Click to view our Accessibility Statement or contact us with accessibility-related questions

USB-C amp/DAC for Latest Gen phones

I recently ordered my 2 most exciting purchases of this year, a pair of Massdrop x AKG K7XX's and a Google Pixel 2 XL, and I'm looking for a way to get the best use of them combined. With Google's latest move away from the 3.5mm jack, it seems like it would be a good opportunity to find a good USB-C amp/DAC. Obviously I could just use a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter but the USB 3.1 standard allows for a much higher power delivery and there must be a company out there who is taking advantage of that for mid-high end audio but I just can't find anything.
Is it just me or is this a technology mix that should work beautifully but just hasn't been implemented yet? I thought companies would want to jump on the USB 3.1 standard straight away!

Apr 29, 2020
There are a bunch of dongle DACs out on the market. Not very many of them are going to drive the K7XX very well. There are at least a couple of dongles out there that dont pair well with Google phones. I have a THX 789 and I can run the K7XX on gain level 3 with the volume turned up to almost 2oclock. Your best bet is probably to get a bluetooth receiver like the BTR5.
Oct 27, 2017
So far, I've only found this low-end solution. Though the DAC chip is nearly the same as the one used in the Impacto [E]ssential (sans Q2C), implementation is everything:
On the not-pitch-black side, HFMDIY DACs have the footprints of extension cords and work with practically anything. You'll still need a headphone amp, though.
USB DACs are coming, but most companies still have legacy TOTL models that haven't changed much except in terms of the chip. Implementation is going to involve more testing and designing than that, which I think you know.
The first thing we might see on the high end could be a proliferation of low-impedance headphones with USB-C ports -- which would solve the problem in a different way but doesn't help you with your new K7XX.
I personally await glorious sales on flagships around the time we see the fulfillment of your wish. Until then, an adapter might be as close as you get (like Dmt37, I use one with my V20). I've been doing the same searches as you for months and drawing blanks. I definitely wouldn't count on any solutions before next year.
Oct 27, 2017
I've looked for the same thing extensively but there is really nothing out there yet. The only option really is Beyer, which has one product called the Impacto Essential but that requires that the headphone have two different 3.5mm inputs. It will work with 3rd party devices but headphones with two inputs are not common and are invariably larger so this limitation means that the Impacto will be useless for the large majority of headphones. Hopefully one day someone will offer a truly universal USB C DAC - its long overdue already in my opinion.
Oct 21, 2017
You should be able to get a usb type c to usb type b cable and plug into a regular dac/amp as you would a computer. To test the dac in my lg v20 vs my standalone dac/amp I used such a cable but I did need to purchase an app to allow audio out via usb. Since the pixel has no headphone jack I would assume such functionality would be baked in.
Oct 21, 2017
Sorry about that, I guess I didn't fully grasp your question as I'm new to the whole audiophile thing. Would the usb 3.1 additional power in theory be used to drive a better mobile based headphone amp than previously possible?
Oct 30, 2017
I use an audioquest Dragonfly black USB DAC/amp with my nexus 6P to overcome the horrendous built in audio. The battery drain is accelerated but it holds up long enough for most flights. However, just because you can use a higher current with 3.1 doesn't mean you should. Your DAC will suck the 3000-3500mWh battery on your phone dry in minutes if you push it to the current limits of USB3.1
Trending Posts in Audiophile