The THX Onyx USB-C DAC is hot. It has been a steamy month for mobile fidelity (the market, not the vinyl maker). First it was Astell & Kern’s USB-C Dual DAC Cable, and then just last week Periodic Audio launched the Rhodium USB-C DAC. It seems everyone is rushing to provide a wired headphone connection to mobile phones that are starting to wave off the illustrious 3.5mm jack.
Before we get into some of the differences from the new THX Onyx, it is worth mentioning that if you own the world’s most popular mobile phone, you will likely need to get the CCK (camera connection kit) additional cable to connect to Apple’s lighting port. In addition to the extra wire involved, THX is also very upfront about the fact that connecting it this way will forgo any phone call functionality, allowing music consumption only.
With that out of the way, there are some interesting tidbits for the THX Onyx. First, the device is Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) renderer, so those who subscribe to the high resolution streaming service Tidal will be covered just as much as those who use Qobuz. For hard-to-drive headphones, THX touts their bespoke THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™), alongside the branded ESS ES9281PRO DAC holding down digital decoding duties. The hardware also allows for DSD translation. That is a fairly good spread of functionality for such a small device powered by only phone power.
One of the more unique features is a built in magnetic clip that pulls in the wire extension for better “cable management”. More from the press release below.
THX Ltd., a world-class audio and video certification and technology company, today announced the global launch of its first consumer electronics device, THX Onyx™. Staying true to its mission to empower high fidelity for entertainment, the company unveiled THX Onyx with improvements over traditional DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) amplifiers by including THX AAA™ amplifier technology onboard to ensure lossless, pure sound that empowers listeners to hear content the way the artist intended. THX Onyx has both THX AAA and ESS Pro DAC chips inside, as well as MQA support, creating the best-in-class portable DAC/Amplifier solution on the market today at this price for powering wired headphones.
“THX was founded on the principle that quality matters. 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,” said Jason Fiber, chief operating officer, THX Ltd. “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.”
THX Onyx is ideal for enhanced music, movies, streaming and games. Whether enjoying the distinct audio timbre of a Bach sonata, hearing a fuller range of emotional frequencies within the musical score of a favorite feature film, or gaining the competitive edge by hearing every nuance of an approaching enemy in a video game, THX Onyx brings the clarity and joy of pure, undiluted sound. It connects seamlessly through the USB output port of any device to vastly improve the audio quality when listening over wired headphones, headsets, earbuds, or from desktop speakers. It features best-in-class design elements including smart magnetic cable management to keep headphone wires tangle-free. It is also accented by a quality all-metal CNC-machined body, and by a 3D THX logo, the latter of which is a decades-long symbol representing high fidelity audio excellence.
THX Onyx is the first portable DAC/Amp to feature THX AAA-78, the highest-powered mobile THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA™) configuration. With THX AAA-78, THX Onyx has the same power as a desktop THX AAA DAC/Amp, but in a dramatically smaller package. This patented technology ensures the ultimate no-compromise headphone audio experience by delivering extreme highest fidelity audio with infinitesimally low levels of noise and distortion. THX AAA nulls conventional distortion mechanisms to reduce harmonic, intermodulation, and crossover distortion by up to 40dB, resulting in a realistic and fatigue-free listening experience. This technology also enables maximum output power for greater dynamic range and sound pressure level (SPL).
It features an ESS ES9281PRO DAC for flagship studio sound quality. And, THX Onyx boasts cross-platform compatibility for convenient, plug-and-play feeding of any power-hungry headphones to play satisfyingly loud (up to five times more powerful than other portable USB DAC/Amps).
In addition to the ultra low distortion and maximum dynamic range, THX Onyx has on board a Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) renderer to reproduce the sound of master recordings. MQA technology captures and authenticates the original performance from the master recording, then ‘folds’ it into a file small enough to stream. MQA rendering in the THX Onyx adapter can ‘unfold’ MQA music from streaming services like TIDAL, where millions of “Masters” tracks are available worldwide, unlocking the ultimate listening experience.
“THX Onyx is the perfect introduction to high performance audio for mainstream music fans who want the best listening experience on the move,” said Mike Jbara, chief executive officer, MQA. “Consumers know that the THX brand represents premium entertainment, and we are proud that MQA has been integrated into the first-ever THX consumer product.”
The THX Onyx is now available direct from THX’s site, and retails for $199 in the US. This puts the launch-day cost at $50 more than Astell and Kern’s USB-C Dual DAC Cable, and slightly more than that for the budget-market Rhodium. Of course, Audioquest still makes their three tier USB DAC line at $100, $200, and $300, but the USB-C DragonTail adapter will run you extra.
More info: THX Onyx