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Audirect Beam

Rating:
4.03846/5,
  1. Palash
    An All-rounder
    Written by Palash
    Published Feb 12, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Size (Ultra Portable),
    Vast connectivity,
    Physical controls,
    No background noise,
    Good sound,
    Powerful,
    Lower power consumption,
    Accessories.
    Cons - Lower frequency response could have better,
    Volume source dependent,
    Micro USB to Type C OTG cable not supplied.
    Introduction
    September16, 2016 Apple announced their iphone 7 without a headphone jack; but why? Because they have the ‘Courage ‘to do so. Wireless innovations knocking our doors and we still thinking about a headphone jack, the immediate answer for a missing headphone jack was Bluetooth headphones/Earphones. We all know the cause /effect theory but one thing to remember, a single cause can give birth many effects or I call them possibilities. One such possibility was ‘portable HI-FI ‘in palm of your hand. Popularity of type ‘C’ port strengthened that possibility and an ‘Ultra portable HI-FI ‘is here branded as Audirect Beam. Beam is the successor of Wistle DAC AMP from Audirect and I would like to thank Penonaudio for providing me a unit for review. In this review I have tried to cast my honest opinion on this ultra portable DAC AMP. One more thing, my review unit was supplied to me before Beam passed the High-Res certification so no high res sticker in my unit. At the time of writing this review Beam already successfully passed the High-Res certification.

    Specifications
    Output Power
    114dB TND+N, 2Vrms into 600 Ohms,
    108dB THD+N, 49mW into 32Ohms 1.1Vrms,
    Frequency response: 20-30000Hz (-0.15dB),
    Distortion: 0.0004%,
    S/N ratio: +125dB SNR, +120dB DNR,
    Input supports PCM: PCM 16-32bit, 32-384 KHz,
    Input supports DSD: DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256,
    D/A Chip: ES9118 SABRE HiFi SoC,
    I.R. <1O,
    Amplifier Chips: ES9118,
    Input port: USB-C,
    Output Port: 3.5mm,
    Size (L/W/H):52x14x6mm,
    Weight: 12g

    Box Content
    Beam Dac Amp,
    Type-C to type-c cable,
    Type-C to lightning cable,
    Type-C to USB cable,
    Instructions manual.


    Buying Link - https://penonaudio.com/audirect-beam-usb-dac.html

    Source
    Beam can be used with almost any device (Phone, Tab, PC, and Laptop) available out there. For my testing I have used my Iphone SE, Samsung J7*, Pocophone f1, Windows 10 PC + Foobar and it worked flawlessly. For PC Audirect mentioned, Beam needs a specific driver (Link) but strangely it recognized by my windows 10 Pro PC immediately without any driver. Still I am using the drivers to use its ASIO mode. For mobile phones Beam successfully detected by Hiby Music App and working smoothly.
    *To Pair with Samsung J7 (Any other micro USB equipped Phone) I have used Fiio Cl06 cable (Buying Link – here). It is strange that Audirect didn’t supplied the micro USB to type C OTG cable but its working fine in practical situation with a third party cable.


    Setup

    To use Beam with mobile devices it doesn’t need any further setup, just plug and play. In case of PC/Laptop, you may have to install the mentioned drivers and after completing the installation process, Beam should appear as (hili-DAC (HS)) in your system's sound device list. Best thing is that Beam support Bit Perfect mode and DSD Native. To setup it in Foobar please install the components like (foo dsd asio proxy) and follow the instructions *)
    * Foobar – File – Preferences – Output (Select ASIO : foo_dsd_asio from drop down) – ASIO – Double click on foo_dsd_asio and select Bravo HD from drop down or keep the parameters as its showing in the pics and Apply then Ok .
    01.jpg 02.jpg 03.jpg
    04.jpg 05.jpg

    Tracks/ Albums used in this review
    Adele – 21
    Adele - 25
    Bob Marley & The Wailers - Kaya (40th Anniversary Edition)
    Eagles - Hotel California (40th Anniversary Expanded Edition)
    Eric Clapton - Unplugged (1992)
    Don Henley - I Can't Stand Still
    Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
    Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
    Ed Sheeran - ÷ (Deluxe)
    Nina Simone - The Best Of Nina Simone
    The Beatles - Abbey Road (Remastered)
    Michael McDonald - Wide Open
    Michael Jackson - Thriller


    IEMs used with Beam in this review

    Ibasso it01, BQEYZ KB100, Geek Wold GK3, Fiio FH1.

