NextDrive Spectra X Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

NextDrive Spectra X Review

 

Introduction:

NextDrive Inc. is a Taiwan based company which designs & develops portable Hi-Fi products like the Spectra and Spectra X.

The Spectra X that I will now review for you is a portable DAC/AMP adapter/dongle for devices like Android Smartphone’s & Tablet’s, Laptop’s or PC’s and is available in USB Type-C and USB A connector variants.

 

 

Disclaimer:

I would like to thank NextDrive for providing me the Spectra X sample for review purposes. I am not affiliated with NextDrive beyond this review and these words reflect my true and unaltered opinions about the product.

 

 

Price:

The regular price for the NextDrive Spectra X is 189,00 USD, but the company offers now a special deal during the holiday with a pricing of 149,99 USD, the purchase link is below;

 

 

Package and Accessories:

The NextDrive Spectra X comes in rectangular cardboard box which has the product illustration and some brandings on the top.

This box contains the followings items and accessories:

  • 1 piece x NextDrive Spectra X USB DAC/AMP Dongle
  • 1 piece x Carry Case
  • 1 piece x Manual

 

 

Design and Build Quality:

The NextDrive Spectra X is a portable DAC/AMP in a form of a USB Dongle/Adapter that gave me the message that it is a premium product when I have held it in my hands. It has a slightly longer profile compared to other dongles on the market and weights about 17grams.

The Spectra X is an adapter/dongle that is assembled from 3 main components, the USB Type-C or USB A connector, the low profile cable and the main body which is the heart of the device.

The main body is made of metal and has a form of a cylinder with a black painting.

On the top of the main body is the Spectra X branding and a symbol in a form of an equalizer bar.

Here is also a small LED light indicator which lights up in blue color when you connect it to a USB source.

On the front of the main body is the 3.5mm single ended headphone/earphone output.

At the rear surface of the main body is the lettering Designed by NextDrive and a label with some industrial certifications.

The second part is the low profile cable which has a nice fabric coating. The cable has an average stiffness with a nice bending effect. The cable is fixed to the main body with a conic plastic part.

The third part which is the connector is available in USB Type-C or USB A male connector. The connector has a plastic housing in black color that looks quite solid.

The overall build quality of the NextDrive Spectra X looks very good without any remarkable imperfections like gaps, burrs, etc.

 

           

Some Technical Specifications:
  • Digital Input Interface             : USB Type-C or USB A
  • Output                                     : 3.5mm Single Ended TRS
  • DAC                                        : ESS SABRE 9018Q2C
  • THD+N                                   : -110 dB (2Vrms @ 600Ω load), -100 dB 49mW @ 32Ω load)
  • DNR                                       : +121 dB
  • Frequency Response             : 20 Hz – 40 KHz
  • Max Power Output                 : 2Vrms @ 600Ω / 49mW @ 32Ω
  • Weight                                    : 17 grams
  • Dimensions                            : H95 W11.2 D11.2 (mm)

 

 

 

 

Hardware/Software:

a) DAC (Digital to Analog Converter):

The NextDrive Spectra X features the Sabre 9018Q2C Digital to Analog Converter of the company ESS Technology. The Sabre 9018Q2C is a 32-bit Stereo Mobile DAC with Headphone Amplifier & Output Switch with low power consumption

The Sabre 9018Q2C inside the Spectra X offers the ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream™ DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator for a DNR +121 dB and THD+N of -110 dB.

Source: ESS Technology

 

b) Driving power & Hissing:

The NextDrive Spectra X has a Max Power Output of 2Vrms @ 600Ω and 49mW @ 32Ω and was able to drive some of my full sized headphones such like the ATH M50 and Sviga Phoenix to pretty loud volume levels.

The background of the Spectra X sounded pretty clean with some of my sensitive IEM’s like the DUNU DK-3001 Pro.

I have noticed that the Spectra X warms up if you use it for longer periods and with power demanding headphones.

XtraSOUND technology is advertised by the company that should help to achieve lower distortion and noise floor.

 

 

c) Supported Sampling Rates:

The NextDrive Spectra X support PCM sampling rates from up to 32Bit – 384 kHz and DSD up to 5.6MHz.

 

d) Connectivity:

The NextDrive Spectra X is compatible with operating systems like iOS, Android, Windows PC’s, MacOS. It supports plug-and-play functionality which means you don’t need to install any driver on Android 7 and above, MAC’s and Windows 8 or 10 computers.

 

 

Equipment’s used for this review:
  • DAC’s             : NextDrive Spectra X, IKKO Zerda ITM03, Audirect Beam
  • USB Source   : Samsung Galaxy S9+, Asus TUF505 Laptop, HiBy R3 Pro Saber
  • IEM’s              : iBasso IT00, DUNU DK-3001 Pro, BGVP ArtMagic VG4
  • Headphones  : SVIGA Phoenix, Audio-Technica ATH-M50

 

 

 

Albums & tracks used for this review:
  • First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • London Grammar – Interlude (Live) (Flac 24bit/88kHz)
  • Diana Krall – So Wonderful (DSF)
  • Lady Gaga – Shallow (Flac16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Björk – Army of Me (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Michael Jackson – Billie Jean (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Elton John – Your Song (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • David Bowie – Black Star (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Eric Clapton – Unplugged Album (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • B.B. King – Riding With The King (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Gogo Penguin – Raven (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Otto Liebert& Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
  • Vivaldi – Le QuarttroStagioni “The Four Season” (Wav 24bit/88kHz)
  • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Flac 16bit/44.1kHz)
  • Opeth – Windowpane (Wav 16bit/44kHz)
  • Metallica – Sad but True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Slayer – Angel of Death (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
  • Armin Van Buuren – Vini Vici (Spotify)
  • Lorde – Royal (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
  • Photek – The Hidden Camera (Spotify)
  • Massive Attack – Angel (Flac 24bit/192kHz)
  • Portishead – The Hidden Camera (MP3 320kbps)

