In the audiophile space, there are a few good Bluetooth DACs that can help advance your portable setup. There is the iFi Go Blu, and Fiio BTR7 which are the most popular wireless DACs currently on the market. Now, IKKO has entered the field with the Heimdallr ITB03, a new portable device that boasts a powerful system. Let’s see how it stacks up.
What You Get
- Type-C To Lightning cable*1
- Type-C To Type-C cable*1
- Type-C To USB-A cable*1
- Instruction manual*1
- Warranty Card*2
Similar to the Fiio BTR 5, the Heimdallr has a glassy screen surface with smooth rounded edges. Although it’s a little bigger than the BTR 5, the device is still small enough to fit in a small pocket. Both 3.5mm unbalanced, and 4.4mm balanced connectors are provided here, with a USB Type C socket for wired connections.
For its DAC, the Heimdallr sports dual AK4377 chipsets. That means for only $149 you’re getting a flagship chipset that should significantly boost the performance of the device, as well as its sonic properties. Through a fiber-optic signal, you can expect a sample rate and bit depth up to 197Khz/32bit. With the Heimdallr, there are a few features to toggle through, including charge mode, car mode, and a couple of sound customization modes. You have a selection of four different filters, as well as standard music mode, HiFi mode for wired connections, game mode, and movie mode.
The Heimdallr supports a QCC5125 chip and Bluetooth version 5.0. It has fast, seamless pairing, and I did not experience any major delays or dropouts. It supports LDAC, aptX, and aptX HD. In terms of battery life, you can expect around 8 hours of playtime.
Before I delve into the sonic characteristics of the Heimdallr, I want to express a major concern I have with the device. I attempted to use my Heimdallr as a wired dongle with my iPhone and PC and I found no success. I tried multiple cables including the ones that came with the device, and I could never get anything to play. Tidal would read errors, and Spotify would jump around like crazy. This was disappointing, as I wanted to hear what the Heimdallr’s HiFi mode was like with the flagship AK dual DAC, but I was not able to experience it for this review. Most of my testing for sound will be based on the sound quality using Bluetooth.
Over Bluetooth, the Heimdallr has a clear sound while using standard music mode. IEMs like IKKO’s own Asgard have a crisp presentation while using the 4.4mm headphone jack. Instruments were more spread out, and appear on a larger scale. Switching over to the Raptgo Hook X, I felt a similar scope to the imaging. However, the placement of the sounds was a little bit closer to my head this time around. The soundstage still felt open, and the music still engulfed my headspace.
In music mode, the bass has a more natural performance consistent with both IEMs. Even switching over to the bass-heavy KZ PR1, the lows appeared in better balance, helped by stronger articulation in the low mids. Using the Heimdallr in game mode, I found mixed results in the bass region. At its best, the bass can offer some extended depth, as I found with the PR1. Yet, the Hook X sounded recessed and more v-shaped. Movie mode appears to just make the lows and mids appear more bloated for some reason. I used this mode the least. Treble resolution can also vary depending on the mode. Game mode extends some of the highs and brightens them to a point of slight harshness. Good height and airiness are maintained well in game and music mode, and add to the overall completeness of the sound signature.
While there are some good sound qualities to be experienced, the Heimdallr has major issues. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t use the HiFi features, this DAC could have used a companion app to increase usability. Especially when you have as many features as the Heimdallr comes with, like the filters and sound modes, toggling through the device’s settings doesn’t feel great to use. The build is a lot like the BTR 5, but the design still feels high-grade for the price. Through Bluetooth, the Heimdallr performs great, offering a gripping enhancement to your sound source, at least through standard music mode. I am not sure the Heimdallr is worth it over the BTR 7 or iFi Go Blue, but I think it is still worth looking into, especially if you find a way to get the HiFi mode to work.
The IKKO Heimdallr ITB03 is available at Audio46.
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