    Presentation, Design & Build Quality & Internals
    [​IMG]
    Audirect Beam's unboxing experience is straight forward. It comes in a 130x145x21 (HxWxD) white book type box. Design is minimalist and you can see the device through the cut out from the front of the box even before unboxing. All the specifications mentioned backside of the box.
    [​IMG]
    Box opens after pulling a magnetic side fold and opens look like a book. Inside box, Beam device is secured in its own cavity and all the accessories, instructions manual in another small box. Everything is secured well inside the boxes. For such a little 55 Cm x 15 cm device the box is a bit big but when spending 99$ you can expect at least a decent size box like that.

    [​IMG]
    Inside the Accessories box there are 3 short cables and an instructions manual.

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    Audirect Beam is available in four colors now (Grey, Golden, Green, Blue) and I have received the green one. The whole body is made out of two solid piece of Aluminum which also works like a heat distributor while using it for long terms but never noticed any high heating issue with my unit. Sharp edges and overall matt finish paint giving it a stylish and modern look. Front side of the device Audirect Logo, Beam branding, Volume +, Volume –, play/pause, PCM/DSD marking, hole for led lights are there. Back side we can see 4 black screws, warranty void sticker, printed Specs and Id number. Top side USB type c port, bottom side 3.5 mm audio out port and left side single multi function control button is present. Use of type C port is a fantastic idea because type C port is next future. Type C port also allows easy cable swap, high current supply and many future proof connectivity options. All of the 14 cm cable ends are gold plated and the cables are made out of silver plated OFC. So it’s clear that Beam is well designed, solid and stylish. Only missing thing, Beam is not waterproof.

    For internal designs it’s only mentioned that Beam is using ESS Sabre ES9118 DAC chip. For better
    understanding of that particular DAC chip and its feature you can visit ESS’s website here and there is a disassemble video of Beam in YouTube which is linked here.


    Sound

    Before proceeding to the sound analysis part here are some points I would like to mention.
    • Don’t expect an ultra portable device to sound like a desktop class or bulky battery powered device.
    • Measurements and graphs can’t bring the real time experience every time.
    • Don't use force volume setting in Tidal app.
    • While playing DSD through Foobar you can't control the volume in application.
    • Play/ Pause works with only Apps or Windows Player.
    • While using volume plus and minus a two step jump is noticed and the volume increase /decrease effect only applies to source. Keep volume 100% in your device and adjust it inside the application.
    • There is no background noise or hiss when playing or sitting it idle even with very sensitive IEMS.
    Bass
    Early ESS SABRE DACs has a tendency towards Neutral kind of sound and Beam is also not an exception. Lower frequency in Beam is not that prominent. Bass is fast accurate but a bit less in quantity though quality is good enough. Bass is punchy and not over powering, sub-bass extension is above the average and enough for a music lover. One thing is clear that bass is not muddy at all and renders good amount of energy in tracks. While listening tracks like ‘Thriller’ or ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson or ‘Instant Crush’ by Daft Punk you can immediately notice that the bass not that high but transition and control is actually very good. I am not a bass head; I like natural sound signature with a touch of warmth, and Beam is quite enjoyable for me. After pairing Beam with BQEYZ KB100 I immediately noticed that the synergy is actually pretty good and fun to listen.


