I think your thinking of Pono which is more than a DAC. Look at portable DAC's from Oppo, Fiio, JPS...
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You should look into a used Nuforce Icon ido. Not exactly portable, but it's fairly small, easy to use and sounds like it would fit your needs. The ido has both a digital out for use with a high end dac as well as an adjustable preamp out using the ido's internal dac. I use one of these for my ipods and love the heck out of it.
I also own a Nuforce Icon iDo and it works very well for me. Not exactly portable as it requires an AC power source. But it works well and sounds pretty good. However, don't expect low-res digital played over a PA system to sound great. It might be somewhat better, but you can only expect so much.....
I've been using a Nuforce Icon ido for the last few years and it's a nice product at an attractive price point. I pair it with my iPhone 5S and my library includes tracks in ALAC and FLAC formats.
For those of you that are using the Nuforce with external DACs, can you describe which external DAC you are using and why you prefer them to the built-in DAC on the nuForce.
I hope that this is an okay topic to bring up in this threat since it's relevant to the OP's question.
Thanks - JI35: I know about the Pono player, I'm thinking of that other company that makes clever little "Toblerone candy" shaped mini DAC's similar to the Pono. I'll have to research it some more. The company name was an acronym for something...dang... it eludes me right now.
My goal is to be able to loan my little device to the spin instructor and let them plug their phone into it just to see if the power chords and the climactic moments don't have more drama to them. And the thin-ness and the harshness, hopefully some of that can go away.
Timrhu: I did not know about the Nuforce Icon ido. It appears to be out of production. I did find several on eBay for under $100 which is encouraging. One question though: does it use the mini jack from the iPod to import the raw data or does it keep the crappy internal dac from the iPod in the playback? I have a really nice sounding Wadia 171i with a digital coax out to my Bryston DAC that sounds quite nice for most recordings except all but the lowest quality mp3's. But that set up is for my home system and is not portable at all. The Nuforce sounds promising because it appears to just require a place to plug in a wall wart and a place to plug in the RCA interconnects and that is about it.
Well, I just bought a clean used one off of eBay. Feeling like taking a risk and trying it out.
I really hope it works to make the spinning class playlists a little funkier.
When I get it I think I'll test it out straight into my Bryston preamp and also into my byrston dac. I plan to do a comparison with the Wadia 171i as well.
For the iPhone 6 I guess I'll have to use the converter dongle that connects the old style 30 pin connector to the current Lightening connector.
Just remember that if the instructors are using low bit mp3 files nothing will help.
You should do a test and put a cd on your phone in 2 different quality levels and listen for yourself (mp3, mp4 and maybe flac). If you can't hear the difference, then it's the sound system, which is probably Bose and can't do better.
Also, what about the people using Androids? An OTG cable may be in order.
I'm a spin instructor and gave up on quality a long time ago.
Elevick - I appreciate your expertise as a spin instructor. I'm thinking that having an actual small high quality DAC in the spin class that the instructor can plug his phone into is going to produce noticeably superior sound even with low quality MP3 music tracks. I'm sorry that you "gave up" on trying to get decent sound. What source were you using? Did you just connect up to the mini-jack? Did you try it with a DAC?
What I hear in these spin classes is classic low quality iPod through mini jack crappy. I believe this is very fixable!
I spoke with my favorite instructor about it this morning & she is willing to try the Nuforce when I get it. I let her know I'll need a place to plug up the wall wart & I need some exposed RCA interconnects. Both of these requirements are potential issues since the back of the equipment rack is padlocked & only the manager is authorized to unlock it. Also, all the outlets appear to be in use so I would need to haul in my own multi outlet strip. I plan to ask the front desk if we can run a set of RCA interconnects through one of the unused auxiliary inputs (if there are any left) from the back & long enough to dangle out front
I'm thinking of that other company that makes clever little "Toblerone candy" shaped mini DAC'sI think you're referring to this company: http://www.highresolutiontechnologies.com. Their Music Streamers used to be triangular. It looks like they've changed the case. I have no experience with any of their products, but they get good comments from owners and reviewers.
I've taught in about 10 different studios. The best system was one that I installed for them (just Audiosource gear with all weather infinity's and a sub). The one studio in Gold's had an ipod dock that never seemed to work. There's only so much you can get out of a commercial Bose system that is strictly about loud midrange sound with overemphasized bass. I've even tried using a laptop to no avail. Also, you should do more homework. Just take in a recording that is noticeably in stereo (Beatles?). The commercial systems in Golds and LA tend to be wired in mono even if they have 2/4 speakers. Makes a ton of sense since the people are sitting all over the room and it sounds awful if you only hear 1/2 of the track...
You may get lucky and a manager will let you leave a pair of rca's hanging out the back of the system for when you have class and hope that no one steals them. We seem to lose cables weekly. For a power strip, take in a $10 Belkin.
Even if things sound a little better, you are at the mercy of the studio if you leave the unit there. Things can't get much better since most spin studios are big boxes made of either drywall or concrete block or glass and resonate like mad. Finally, what may sound crappy with 6 people in class might sound way better with 25 people in the room to act as diffusers. Now you need to take a bunch of friends with you.