DS1 adopts ESS Technology ES9038Q2M DAC Chip supporting DSD 512 and 32Bit/768kHz PCM, features best-in-class specifications, and high-power outputs capable of supporting the most demanding of headphones with impedance above 200Ω. An excellent DAC, advertised as a high-performance 32-bit, 2-channel audio D/A converter, capable of great lengths thanks to various integrated DSP functions and technologies like Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, or the now-famous HyperStream II architecture. More than enough to, on paper at least, suit even the most demanding audiophiles.
DS1 is compatible with various systems like Android/iOS/Windows/Mac, compatible with the latest devices: phones/computers/tablets/laptops/audio players, etc. You plug it into your phone, insert your headphone jack, and you’re good to go. There were no issues with any of my gears, each time, the DS1 was immediately recognized by the source. Fosi Audio only provides a USB-C to USB-C cable, plus a USB-C to USB-A adapter, so you’ll have to purchase a Lightning adapter separately.
A good setup that should be able to drive the most demanding headphones, even if high-end and planar will need higher-end solutions. Still, apart from the missing MQA support, this is a great circuitry, outperforming many competitors available in the same price range, at least on paper.
The DS1 has a very linear and balanced foundation to its sound. This is carried through to the final output with aplomb, offering an almost perfectly even-handed rendition with minimal tonal coloration. I am hearing a slightly revealing top-end but nothing that would hugely affect synergy or polarise for most personal preferences. Rather, it imbues just a little vibrance and zing into its overall image that some may enjoy as it draws greater focus to fine details.
In fact, the DS1 is very capable and achieved some impressive results, outputting crystal clear highs and powerful lows, even at low to medium volume levels. Speaking of DS1 has hardware volume keys which is always welcome and in my opinion a must on a dongle DAC.
Paired with the FiiO FF3, the combo gives you a perfect mix of accuracy and dynamic, a mix that should accommodate listeners seeking a precise DAC on the go.
Tight and powerful. Fosi Audio did a great job here, and the DS1 was really impressive, even in single-ended mode. Control is well above average for a dongle, note definition impresses as does its ability to discern texture in the mid-bass. As note attack isn’t too aggressive, but this does provide the impression of a smoother bass texture. In turn, its assets are more its dynamics in class combined with its texturing as you will find sharper timing elsewhere.
Open and linear. Vocals and acoustic tracks were easy job for the DS1. The sound stage is wide and voices glided easily into my ears, giving me the right amount of details and a wide soundstage. Like the bass, the listener is instantly able to appreciate a superbly linear midrange rendition that contributes to versatile synergy and overall separation. DS1 it discerns textures well and instruments are portrayed with a realistic timbre.
Clean and crisp. The DS1 has lively treble, it gives tons of details. Going balanced doesn’t make a difference, but I did notice a major difference switching between different file quality tracks., more than I used to hear with other similarly priced DAC, so you better feed it well. The lower treble is impressively even and linear, portraying a well-bodied, textured foreground. There’s a hint of middle-treble emphasis above that slightly lifts instrument clarity and draws greater focus to shimmer, air, and decay.
It’s here that the DS1’s sound makes a lot of sense, it images far better than you’d expect for such a compact source. Many sources are able to effectively provide a linear sound and detailed lower treble but fall short when it comes to soundstage and layering, providing a superficial experience. TheDS1 is no such creation, delivering out-of-the-head width on the right IEMs and a good amount of depth too, forming a multi-dimensional image. It remains width biased, but I was impressed by its dimensions combined with its neutral note size.
It manages to sound much bigger than you’d expect from a portable source, both with regard to dynamics and soundstage expansion. While some match it, few are as well-rounded. The DS1 nails the fundamentals being convenient to use whilst boasting a black noise floor. 4.4mm balanced connectivity and well-above-average driving power are nice-to-haves that do enhance versatility. Overall, the DS1 is versatile, nicely resolving, and a strong overall package that I can highly recommend. My favorite ES9038Q2M dongle DAC so far.