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 inputs 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.