Review: Astell&Kern AK USB-C Dual DAC – Fuller Audio via Tiny Technology
As we have seen in the past, South Korean high-end consumer electronics manufacturer, Astell&Kern know how to make super stylish, highly functional audio devices. When the new USB-C Dual DAC Cable adapter arrived I was concerned that AK might have lost their mojo. I need not have been concerned.
The USB-C DUAL DAC (digital-to-analog) Cable essentially achieves the same function as the Lightning to 3.5mm connector that Apple was compelled to develop and ship in the hundreds of millions after they abandoned the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 back in 2016.
That being said, the Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable is a whole lot more than just a way to connect your favorite wired headphones to your Google Pixel 5 or Samsung S21 thanks to the Dual DAC circuits and the customized 4-core cable.
In order to create such a small device, micro resistors and tantalum capacitors, exclusively created for Astell&Kern have been used. The dual DACs are paired brilliantly with an analog amplifier for each of the Left and Right audio channels to provide true audio playback so you can feel the live, warm and clear sound without distortion. This crystal clear and full sound is also possible as the USB-C DUAL DAC Cable draws power for the amplifier from your device. A small white LED indicates when the cable is powered-up.
I’ll admit that this all sounded great in theory to me, however, once I plugged in a trusty pair of Bose QC35 headphones I was b-l-o-w-n away! I can only compare the difference in sound to gravy. We all know that the best gravy is thick and rich and warm – the kind your Grandmother would make. Without the Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable the bluetooth audio from my Google Pixel 5 is watery, grey and cold – the kind of gravy you would find at your local RSL Club.
There are a couple of short-comings that I should point out. The Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable does eliminate the ability to use the Play/Pause and track Up/Down buttons on your headphones as well as the Microphone and the Volume Up/Down button. Not deal-breakers, but annoying. The other issue for the time being is that the Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable is currently only available for USB-C connections.
As you can see from the photos, the exterior design of the Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable is right on brand with the signature “light and shadow” concept. To make the tactile feel comfortable for one-handed use, the surface was created to be like a pebble that has been smoothly polished by the natural weathering effects of nature, rather than featuring the sharper angles typically found in existing AK products. This product design provides a luxurious, smooth feeling when holding the cable in your hand. The stone effect also ensures that the Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable will be robust enough to carry around.
The Astell&Kern USB-C DUAL DAC Cable retails for AU$169 and is available directly from Astell&Kern or your local high-end audio retailer.