Mission Unimaginable: An audiophile-worthy Bluetooth moveable headphone amp

The CEntrance BlueDAC, left, proven with Audeze iSine 20 in-ear headphones


As common Audiophiliac readers could have observed, I hardly ever cowl Bluetooth merchandise. This new moveable BlueDAC ($399) from CEntrance is an exception just because it sounds nice and may drive energy hungry audiophile headphones that make telephones cry uncle.

Since telephones with three.5mm headphone jacks are quick changing into extinct, the query is raised: What are people with high-end wired headphones to do? The BlueDAC is likely to be the answer they have been ready for.

Wired connectivity runs to a Micro-USB enter and three.5mm and balanced 2.5mm headphone jacks — extra on that 2.5mm jack later on this evaluate. Over the USB enter the BlueDAC helps as much as 24-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD excessive decision file playback. For those who favor wi-fi operation, the BlueDAC options aptX Bluetooth, however with iPad’s and iPhones Bluetooth, it is restricted to AAC audio. When the BlueDAC is in Bluetooth mode, it powers down its USB circuitry, and CEntrance claims you get 20 hours of playtime; in USB mode, eight hours.

Whereas the BlueDAC is designed and assembled within the US, its general really feel is not as much as the construct high quality requirements I anticipate from $400 parts. Removed from it. The BlueDAC seems like an inexpensive plastic gizmo. I am definitely not making any judgment calls in regards to the inside bits, simply that the BlueDAC seems low-cost. If you will get previous that, this little man’s sound is mighty spectacular, and it labored flawlessly. It is good and tiny, simply four.3×2.2×0.7 inches.

The CEntrance BlueDAC with Audeze Sine headphones.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I began listening with my outdated, high-impedance (300 ohm) Sennheiser HD580 over-the-ear headphones, which have humbled many a telephone. Plugged straight into my iPhone 6S, the sound was boring and uninvolving, and the ‘6S could not play the HD580 in any respect loud. It is a powerful headphone to drive. The identical may be stated for the favored Sennheiser HD600 and HD650 ‘telephones, which thrive solely with respectable amplification. The BlueDAC was simply what the HD580 wanted: The sound was so good I nearly forgot I am listening over Bluetooth!

For the reason that BlueDAC is a balanced amplifier, I used to be curious to see if balanced operation made any distinction. I swapped out the HD580’s normal cable for a $80 balanced cable with a 2.5mm plug. Then the BlueDAC sounded extra highly effective, and the soundstage was deeper and extra spacious, and the HD580’s sound was a bit higher.

I subsequent introduced out a set of Audeze EL8 over-the-ear headphones, they usually sounded spectacular plugged in with the usual cable. Upgrading to a set of Audeze balanced cables produced related features in sound high quality as I skilled with the HD580 working balanced.

After all, not all headphones can be utilized with balanced cables. Verify with the producer to see if yours does. Even then, I am unsure most BlueDAC consumers will choose to purchase further price cables, and I discovered the sound with the usual cables actually wonderful.

As for the Bluetooth characteristic, it is good to not be tethered to a pc or telephone. Or in the event you personal a current iPhone that lacks a three.5mm headphone jack, and have a set of high-priced wired headphones, the BlueDAC can be a smart funding.

I additionally used the BlueDAC as a desktop digital converter plugged in by way of USB to my Mac mini pc, driving my full-size Audeze LCD-XC headphones. The sight of the wee BlueDAC driving the massive and daring LCD XC appeared incongruous. The sound, however, was very respectable.

To complete up, I performed the BlueDAC wired as much as my iPhone 6S with an Apple Lightning to USB Digital camera Adapter. After all, the wired connection sound was a bit clearer than Bluetooth, however the cumbersome Digital camera Adapter is hardly a sublime resolution.

As you’ll be able to see the CEntrance BlueDAC is a relatively versatile gadget, and a worthy accomplice with a number of the higher high-end headphones available on the market. In case you have an honest wired headphone, the BlueDAC will possible make it sound higher than you’ve got heard it sound earlier than.

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