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Plug-in USB DAC/headphone amplifier
Our take on the Audioengine D3 by Crutchfield's Dave Bar
The tiny plug-and-play D3 delivers sparkling clear sound from your computer to your headphones, stereo system, or powered speakers.
Get fantastic sound from your computer
If you're still listening to music files on your computer the old fashioned way — by plugging into its headphone jack — you should know about the Audioengine D3. This tiny, outboard digital-to-analog converter simply connects to one of your PC's USB ports like a thumb drive, bypassing your computer's built-in audio circuitry. By processing your digital music files outside the noisy environment of your computer, you'll hear more dynamic and detailed sound that you can really savor on your headphones, powered speakers, or stereo system. The D3's small size makes it an unobtrusive addition to your desktop, as well as a welcome traveling companion for high-quality listening on the go.
Make your headphones sing
A pair of good headphones can give you a real taste of high-end audio without breaking the bank. But you're unlikely to find high-end sound coming out of your headphones if you plug them straight into your laptop. That's because most computer manufacturers use low-cost, low-performance circuitry to power their headphone jacks. The headphone amp inside the D3 will quickly spoil you. It delivers richer, deeper bass and clearer highs while revealing layers of musical detail that ordinary headphone jacks obscure.
Easy plug-and-play operation
Adding the D3 to a system is simple — just plug it into any USB port on your PC or Mac®, where it will install itself and be ready for use in a matter of seconds. From there, just plug in your 'phones and you're done. Or, connect the D3 to your powered speakers or stereo using an optional stereo mini-to-mini cable or mini-to-RCA adapter for room-filling sound. The DAC's analog volume control is digitally operated right from your computer screen.
Praise for the Audioengine D3 from Sound & Vision
"Audioengine's D3 is the best stick-type USB DAC and headphone amp I've heard yet. It sports a nearly nothing form factor and blissful independence from cumbersome USB-driver installation and wall warts. Its five-star performance rating—relative to similarly priced products—is well earned. If you're looking for the easiest, cheapest way to make computer audio sound great through headphones, this is it."
— From Mark Fleishcmann's review in Sound & Vision, July/August, 2014
Read the full review
"Seriously, what did we do before these tiny USB DACs came around?"
" I'm saying that for $189, you'll have something with the power to inspire that fits in your pocket. Maybe Audioengine should employ that as a campaign: Go around to coffee shops where lots of college students and young people hang out and let them plug in the D3 for a quick test drive. I guarantee their rinky-dink MP3s will come to life with the D3 plugged in, not to mention if you let them play some real hi-res music through it."
— From Spencer Holbert's review in The Absolute Sound, February, 2014Read the full review
Made a definite improvement in the sound quality when connected to either my desktop or laptop. Just plug it in and it works! No drivers to download. I use it with several pairs of headphones and desktop speakers and it improved the sound for all.
Bill, Bothell, WA
What's in the Box:
- USB DAC/Headphone Amp
- 10" Minijack-to-1/4" adapter
- Cloth pouch
- Quick Start Guide
- AKM AK4396 digital-to-analog converter for low-noise, high-fidelity stereo sound
- ultra-compact "USB flash drive" type design plugs directly into a computer's USB port
- powered by USB connection no need for external power supply
- built-in driver for USB connection, no downloads required
- asynchronous USB for reduced timing jitter and better sound
- 3.5mm stereo minijack provides:
- headphone output (minimum 12 ohm headphone impedance recommended)
- variable line-level output for driving powered speakers or audio system
- analog volume control (digitally controlled using your computer)
- incoming sample rate LED indicator for sampling rates above 48kHz
- supported sample rates: up to 96kHz native (sample rates above 96kHz are supported but down-converted)
- input bit depth: 16 bits, 24 bits
- frequency response: 10 to 25kHz (±0.5 dB)
- THD: less than 0.002%
- signal-to-noise ratio (DC to 20kHz): 110 dB
- dual master clocks used to minimize jitter
- low-noise, low-ripple power supply with two-stage power regulation and thermal management to prevent USB bus power variations from affecting audio quality
- durable injection-molded aluminum construction
- 10" mini-to-full-size headphone adapter cable and soft carry case included
- compatible with Mac® and PC
- 13/16"W x 7/16"H x 2-5/8"D
- warranty: 3 years
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
Audioengine D3 Reviews
Average Customer Review(s):
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USB DAC/Headphone Amp: The Audioengine D3 combines a USB DAC and headphone amplifier for incredible audio performance in a portable design. Simply connect the D3 to a free USB port on your Windows PC or Mac computer and send high-quality music to your headphones or audio system. Setup is easy and no special software is needed, making the D3 a true plug-and-play solution for great audio sound from your laptop or computer.
24-Bit DAC: The Audioengine D3's premium AK4396 24-bit DAC (digital-to-analog converter) allows you to bypass your computer's soundcard/headphone output and send music directly through a USB digital connection for noticeably improved fidelity and a higher output. The AK4396 DAC is well regarded for its low noise and high fidelity. With it's high signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion, the D3 delivers sound quality generally heard only in more expensive DACs.
Asynchronous USB Port: The D3 features a integrated male USB (type-A) connector which plugs directly into a free USB port on you computer or laptop. The D3's asynchronous data transfer carefully controls USB streaming audio from any computer which greatly improves audio performance. The D3 is powered directly from the USB port and power is passed through two stages of regulation to ensure no USB power variations affect the audio quality. This low-noise, low-ripple power supply is located on a separate circuit board for extra isolation and thermal management.