    Mids

    When Beam first introduced itself, one of my friends from Singapore told me that Beam is good only in its treble region but after using it for more than 3 months myself I can clearly say Mids section in Beam is also very good. Mid range is neutral and transparent, relatively clean and detail retrieval is fantastic. Upper mid range is well extended and no harshness is there. Male and female vocals are crisp. My entire music collection is vocals and Beam managed to put a smile in my face, while listening my favorite tracks. The entire album ‘Wide Open’ by Michael McDonald with Beam sounded very good. Background instruments like acoustic guitars, piano and saxophone sounded crisp and energetic.

    Treble
    Lower frequency is the strongest part of Beam. You can say it’s the ‘Sabre Glare’ but the glare is not that high in Beam. Treble part is not that forwarded and not fatigue for long listening at all. Treble part is airy and packed with good amount of energy. Both quality and quantity is there and very good for metal and electronics music. When paired with Geek Wold Gk3, the combination just worked like a charm. So if the treble part is bothering you very much then just hook it up with your boring iems and see the results. The entire album ‘Kaya (40th Anniversary Edition)’ by Bob Marley is very much enjoyable with Beam.

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    Soundstage/ Instrument Separation
    Soundstage and instrument separation always depends on paired IEM or headphones. Describing soundstage and instrument separation of a DAC/AMP is a bit difficult because it scales according your headphone and earphone. I have used my old IEMs with all other sources earlier and while using the same earphone with Beam it’s clear that soundstage is not that wider side but capable of maintaining the airy stage, in simple words it’s above average. Instrument separation is actually very good. It performed very well with complex tracks which is unbelievable for such a small device.

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    Comparison
    Comparison between Hidizs Sonta II Dongle DAC & Audioquest Dragonfly Black


    The purpose of all this portable DAC AMPs is same but sound wise and function wise they are not so same. Apple started this DONGLE game and eventually tons of dongles available right now. Even few phone manufacturers providing an OEM type C to 3.5 mm dongle with their flagship phones in 2019 and they are just garbage.

    For around 30$ Hidizs Sonta II is a decent one. Built quality may be not superb but sonically it’s decent. It can also provide good amount of power and bit perfect decoding. In comparison with Beam, Sontata II can produce deeper bass. But mid section is not that resolving like Beam. Beam is also superior when comparing the detail retrieval capabilities. Function wise it’s nowhere near Beam. No physical control, only type C connector and no sampling indicator. Sonata II is too noisy where Beam is totally silent even with sensitive IEMS. So for 30$ it may be a good device but Audirect Beam is much superior.

    I am using my Audioquest Dragonfly Black for almost 1.5 years and it’s really a great portable device. Yes it’s almost 150$ and lacks lots of features that Beam offers still being a 99$ device. Sonically Dragonfly Black is tuned keeping in mind the lower frequencies. Lower frequencies are quite good but a bit slow. Beam’s lower frequency response is much more balanced with good speed. Mid-range in Beam is natural where in Dragonfly Black, it’s thick and lush. Treble section is well extended in Beam where in Dragonfly Black it’s overall controlled. If you want better details from you IEM/Headphones, Beam is a better option. Again in terms of connectivity and support, Beam is way ahead. Dragonfly Black manufactured only for PC/Laptops, using it with IOS and Android devices is painful. Lack of volume control and play pause is also a drawback of Audioquest Dragonfly Black.

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    Conclusion

    For such a small device Audirect Beam packed with tons of useful features. From vast connectivity to superior sound, Beam worth its price and when portability is your top priority Beam is the only option available.


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  2. Moonstar
    The Audirect Beam Review
    Written by Moonstar
    Published Sep 5, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Great Sound (especially the midrange area),
    Good detail retrieval,
    Low to none hissing,
    Lots of OTG Cables (inclusive Apple lighting),
    Plug and Play capability for Android and IOS
    Cons - No battery means additional battery drain for the source
    The Audirect Beam Review



    About Audirect:

    Audirect is part of Shenzen Micronetwork Technology Co., Ltd. located in Shenzen – China and is engaged since more than 6 years in the development, production and sales of portable DAC’s and the Audirect Beam is the latest DAC / AMP of the company.

