Astell & Kern – the company best known for its high-end portable digital audio players – makes a USB-C DAC (digital-to-analog converter) designed to make sound sound better than modern smartphones and computers that may have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
If you want to use any digital device with a 3.5 mm headphone jack, you need a DAC. Older devices with 3.5mm headphone jacks feature integrated DACs (some better than others, like LG’s famous Quad DAC system on its former flagships).
But the death of the 3.5mm headphone jack on modern smartphones in favor of USB-C exclusively (or in the case of Apple Lightning ports) has left a void for audio files. If you want to use older headphones or audio setup, you need a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack – which is already a DAC by default. (In fact, some, like Apple’s $ 9 USB-C dongle, is apparently pretty decent.)
But the new Astell & Kern USB-C Dual DAC promises a higher fidelity experience, with two CS43198 DACs paired to an analog amplifier to provide a better audio experience, with support for 32bit / 384kHz playback. Given the $ 150 price tag, it offers a better experience than Apple or Google’s sub- $ 10 dongles.
Astell & Kern says it draws on its experience in creating portable media players to build the new USB-C DAC, and although the DAC itself does not have an external power source (instead of drawing power from the phone or computer ), says the company. it can still drive some “high-impedance headphones with a 2Vrms (condition without charge) output level.”
The new DAC should be compatible with most Android smartphones and tablets and MacOS and Windows 10 computers. But Astell & Kern says that iOS devices – even USB-C devices like Apple’s recent iPad Pro series – will not be compatible.
The new Setup & Core USB-C Dual DAC is now available to pre-order from the company’s website before a scheduled release date in May.