Compatible Computers: The Audioengine D3 USB DAC/Headphone Amp is compatible with Windows PC and Mac computers.
Supported Sampling Rates: D3 will process digital audio at any bit depth up to 24 bits and any native sample rate to 96KHz. The D3 also has a sample rate indicator that shows sample rates above 48kHz so you'll know you're getting the most out of your HD music.
Headphone Amp: The D3's high-performance headphone amplifier (LME49726) was designed for a wide range of headphones (10Ω-10,000Ω) and will satisfy even the most demanding headphone enthusiast with its high output and revealing sound. The 3.5mm output of the D3 connects to headphones, Audioengine powered speakers, or most audio systems. The D3 also includes a 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter for headphones which only have a standard headphone jack.
Volume Control: Volume is controlled from your computer's OS and is implemented in the D3 as a digitally-controlled analog volume control.
Compact Aluminum Design: The aluminum case of the D3 provides a rigid chassis that prevents any unwanted interference. Thanks to its compact design, the D3 can easily be taken where ever you go with your laptop.
- Frequency Response: 10 to 25,000 Hz (+/-0.5dB)
- SNR: 110 dB (DC to 20kHz)
- THD+N: <0.002% (1kHz FS 96 kS/s)
- Crosstalk: -110 dB
- Output Voltage: 2.0V RMS
Our Product Research Team
At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team. They verify what’s in the box, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.
Product reviews from the Crutchfield Labs
by Dave Bar
A review of Audioengine's pocket-sized D3 digital-to-analog converter.
Why did you buy this?
Wanted a DAC with the AudioEngine speakers and the speakers I chose did not include builtin DAC. [ Jami Aug 01, 2016 ]
Manufacturer has excellent reputation for quality products. Good reviews on this site and others. [ Mark Jan 31, 2016 ]
4 questions already asked
It should - it does not need to recognize amp in a pc sense -it will just play -the output level of d3 should be high enough I plug mine into a/v input on home theater receiver and works well [ Thomas Sep 07, 2016 ]
Alexx, Don't know. But my guess is not because the way this thing works is by taking over, if you will, the sound card in the pc. So my guess is that you would have to connect it to a pc because it is an amp/DAC not a sound processor like a card. BUT you can keep your files on the NAS and play them through your pc, into the DAC and then into what ever speaker set up you want as long as it uses the headphone plug. [ James Sep 07, 2016 ]
No, the DAC is output only. [ Jacob Jul 11, 2016 ]
No, this is a listen only type device. It doesn't even show as an option to send input to the computer. I am a Mac user. [ Eddie Jul 08, 2016 ]
The device is really for headphones..it makes the music much more exciting.it enhances the bass and also the highs..Once you listen to the device you will never want to listen without it...but I guess it can also be used for a microphone as well..never tried it..but it is like an equalizer. .great product if you are a sound geek..but if you really don't care much for sound...it may not be worth your investment [ ROBERT Jul 08, 2016 ]
Can't answer that for you. I'm using it strictly for audio playback through some desk top speakers. Audio quality is superb! [ Mark Jul 08, 2016 ]
yes but via a cable which defeats purpose of using bluetooth - this is a device requiring a cable connection. --it works well you can hear the difference [ Thomas Mar 08, 2016 ]
To do that you have to bypass Bluetooth. Plug the USB on the D3 into your Macbook. Use a cable with a mini plug at each end to go from the D3 to the auxiliary input on the HK 3770. Select Aux input on the amplifier. That means you will have to have the Macbook within the cable length of the amplifier. [ Scott Mar 05, 2016 ]
The Audioengine D 3 is not Bluetooth compliant my dear.. BUT.. I WOULD SUGGEST..that you we dramatically improve your listening experiences by using the D3 in a USB port on your mac and via the 1/8th inch jack on the D3. Output to an Auxiliary or tape monitor input on you HK 3770 receiver. .. [ Thomas Mar 05, 2016 ]
Dear Susan C. According to what you had mentioned that your music source is from your MacBook, and you listen to it via bluetooth from your receiver! so you don't need the AudioEngine D3, this device is designed to be inserted into your USB connection coming from your macbook, and you will have that option to use the audio output jack coming from D3 Device for your headphones or powered speakers, The point for the AudioEngine D3 which is a DAC or a Digital to Analog converter so by using this device your actually bypassing your built in factory stock low grade audio converter inside your macbook, this way you can achieve a fuller more detailed and higher quality sound from using the D3, anymore questions you may reply back with me, Thanks! [ VINCE Mar 05, 2016 ]
The DAC in the receiver may be as good as this, I'm pretty sure there isn't a headphone input to the receiver, so you could not use it. But you could just use USB or Bluetooth between the two. Or, you could connect through a home network [ David Mar 05, 2016 ]
Hi there James, To start off this device is designed to be plugged into the USB port of your mac or pc so if thats what you call it as a hub than yes it will work. Although I'm not sure if that is what you meant by a hub? if not could you further more clarify your question please. Thanks. :-) [ VINCE Jul 26, 2014 ]
Sorry, I don't know. I have only been using it on a laptop dock usb port. It works fine that way. [ Scott Jul 25, 2014 ]