    Audirect Webpage: Audirect.cc



    [​IMG]



    Disclaimer:

    I would like to thank Audirect for providing me a sample of the Audirect Beam DAC/AMPfor review purposes. I am not affiliated with Audirect beyond this review and these words reflect my true, unaltered opinions about the product.

    PS: This review was originally posted on my Review Blog, which I want now to share with the Head-Fi community:

    Original Post: http://moonstarreviews.net/audirect-beam-review/



    Price:


    The MSRP Price for the Audirect Beam portable DAC/AMP is $99,00 USD

    Purchase Link: Audirect Beam & Accessories



    Introduction:

    The Audirect Beam DAC&AMP is a small very small sized Hi-Fi DAC and Headphone Amplifier created for people who are not satisfied with sound of their Phone, Table and onboard soundcard of their PC or Laptop.


    [​IMG]




    Package and Accessories:

    The device comes in a relative thin and small white card-box that sports the brand and model (Beam) name. There is also a small window where you can see the Beam without to open the box. This box is including the following items;

    • 1 pcs x Audirect Beam DAC&AMP
    • 1 pcs x USB 2.0 to USB Type-C OTG cable
    • 1 pcs x USB Type-C to USB Type-C OTG cable
    • 1 pcs x Lightning to USB Type-C OTG Cable

    [​IMG]


    Audirect Beam has put some nice accessories in to the package with almost 3 different UBC Type-C OTG cables. Especially the Apple Lightning to USB Type-C OTG cable is a hard to find and a very nice addition in my opinion.


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    [​IMG]

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    Design and Build Quality:

    The Audirect Beam is a very small and lightweight device with a well made/solid metal housing, which has a dimension of 52x14x6mm and a net weight of 12g (according to Audirect specs).


    [​IMG]

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    At the top is the USB-Type C female data connection.


    [​IMG]


    At the bottom of the device is the 3.5mm headphone jack (unbalanced).


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    On the front of the DAC is the Audirect and the Beam logo. There are also two (2) led indicators, one for PCM and one for DSD conversation.


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    On the back of the device are four (4) screws and information like certificates/serial number.


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    At the right side of the Beam is an action key dedicated for volume up, down and play/pause functions.


    [​IMG]

    They are two color options, which are gold and grey, but my personal favorite is the one in grey color, which looks pretty nice.




    Technical Specifications:

    • DAC : ES9018 HiFi SoC
    • AMP : ES9018 HiFi SoC
    • Output Power : -114dB TND+N, 2Vrms @ 600Ω -108dB THD+N, 49mW @ 32Ω
      up to 1.1Vrms
    • Frequency response : 20-30000Hz (-0.15dB)
    • Distortion : 0.0004%
    • SNR : +125dB SNR, +120dB DNR
    • PCM : PCM 16-32bit, 32-384KHz
    • DSD : DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256
    • Internal resistance : <1Ω
    • Input port : USB-C
    • Output port : 3.5mm
    • Dimensions : 52x14x6mm
    • Weight : 12g


    [​IMG]



    Hardware & Software:

    The Audirect Beam DAC & AMP is a pretty small device with some nice hardware specs.


    DAC & AMP Section:

    The Audirect Beam DAC/AMP sports the ES9018 SABRE HiFi SoC (System on a Chip), which is made by the company ESS Technology Inc. This HiFi type System-On-Chip (SoC) integrates the Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) and the headphone amplifier with an output switch.


    [​IMG]



    The ES9118 HiFi SoC is supporting the ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream architecture to deliver up to 125 dB SNR and -112 dB Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N). It also supports some of the popular high resolution and lossless audio formats including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV.


