Hey there PAR fam. In this review, I’m checking out the Singxer SDA-2 DAC and headphone amplifier. This DAC is built around the AK4497EQ chip, has native DSD512 support and fully balanced outputs. Let’s see how it performs.
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Singxer SDA-2 Review
Brawny, expressive presentation
Price to performance ratio
Input and output options
Headphone driving power
No external power brick
No auto power-saving mode
Package and Accessories
In true Chi-Fi cost-saving fashion, the SDA-2 comes in a generic cardboard box with no labelling or description. However, the unit inside is well-packed with foam to protect it from shock or damage during shipping. Included in the package are the SDA-2, a power cable, a USB cable and a remote.
Build Quality and Design
After the rather uneventful unboxing experience, I was happy to see the actual device has exceptional build quality. The chassis is CNC crafted aluminium with a matte black finish and smooth edges. It feels very substantial, weighing in at almost 3kg.
The underside of the unit has 4 rubberized feet to prevent it from sliding. There are no vents or heatsinks so the SDA-2 does get warm when in use but it never feels hot to the touch.
On the left of the front panel is an OLED screen, which displays:
digital filter mode (Sharp, Slow, S-sharp, S-slow, NOS, Low-Dispersion)
analogue output mode (FIX or PRE)
currently selected input source
current sample rate
The three buttons in the middle of the front panel are INPUT, D-Filter and PRE-OUT. To the right of the buttons are the 6.35mm and balanced XLR headphone outputs. The aluminium multi-function knob on the right is for adjusting volume, with a press to MUTE function and a 2-second press will put the device into standby mode.
On the rear panel are the RCA and balanced XLR analogue outputs, plus a wide array of digital inputs including AES, COAX, Optical, I2S and USB.
Features and Functionality
The SDA-2 features an AK4497EQ DAC chip and supports up to PCM 384kHz and DSD512 natively. It features a 4-way fully balanced design, independent discrete class-A headphone output, plus the rear analogue outputs can be used at a fixed or variable rate and thus, the SDA-2 can also be used as a pre-amp.
Setting up the Singxer SDA-2 is easy. For the majority of my testing, I simply connected it to my computer via the included USB cable. It does work right away with Windows 10 but for the best experience, you should install the drivers which are available for download from the official website. Linux and Mac computers do not need additional drivers as they work natively. I also connected it via the optical output to my Shinrico D3S media player.
Using the remote gives you access to volume controls, digital filter selection, mute and standby functions. The SDA-2 functions like most modern DAPs and is simple and pleasurable to use. The only thing I would like to see added is some kind of automatic power-saving function that puts the device into standby mode when there’s no audio signal detected for a set period of time.
The headphone output has lots of power (220mW @ 600Ω) and should drive anything you can throw at it. THD is extremely low, as is the noise floor; I don’t hear any background noise, even with IEMs.
Images above courtesy of Singxer website.
Gear usedfor testing: Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro (150 ohms), Thieaudio Phantom, BLON B20, Acoustic Research AR-H1, Hifiman Sundara. Windows 10 PC > Foobar2000 > SDA-2 / Shinrico D3S > SDA-2 SDA-2 > Feliks Audio Echo > headphones
While the numbers look impressive, it really comes down to the listening experience and this is where the SDA-2 really delivers. The Singxer presents itself with controlled enthusiasm and never fails to convey nuances and emotion.
Hanz Zimmer’s Inception is the perfect testing ground with its dynamic mix of thunderous lows and subtle nuances. The Singxer accepts the challenge and responds with zeal, There is loads of power on tap, coupled with reserve and poise. From the quietest whispers to the roaring crescendos, the SDA-2 handles it with ease.
The SDA-2 is muscular but nimble, with excellent tonal balance and refinement. What I really appreciate too, is the way it responds with confidence but doesn’t overlook any subtleties nor does it sound exceedingly aggressive.
Firing up Airbag’s “Sleepwalker” we see the SDA-2 step up once again to show its command over rhythm and momentum as it transitions with expertise between the impassioned vocals, the sparser instrumental segments and the electric lead guitar sections.
I’m delighted with its expansive soundstage and instrument layering, Everything is organised and composed with a perfect balance between energy and refinement. The Singxer remains transparent with superb dynamics and a great sense of timing.
Compared to something like the Sabre-based Topping DX7, the Singxer SDA-2 sounds slightly fuller and richer. That’s not to say it’s colouring the music but rather it just delivers dynamics and detail more effortlessly. It has a resolution and refinement closer to that of the excellent ARCAM irDAC-II but with more vigour in reserve.
Whether used as a standalone DAC or headphone amplifier the SDA-2 consistently delivers and lets the music take control, rather than trying to control the music.
The Singxer SDA-2 is somewhat of a dark horse. It might easily go unnoticed with its low-key, utilitarian design, but once you have a listen to it you’ll discover that this is one serious device that can outperform many of its direct competitors. Whether you’re after a dedicated DAC or an all-in-one solution the SDA-2 is absolutely worth going for.
Analog output performance:
Output level (0dBFS):
PCM: RCA single-ended output is 2V RMS, XLR balanced output is 4V RMS
DSD: RCA single-ended output is 1.8V RMS, XLR balanced output is 3.6V RMS