Could this be the ultimate dongle DAC? China’s Lotoo has built the PAW S2’s D/A conversion house around an AKM4377 DAC chip, an AK8142 PLL data re-clocking chip and an ADI Blackfin DSP chip to power headphones via a single-ended 3.5mm socket (for 125mW into 32 Ohms) or a balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn socket (for 150mW into 32 Ohms). Switched from high to low gain mode, the PAW S2 does away with excessive volume headroom for sensitive IEMs and therefore lowers any background hiss. (Specs below).
On its source end, the PAW S2 runs plug-n-play with Windows, MacOS and Linux devices for use at home or in the office. However, a dongle DAC’s utility is more readily exposed via Android and iOS hookups that take its (superior) sound quality out into the street.
Where Lotoo steps ahead of the competition is with more careful consideration of a dongle DAC’s real-world use. To reduce the physical strain placed on the OTG (‘on-the-go’ — 6.5cm or 80cm) cable’s Lightning/USB-C interface, Lotoo has equipped the PAW S2 with stronger TPE-sheathed wire that can be used in tandem with the supplied belt clip to lessen any cable bend wear. And with the smartphone tucked away in the pocket and the PAW S2 clipped to the pocket’s lip or bag strap, we use the S2’s trio of side-mounted buttons to change volume, play/pause or bounce to the next or previous track.
The display screen is curved to match the chassis and provides users with volume level, gain level, DSP setting and incoming sample/bitrate info — a great way for Android users to witness firsthand just how their phone’s OS resamples digital audio streaming from its USB port to 48kHz. Two notable exceptions are USB Audio Player Pro and Tidal for which the PAW S2 is fully MQA-compliant.
The Lotoo PAW S2 is available now for US$249 or €300.
Further information: Lotoo