Since I bought my new Fiio e17k -aka Alpen 2- seems everyday I am more excited. Not only because it is handy and looks great in my hand, it is because every álbum listened with is a new adventure as well. My CD albums are re-discovered with a full richness of sound and a bright trebles with bass as never I have heard. Because I am talking about hear more than listen music beyond 44 khz and 16 bits. I am enjoying HiRes as I never figured.
First of all, I have to admit that my Android Smartphone was not capable to transmit HiRes files to my DAC. Android seems restricted just to CD music quality due to energy savings -Windows OS seems is doing the same but to 96 khz- so unlock HiRes output was the main priority. I say it is annoying at first glance because all quality music files you play will be displayed -and listened- 48 khz of simple rate and 16 bit depth. Also Direct Stream Digital (DSD 64 and 128). My Smartphone -as you can figure- should play music thorugh the DAC so I need an application compatible with this device because the internal speaker is used by default.
So, first question, is Poweramp compatible? Answer: Yes!!! Nice, first goal accomplished. Poweramp Pro is my favorite app to play FLAC and M4A files since a couple of years, and my purpose was to take advantage of my player. But, second question, Is Poweramp able to enhance the Android music quality limit and go beyond CD quality? The answer is NOT. All HiRes audio files played with this app will be limited and HiRes would not sound better than CD. It is not a drama because Alpen 2 has a very good amplification and filters, but this device was not intended for work at half of power.
Said this, I have been reading a big handful of websites and forums and after evaluate «Onkyo» and «Neutron» apps I bet all my hopes in «USB Audio Pro». It was suposed has its own USB drivers for Android and when it loads, the operating sistem replaced the default Android audio driver by this new. I was worried because my expectatives were high and I was pretty happy with Poweramp -and its interface-, plus it costs almost 7 euros and did not wanted to pay twice for music players. The result was amazing and very very positive. My money and my time was worth.
I read we need to open the application firstly and plug the DAC once the app loads. Just connecting the Alpen 2, a popup says a new DAC device was detected and configured. It was a good premonition it was just happening. My first test was Excided álbum by Depeche Mode in 96 khz and 24 bits -my idea was increasing the quality step by step-, and… the display shows 96 khz and 24 bits!!!! It was not only a question of show the quality in the display, it was a question of audio fidelity enjoyment. And believe me it deserves to jump to HiRes.
Once I recovered from my extasis, I tried 88 khz and 24 bits but the display stills displaying 96 khz. After that, Like a Virgin by Madonna in 192 khz and 24 bits but it was showing the same. And it seems that once the Alpen 2 detects HiRes, it shows the maximum quality available, because remmember that 96 khz and 24 bits is the top allowed, so forget to play 192 khz files using the USB input because it will be reduced to 96. It is not a bad new for me because it was noticed in the device specification page and only 192 is allowed for coaxial input.
A bit disappointed cause the display and how Alpen 2 shows the audio quality I referred to Fiio website trying to look for the answer about this subject and Fiio confirms my theory: USB is only showing two modes 48khz/16bits and 96khz/24bits. No concerns.
I bought Alpen 2 because is a DAC with display, and I paid more comparing other cheaper DAC because it has a very useful on-screen menu for tunning treble, bass, gain, balance and a few extra options, but specially because I wanted to know the audio quality played. Despite of it is not showing the quality accurately, I think it stills worth to pay this extra money -we are talking about 20 euros- and enjoy dragging my thumb and pushing the left wheel menu and the bright display at night. Yes, it sounds romantic, but that is the way I am.