Since the 1980s, the THX certification has served as a dependable stamp for audio quality. Whether it’s a movie theater, a car audio system, or a smartphone, that three-letter branding is synonymous with high-fidelity sound reproduction. With Razer acquiring the company in 2016, which is why they now have THX certification for many of their products, it was only a matter of time before that brand got leveraged into consumer electronics. This year, they’re jumping headlong into the fray with the THX Onyx USB DAC.
That’s right, THX’s first consumer gadget is a digital-to-analog converter in a package the size of a dongle, so you can keep it in your pocket, ready to bust out anytime you want to listen to something while you’re on the go. Whether you’re streaming music on your phone, playing movies on a tablet, or grinding FPS lobbies on your laptop, hook this thing up to elevate the quality of sound coming out of your headphones.
The THX Onyx USB DAC is a portable DAC equipped with an ESS ES9281PRO DAC, which boasts best-in-class dynamic range and ultra-low distortion, as well as a THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier, which vows to enable the highest fidelity audio and maximum dynamic range while supporting most power-hungry audiophile headphones by enabling 180mW per channel output. Basically, it’s a combo that will take audio coming out of your device, create a more dynamic analog reproduction, and increase the sound levels, so you can hear every detail in a clear and clean manner.
If you’re a Tidal subscriber, you’ll be glad to know it’s equipped with MQA rendering technology, so it will reproduce all those hi-def MQA recordings the way it’s meant to be heard. Given that MQA appears to be turning into the standard for hi-fidelity audio streaming, chances are, you’re going to be taking advantage of this feature for a while. And yes, it will do the same for any MQA file you have in your collection, so this will let you enjoy any MQA files you downloaded to their full potential.
The THX Onyx USB DAC has a USB Type-C connector, so it should work seamlessly with most new phones, tablets, and laptops, although it also comes with an adapter for plugging into older USB slots. It draws all the power it needs directly from whatever device that cable plugs into, so there’s no need to charge it every night like the rest of your personal electronics. Using it is dead simple, too, as you just hook it up to your phone (or laptop or tablet), plug in your headphones on the other end, and you’re all set, with no buttons to press and no settings to adjust whatsoever.
It comes with color-changing LEDs on the body that shines in blue when the audio playing is CD quality, yellow for high-res, red for DSD, and magenta for MQA, so you get a visual cue of the quality of the audio being reproduced. Other details include a CNC-machined metal chassis, a flexible rubber cable, and a built-in magnetic clasp for convenience cable management. Do note, there’s no Bluetooth on the dongle, so this is strictly for use with wired headphones. That means, if you’ve moved on to wireless cans or ear buds, you’ll have to go back to being tethered to enjoy what it brings to the table.
The THX Onyx USB DAC is available now, priced at $199.99.