Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Astell & Kern readies a mic-ready compact DAC for phone, tablet

High-end sound enthusiasts needn’t carry a big converter, as Astell & Kern shrinks its tech, and even makes it friendly for iPhone, as well.

Now that Apple Music is onboard with the high-res lossless audio love, and Spotify is working on its own lossless plan, it’s pretty clear audiophiles with a love for the best quality records don’t need to rely on a dedicated media player with dedicated lossless tunes. Rather, they can lean on a streaming service and download lossless tunes to go, and bundle in their favourite hardware, too.

Plugging in a pair of high-end headphones to suit doesn’t always work, though, partly because not every pair is made to work without an amp, and may need a boost of volume from the original source, particularly if that source is your phone, tablet, or even a laptop computer.

But there are solutions, and they can be compact and good to go, something we’ve seen from Astell & Kern in the past, when it launched one of the first portable digital-to-analogue converters (DAC) we’d seen.

Fast forward a year or so, and A&K is back with a new generation, the AK HC3, another compact take on the DAC that keeps the sleek design, but includes an ability to use a microphone on the cord, plus two chips (ESS ES9219MQ) to provide high-res audio matched with low power consumption. It’s not quite the built-in DAC approach Focal used on its excellent Bathys headphones, but rather a model made to work with any pair of headphones.

The HC3 uses a 3.5mm headset jack on its body, and can work with pretty much any compatible jack, working with three or four poles, supporting the microphone and in-line controller of headsets with four poles.

On the other end, there’s a USB Type C port, which is the main plug type of phones, laptops, and tablets, save for the iPhone, which will likely be changing its tune in 2023.

Ahead of that, however, the Astell & Kern HC3 comes with a USB-C to Lightning adaptor in the box, allowing it to convert an iPhone to Type C for use with the HC3, and potentially other accessories, should you have them.

Locally, the A&K HC3 is priced at $299, with release in time for the holiday season, roughly about now.

The AK HC3 with the Type C to Lightning converter attached.
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