Five Portable Hi-Res DACs Compared Schiit Fulla Amp/DAC

Schiit Fulla Amp/DAC

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Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $79

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Budget pricing
Volume knob
Made in U.S.A.
Minus
A trifle brash
Channel imbalance in volume knob at bottom of range

THE VERDICT
This is among the least expensive decent headphone amp/DACs on the market, but be careful about headphone matching.

At $79, the Schitt Fulla—I’ll spare you the jokes—is the least expensive product in this roundup, one of the two smallest, and the only stick amp/DAC to include a volume knob.

Its 2.5-inch-long aluminum-wrapped steel chassis appears indestructible but is light as a feather. Pop it in your shirt pocket, and you won’t even feel it. Mini-USB and headphone jacks are at either end, and a supplied 4-inch cable prevents stress on your computer’s USB jack. There are no sampling-rate or other indicators, but do you really need them?

Fulla handles files up to 96 kHz and 24 bits. For Windows users, this makes driver installation automatic and trouble-free. In OS and playback software, the driver identifies itself as “I’m Fulla Schiit.” The device is powered directly by USB and requires no charging.

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In addition to Windows, Mac, and Linux, Schiit says Fulla has been known to work with Chromebooks and PS4, though the company stops short of a guarantee. iPhones require iOS 7 or 8, Apple cable, and power source. Android phones require OS 4 or 5, software for 4, and power source.

Fulla’s handy volume dial understated the left channel near the vanishing end of its range, though not at moderate to high levels—in practice, no problem. “All small potentiometers have some nonlinearity in channel tracking at the lowest settings, so it is normal,” says the manufacturer. Sonic character was sometimes brash compared with the others, though this was highly headphone-dependent.

When the inexpensive Fulla meshed with the high-end Oppo planar headphone, my notes were full of praise for their “liquid, sweet, not edgy” treatment of Jorma Kaukonen, “precise low-level vocal imaging” of Fotheringay’s Sandy Denny, “depth!” in Dvořák, “precise reverb” in Marianne Faithfull (recorded in a church), “sweet, sassy strings” for the Bach Collegium Japan, and “vivid stage” on the Nataly Dawn track as it built up to its epic strings-and-rock-band crescendo.

However, with the Sennheiser headphone, which is more challenging to drive and more neutrally voiced, the lossy artifacts on the Ramones and Jorma tracks were more noticeable, and Sandy’s voice suddenly recessed. And the Donald Fagen track—“creamy, golden, and opulent” on the Oppo—became merely “lush and relaxed.”

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Fulla rarely got along with the compulsively revealing Sony headphone—though to be fair, that headphone was often unflattering to other amp/DACs reviewed here. The Ramones were a “thin blare,” Sandy “ringy and austere,” Jorma “thread- bare,” Dvořák and Yes “schematic,” and Nataly “slightly fatiguing.” On the neutral to positive side, the Schiit/Sony combo emphasized Marianne’s vocal texture over the ambience in the church where she was recorded, and it was “sizzly—in a nice way” on Deep Purple. Its main coup was on the Fagen track, with “backing vocals beautifully high-lighted and separated.”

The Schiit Fulla is the budget champion it purports to be. But for consistent results, be sure to mate it with headphones that err on the thick, soft, rich side of things, as opposed to the bright, detailed, schematic side.

Specs
Dimensions (WxHxD, Inches): 1.2 x 2.5 x 0.45
Weight (Ounces): 1
Inputs: USB Mini-B (1)
Outputs: 1/8-inch stereo analog (1)
Output Power: 250 mW, 16 ohms; 200 mW, 32 ohms; 175 mW, 50 ohms; 40 mW, 300 ohms
Output Voltage: Up to 9.5 V p-p into 80-plus ohms
Output Impedance: Less than 0.4 ohms
Compatible Headphone Impedances: 16 to 300 ohms
Sampling Rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96
Upsampling: No
DAC: AKM AK4396
Windows Drivers Installed: DS, WASAPI-event, WASAPI-push

Schiit Audio
(323) 230-0079
schiit.com

COMMENTS
buckchester's picture

I’d like to share my experience.

I bought a Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amp and Schiit Modi DAC last year, based largely on Steve’s reviews.Pairing them with headphones that are adequately powered through a normal laptop or MP3 player, I’m very hard pressed to notice a difference (Grado SR225i and Audio Technica M50x).To know for sure, I would have to be able to instantaneously switch back and forth between my laptop’s headphone jack and the Schiit rig.By quickly plugging my headphone jack out of my laptop and into the Schiit rig I’m unable to say (with certainty) if there is any difference in the sound quality.Yes people, it’s that close.

I also have a pair of Hifiman HE-400i headphones.I definitely notice an improvement with these when they are plugged into the Schiit rig, but that’s because theses headphones benefit from the extra power.

So, unless you have headphones that require extra power to achieve your desired volume, I wouldn’t bother with a headphone amp.I wouldn’t bother with a stand-alone DAC at all.

I’d like to see Steve do some reviews of equipment like this doing blind ABX testing.It would be interesting to see if he could pass the tests.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-end-pc-audio,3733-19.html

Mark Fleischmann's picture
I can't speak for Steve Guttenberg but I was the author of this DAC-amp roundup. I see that your experience of DAC-amps is limited to one manufacturer. You might want to try a few different ones before deciding that it doesn't make a difference. The five products in this roundup had points of similarity, but depending on content, there were also some significant differences. Thanks for your comment -- and please continue evaluating things independently based on your own experience. All readers should do the same!
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