Audioengine D1 DAC – The Little Engine That Does

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One of the fun things about covering the burgeoning Hi-Res audio segment is finding out just how many great products are on the market for a reasonable price.  This means more of us can rediscover really great quality music without having to spend thousands of dollars to get there.  The Audioengine D1 is both a Digital Audio Converter (DAC) as well as a headphone amplifier.  It’s not quite as small as some of the USB stick sized DACs we’ve looked at.  But it has some features they don’t.

The D1 is slightly smaller than a deck of playing cards.  It is USB powered, so you don’t need an external power source.  It has both a USB Input as well as an optical input. The DAC supports up to 192kHz sample rates via the optical digital input, and 96kHz with USB. Both D1_A2frontinputs handle up to 24-bit resolution. The bad news here is that I haven’t found a lot of computers that have a TOSLink optical audio output.  The back side has RCA speaker jacks, while the front side has a 3.5 mm headphone jack.  Unlike many of the USB stick type DAC’s, this does have a volume control.

The Audioengine D1 has been described as the ideal interface between Hi-Res  music on your computer and your headphones, desktop speakers, or home audio system.  And there are two more selling points.  First, the D1 requires no setup.  Let me repeat – no setup.  Plug it in.  It works.  Second, the sound quality is outstanding, bringing out virtually every nuance in Hi-Res tracks, even improving on MP3’s.  Yes, you can spend hundreds more for a DAC.  And yes, you might get something that sounds marginally better.  But for $169 this is the best quality for the buck that we’ve heard.

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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