 

 

 

 

The Sound:

The NextDrive Spectra X is a USB DAC adapter with a quite impressive sound performance. It offers a tad warmer than neutral tonality and a bass response that shows good layering and resolution. The midrange is pretty forward, transparent and lively, while the treble range is fairly crisp and with an above average level of extension.

This review is written after a burn-in process of approx. 80 hours.

 

Bass:

The NextDrive Spectra X offers a pretty natural and linear bass response which is in general fairly detailed and controlled. The subbass area of the Spectra X shows a sufficient depth and extension with a fairly natural amount of rumble that is not overdone. The subbass character is ideal in for those who are looking for response with good clarity and control.

The midbass region of the NextDrive Spectra X has slightly more weight compared to the subbass area and shows a tight and pretty controlled presentation. The bass of the NextDrive Spectra X is in general fast and pretty controlled, without to show any unnecessary mixings and situations like muddiness.

The bass performance of the Spectra X is quite satisfying from Armin Van Buuren’s “Vini Vici” up to fast trash metal tracks like Megadeth’s Sweating Bullets.

 

Midrange:

The midrange of the NextDrive Spectra X is pretty musical, dynamic and slightly warmish in its tonality and shows in general a good level of clarity and airiness. The vocal presentation is transparent and quite detailed for a DAC/AMP adaptor and product at this price range. Both male and female vocals do sound emotional and pretty intimate, with good level of clarity and fairly accurate presentation.

Instruments on the other hand have a fairly neutral, slightly bright and warmish tonality. The level of clarity, separation and detail retrieval is also pretty good for a device product at this price range. What I really like is that there is enough air and space between the instruments and vocals.

For example, instruments such like violins and pianos are slightly bright and nicely pronounced in addition of a good level of extension. Guitars or violas on the other hand do sound warmish and are represented in an emotional and fairly realistic way. 

 

Upper Midrange and Treble:

The upper midrange of the NextDrive Spectra X sounds quite balanced and shows an above average level of detail retrieval for a portable DAC/AMP adapter. Both female vocals and instruments such like violins, pianos or cymbals do show a pretty good level of extension.

The transitions form the upper midrange to the treble region is fairly controlled without to show a remarkable sibilance or harshness.

The treble range has a nice tonality which is neither too bright nor recessed in its presentation. The treble performance of the Spectra X in terms extension and detail retrieval is pretty good and I couldn’t hear any remarkable sibilance or harshness for that I can complaint.

Instruments such like violins, pianos or flutes do sound bright, lively and detailed, while hi-hats and cymbals in metal music do show a good level of extension and sparkle.

 

Soundstage:

The NextDrive Spectra X is a pretty successful DAC/AMP adapter in terms of instruments separation and imaging. The soundstage is in general quite airy and spacious, with good level of width and average depth.

 

 

 

Comparison:

 

NextDrive Spectra X versus IKKO Zerda ITM03:

Both the NextDrive Spectra X and the IKKO Zerda ITM03 do share a slightly warmer than neutral tonality. The Zerda ITM03 shows a tad more subbass depth and extension, while the Spectra X has the upper hand in terms of midbass intensity and tightness. Both devices do have in general a pretty linear and detailed bass presentation. The midrange of the Spectra X is slightly fuller and a bit more emotional compared to the Zerda ITM03, while both do share a good level of clarity and airiness. The upper midrange and treble area of the IKKO Zerda ITM03 is slightly more highlighted compared to the Spectra X. Both devices are pretty similar in terms of treble detail and extension.

The NextDrive Spectra X has the upper hand in terms of soundstage wideness, while the depth of both DAC/AMP’s is equal.

  

 

NextDrive Spectra X versus AUDIRECT Beam:

The first noticeable difference is the higher driving power of the NextDrive Spectra X, which offers more juice if you want to drive your full sized headphones. The second noticeable difference is the overall tonality. The AUDIRECT Beam shows a warmer tonality with slightly more subbass depth and extension. The midbass region of the Beam shows more impact and intensity, while the Spectra X shows a tighter bass response with higher level of clarity and resolution. The midrange of the NextDrive Spectra X has the upper hand in terms of detail, transparency and airiness, while the AUDIRECT Beam is lightly more emotional and musical.  The upper midrange and lower treble area of the Spectra X is more highlighted compared to the Beam and offers a higher level of sparkle and extension.

The NextDrive Spectra X is superior in terms instruments separation and accuracy, and both soundstage depth and wideness.

 

 

Conclusion:

The NextDrive Spectra X is a powerful, good looking and robust device with a quite impressive sound performance, which will satisfy you If you are searching for a DAC/AMP adaptor with lots of driving power that offers a dynamic, musical and detailed presentation.

 

 

Pros and Cons:
  • + Tonality, Detail and Dynamism
  • + Lots of Driving Power & Clean Output
  • + Esthetics & Build Quality
  • – Warms up after a while

 

 

 

 

 

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