Dongle-style DACs are becoming more and more common, but a new gamer-friendly feature in Astell & Kern's recently unveiled HC3 may set it apart from the rest.

In addition to enabling higher quality hi-res playback from portable devices and computers, the HC3 has a trick up its sleeve with built-in microphone connectivity, enabling crystal-clear chat for online gaming, as well as the fidelity of these audio effects. fragmented sound.

The unit features a pair of highly-rated ESS ES9219MQ quad DAC chips, delivering high-quality sound while managing low power consumption.

There's support for audio files up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, native DSD256, and full MQA rendering, letting you listen to Tidal's HiFi Plus, along with a reassuring 20Hz to 70kHz high-frequency response.

The 3,5mm headphone jack can accept either 3-pole or 4-pole connectors, allowing the use of a headset microphone as well as in-line controllers, while a color-coded LED light on the back of the device shows the type of source file being processed. .

Connectivity is provided through your device's USB-C port, with a USB-C to Lightning adapter for those using the HC3 with an iOS device, but note there's no built-in battery - the device is powered by your source device.

The HC3 is priced at €199 and is already available on the Astell & Kern website.

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)

Review: Mic pass-through does more than an ordinary DAC dongle

Korean brand Astell & Kern has built a solid reputation for high-end, high-priced digital audio players, but this hi-fi dongle marks a welcome step into more affordable territory.

That's still a pretty steep asking price when lined up with the recently announced iFi One, though, but that single mic input will probably be enough to send gamers and callers to the A&K conference.

We can't wait to see how it pans out, but in the meantime, you can find out how to up your audio game with our current list of the best portable DACs.

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