“Penta” represents 5, while “Conn” represents connector.
First announced back in 2015 the 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced connector is getting more fans in later years including me. Because it is much stronger compared to the 2.5mm balanced connector and also much smaller than the old XLR balanced standard. Many DAPs started using it in their designs instead of the 2.5mm balanced port and many earphone brands started offering stock cables to choose from 4.4mm or 3.5mm. In short 4.4mm is one of the latest trends in the audio community.
Following the success of the Moonriver2 USB DAC-AMP, Moondrop has come up with a brand new portable USB DAC-AMP in the budget category. The new Moondrop DAWN 4.4 has been launched in June. It’s a compact yet powerful portable USB Type-C DAC-AMP designed with a fully balanced audio circuit consisting of dual Cirrus Logic DAC chips, and a 4.4mm truly-balanced headphone output. The DAWN 4.4 has an all-aluminium build with a white coating.
Moondrop DAWN 4.4 houses dual CS43131 DAC chips, one for each channel. The CS43131 is a premium 32-bit Stereo DAC chip that provides performance with high SNR and ultra-low THD+N values. This Dual DAC arrangement provides high-resolution audio signal decoding with a four-channel chipset (two on each chipset).
Moondrop DAWN 4.4, as the model name states, adopts a fully-balanced 4.4mm headphone output. It provides up to 230mW @ 32Ω of output power. Line-out power is rated at 4Vrms at the high-gain level. Moondrop DAWN 4.4 also features dual independent crystal oscillators for low signal jitter during the signal transmission process. It supports high-resolution 32-Bit/768kHz PCM and native DSD256 signal decoding.
Featuring a standard USB Type-C connector, the Moondrop DAWN is compatible with most Android smartphones, tablets, PCs, and Laptops. It also supports Apple iOS devices with an additional Type-C to Lightning connector.
What’s in the box
- Dual DAC architecture.
- 4.4mm fully-balanced output.
- Dual-Independent crystal oscillators.
- Super-Clean background.
- Aluminum-Alloy Shell.
- Moondrop Link App compatible.
- DAC Chips: Dual CS43131.
- DNR: 132dB.
- THD+N: 0.00017%.
- Decoding: PCM up to 32-Bit/768kHz, Native DSD256.
- Output Power: 230mW@32Ω, 54mW@300Ω.
- Line-Out: 4Vrms (High-Gain), 2Vrms (Low).
- Interface: USB Type-C.
I would like to thank Shenzenaudio for providing me with the review sample of Moondrop DAWN 4.4 (no affiliate link).
Moondrop DAWN 4.4 is fast and precise with a good level of layering. Sounds natural, with deep lows and sharp mids. The micro-detail performance is superb. I did not have any chance to listen to Moonriver2 but I can guess that the DAWN 4.4 shares some characteristics with its 3 times more expensive brother. They both have dual Cirrus Logic DAC chips, the technical numbers between the two (CS43131 vs CS43198) are almost identical and both are tuned by Moondrop.
Lows are fast and powerful. The bass is impressive, very impressive. Usually, this is where small DAC falls short, but this wasn’t the case here, and I could push volume way higher than I thought. It’s fast and powerful and with good headphones, you’ll be rewarded by deep and tight bass. And it never oversteps on the other frequencies.
Vocals sound with perfect tonality and timber for my ears and the DAWN 4.4 gave me a good level of clean sound something that I would have not expected from a budget-class USB DAC. Mids have excellent layering and great spaciousness. They blend perfectly with the rest of the spectrum. The soundstage is surprisingly good even at the highest level of volume. Compared to some budget USB DACs the mids don’t tend to fall behind the highs and lows, and everything sounds pretty even.
The Treble area sounds clean and transparent. In my opinion, the DAWN 4.4 raises the bar in the budget segment with sharp, harsh-less trebles, and excellent layering at any given volume. With the right headphone, you’ll get a level of power and accuracy that you won’t expect from a DAC at this price. Micro-details, balanced signature, precise timbre, you get it all with the DAWN 4.4. This small but fat USB DAC outputs a real balanced signal. And I must say that I hear better detail retrieval on the DAWN 4.4 than any budget ESS-based single DAC chip DACs that I reviewed.
vs ddHiFi TC44C
Both USB DAC shares the same dual CS43131 DAC chips and this reflects to their sound signature naturally. Clean and transparent sound with excellent layering and accuracy. Except for the ddHiFi’s TC44C has a bigger stage/headroom and more layers across the sound spectrum. But also costs 40$ more with an additional 3.5mm port.
vs Shanling UA2
The Shanling UA2 is a perfect example of the classic ESS sound. In simple words, this means the most sharp-edged digital sound in the upper mids and above, also a fast and strong tendency on the lower side of the frequency table. So depending on the earphone that you are using, dark-sounding earphones for example, the UA2 may suit you better. For a balanced and/or bright-sounding earphone the DAWN would be a better choice.
vs Shanling UA3
The new UA3 from Shanling is the only USB DAC these days that comes with one of AKM’s latest 4463SEQ DAC chips. Sounds less digital, if I might say, sounds more on the organic and analogue side with better dynamics in my opinion. Also supports both software and hardware volume controls which is very important for a portable USB DAC I think. In addition, has App support like the DAWN 4.4 and a 3.5mm port if you pay 40$ more.
I saved the best for last. Moondrop DAWN 4.4 might be one of the best USB DAC-AMP for 69$ that you will spend. Also suits perfectly with Moondrop’s new Aria Snow IEM. But it has one 4.4mm balanced output only! That won’t be a big problem for you if you have started to invest in the 4.4mm cables like me. But if you did not and are happy with your 3.5mm collection, you can try ddHiFi’s DJ30A adapter, it’s perfectly safe.