Common Connection Issues With DACs in Android

Digital-to-analog converters (DACs) are devices that convert digital audio signals into analog signals that can be amplified and played through headphones or speakers. DACs allow you to bypass a smartphone or tablet’s built-in DAC and amp, providing higher-quality audio output.

Using an external DAC with an Android device provides several benefits over built-in audio hardware, such as improved audio fidelity, less noise and distortion, and support for high-resolution music formats. DACs connect to Android devices via USB-C or micro-USB ports.

However, getting an external DAC to work properly with an Android device can sometimes be tricky due to compatibility issues. This article examines some of the common connection problems users may encounter with external DACs and Android devices, and provides troubleshooting tips.

DAC Compatibility

Not all Android devices and versions support USB DACs natively. USB audio support was first introduced in Android 3.1 Honeycomb in 2011, but it was limited and often required special drivers or custom kernels. Widespread adoption didn’t arrive until Android 5.0 Lollipop in 2014, which added broader USB audio support through the USB Audio Class 2.0 standard.

According to posts on the XDA Developers forums, most devices running Android 5.0+ should support USB DACs without needing special drivers or root access [1]. However, OEMs can customize the implementation, so experiences may vary across different phones and tablets.

For earlier versions of Android, USB audio support is hit or miss. Some devices like the 2013 Nexus 7 running Android 4.3 can output audio over USB OTG with the right cable and apps, as noted in the Spotify community forums [2]. But many devices prior to Android 5.0 have limited or no native USB DAC support.

USB Compatibility

One of the most common connection issues with DACs on Android devices relates to USB compatibility. Many early Android devices used micro USB connectors, while newer models have switched to USB-C. This can cause compatibility problems when connecting certain external DACs.

Micro USB DACs will generally not work directly with USB-C ports without an adapter. Meanwhile, USB-C DACs may not work properly with older micro USB ports, since they require the higher bandwidth and power delivery provided by USB-C. There are also additional handshaking protocols that allow USB-C DACs to properly connect, which may not be supported on micro USB.

According to this AliExpress page, USB-C provides significant advantages for audio connectivity. The reversible connector is more convenient, and USB-C supports higher resolution audio and power requirements that micro USB cannot meet.

In summary, the transition from micro USB to USB-C in the Android ecosystem has created compatibility issues for external USB DACs. Using an improper cable or adapter may result in the DAC not functioning correctly or not being detected at all. Checking the USB specifications of both your Android device and the DAC is important to ensure hardware compatibility.

USB OTG Support

Many Android devices do not natively support USB digital-to-analog converters (DACs) and require USB On-The-Go (OTG) support to connect to external USB DACs. USB OTG allows an Android device to act as a USB host, rather than acting solely as a client device. This enables the Android device to provide power to and communicate with USB devices like DACs that normally require a USB host. Without USB OTG, the Android device may not detect or be able to use a USB DAC.

Enabling USB OTG on Android devices varies across manufacturers and Android versions. On many Samsung Galaxy devices, USB OTG can be enabled through the Settings app under “Developer Options.” For Android 11 and newer devices, USB OTG may need to be enabled through ADB commands if the option is not available in Settings (source). There are also various USB OTG “checker” apps on the Play Store that can toggle OTG mode on and off.

USB DAC support on Android continues to improve over time, reducing the need for USB OTG. But many external audiophile-grade USB DACs still require USB OTG to connect properly and pass audio signals to an Android device. Without OTG enabled, the device may not provide enough power over USB or communicate properly with the DAC.

Driver Issues

One of the most common issues when connecting external DACs to Android devices are incompatible or buggy drivers. Many DAC manufacturers provide their own custom drivers to interface with the Android audio system. However, these drivers don’t always work properly across the wide variability of Android devices and OS versions.

Common symptoms of driver issues include the DAC not being detected at all, stuttering or distorted audio, the DAC intermittently disconnecting, or error messages related to the driver popping up. Driver conflicts can also cause problems, where the native Android driver clashes with the DAC’s custom driver.

Troubleshooting steps for driver issues include:

  • Ensuring the DAC driver is properly installed and updated to the latest version.
  • Trying a different USB port or cable.
  • Factory resetting the DAC.
  • Updating the Android OS to see if DAC support has improved.
  • Checking if the manufacturer provides troubleshooting tips for that specific DAC model.

Some driver incompatibilities have been widely reported for Pixel phones, including for models Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 trying to connect to USB DACs. Issues have also appeared after Android 11 updates broke previously working drivers, as discussed on Reddit threads.

