Oh my goodness, it’s so cute! Sorry, but I am a sucker for cute things…double points when a cool design in a product actually ends up sounding nice. This Asian company released the Alien Dap not too long ago, which was also awesomely designed and it seemed as though most of the community really enjoyed it. I’ve not heard Cozoy’s Alien portable player yet, but after hearing their Astrapi…I may have to try to get my hands on their portable music player if it indeed sounds anything like the Astrapi.
I’d previously thought the Audio Engine d3 was the pinnacle of tininess in a DAC design, but I was so wrong. Cozoy’s Astrapi is the smallest DAC that I’ve ever reviewed and I just can’t get over how small it really is, as well as what else it has to offer the audio world. This little bugger is not only a solid middle tier USB DAC for the PC, but also a line out for apple products as well. IPad and iPhone enthusiasts should be paying attention right now…you’re salvation has arrived. I’d just recently reviewed the CEntrance Mini M8, which costs almost $700us and I’d found it to house some serious issues with usage via the PC. True, the Mini M8 used with Lightning output resulted in excellent sound and features, but the PC end of its ability was severely broken and lacking support for common things we’ve come to consider basic rights.
The USB Cable
The Astrapi comes with a standard mini USB to USB cable, a Lightning cable for Apple products and a normal mini to mini USB cable. As small as the design is, it really bothers me when I use it with my Alienware laptop. It seems the extra cable length really negates the size of the product; it is so small to begin with but when you tack on the cable needed to bridge it to a PC, you are left with a product that might as well have a USB lead on it like the Audio Engine D3 has. This problem isn’t so severe with cell phone usage via the line out, but you’ll need to buy a short cable or else be stuck with a long 6 inch cable that bridged your iPhone to the Astrapi. It really is unsightly to strap a long cable like that to a small phone, which in turn is connected to the tiny Cozoy device.
When all is said and done, the Astrapi delivers a very nice sound. Finally, Apple users can get really nice quality on the go without shelling insane cash out for the CEntrance Mini M8 or the older line out DAC’s used for apple iPod’s back in the day. Thankfully, things don’t need to be so large and bulky these days just to digitally output Apple tunes to a DAC, then convert back to analog for your headphone.
Seems the Astrapi isn’t at all geared for anything beyond 32ohm, as it doesn’t have the juice to get the job done on most efficient, full sized headphones in general. Portaphiles will be happy with the results, especially so if you are a budget to mid-tier IEM user. There are no physical dials on the Astrapi, it’s a pure DAC and you won’t get any volume control or fancy bass booster buttons, but you will get a nice and firm voltage swing for most efficient portables and IEMs alike.
Bass and Phone DAC
True, there isn’t much going on down below (gigiddy) but I feel the bass experience of this Cozoy Astrapi to offer a bit more fidelity than the Audio Engine D3 I am so used to. Plugging it into my Audio Engine A5+ speaker’s results in a noticeably cleaner sound when I swap outputs via Foobar: swinging from the Audio Engine D3 to the Astrapi with the press of one hotkey. Ah, thank God for Foobar, makes my job so easy sometimes.
Anyhow, texture seems to be relatively flat and neutral, also in desperate need of some oomph via a bass booster if you ask me. Then again, I am not into the total flat quantity thing from top to bottom, I prefer a bit more elevated bass levels and I think people who own bookshelf speakers would want more thickness to the low end. Thankfully, the Astrapi responds nicely to some of Foobar’s bass boosting EQ presets and I feel more than satisfied in bass quantity needs.
You really aren’t going to want to purchase the Astrapi if you are using headphones with solid bass quantity and don’t have access to a good source that it pairs with. Amazingly enough, the Astrapi pairs with the Apple iPhone but I feel the iPhone to lack any decent audio controls by comparison to something like the Android phones or the insane number of EQ apps over yonder in the Droid Market. If you aren’t willing to shell out a few bucks for a good music app, then skip this. If you have something decent already installed, go for it. I can’t really think of any other product this clean that bypasses the iPhone DAC and subs it with something a hell of a lot nicer.
Bass heads aren’t going to like this, but casual listeners are in for a nice treat with this Astrapi. Quantity is a problem for me on a personal level, but only because I like more oomph than the general consumer. Sadly, the Astrapi offers more of a balanced sound signature with a lacking bass quantity by comparison to the mid and treble offered beyond it.
Things really got interesting here for me on a personal level. I’d previously found the Audio Engine D3 to be more than sufficient to power my Audio Engine A5+ speakers in terms of a nice, solid and weighted feel to the midrange, but now I think I’ve finally found something small that actually outperforms it. Cozoy’s Astrapi does a very good job as a USB DAC with my pc, outing into my speakers it seems to push more substance and solidity than the D3 from Audio Engine. I really didn’t expect that for such a price, although I have to admit the D3 feels slower, more relaxed on the draw than the Astrapi.
There is definitely a clear difference between the two: the Astrapi is quick on the decay and doesn’t linger and is more pure sounding, the D3 has more of a balanced feel to it and doesn’t dissipate nearly as fast as the Astrapi. Depending on your preferences, either or may suit you…I prefer the D3’s setup and lack of quickness, as I find it tonally more relaxing and smooth, less raw than the Astrapi.
When it comes to the midrange in general, I can’t help but to feel there is a lack of smoothness in the Astrapi. As mentioned, the Astrapi is quite raw and even a little gritty sounding when paired with the pc as a USB DAC, thankfully though this really isn’t much of a problem with the apple iPhone output. PC enthusiasts should be happy with it, as raw clarity isn’t really that far off of the O2 DAC. I’m definitely going to sacrifice the smoothness of my Audio Engine D3 for the Astrapi’s higher clarity factor, but I am sure I will be upset with its lack of a relaxing decay factor.
I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing for those who are looking for a good midrange DAC, most seem to want a soothing and smooth vocal experience: that yummy, liquid like factor just isn’t as abundant here as it is with the D3. In turn, this Astrapi may be geared more for the clinical speakers out there or the more budget oriented headphones that attempted to seize a reference tonality. Warm and colored headphones just don’t pair well with this Astrapi, at least in my opinion.
That lack of a slick midrange feel kind of bugs me a little too much when I use the Astrapi with my A5+ speakers, but it has some perks that vary with genre selection. For example: Big Band and Swing don’t really sound so nice through my Audio Engine D3, but they do sound a bit more enjoyable through the Astrapi. I seem to enjoy Jazz much more through my D3, than with the Astrapi. It is a give and take scenario here, sacrifice will be made with tonal preferences no matter which route you take, but you should feel comfortable knowing clarity as found in the Astrapi is a bit superior to the D3 from Audio Engine, which in turn was just about on par with the Dragonfly.
Page 2: More Sound Impressions