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.
While vinyl continues to grow in popularity and CDs show no signs of going out of style (as many audio experts have erroneously predicted for years), files are becoming the most important medium, especially among younger audiophiles. That’s why Fidelity Music couldn’t resist offering a digital-to-analog conversion amplifier for stereo and PC audiophiles.
After the MX-HPA compact headphone amplifier, Musical Fidelity introduced the MX-DAC USB DAC/AMP, a product designed to enhance high-end audio systems with the latest reference and hi-fi headphones, which feature features a similar design and is housed in an all-metal chassis. The MX-DAC USB DAC/AMP features a similar design and is housed in an all-metal chassis. It features a similar design and is housed in an all-metal chassis and is said to offer excellent specifications and quality. Other benefits include low jitter, excellent linearity, and neutral sound.
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.
The FiiO K5 Pro costs about $150. However, for its potential, the amplifier has great value. This should be a successful purchase if you like bright, clear sound or decent headphones with deep bass. Otherwise, the K5 Pro’s sound can be too bright, too harsh, and too artificial. The same goes for the entry-level model in the series, the K3; the latter also suffers from digitally harsh peaks. Perhaps a power supply change would improve the K5 Pro’s sound, but that would increase the cost; it’s already more cost-effective to opt for another desktop integrated amplifier, such as the Pioneer A-40AE.
The K5 Pro is better suited to warmer, darker headphones, with richer bass and less treble. You can also choose high-quality, well-balanced headphones, but the sound will become cooler with color-neutral headphones. Bright, neutral headphones should be avoided because they will most likely become too harsh and noisy.
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.
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.
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?
If Sony engineers hadn’t invented the Walkman player long ago, the portable audio market probably wouldn’t exist today. However, Sony’s contribution is not limited to the inventions of 40 years ago. In recent years, the Japanese company has been an active pioneer in the advanced field of portable audio equipment, releasing a number of state-of-the-art players and amplifiers. The PHA-1A is one of the highlights.
It is a compact amplifier that uses Olson’s WM8740 DAC chip and is compatible with Walkman, Xperia, and other players. It can also be easily connected to a laptop or PC using a USB cable or an iOS smartphone or tablet using a Lightning adapter.
Expecting great musicality from a cheap portable audio device isn’t often the case. But there are exceptions to everything, and when it comes to iFi’s budget models, there’s a reason they’re so intriguing: iFi manufacturers have a clear competitive advantage: access to the most advanced High-End developments of the audiophile company Abbington Music Research, the founder of this brand.
The iFi catalog features gadgets that take up little room in pockets and fit easily into any bag. That’s why the nano series models are so compact: They’re only a third smaller and weigh less than iFi’s main line of portable devices.
Although iFi’s portable devices are so compact, the company’s engineers are working to make them even smaller. To that end, they have created their own product line: the iFi nano. They present one of the world’s compact and powerful DAC/amplifiers, besides Audioquest Dragonfly.
A “headphone revolution” has been taking place lately. Many manufacturers have removed the headphone jack on smartphones and are now encouraging the use of wireless headphones. Unfortunately, wireless headphones don’t sound very good to trained ears (especially true wireless ones).
Some will say, “Manufacturers usually include an adapter with a USB-C to 3.5mm jack so that you can use that. But if the sound from the adapter is weak and the sound quality is not poorly reproduced, what are your options? The FiiO BTR3, a portable wireless digital-to-analog converter with an amplifier, seems to solve this problem. The BTR3 is the little brother of the successful BTR1 and the prototype of the more affordable uBTR.