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Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable

USB-C digital-to-analog converter

Item # 838USBCDAC

Astell&Kern's latest offering brings a lot of sonic prowess to the table in a lightweight, portable form factor.

Astell&Kern's latest offering brings a lot of sonic prowess to the table in a lightweight, portable form factor.

Item # 838USBCDAC

Low stock
$149.00

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About the Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable

A potent and portable audio companion

I got really excited when I heard Astell&Kern were dipping their toes into the world of digital-to-analog converters. The company has been making digital audio players since its founding in 2013. In that time, A&K's engineers have created a detailed, accurate signature sound that can be found across all their offerings, including this one.

A potent and portable audio companion

I got really excited when I heard Astell&Kern were dipping their toes into the world of digital-to-analog converters. The company has been making digital audio players since its founding in 2013. In that time, A&K's engineers have created a detailed, accurate signature sound that can be found across all their offerings, including this one.

The Dual DAC Cable makes a high-res experience truly portable with its compact size, two 32-bit digital-to-analog converter chips, custom-made cables and electronics, and a clean, powerful headphone amplifier. It's also an eye-catcher — it uses the same "light and shadow" design concept their digital audio players employ, with striking, smooth edges and a polished finish.

What makes it tick?

The twin Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips inside are real workhorses. They independently process the left and right channels to keep soundstage spacious and detailed. Astell&Kern chose them because they deliver an efficient audiophile-grade sound, meaning they don't sacrifice a lot of your phone's battery life for performance. The chips have a warm sound that helps to give life and energy to the music pumping through them. A&K's engineers also tweaked the chips' digital-interpolation filters to get the sound just right.

A deeper look at what's inside

The company is a master of circuit design. You'll not only find the two DAC chips I mentioned on the small, six-layer PCB (printed circuit board), but also Astell&Kern-exclusive micro resistors and tantalum capacitors. Those help to optimize the audio circuit and suppress power fluctuations, giving you stable operation and superb sonic performance.

A durable, noise-killing cable

A DAC like this is only as good as its cable. A&K ran with that idea and made this DAC's cable top-shelf. The custom-made, durable, four-core cable was built to block out noise. The cable is made by wrapping thicker-than-usual silver-plated copper wire and regular copper wire around a Technora Aramid fiber center core. Afterwards, a separate shielding treatment is applied to the cable. Both of those steps keep the noise floor excitingly low while providing a rich sound.

Hook it up and enjoy

The Dual DAC Cable can tie into any device that uses a USB-C connection. Most Android™ smartphones have them nowadays, so if you're an Android user, you can take this DAC with you anywhere you go. If you'd rather use it as more of a stationary piece, you can plug it into your USB-C-equipped Windows® or Mac® computer and have it handle the audio conversion before it reaches your headphone rig or your stereo system.

Listening impressions

My testing session with the USB-C Dual DAC was in-depth. I wanted to get a good performance baseline before I ever hooked the Astell&Kern up, so I brought out a couple of other USB DACs I own. I pulled up my "audiophile listening" playlist on TIDAL, which consists of songs that are extremely well-recorded, and got to work. I started by listening to my Focal Elegias just plugged into my phone. I then moved onto the other two DACs I had before satisfyingly plugging the Astell&Kern in for the final test.

The first track I played on the Astell&Kern was "Bloodshot" by Albin Lee Meldau. The realistic sound I heard put a smile on my face. The subtle resonance of the guitar's body and the little string buzzes and slides that were interwoven with Meldau's soulful voice gave the track a new life. I could tell I was hearing details that my other DACs didn't bring out. Impressively enough, the soundstage was also wider than I was expecting, considering my Elegias are closed-back headphones. I had to hear more.

The next song on the list was "Ready or Not" by Fugees. It's a classic hip-hop track with female vocal harmonies, crisp snare hits, and some punchy bass. The Astell&Kern helped make the vocals come through more clearly and coherently, and sit better in the mix. There was a great deal of separation across the board, especially in the harmonies. The bass had some extra kick to it, too — it was clean, precise, and helped give the music some extra momentum.

Finishing things off, I played Devin Townsend's live rendition of "Deadhead." On the USB-C Dual DAC, it was one of the most captivating performances I'd ever heard. His acoustic/electric guitar sounded fantastic, especially considering all the odd chords Devin likes to play. I got a good sense of how large of a venue he was playing in, and I could feel the crowd's energy reverberating through it. The thing that impressed me the most is how textured Devin's voice was, particularly in his higher register. There was so much emotion and pent-up angst, which my other DACs didn't quite manage to get across. The Astell&Kern made me feel like I was listening to the song for the first time all over again (goosebumps included).

