Just like sprinkles and cherries on ice-cream sundaes, a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) with amp tends to bring out the best of music collections. Most portable DAC/amps are readily compatible with laptops or Android devices, leaving few choices overall for iOS. The latest pocket-sized, MFi-certified device happens to cater to iPhone audiophiles. The Cobble audio amplifier is designed battery-free and ultra-light, while also preserving in-line microphone/remote functionality of headphones/earphones.
Standard audio circuitry on most laptops, tablets, and smartphones are meant to simply get the job done. Those wishing to drive music with greater authority can turn to external devices, such as Aqua DAC/amp or recently-reviewed Miyo DAC/amp and ZuperDAC. But what if you own an iPhone 6/6+/6s/6s+ and want a convenient way to enjoy hi-res audio and/or high-impedance headphones?
With its built-in Lightning cable and 3.5-mm audio jack, the Cobble micro audio amplifier is designed to be plug-and-play. The Lightning port is capable of passing along digital information, so users can benefit from Cobble's integrated, Apple-certified audio chip for up to 24-bit/192 kHz hi-res music.
All the hardware is encased by a machined-metal chassis that lends Cobble the appearance and feel of a river-worn stone. There is no internal battery to charge, as power is drawn from the connected iPhone, with a single LED showing active operation. Weighing a trifling 1 oz, this DAC/amp is portable and compact enough to fit in the small pocket of a pair of jeans.
Although there are no external buttons to fuss with, Cobble is designed to work with the built-in microphone-remotes on headphone/earphone cables. Other DAC/amp devices tend to strip out this functionality, forcing users to pull smartphones out of pockets in order to accept calls and/or switch music tracks. Cobble may also come with an exclusive app that includes music player, playlist editor, and equalizer.
The Cobble micro audio amplifier is currently funding on Kickstarter, having raised 17 percent of its US$18,000 goal in less than a day, with another 31 days left to go. A pledge of $45 sets you up with one Cobble, saving half off the expected retail price.
There are no details yet on the brand of chips to be used, although development, tooling, and prototyping have all been completed. So if MFi certification and manufacturing goes according to schedule, backers can expect shipments of Cobble to start sometime this July.
Update (Mar. 16, 2016): After publication, Teicneo changed the name of the product from "Pebble" to "Cobble." The story was updated to reflect this.