Smartphones and tablets are convenient ways for consumers to enjoy music on-the-go, but they have limits for audio reproduction – the internal hardware is able to accomplish only so much. Portable digital-to-analog converters (DACs) and AMP products solve this by providing the necessary power, but most options tend to be bulky, battery-operated, expensive, or all of the above. The Nexum Aqua aims to deliver an audio experience without any of those drawbacks.

Aqua isn't the first DAC/AMP to hit the market. Products like the NuPrime uDSD and Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS are compact and made with premium materials, but they have mid-range pricing and are meant to pair with laptops. The Uamp is portable, affordable, and works with mobile devices, but it requires charging and is just an AMP without a DAC.

The Nexum Aqua features both a DAC and AMP inside its stylish, CNC-machined aluminum exterior. Compared to the chips inside smartphones, the AKM 4430 DAC is able to deliver a wider, dynamic, and more accurate range of sound sources all the way up to Hi-Fi 24-bit/192 kHz. In case you were wondering, CD quality is 16-bit/44.1 kHz. Combined with the AMP, which improves control and tonality, the Aqua elevates speakers and headphones to their fullest potential to drive music with authority.

With its half-ounce weight (16 g) and slim shape, the Aqua is light and highly portable. Since the Lightning/Micro USB cable is integrated and Aqua draws power through connected devices, users don't need to worry about carrying around extra cables or external batteries. And it doesn't matter if one chooses to use US$30 earbuds or $400 over-ear headphones, as the Aqua's DAC/AMP combo reportedly makes all music sound fuller and more open.

Aqua is only compatible with certain devices, specifically ones running iOS or Android 5.0+ with USB OTG support. Considering the classy aluminum casing, Aqua would pair wonderfully with the latest Apple or Samsung smartphones. Although the campaign has been live on Kickstarter for only a day, Aqua has raised 221 percent of its $16,000 goal, with another 55 days left of funding time available.

Right now, you can pledge $49 for a Nexum Aqua, saving $30 off the planned retail price. Backers can choose between Lightning for iOS or Micro USB for Android devices. If all the production succeeds as planned, backers can anticipate pledge rewards to start shipping sometime in November.

Sources: Nexum, Kickstarter

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