Mobile Technology

THX helps boost mobile audio with Onyx USB DAC

THX helps boost mobile audio w...
Thanks to the inclusion of an ESS PRO DAC, the Onyx supports playback from MQA-encoded streaming services like Tidal
Thanks to the inclusion of an ESS PRO DAC, the Onyx supports playback from MQA-encoded streaming services like Tidal
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The Onyx combines THX's award-winning amplifier technology with an ESS PRO digital-to-analog converter chip for the promise of a much improved listening experience
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The Onyx combines THX's award-winning amplifier technology with an ESS PRO digital-to-analog converter chip for the promise of a much improved listening experience
The Onyx
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The Onyx supports a headphone impedance range of 22 to 1,000 ohms, and rocks 180-mW per-channel output, so should be able to drive even the most demanding consumer cans
Thanks to the inclusion of an ESS PRO DAC, the Onyx supports playback from MQA-encoded streaming services like Tidal
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Thanks to the inclusion of an ESS PRO DAC, the Onyx supports playback from MQA-encoded streaming services like Tidal
The Onyx should work with any USB-packing audio source
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The Onyx should work with any USB-packing audio source
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Buyers looking for gadgets that deliver high fidelity audio might keep an eye out for the THX logo as a visual guide to quality assurance, and now the company behind the standard has launched its first consumer device, the Onyx USB DAC/amp.

The THX audio/visual quality assurance system began life in 1983 to ensure that the soundtrack of the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, would be accurately reproduced in various venues. In the years since, THX certification has been expanded from studios and cinemas to consumer electronics, audiovisual content, automotive systems and more. And now the company, which is owned by gaming brand Razer, has entered the consumer marketplace with its own product.

"THX was founded on the principle that quality matters," said the company's COO, Jason Fiber. "We’ve remained dedicated for more than 35 years to innovation that ensures whatever an artist creates can be enjoyed by the audience in the manner intended. Consumers looking for the best audio experience over wired headphones may have found the quality is compromised, so we’re stepping up with a flexible, high-quality, and affordable solution with the launch of our first consumer product, THX Onyx."

To that end, the device is home to an ESS ES9281PRO DAC chip, which was introduced in 2019 and rocks an integrated Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) renderer to allow for high resolution audio streaming from services like Tidal.

The Onyx should work with any USB-packing audio source
The Onyx should work with any USB-packing audio source

The Onyx is also the first DAC/amp to sport THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (or AAA)-78 technology, which is reported to ensure "no-compromise headphone audio experience by delivering the world’s highest fidelity audio with infinitesimally low levels of noise, distortion and power consumption." This mobile configuration is capable of reducing harmonic, intermodulation and crossover distortion by up to 40 dB, while enabling 180-mW per-channel output – which should be enough to drive most consumer headphones.

One end of the Onyx plugs into the USB-C port of a mobile music source (though the device does come with a USB-A to USB-C adapter for older hardware) and the other end is home to a 3.5-mm headphone jack for cabled connection to ear candy. And though it doesn't sport the official THX seal (as that is only available for third party manufacturers), the device has naturally been tested to THX Certification standards for mobile DAC/amps. It's available now for US$199.99, the video below has more.

THX ONYX, a DAC/Amp that puts master-quality audio in your pocket

Product page: THX Onyx

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