Ultimately, due to the diversity of Android devices, consistently getting third-party DAC drivers to work can involve tweaking settings, trying different connectivity options, and working closely with the manufacturer if problems persist.

Power Requirements

Many external DACs require more power than a typical Android device’s USB port can provide. The USB 2.0 specification allows for a maximum of 500mA current draw, while some DACs may require 700-1000mA for proper operation [1]. Unfortunately, some Android devices limit the USB port’s output current to 100-200mA to conserve battery life [2]. This prevents power-hungry peripherals like external DACs from functioning properly.

There are a few solutions to overcome the limited power output from an Android device’s USB port. Using a powered USB hub or a USB OTG cable with external power input allows you to provide the extra current needed. You can also try toggling settings to maximize the USB port’s power output, but this requires rooted devices on some models [3]. Checking your device’s specifications and testing different cables is recommended when troubleshooting DAC connectivity issues.

Connection Troubleshooting

If you are having issues connecting your external DAC to your Android device, here are some troubleshooting steps to try:

1. Check USB OTG support

Make sure your Android device supports USB OTG. You can download an app like USB OTG Checker to verify your device is OTG compatible. Without OTG support, your device will not recognize external USB DACs.

2. Try different cables and ports

Cables can deteriorate over time. Try using a different USB cable and connect to different ports on your device. Shorter cables often provide better connectivity. Refer to your DAC manufacturer’s recommendation for certified cables.

3. Toggle USB audio routing

Go to Settings > Developer Options and enable “USB Audio Routing.” This may fix connectivity issues. You can also try disabling audio over USB in Developer Options.

4. Restart your device

Sometimes restarting your Android device and reconnecting the DAC can resolve temporary glitches. Also consider rebooting your DAC by disconnecting and reconnecting.

5. Check for app interference

Some apps like TIdaL can interfere with external DAC connectivity. Try closing any music apps before connecting your DAC.

If you still can’t get your DAC to connect, you may need to contact the manufacturer for further troubleshooting tips specific to your model. Connectivity issues are often solvable with careful debugging.

DAC App Support

One of the key factors that determines how well a DAC will work with an Android device is the audio app being used to play music. Many Android audio apps do not properly support USB audio output, which can result in the DAC not being detected or audio not sounding correct.

One app that is specifically designed for USB audio on Android is USB Audio Player PRO. This app has extensive compatibility with USB DACs and supports bit-perfect audio up to 32-bit/768kHz resolution. It bypasses Android’s audio processing and sends the digital audio signal directly to the DAC.

USB Audio Player PRO also has advanced audio settings to optimize performance with different DACs. This includes the ability to adjust buffer size, which can help resolve connectivity or clicking/popping issues. The developers are very responsive and frequently update the app to improve compatibility.

Using a specialized app like USB Audio Player PRO is recommended for getting the best audio quality from USB DACs on Android. Relying on the basic music apps included with Android often results in limited functionality and subpar sound.

Audio Settings

To get your external DAC working properly with your Android device, you may need to change some audio settings. Here are some tips for adjusting audio settings:

Go to Settings > Sound and vibration > Advanced and change the Audio output option to your external DAC. This will route all audio to your external DAC rather than the built-in headphone jack.

You can also go to Settings > Apps and notifications > Special app access > Audio output and select your music apps to specifically use the external DAC rather than the built-in output.

Some music apps like UAPP have their own audio settings you can adjust as well. Go to the app’s settings and look for options like bit-perfect output, high resolution output, USB output etc. and enable those for proper DAC functionality.

Setting your Android sample rate and bit depth higher in Developer options can also help your DAC perform at its full resolution potential. Just go to Settings > System > Developer options and adjust Audio playback sample rate and Audio playback bits per sample.

Lastly, if your DAC supports hardware volume control, go to Settings > Sound and vibration and disable volume adjustment on your Android device so system volume doesn’t interfere with your DAC’s native volume control.


In summary, there are a few key compatibility issues to be aware of when connecting an external DAC to an Android device. The most common problems have to do with USB connectivity, USB OTG support, device drivers, power requirements, and specific DAC app support.

To ensure USB compatibility, the DAC should support USB 2.0 or later standards. USB OTG support on the Android device is also required, so check that the device supports OTG modes. Installing the proper drivers for the DAC is critical, and some may require manufacturer-provided drivers. Power requirements are also important – some DACs may need external power through USB OTG.

Finally, not all music and audio apps on Android support external DACs. Testing apps with your specific DAC is recommended, and some DAC manufacturers provide their own apps for guaranteed compatibility. With some investigation into these areas, you can get your external DAC fully functional and enhance your listening experience on Android.

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