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Product highlights:

  • twin Cirrus Logic CS43198 MasterHIFI™ 32-bit digital-to-analog converter chips
  • supports any headphones or earbuds with a 3.5mm connector
  • uses Astell&Kern-specific micro resistors and tantalum capacitors to suppress power fluctuations
  • works with most USB-C devices, including Android smartphones and Windows and Mac computers
  • custom 4-core cable helps to block out external noise
    • silver-plated copper is wrapped around copper wire in a spiral form around a center core made of Technora Aramid fiber
    • separate shielding treatment is applied to the cable to block distortion and noise from the playback device
  • supported sample rates:
    • PCM: up to 32-bit/384kHz
    • DSD: up to 11.2 MHz
Other specs:
  • zinc alloy chassis
  • 2-volt RMS output
  • frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
  • signal-to-noise ratio: 118dB
  • total harmonic distortion: 0.0004% @ 1kHz
  • output impedance: 2 ohms
Dimensions and warranty:
  • 3.5mm headphone module:7/16"W x 3/4"H x 5/16" D
  • USB plug: 5/8"W x 1-15/16"H x 7/16" D
  • weight: 0.05 lbs.
  • warranty: 1 year
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
  • MFR # 3PEE510C-CMTIN1

What's in the box:

  • Digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with attached 3" cable (USB-C plug)
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty card

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Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable reviews

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More details on the Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable

Mark G.

Features & specs

Design
Type Portable
Built-in Rechargable Battery No
Built-in Headphone Amplifier
Output Power 2V
Output Impedance (Unbalanced) 2 ohms
Output Impedance (Balanced) N/A
Audio Specs
Bit Depth (USB) 32
Max Sampling Rate (USB) 384 kHz
Bit Depth (S/PDIF) 0
Max Sampling Rate S/PDIF N/A
S/N Ratio (Unbalanced, in dB) 118
S/N Ratio (Balanced, in dB) 0
THD (Unbalanced) 0.0004%
THD (Balanced) N/A
Supported File Types
PCM Up to 384kHz
DSD DSD 256
DXD N/A
MQA No
Inputs
Total Inputs 1
USB USB-C
Optical Digital None
Coaxial Digital None
3.5mm Digital None
Stereo RCA Analog None
Stereo 3.5mm Analog None
Stereo XLR Analog None
Headphone Outputs
3.5mm Unbalanced 1
1/4-inch Unbalanced None
4.4mm Balanced None
XLR4 Balanced None
Other Headphone Outs None
Line Level & Digital Outs
RCA Line Out None
3.5mm Line Out None
XLR Line Out None
Subwoofer Out None
Optical Digital Out None
Coaxial Digital Out None
Wireless Connectivity
Bluetooth No
Wi-Fi No
Apple-compatible No
Android-compatible No
General Info
Width (inches) 0-11/16
Height (inches) 0-7/16
Depth (inches) 2
Weight 0.0625 lbs.
Parts Warranty 90 Days
Labor Warranty 90 Days

Product Research

Features

Overview: The Astell & Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable (PEE51) is a small, but powerful Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) that is designed to extend the high quality sound of A&K digital audio players (DAPs) to smartphones and computers with USB-C ports. The dual DACs pair with an independent analog amplifier to provide true audio playback the way it was intended, without distortion. The cable features a USB-C input and a 3.5mm output with a 2-1/4" connecting cable. DAC Dimensions: Width 0.678" x Height 0.405" x Length 1.977"; Weight 1 ounce.

Construction: The USB-C Dual DAC Cable features full metal construction of Titan-colored Zinc Alloy. The main body and the USB-C plug are designed to match the angles and lines, and "light and shadow" of Astell&Kern DAPs. The body and USB plug are connected by a shielded silver-plated copper cable to provide some flexibility. The cable is made by wrapping silver-plated copper wire and copper wire in a spiral form around a center core made of Technora Aramid fiber to block external noise. A separate shielding treatment is applied to the cable to block distortion and noise of digital and analog signals from the playback device.

Digital-to-Analog Converters: The A&K USB-C Dual DAC Cable is equipped with two Cirrus Logic CS43198 Master HIFI™ DACs -- one for the left channel, and one for the right. The DACs support playback resolution of up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256. You can listen to premium, high-resolution audio files stored on your computer or smartphone. In addition, the small, six-layer PCB features the same micro resistors and tantalum capacitors created for and used in A&K DAPs. The cable brings Astell & Kern's famous signature sound to your devices.

Headphone Amp: The years of expertise in AMP design helped in developing a headphone amplifier that can sufficiently drive high-impedance headphones. The tiny USB-C Dual DAC Cable has an output of 2Vrms (Condition No Load).

Compatibility: USB-C connections can be found on the latest Android-based smartphones, as well as Windows (Windows 10) and Mac (macOS) computers. iOS devices (iPhone/iPad) are currently not supported. You should check the volume level on your connected device before listening because the Dual DAC Cable has no volume control of its own. The device has no internal battery, and draws its power from the connected playback device, so you don't need a separate charger. The headphone output supports any headphone or earphone with a 3.5mm connector. The unit supports both 3-pole and 4-pole 3.5mm plugs, but the functions of the in-line controller and microphone built-into the 4-pole headphones are not supported.

Note: The cable is not recommended for use with Astell & Kern digital audio players as an external DAC, because the output volume of the player will be fixed at the maximum setting and cannot be adjusted.

