub-bass rumble has a controlled but definite presence. The portrayal of the notes is more natural than on the DS1 and does not sound pushed forward.
Drums, electronic bassline, and upright bass sound full and natural, with textbook correctness.
The midrange is very transparent but well-bodied. The DS2 sounds slightly less rich than the DS1, but still rich enough. Notes are slightly smoother, yet the edges are properly defined. Overall, the midrange has a very pleasantly musical tonality with enough technicalities to satisfy.
The DS2 reproduces male vocals, instruments, and female vocals in a relatively neutral manner without bias. The details and textures are highlighted thoroughly. The brilliance in the tracks is preserved quite well.
The treble on the DS2 is sparkling and rich. The tonality is not set off-balance by unnecessary warmth. There is plenty of refined energy to satisfy my taste while not creating discomfort by accentuating the peaks. Clarity is adequate and by the book. The treble is played like it is meant to be.
The DS2 creates an excellent, well-rounded headspace with decent separation. Imaging is above average in my opinion. For the price, It is hard to come by another dongle DAC/amp with such pleasant technicalities.
The DS2 focuses on truthfully reproducing the sound rather than seasoning it with any special sauce.
Vs. Fosi Audio DS1
Physically, the DS1 is less attractive, significantly heavier, and prone to wear because of its sharp edges. The DS2 looks smarter and aesthetically more pleasing, with gentle curves and a satin finish. It is much smaller and lighter, proving more suitable for portable usage.
However, when it comes to sound, the difference is distinct. It is clear to me why the DS1 has a slightly higher price tag (around USD $80) than its younger brother (around USD $60). The whole frequency spectrum sounds more energetic and better defined in a larger space with a higher resolution on the DS1.
The DS1 has a massively pleasing, toe-tapping, highly dynamic (if a bit raw) sound, while the DS2 is quite the opposite, with a laid-back and smoother presentation. The DS2 sacrifices that spark of life for a tamer and more intimate sound.
Both have distinct sound signatures with pros and cons and serve different purposes.
Where to Buy
Fosi Audio has created a calmer and more composed sound presentation with the DS2 compared to the earlier boastful DS1, and they have succeeded quite exemplarily. The very controlled yet captivating sound is enriched even more by its high driving power, ensuring its suitability for a wide range of transducers with varying impedance and sensitivity.
Although I expected to hear a distinct difference between the two power levels, it is not a deal breaker.
The DS2 form factor is a positive aspect. There are a lot of very competent dongle DAC/amps that are a bit too big or heavy to be considered pocketable – which is a primary requirement for me for on-the-go usage.
The DS2 provides beautiful sound and plentiful power in a very compact and lightweight package – the best of both worlds!
The rather neutral tonality might not please those who look for a special sauce – additional coloration or enhancement in some frequencies. Nevertheless, the DS2 is still an excellent and safe choice at a very affordable price as a starter package for a beginner audiophile.