With phone and tablet makers long having since given up on adding headphone ports to their new releases, what’s a discerning audiophile supposed to do? If you consider Bluetooth a swear word when it comes to sound quality, it might be time to invest in the Astell&Kern HC3. This all-new dongle will add Hi-Fi grade audio to pretty much anything with a USB-C port, letting you carry on with cables once again.
The diminutive DAC, which will set you back £199 from today onwards, is the successor to A&K’s popular PEE51 dongle. Barely larger than a USB flash drive and finished in angular aluminium, it looks every bit as premium as the firm’s pricey portable media players.
Power is pulled from the connected device to keep your tunes pumping, so you don’t need to worry about keeping it charged. Windows PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones are all supported, with a USB-C to Lightning adapter included in the box so iPhone owners can get in on the action.
Inside, twin ES9219MQ DACs from industry specialists ESS support 32-bit/384kHz PCM playback, as well as native DSD256.
It’ll accept any 3- or 4-pole 3.5mm earphones, headphones and headsets, including those with in-line controllers or microphones. You’ll be able to use it while making video calls or gaming, unlike some rival DACs which can only handle one-way traffic. The 2 ohm output impedance means you won’t be hooking up super-expensive over-ear headphones, but it’ll happily power top-tier IEMs – including those with multiple drivers or planar magnetic tech.
The Astell&Kern HC3 is on sale right now, directly from the A&K website, for £199.