Audioengine D3 24-bit Digital to Audio Converter & Headphone Amplifier (Silver)

General Information

The Audioengine D3 Premium 24-bit DAC (digital-to-analog converter) allows you to bypass your computer's headphone output and send music directly through a USB port for noticeably improved fidelity and a higher output. The D3 is a powerful yet portable converter with performance and features usually found in more expensive DACs and is the perfect interface between your computer and headphones or any music system.Easy setupSetup is easy and no special software is needed, making D3 a true plug-and-play solution. The D3 plugs directly into a USB port on your computer so no external power supply or cables are needed. The output of the D3 connects to headphones, Audioengine powered speakers, or any audio system. The D3 also has a sample rate indicator that shows sample rates above 48K so you'll know youre getting the most out of your HD music.VersatileThe quality of most computer headphone outputs isn't generally very inspiring, so the D3 provides a better option by streaming audio from your computer's USB port and directly connecting to your music system or headphones. The D3 DAC is the perfect way to get great-sounding music not only from your computer to headphones but also from your computer to any music system.Designed for the headphone enthusiastD3 will process digital audio at any bit depth up to 24 bits and any native sample rate to 96KHz. With its high signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion, the D3 delivers sound quality generally heard only in more expensive DACs. The

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Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Size, design, power, easy to use
Cons: Heat, no external volume control
This is my first product made by Audioengine and you can color me impressed. It's the third USB stick-style amp/DAC I've used (others are Dragonfly v.1 and GO1000), and honestly I think I like it best. It's got power for days, a tiny footprint, and it's plug-and-play! 
As for the sound? Well, just read on...
The Breakdown:
Test Songs (all ALAC either 16/44 or 24/96):
Limit to Your Love - James Blake - James Blake
Something - Snarky Puppy - Family Dinner, Vol. 1
What About Me - Lake Street Dive - Bad Self-Portraits
Prelude from Cello Suite #4 - Yo Yo Ma
Hot for Teacher - Van Halen - 1984
Make it Mine - Jason Mraz - We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things
MacBook Pro > JRiver Media Center > D3 > Grado RS1i and EarSonics SM64 V2
Sound: Powerful, smooth, and clean.
Bass: Clean and punchy. The D3 definitely has a full low end. Luckily, it's not muddy or unrefined. The double bass on "Hot for Teacher" was clean and articulate while that on the Blake tune The Dragonfly had leaner quicker bass, but definitely didn't provide the thump the D3 does. The D3 isn't quite as textured as my O2 combo, but it certainly does the job for pretty much everything I throw at it. I only felt like it could've been better after A/Bing it against my other gear.

Midrange: Rich and smooth. Very Grado-esque IMHO. Both male and female vocals are rendered beautifully and never once have I felt like they are recessed or 'behind' anything else. Check out Lalah's pipes on the Snarky tune:

Treble: Clean and clear! Just like Windex baby! Intricate cymbal work in "Make It Mine" comes through quite clearly. My RS1's were doing things I hadn't heard before! The extra percussion textures (shakers, triangle, additional cymbals) in "Something" were nice and crisp. The air in Rachel's voice on the Lake Street Dive tune was just like I've heard it in concert. The highest of the highs may be a little rolled off, but in a 'I don't miss it, because it's very similar to listening to music on vinyl instead of a digital download' kind of way.
Soundstage/Imaging/Separation: Through both my RS1's and SM64's the soundstage was noticeably deeper than the sound straight from my laptop. Not a lot of difference in width or height, but the third dimension of depth was definitely better. The musicians in Lake Street Dive and Snarky Puppy sounded like they were actually in their own space instead of jumbled together. From another review I did awhile back on a portable amp/DAC: "No major changes in left-right imaging. Separation was a little better, but that's to be assumed as the details I raved about earlier have improved. Micro-detail retrieval should improve separation as sounds appear more individually rather than in clumps." I will add that some of these improvements were particularly noticeable until after I removed the D3 from the equation. 
Build/Form Factor: Excellent. Tiny. Pretty. Rugged. Unobtrusive. What more could you want from a thumb-drive solution? Yes, the D3 get's a little warm after a few minutes, but it's not Schiit Asgard warm people. Definitely nicer than the Dragonfly or the Geek Out.
Final Thoughts: Even though the thumb-drive amp/DAC market is somewhat flooded these days, I still think Audioengine has a winner in the D3. It's got plenty of power, a gorgeous form factor, and improves the sound of the laptop plenty enough for it's price. For those of you who prefer a richer, more organic sound signature, I'd recommend the D3 over and over, while those of you who like more analytical listening might want to go the Dragonfly route. Happy listening!
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Reactions: Stillhart
Great review! As an Audioengine D1 owner, I couldn't agree with you more!
I used a D3 for a couple of months and found it pretty decent and as the reviewer described. One issue I did have was that it did not play nicely with Google Hangouts audio. It jittered and stuttered and was unusable. This meant unplugging the D3 and switching back to the Mac's unboard audio every time I wanted to make  / recieve a call.
Those Audioengine products look really interesting, thank you for sharing your great review!


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