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Astell&Kern readies HC2: a 4.4mm balanced dongle DAC

  • New from Astell&Kern is a dongle DAC with a difference. The HC2 is terminated at one end with a USB-C connector but at the other end sits a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced socket — standard 3.5mm headphone terminations need not apply.

    On paper, the advantage of a balanced connection is a lower noise floor, better channel separation and, for those rocking harder-to-drive headphones, more output power. The HC2 promises 4V RMS. This dongle DAC is clearly aimed at those of a more audiophile bent.

    In between input and output sit a double-shielded pigtail cable that carries the digital signal to a D/A conversion circuit built around a pair of Cirrus Logic CS43198 ‘MasterHiFi’ DAC chips.

    The press release tells us more: “Bespoke capacitors optimise the audio circuit, suppressing power fluctuations and optimising output performance, while also minimising the power consumption of the connected device.” The business end of this dongle DAC is wrapped in an aluminium shell for a total weight of 29g.

    The HC2 supports PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD up to DSD256 but in trying to pull those formats from a mobile rig, an Android device running UAPP/Tidal or an iPhone is required. For the latter, Astell&Kern puts a short USB-to-Lightning adapter in the box.

    Astell&Kern’s HC2 Dual DAC begins shipping mid-June for US$170, €199 or £169.

    Further information: Astell&Kern

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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