Schiit Fulla USB Portable DAC/Amp Review
It’s 2017, so it’s the perfect time to review a discontinued closeout audio product that first launched in 2014!
I found myself in a bit of a jam recently thanks to a MacOS update, and I needed a new portable DAC/Amp. I sometimes use high impedance headphones portably, and I like to have one on hand if I’m doing a headphone review to see if there’s any benefit over onboard sound. I’ve always wanted to try a Schiit audio product, and I thought that their on-sale $59 Fulla seemed like the perfect choice.
Schiit has a goofy name, they don’t sell through dealers, and they’re very honest and forthcoming about what’s in their products and what they feel their value is. Their stuff always reviews well, and has a great reputation.
Does the Fulla deliver on all of this? Yes!
It’s a great product, and they’ve made me a fan overnight.
You can see every feature the Fulla has in this photo. It’s a small USB-powered-and-fed DAC/Amp combo, with one 3.5mm jack for headphones. It has a nice analog volume knob on the top. The body is made mostly of metal.
It supports up to 24-bit/96khz audio, and works without drivers on PC and Mac, and a variety of other devices.
Schiit includes a small USB cable in the box. The USB jack on the Fulla is mini USB instead of the more-common micro USB, a decision that probably made more sense in 2014. I think the mini jack is also a little more durable, so there’s that.
Beyond a certain threshold of quality, it’s tough to tell the difference between various DACs. Ideally, a digital-to-analog converter should convert your audio transparently, without changing the source at all.
The DAC in the Fulla does its job well. I notice no coloration or distortion, and it quickly switches between different audio formats. I love that the Fulla requires no drivers.
The amp is powerful, and has an impressively low output impedance of just 0.4 ohms. My $150 Sound BlasterX G5 amp has a 2.2 ohm output impedance. Lower output impedances are generally more desirable and better for handling a wide range of headphones from super-sensitive IEMs and gaming headsets all the way up to pro gear.
I’ve had a great listening experience on the Fulla with every headphone I’ve thrown at it. It drives my 250 Ohm DT770’s with aplomb and plenty of power to spare. Compared to my G5 and my older now-incompatible-with-Mac E1, the DT770’s sound just a touch thumpier in the bass and a little cleaner overall.
It’s not a huge difference, but it’s definitely noticeable. It’s on the order of 10 percent or so better. But that’s amazing for such a cheap portable thing.
With a longer cable plugged into my desktop PC, there’s some slight background hiss/noise that’s probably due to said longer cable. It’s only audible with the volume cranked way up, and in testing this out I accidentally blasted myself with a Windows volume ding, which was an experience.
My G5 doesn’t have these noise issues, but again I think this was the cable’s fault. And I intend to use the Fulla mostly as a portable solution like in this photo below.
I really like the look of the Fulla. It has an outer shell made from aluminum that also serves as a heat sink system. Don’t worry though, it never gets too hot to touch. The edges of the case are kind of sharp, but this doesn’t bother me as much as it did some other reviewers.
The knob is truly analog. You don’t have to worry about degrading your dynamic range with digital volume controls here (and if you need more adjustment headroom, you can use 24-bit audio and turn the volume down on your PC. Curiously, on Mac, it doesn’t allow for digital volume adjustments by default). There’s a very slight channel imbalance at the bottom of the knob, but this is often just a fact of life with analog controls and it doesn’t bother me.
I like the feel of the knob. I don’t have giant hands, so I have an easy time gripping and tuning it, but it’s on the smaller side.
The whole unit is easily opened by the user, which is cool. It uses small phillips head screws, so if you ever feel like popping it open you probably already have a tool somewhere that’ll do it. The knob is attached with what looks like a standard tiny glasses screw, again with a phillips head. Pretty nice!
The mini-USB port is the only thing that bugs me…but it’s not a deal breaker. I have a million extra micro cords lying around from other devices but no long mini cords…so I ordered a cheap one from Amazon to use it with my desktop when I need to.
If the Fulla seems like something useful to you, now is the time get one since they’re on closeout. The newer Fulla 2 is more capable…but it’s also $99. With its $59 closeout pricing, the original Fulla is a very competitive option even though the portable DAC market has exploded since its original introduction. You probably couldn’t beat it for this price.
I know that options like the Dragonfly are more popular right now and newer…but the Fulla has great components and a satisfying knob. And it’s cheap on closeout. You can’t beat that. This served as the perfect personal test case for me to see if I’d like Schiit’s stuff, and you can bet I’ll be ordering and covering at least one more of their units in the future!
They’re the real deal.
Get the Fulla while it lasts right here. Amazon should also still have some. That’s where I got mine.