The Cozoy Astrapi is a teeny tiny marvel. It’s a DAC that’s so small I’ve been carrying it around in the pen holder sleeve of my bag!
The Astrapi is a creation from some / all of the minds behind Shozy, creators of the incredible Alien DAP. I don’t know the exact relationship between Cozoy and Shozy (other than their similar names), but the Astrapi certainly shows the influence from Shozy’s brains trust. It is beautifully made from machined metal, it’s tiny, and it sounds brilliant, but I’ll get to that later.
At around $200, the Astrapi is in the same market area as products like the HRT microStreamer and Audioquest Dragonfly, but it is also a bit cheaper than both and much smaller. Those other two have some feature in their favour, but if size and price are your number 1 & 2 priorities you may not need to read any further.
- Dimensions: 52mm x 17mm x 9mm
- Weight: 10g
- Headphone out: 40mW max
- Headphone impedance: 16 – 100 ohms
- Works with: PC, Mac, iPhone, Android (with OTG)
The Astrapi appears to be an iPhone DAC first and foremost. It comes with a lightning connector cable and all of the marketing materials I’ve seen show a slight emphasis on use with iPhones. As a non Apple and minimal Android user, I have used the Astrapi solely with my PC and to great effect.
Design & Build
The Astrapi is essentially a metal sheath housing a single circuit board held in place by ‘chrome’ painted plastic end caps. Despite this simplistic description, the quality of the machining and finishing of the metal makes the Astrapi feel very well made.
On one end of the DAC is a micro USB socket and the other end houses a 3.5mm headphone socket which doubles as a lineout… and that’s it. There are no buttons, no switches – nothing. The Astrapi is simple. Plug it in and listen to your tunes. The volume is controlled by the OS (either your phone or computer software) so there’s really nothing else to worry about.
Oh, there’s a spring-loaded pocket clip built into the Astrapi too. I personally wish it weren’t there (or were detachable) because it would make the device even smaller and allow it to attach easily to a phone or computer with removable adhesive, but it’s a minor gripe.
As I’ve already mentioned, the Astrapi is designed to work with iPhones, Androids and computers. In each case it’s a plug and play affair with no pre-loading of drivers or software required. For Android use you will need an OTG enabled device to allow the digital audio stream to exit via your phone / tablet’s micro USB socket.
When I first connected the Astrapi to my Windows 7 PC it failed to correctly connect to the device, but disconnecting it and plugging it into a different USB socket sorted it out straight away. In other words, the issue was my computer, not the Astrapi, but it’s worth being aware of this possibility if you’re a PC user. If you try an Astrapi and it fails to be correctly picked-up, just disconnect and try another socket to let your operating system catch up.
The volume of the Astrapi is controlled by your source which keeps things really simple. According to the documentation, the output from the Astrapi will work as a line-out when your source volume is at maximum so you can also use the Astrapi to feed your favourite portable (or desktop) amp.
I found the volume level from the Astrapi and my PC to be quite loud with IEMs and was using it at <10% with the Noble K10s. It has enough margin to work OK and the digital volume control from your source means there is no channel imbalance so it’s fine, but beware those who like extra low-level listening. Keep in mind that Cozoy clearly state differing power levels from different sources so a phone which outputs a lower voltage than a computer may result in a slightly better range for IEMs, but similarly a bit less power for hungrier ‘phones.
There aren’t any formally published lists of format (codec) or bit-depth compatibility that I can find for the Astrapi DAC so I decided to do a few tests of my own. All testing was done with JRiver Media Center outputting WASAPI to the Astrapi in exclusive mode. No output formatting was used so JRiver would inform me any time the DAC was unresponsive to the chosen format.
As seems to be the standard with the Shozy designers (who are apparently involved with Cozoy), the Astrapi seems to be designed for 44.1 / 48kHz audio, but can handle 16-bit or 24-bit files with those sample rates. Hi-res FLAC files (i.e. 96/24, 192/24) wouldn’t play back through the Astrapi.
In terms of codecs, I was able to happily play APE, FLAC, WMA, MP3, and M4A so you’ll be covered for all the standard formats. As you might expect from the bit-depth section above, DSD files aren’t an option with the Astrapi.
