One of the best ways to enhance your Android smartphone audio is by connecting an external DAC/Amp. In this article, we will show you how to do this. We will be going over different connection methods and different cables for different types of DAC/Amps.
Since there are various types of DACs, connecting them to your Android smartphone also varies. Dongles are directly connected to the output and are good to go. While portable and desktop DACs require accessories to connect them to smartphones. Other portable DACs also have support for Bluetooth, which gives convenience to users.
Also, we won’t just be talking about how to connect a bunch of cables. We will also be going through a few steps to optimize the sound quality of your DAC/Amp. We’ll also show you a bunch of neat apps to help achieve an enjoyable listening experience.
How to Connect DAC/Amp to Android Smartphone
Connecting to Portable DAC/Amps
The most common way to connect a DAC/Amp to your smartphone is via a USB Type-C or micro USB OTG Cable. Simply plug in one end to your smartphone and the other to your portable DAC/Amp, and you should be good to go. Just remember that if your DAC/Amp has a dedicated volume knob, you need to make sure to set Android’s volume to max.
Most modern portable DAC/Amps utilize USB Type-C. In this example, we are using the iFi Nano iDSD Black Label. However, Some portable DAC/Amps may not be specifically designed for smartphones. In comparison, a portable and desktop DAC may require additional accessories to connect to them. Some DACs also have Bluetooth support, which comes in hand.
One example is the Audioquest Dragonfly Series. For these DAC/Amps, we recommend buying the cable that the company has designed for the item. Alternatively, you can purchase a USB Type-A to Type C or a USB hub.
Connecting to Desktop DAC/Amps
Connecting your smartphone to desktop DAC/Amps is a bit different. Most desktop DAC/Amps have various connectivity options. However, none of them are usually designed to directly connect with a smartphone. This is why we will need a special cable for these.
If you are using an Android smartphone with USB Type-C, one quick solution is to use a USB Type-C Hub with at least one USB Type-A port. Simply connect the USB Hub to the Type-C charging port of your smartphone, then connect the USB cable of your DAC/Amp to the USB hub. You should immediately get notified that an external audio device has been connected to your smartphone.
If you want a cleaner-looking solution, you can also purchase a specialized USB cable. If your DAC/Amp has a USB Type-C or Micro USB input, you can opt to purchase a USB Type C to Type C cable or a USB Type C to Micro USB Cable.
Both methods should work as long as your desktop DAC/Amp has an external power supply attached.
Connecting Via Bluetooth
There are also some portable and desktop DAC/Amps that can wirelessly connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. This makes the connection process easier since you no longer need to purchase specific cables and are a lot more flexible.
The connection process is pretty straightforward and is similar to any other Bluetooth device. Simply press the pairing button of your device and pair them with your smartphone.
To further optimize the sound, we recommend choosing the highest supported Bluetooth codec in the Bluetooth settings of your smartphone. The highest supported codec is usually selected by default, but we recommend checking just in case.
If you aren’t familiar with Bluetooth codecs, these basically decide how much information your smartphone sends to the Bluetooth device. Higher quality codecs are capable of producing better sound quality and can significantly reduce latency. Common high-quality codecs include APTX, APTX HD, and LDAC.
Most modern smartphones should support these codecs. The only smartphone brand that we have tried that does not support APTX, and APTX HD is Huawei.
They do support LDAC. However, most Bluetooth DAC/Amps do not support LDAC, so you should keep that in mind if you are a Huawei user.
If you are looking for a good portable DAC/Amp with Bluetooth capabilities, we recommend checking out the iFi xDSD. And for a desktop option, we recommend the FX Audio D01.
How to Carry your Portable DAC/Amp and Smartphone Stack
If you decide to use your portable DAC/Amp with your smartphone, you will soon find out that the completed setup can be bulky and hard to carry around. One workaround is to use specialized rubber bands for stacking. This is not the most elegant solution since parts of your screen may be obstructed.
Another alternative is to use an adhesive to stick the DAC/Amp to the back of your smartphone. We recommend using a proactive case to prevent damaging your smartphone.
Both solutions aren’t the best. If you prefer a more lightweight option, we highly recommend trying out high-resolution dongle-type DACs.
How to Bypass Android Sample Rate Limitation
Once you try playing your locally stored audio files on your Android smartphone, you will quickly realize that your DAC/Amp is not outputting the correct sample rate of some of your high-resolution audio files. This is because Android only supports up to 48 kHz. This may not be a big deal for some, but for those who wish to fully listen to their music, these are the steps that you should follow.
The first step is to download a music player that supports higher bitrate audio files. The best free option that we have found is Hiby Music. This app essentially installs its own audio driver that can bypass all the internal Android sample rate limitations.
Additionally, this application has native support for DAC/Amps. It automatically detects if a compatible DAC/Amp is connected and allows the DAC/Amp’s volume knob to take full control of the app. This way, Android’s volume, and the external DAC/Amp’s volume will be the same.
There are tons of alternatives in the Play Store in case you are not satisfied with the user interface or the feature set of this free app. Give them a try to see which app best fits your needs.
How to Play Tidal MQA
If you are mostly streaming your music, find out if you really need a DAC.
If you want to take things to the next level and add MQA support to your smartphone, you can do so by purchasing and downloading an app called USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP). This app is very similar in function to the free HiBy Music App.
What’s different here is that UAPP can support local MQA files as well as Tidal Masters when paired with an MQA capable DAC/Amp. The Android version of Tidal is quite notorious since you cannot unlock Tidal Masters within the app.
The only downside here is that you will have to pay for both the app as well as its MQA plugin. Tidal offline MQA downloads are also not supported. But if you are a fan of MQA or if you just want to fully maximize the benefits of your Tidal subscription, this is currently the best method available.
Is Tidal Masters worth the price? – Find out here.
Aubrey has been a longtime fan of music. She plays arcade music games such as Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution. She also loves different genres such as KPOP. Ever since she discovered IEMs and Headphones, her love and appreciation for music have been taken to the next level. And as a writer, she wishes to share her audiophile journey with you.
Favorite IEM: Moondrop SSP, KBear Believe, Noble Katana