- Pure, detailed and melodious sound.
- Great clarity and transparency.
- Both micro and macro nuances are easy to distinguish.
- Very good timbre, natural and organic.
- High level of separation, definition and resolution.
- Very good amount of air, wide scene, as well as realistic.
- Very low power consumption.
- Medium power.
- Simple packaging and presentation, no USB Type A adapter.
Link to the Store
At this point, it would be redundant to describe Penon Audio as a brand specialising in audiophile products. Not in vain, it has a varied and numerous catalogue of IEMS, earbuds, cables and adapters. This time Penon has decided to go one step further, adding a well-known, small and versatile DAC-AMP to its best adapter cable. This is the Penon Totem Type-C DAC Adapter. This product is nothing more than the union of the Penon Totem Adapter Cable with the Conexant CX31993 DAC-AMP. This product is capable of decoding files up to 32bit/384kHz, does not require drivers to be installed on Windows 10, has an output of up to 1V RMS, as well as a very low power consumption associated with great sound. Let’s take a look at all the virtues of this successful union in this review.
- Conexant CX31993 decoding chip with file support up to 32Bit/384kHz.
- 2 shares, 334 cores per share.
- Single crystal copper silver-plated Litz type-6 & Palladium-plated pure silver & Single crystal copper plated with pure gold.
- Outer diameter 2.5mm.
- Output voltage: 1V RMS.
- Available in USB Type-C to 2.5mm balanced, USB Type-C to 3.5mm SE and USB Type-C to 4.4mm balanced.
The adapter came in a brown leather envelope with the Penon brand inscribed in the middle. Inside is just the product and nothing else.
It is true that many other adapters of this type have other types of solid or metal packaging, but the leather envelope is much more manageable and, above all, transportable.
Construction and Design
The cable consists of two coiled blue strands, sheathed in transparent plastic. Each strand has a total of 334 cores. The cores are composed of Litz6-type silver-plated monocrystalline copper, palladium-plated pure silver and pure gold-plated monocrystalline copper.
The overall size of the product, in the reviewed unit (USB Type-C to 2.5mm balanced) is 90mm of cable, 145mm in total, counting the connectors and their housings. The output housing is approximately 25mm long and has a diameter of 8.6mm on the roughened side. They are made of black metal and each of them has a pair of rumble strips. On the housing of the audio output socket is a manual inscription in gold ink. The balanced 2.5mm jack socket is gold-plated. The wires are protected by a transparent plastic sleeve when they are inserted into the housings, which also protects the internal soldering. The housing of the USB Type-C connector has a slanted, flat taper towards the USB output. Its length is almost 30mm and its diameter in the rough part is about 11mm.
The design is simple, the casings are dense and dark, but the blue colour of the Totem cable stands out.
The adapter is compatible with Windows 10 without drivers. It can be connected to any Android mobile phone and works perfectly with the HiBy Music App, which I use regularly. It also works with other types of transport DAPS, such as the Tempotec V1-A, without any problems.
Operation is extremely simple: plug and play. All tested systems recognise the device quickly and without problems. There is no ASIO driver, but with Foobar2000 it works perfectly in WASAPI Push mode. It does not have a volume control and it will depend on each source for its management. The power consumption is one of the lowest I have tested. Without quantifying it exactly, it is noticeable that the power consumption is lower than other dongles I own.
The small Conexant CX31993 is capable of delivering 1V RMS, as well as offering excellent linearity over the entire frequency range. Importantly, its output impedance is very low, well below 1 Ω, which makes it exceptionally ideal for very sensitive or low-impedance IEMS.
It may seem that 1V RMS is not a very high value, but it is a fairly standard value in the vast majority of DAPS under $100 and it is very rare for such devices to exceed it. It is true that there are more powerful dongles but at the cost of a much higher power consumption. That’s why I recommend this dongle for those who use moderate impedance IEMS and prefer to conserve power for their mobile devices.
The reference value is that 1V RMS, whose linearity is maintained over the entire audible frequency range.
With a voltage of 0.932V @1kHz, the output power rises to 58mW. Quite good. The linearity of the frequency response is maintained.
