DACs have been a part of the Marantz lineup for some time but have been almost forgotten until the introduction of the HD-DAC1. This model is a DAC and preamp in one, offering outputs with both fixed and variable signal levels so the user can choose what is best for them. It has great looks, high volume, and performance over a wide range of frequencies and a very convenient front panel that gives you easy and straightforward control of the unit. The Marantz HD-DAC1 is an example of a device that represents a very high standard of workmanship and has a luxurious appearance. This high-quality desktop digital-analog amplifier impresses with its elegant design and rich sound. The music is very lively, full of energy and vivacity, with a lot of power. The sound is slightly warm with minimal coloration, giving the music noticeable weight with pleasing timbre and delivery.
Most laptops, PCs, smartphones, and gaming consoles come with mediocre sound cards that often don't allow you to fully enjoy the sound of music, movies, and games. You can technically add a decent sound card if it's a gaming PC, but that's not the case for laptops. You can, however, improve the sound quality of your gaming console by adding an external sound card or an external USB audio controller with an amplifier. However, there are also full-fledged external sound cards for gamers, such as the Creative Sound BlasterX G6, which we will test this time. The Creative Sound BlasterX G6 gaming sound card has an interesting history. It is the second product of a new generation with an advanced 32-bit 384 kHz DAC and a discrete Xamp headphone amplifier. The beauty of this gaming DAC/AMP is that no matter what headphones you plug in, whether it’s a high-end 7.1 surround gaming headset or cheap in-ear headphones, the difference in sound quality is distinguished.
Today's hi-fi market offers a broad range of audio equipment for those who want to listen to music in its best quality. These include all-in-one systems with Internet access, wireless speakers, portable players with headphones, and computer digital converters with desktop speakers. However, many audio enthusiasts prefer to use older, stand-alone types of audio circuits, as they can create their own sound instead of buying a standard product. To cater to such a market, Pioneer treats its users with some exciting audio products. Among them is the A-40AE integrated amplifier. While the code name might raise some hopes, it has not come the time to remake the iconic A400X model. The A-40AE is simply another integrated amplifier belonging to the growing two-channel line-up.
The FiiO K3 (formerly known as the E30) is the successor to the Olympus 2 E10k, is probably the best-known product from the Asian brand. The new DAC with amplifier is based on the Q1 Mark II model but is intended for desktop use. The new, smaller DAC/AMP is powered by USB Type-C, can play DSD files, operates in two USB modes, powers balanced headphones, and can act as a digital or analog converter. The company seldom releases such products, usually favoring DACs and portable players. However, they have always had a line of small desktop units: the K3, E10, and E10K. The new model combines a traditionally compact size with a range of inputs and outputs (including 2.5 balanced audio). Things look good so far, but will this affordable USB Type-C desktop amplifier deliver on its promise?
Whether we like it or not, we are entering a new era where many audiophiles prefer streaming music to traditional physical media. The Marantz PM7000N integrated amplifier is Marantz's first stereo hi-fi product to support HEOS multi-room streaming integration, allowing users to enjoy music from multiple services without purchasing a dedicated audio streamer. With the dedicated HEOS app, users can stream audio directly from popular services such as TuneIn, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM, Amazon Prime Music, and TIDAL. For example, you may not have fully switched to streaming yet, or you have downloaded a large library of audio files. In that case, you can still use the NIC for UPnP audio, so you can stream files to your computer or NAS while the amp is still connected to your home network. The NIC also offers new features such as voice control with Josh.ai, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant.
Portable headphone amplifiers are particular devices, especially when they're designed for gaming. Gamers are not very familiar with audio devices, so they may not be aware of their existence. Even fewer people may understand the application of such things. Unless your gaming PC is equipped with a high-end sound card, you don't know what the sounds, music and effects in the game are supposed to sound like, mainly because your computer can't play them back properly. A headphone amplifier is a device that powers your gaming headphones or speakers to get the most out of them, sometimes with plenty of adjustments (equalizer, bass boost, listening modes, etc.) to improve the sound quality The Sound Blaster E5 is primarily a headphone amplifier for your iPod, but that’s just the beginning of its capabilities. The Sound Blaster E5 can also be used as an external sound card for computers running OS X or Windows. It can also be used as an external stereo microphone for your computer or smartphone.
The origins of the FiiO "Q" series of portable DAC/AMPs began with the FiiO Q1 and continued with the Q1 Mark II; The flagship Q5 was released after Q1 Mark II, which was upgraded to the FiiO Q5s and Q5s TC (amplifier with Type-C USB). To bridge the gap between the entry-level amplifiers and the flagship models in the series, FiiO has introduced the FiiO Q3, a portable headphone amplifier reminiscent in design with the Q1 with a redesigned audio path and multiple headphone ports.
It's hard to underestimate the role Fiio has played in the affordable hi-fi market. The release of its devices have become a highly awaited event for thousands of music lovers around the world. The E12, a portable headphone amplifier that went by the code name "Mont Blanc," is no exception. The Fiio E12 is a portable headphone amplifier. It doesn’t have a DAC function like the E07 and E17, making it even better in its main function, sound quality. The amplifier is a combination of high-quality LME49710 and LME49600 operational amplifiers from Texas Instruments used to achieve a low distortion sound. Portable amplifiers are mainly used to increase the volume of headphones. Apart from that, some of them are designed to improve the sound quality and be considered effective. Here, the device adds a lot of warmth to the recording and makes it a pleasure to listen to by providing good dynamics, good musicality, and lively and easy-to-understand music. This headphone amplifier has many qualities, but detail and soundstage are not high on the list; also, if your headphones’ sound signature is warm, combining them with FiiO E12 might spoil your enjoyment of the music.
One of the first products that helped Fiio gain worldwide popularity was the E5, a small headphone amplifier. This small, inexpensive device dramatically improved the sound quality of the devices at the time and allowed you to get more out of your favorite headphones. Several years later, a new successor appeared, the FiiO A1. The FiiO A1 is a small headphone amplifier, a device enclosed in a slim aluminum case with a built-in battery. The case features a sandblasted finish and a removable transparent clip on the back, which can be used to hang the device on your clothes. Apart from these factors, the biggest selling point of this product is, of course, its low price; the FiiO A1 is a cheap amplifier that costs around $25 to $30, which is comparable to the price of budget headphones.
Prior to the PHA-3, Sony had long focused on the consumer segment. Still, as consumers confidently turned to more advanced audio products, Sony decided to move upmarket, which encouraged the production of a high-end portable headphone amplifier. The goal of the PHA-3 was to create a reliable amplifier for the MDR-Z7 and meet consumer demand for more professional audio equipment. Of course, $700 headphones are unlikely to work at full volume on a smartphone or standard player, and the PHA-3 is an excellent choice. It’s powerful and versatile and can be connected to virtually any device. Whether it’s a computer, an external digital music source via an optical connection, or an Android or iOS device, the PHA-3 can act as a DAC. There’s also a line input, so the PHA-3 can serve as a DAC/AMP (though it’s not the most powerful). For advanced users, the PHA-3 is capable of handling high-resolution recordings at 384kHz/32bit (the current maximum) and DSD. Another interesting feature of the PHA-3 is that it can be used with balanced headphones, with two channels connected separately. It is not surprising that such a device is not compact and inexpensive. Its large size and weight are justified by its whopping $1,000 price tag, but is it really worth it?