Though certainly convenient, listening to music through earphones plugged into a smartphone is not always a satisfying experience. Some music lovers, like myself, prefer to carry around a dedicated high quality audio player, while others who like to groove on the move might give the source audio a welcome boost by using a mini middleman like Cambridge Audio's DacMagic XS. Either way, higher quality comes at the expense of increased pocket bulk. The folks at Hong Kong-based Zorloo claim that they've managed to shrink down a digital-to-analog converter, headphone amp and control board to dimensions small enough for integration into the inline playback/volume controller of the company's upcoming Z:ero earphones.
Rather than plug the Z:eros into a smartphone's 3.5 mm audio jack and rely on the mobile device's own amp to deliver the tunes, these earphones grab the source audio direct from the micro-USB port. This essentially takes the audio processing strain away from the smartphone and insodoing is said to result in the delivery of higher quality sounds to the listener.
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The Zorloo team says that it's also managed to integrate a headphone amp and DAC into the 8 x 34 mm PCB of the inline playback and volume controller. This is reported to boost source audio output power to a max of 27 mW at 32 ohms, more than double that of many leading modern smartphones, and "frees up any deficiency in the mobile audio implementation and re-create high fidelity music to your ears."
The Z:ero earphones feature neodymium drivers housed in aluminum casing coated in glossy red or gold, promising responsive and vibrant audio, 20 Hz - 20 kHz frequency response and a total harmonic distortion of 0.02 percent.
The development team advises that only a limited number of smartphones have been tested for compatibility at present, but the testing program continues apace. As such, the earphones are currently only guaranteed to work with seven smartphones from Samsung, three from Sony, two from LG and one from Google. Though the makers say that compatibility can be extended to other USB OTG-sporting models by downloading and installing certain apps from the Play Store.
The Zorloo team has hit crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to bring the DAC-packing earphones to market. The US$16 super-cheap early bird special has already gone, so backers will now need to stump up at least $25 to join the Z:ero digital revolution. If all goes to plan, delivery is expected to start this coming April.
If you're an iOS mobile user and want in on the Z:ero action, the team says that, thanks to a stretch goal being achieved, an iPhone-friendly (Lightning) version is on its way (though this will be subject to a separate crowdfunding campaign and not an extra reward for this Indiegogo outing).
Have a look at the pitch video below for more on what to expect.