Specifications:

  • Sample Rate:
    • PCM: Support up to 32-bit/384kHz
    • DSD Native: DSD64 (1-bit/2.8MHz), DSD128 (1-bit/5.6MHz), DSD256 (1-bit/11.2MHz)
  • Frequency Response: ±0.030 (Condition: 20Hz - 20kHz)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 118dB (@ 1kHz, Unbalanced)
  • THD+N: 0.0004% (@ 1kHz, Unbalanced)
  • IMD SMPTE: 0.0003% 800Hz 10kHz (4:1) Unbalanced
  • Output Impedance:
  • Output Level: 2 Vrms (Condition No Load)
  • Input: USB Type-C (for Windows 10, Android smartphone/tablet, macOS)
  • Output: 3.5mm headphone

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Customer Q&A

6 questions already asked

Q
Will this work with the USB Audio Player Pro App on an Android smartphone ?
[ James  Aug 01, 2021 ]
1 answer
A
You will want to contact an Advisor by phone (1-800-324-9695) or online chat to discuss compatibility. They should be able to check and see if this will integrate. If it does not, then they will also be able to discuss other options with you.
[ Kenny  Aug 03, 2021 ]  Staff
Q
Will this work connected to thunderbolt 3 on Mac OS desktop?
[ Dondi  Jun 20, 2021 ]
1 answer
A
It works flawlessly on my 2019 MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 (jamming to Dua Lipa through it right now :). Also verified with my 2020 M1 Mac mini with Thunderbolt 3 /USB 4 and 2021 M1 iPad Pro with Thunderbolt 3 /USB 4.
[ DONOVAN  Jun 20, 2021 ]
Q
My Pixel 3 doesn't have a 3.5 audio out port, so all audio goes out the USB-C. Is an app required to send pre-processed audio to the Astell & Kern DAC? If so, does this limit the audio sources available, i.e. music files, Alexa app, browser streaming?
[ Jed  Jun 11, 2021 ]
4 answers
A
No, there is no app that I am aware of.
[ JON  Jun 27, 2021 ]
A
No
[ STEVE  Jun 26, 2021 ]
A
A&K dac has a 3.5 audio plug for headset on it, signal pass from device thru c port to dac out 3.5 port. with android software no other files or software needed . will play almost any music files. i use Amazon hd, also spotify streaming.
[ pilot  Jun 25, 2021 ]
A
We have not received any answers from other customers on your question. I would recommend reaching out to an Advisor by phone (1-800-324-9695) or online chat. They should be able to help answer your question.
[ Calvin  Jun 25, 2021 ]  Staff
Q
Will this work with the 2021 M1 iPad Pro - which shares the same processor and USB-C Thunderbolt 3 i/o as the M1 iMac, M1 MacBook Pro, and M1 MacBook Air?
[ artistiq  Jun 11, 2021 ]
2 answers
A
I have verified that this device works flawlessly with the 2021 M1 iPad Pro as well as the 2019 MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3, and 2020 M1 Mac mini with Thunderbolt 3 /USB 4.
[ DONOVAN  Jun 20, 2021 ]
A
Yes it will work on your Mac laptop.
[ Ronald  Jun 11, 2021 ]
Q
Will this work with an iPad Pro?
[ peter  Jun 03, 2021 ]
1 answer
A
I can confirm that it works flawlessly with my 2021 M1 iPad Pro.
[ artistiq  Jun 12, 2021 ]
Q
Will the A&K DAC support an iPad Air 4 (2020), which does have a USB-C connector? I have seen 2 reviews that indicate the A&K draws excessive current from the connected device, and the iOS phones and tablets cannot support this high current draw. There is supposedly a warning to this effect in the A&K manual.
[ Injuneer  May 24, 2021 ]
4 answers
A
The A&K DAC does not support Iphone or iPad. Just Android, Windows and Mac.
[ BERNIE  Jul 25, 2021 ]
A
I use A &K with Android phone. I have no issue with it. It plays loud whenever I want. I do have issues with Dragonfly Red with Dragontail. The listening volume is so low, I switched to A&K.
[ SUNG  Jul 25, 2021 ]
A
I have seen the same statements about current-limited USB-C ports on iOS devices; but there are no iOS USB-C devices (only USB-C iPadOS devices) so I gave it a shot and can confirm that the AK Dual DAC cable works perfectly with the 2021 M1 iPad Pro with USB-C. This device has different i/o subsystem than the 2020 USB-C iPad Air, so your mileage may vary; however, this review of the Amazon USB-C DAC dongle confirms that it works with the USB-C iPad Air 4. I believe it will work with the iPad Air would give it a try - but no guarantees!
[ DONOVAN  Jul 25, 2021 ]
A
I have a Samsung Galaxy S20 plus So I don't know anything about the Apple products but I know it does draw some current because it does get warm but the sound quality is excellent with this little thing and it makes such a huge difference maybe there's an adaptor somewhere that will let it work with it I'm sorry that I can't answer it completely
[ Matt  Jul 24, 2021 ]
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