I should note that the Astrapi isn’t useless for hi-res FLAC and DSD files, it just requires your software to resample the files in the software to output a stream at a compatible level for the Astrapi (e.g. DSD –> 48kHz / 24-bit PCM). Most computer software can do this comfortably, but I’m not sure about iPhones and Android – you may be better off resampling the music before (or during) copying it to your mobile device.
The Astrapi’s sound is instantly enjoyable and quite addictive. Nothing specifically stands out from the sound – it’s just an enveloping, engaging experience that makes everything sound brilliant. I’ve done most of my listening with the venerable Noble K10s and the sound reminds me of the Shozy Alien in many ways, but it’s not exactly the same.
The Astrapi has a stronger tilt towards warmth and bass compared to the Alien’s sound. As a result, the Astrapi doesn’t have quite the same sense of space and staging that the Alien offers, but instead it provides an intimate and engaging experience that’s dynamic and fun without straying into becoming unnatural or overly coloured.
There is a definite lift in bass from the Astrapi which makes it excellent for portable and/or low-level listening because the bass levels are able to overcome ambient noise and remain energetic at lower volumes. At higher volumes it leads to some extra warmth and sense of slowness, but nothing bad – it’s ‘enhanced’, but not overblown.
Due to the intimate nature of the Astrapi’s sound, the mids are clearly defined, liquid and smooth which make the Astrapi an excellent option for vocal lovers. Vocals are all enjoyable through the Astrapi, but it may not excel at the breathiest of vocals because the treble is a little subdued.
The treble performance is likely to be the most controversial part of the Astrapi’s sound signature for many. Personally, I like it for a relaxed and fun listening session. It’s smooth and refined, a little rolled-off, but still able to convey detail and shimmer. It’s definitely smoother than neutral and with warm ‘phones it may be an issue for some, but I like the fact that I can fire up the Astrapi and relax into any track I want to listen to without any fears of fatigue or harshness.
As I’ve already alluded, the Astrapi’s overall presentation is more intimate than spacious and warmer than neutral. It doesn’t feel congested or overly busy, but it’s not throwing any significant sense of space in the way that the Shozy Alien does. The Astrapi also features a very black background so you can enjoy a hiss-free listening experience, even with sensitive IEMs
Cozoy Astrapi vs iFi Nano iDSD
OK, so on size this is a no-contest – the Astrapi is about 1% of the Nano iDSD‘s size (not mathematically calculated), but they’re in the same rough ballpark in terms of price so I thought I’d do a quick comparison. With the iDSD you’re paying more money for some extra connectivity features (digital out and separate line out) and of course it will play every digital format known to man, but it’s so much bigger and heavier, so let’s see which one’s a better overall option…
I’m pleased to say that the iDSD doesn’t run away with it, but it is clearly the better DAC and amp combo. The sound from the iDSD is much more balanced. It doesn’t have the enhanced bass of the Astrapi and the treble is clearer (less rolled-off) and therefore carries a better sense of texture and detail. However, is it worth the extra size and weight?
My work bag contains a fair bit of gear, including laptop, earphones, DAP, notepad, etc. which all take up space and add weight. For this reason, the Astrapi is especially appealing and I can see myself choosing to carry it over the likes of an iDSD (even the Nano one) despite the fact that I love the iDSD’s sound. Where things might get a bit more interesting is comparing similar products like the HRT microStreamer and the new version Audioquest Dragonfly. None of them can match the Astrapi’s diminutive size, but they come a lot closer than the Nano iDSD.
Note: this entire comparison is based on using the devices as a computer DAC so portable users may want to consider the Astrapi’s full compatibility with iPhone and OTG Androids in the equation.
Of course, if size and weight aren’t a huge concern I’d be choosing the iDSD in a heartbeat so it all depends on what you’re looking for and how you’ll be using it.
The Cozoy Astrapi is an engineering wonder that makes previous featherweight champions like the Audioquest Dragonfly seem bloated and over-sized in comparison. It’s sound is more about fun than accuracy, but it doesn’t go too far in this pursuit and therefore remains highly enjoyable with a wide range of genres and ‘phones. I probably wouldn’t recommend pairing it with rolled-off or significantly warm ‘phones, but with all others it will sound engaging and fun. As a total package, it makes a strong case for being an excellent portable companion to raise the performance of your phone and / or computer audio.