With this load connected the Penon Totem Type-C DAC Adapter reaches its maximum output and provides a figure close to 31mW for this impedance. Note that the measured value is the same for this resistor and at no load, implying that the output impedance is close to zero.
The same applies when connecting a higher impedance, 10mW for 100 Ω.
As I said, the Penon Totem Type-C DAC Adapter is the marriage of the best adapter cable with an affordable DAC-AMP. And just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean it’s bad. Not at all, reviewers with more experience with these types of dongles have found the Conexant CX31993 to be arguably a far superior value for the price and not only for its sound, but also for its low power consumption. In this case, I am inclined to think that Penon has sought synergy between the two components and has succeeded. The DAC used is characterised by an excellent level of cleanliness and clarity, without losing the naturalness, nor the realistic colour of the sound. The union with the Totem cable amplifies its virtues and provides a superior amount of air. The transparency is very pronounced and the clarity is irremediably perceptible, but without ever sounding unrealistic or forced. The sound enjoys a bright sparkle that is quite organic, very well shaped, neutral in character, but subtly bright, but never cold or analytical. One of the virtues I like about this dongle is that mix of brightness and naturalness, combined with a remarkable level of separation and a great timbre, natural and rich. The sound has an organic, analogue refinement, as if it were a higher grade in definition and resolution, but without forgetting its inherent, traditional origins. It is a twist on a pure and lively sound, very well structured, coherently represented and devoid of artifice. The sound is rich in nuance and detail, nothing sounds forced or out of place.
The bass is swiftly executed, with a fleeting decay. Its energy is completely correct, in this sense the power is neutral, but without lacking any hint of forcefulness. The texture is quite descriptive and as a good neutral device, it leaves the work of its representation to the connected headphones, without any alteration in its response. However, the level of clarity is remarkable, something that can already be felt from the deepest LFOs. The transparency and definition of the lower range allows the layered reconstruction and bass structure to be agile and very competent, even with really complex and unfiltered passages. The Totem Type-C doesn’t shy away from these kinds of difficult situations, on the contrary, it is able to bring an unusual naturalness, turning a difficult passage into something much more natural than expected. I think that the Totem cable allows to soften this type of situation, as well as providing an expansive character capable of airing the passage and giving it a greater corporeal and three-dimensional sensation. In this way, the cleanliness of the overall execution is enhanced.
In the middle range, these characteristics allow the level of transparency to be higher, but without being analytical in character. On the contrary, both voices and instruments enjoy a neutral, detailed, rich sound characterised by that ideal timbre and melodious texture. This is not a strictly soft dongle, but it exists in a context that is permissive of the quality of the recordings. There never seems to be anything sounding wrong in the Totem Type-C’s midrange, the sound is always coherent and the sibilances are respectful. In this way, an evocative, realistic, natural, clear and well-balanced range is generated. And the treble follows suit, aided by a slightly bright, but musical and pleasant character. The development of the high notes is concise, precise, detailed and sparkling. Yet they are also bathed in exquisite subtlety, bringing delicacy and softness to the upper range. The expanse of area and amount of air in the sound feels enlarged by the magnitude of the cable, just as the scene is lifted and widened in the first instance. While, on closer inspection, both depth and height also feel expansive, with a slight vaporous, three-dimensional and ethereal feel that doesn’t go over the head, but remains true to the original music, respecting it above all else.
The Penon Totem Type-C DAC Adapter is the marriage of the best cable with a great DAC. And not only do they complement each other, the result is pure synergy. The remarkable virtues of the Conexant CX31993 are joined by the improvements offered by a superior cable. This makes the sound more transparent, clearer, more precise, more detailed and more defined. The soundstage is perceived as large, while the whole system is highly natural, rich and realistic in timbre. In addition, the product can be chosen with 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm BAL or 4.4mm BAL outputs, so it’s all advantages.
Earphones and Sources Used During Analysis
- HiBy R3 Pro
- Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro
- Penon Globe
- Rose QT9 MK2
- TRN Kirin
- TRI Meteor
- BQEYZ Topaz
- BQEYZ Autumn
- Dunu Falcon Pro
- Yanyin Aladdin
- Ikko OH10
- Letshuoer S12