    [​IMG]



    Supported Audio Formats:

    • The Audirect Beam supports the following formats that I have tested out during this review;
    • DSD (64/128), FLAC, ALAC, APE, WAV, AAC, OGG, MP3, WMA

    Drivability:

    The onboard amplifier, which is integrated to the ES9018 SoC is has a output rated of 49mW into 32Ω and 2Vrms into 600Ω. It was capable to driver my Sony SA3000 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 to very loud volume levels.


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    Battery Draining:

    The Audirect Beam shows less battery drain than my old Fiio E10K, the first generation of Audioquest Dragonfly 1.0, Dragonfly Black and Red.



    Hissing:

    One of the remarkable and pretty surprising features of the Audirect Beam is the clean sound output. The Beam sounds pretty clean with some of my sensitive IEM’s like the iBasso IT04 and the DUNU Falcon-C.


    Equipments used for this review:

    • DAC’s : Audirect Beam, Audioquest Dragonfly Black
    • IEM’s : Vsonic Ares, iBasso IT04, Campfire Audio Polaris, Final E5000, FLC8N
    • Earbuds : Simphonio Dragon2+, Astrotec Lyra Collection
    • Headphones : Audio-Technica ATH50M, Sony SA3000
    • Source : Meizu 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, iPad Air 2, Dell Inspirion 5521


    [​IMG]



    Albums & tracks used for this review:


    • Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Acid Rain (Spotify)
    • Opeth – Damnation (Tidal Hi-Fi)
    • Megadeth – Sweating Bullets (Flac 16bit/44kHz)
    • Metallica – Sad bu True (Flac 24bit/96kHz)
    • Jehan Barbur – Yollar (Spotify)
    • Minor Empire – Bulbulum Altin Kafeste (Spotify)
    • London Grammar – Interlud (Live) (Flac 24bit/44kHz)
    • Laura Pergolizzi – Lost On You “Live at Harvard and Stone” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
    • Dire Straits – Money for Nothing (DSD 64)
    • Otto Liebert & Luna Negra – The River (DSF) – Binaural Recording
    • GoGo Penguin – Fanfares (Tidal Hi-Fi)
    • Adam Taylor – Colour to the Moon (Flac 16bit/44kHz)
    • Casey Abrams – Robot Lover (Tidal Hi-Fi)
    • Lorde – Team (Flac 24bit/48kHz)
    • Tom Player – Resonace Theory “Album” (Tidal Hi-Fi)
    • Deeperise feat. Jabbar – Move On (Spotify)



    Sound Analysis:

    The Audirect Beam has a coherent and well balanced smooth and slightly bright tonality, which sounds in general very musical.

    I have burn-in the Audirect Beam for approx. 150 hours before I wrote this review.

    Please note that this is a low budget DAC and all my comments about the sound quality are in consideration of this price range.


    [​IMG]

    Bass:

    The bass presentation of the Audirect Beam is pretty fast, controlled and linear. The sub-bass extension is moderate and the quantity is on an average level. Even if I wanted a bit more sub-bass depth, this is a situation that challenges the limits of this DACAMP on the basis of efficiency.

    The Audirect Beam is pretty good in terms of speed and control that defines the detail level of the bass. The bass presentation of the Beam is more in a punchy than boomy character and there is no muddiness or interference while presenting some bass heavy genres like Trance, EDM, etc.

    The bass quantity will satisfy most users with the exception of people who prefer presentation on a bass-head level.



    Midrange:

    The midrange is the focus point of the Audirect Beam. This device is very successful in the midrange especially for its size and its price, with its slightly bright, relative neutral and transparent, clean and clear midrange presentation.



    Vocals:

    The Audirect Beam pretty successful with female vocals, because of the relative prominent, detailed and well extended upper-midrange presentation. A noticeable plus point of the Beam is the ability, not to be harsh with its relative transparent vocal presentation. I liked the Beam with both mezzo-soprano and soprano level female vocals, because of the pretty good transition and control, form the top to the end and vice versa.

    When it comes to male vocals; the Audirect Beam shows a deep, clean and transparent presentation, without any remarkable interference and muddiness. The source is important in this manner, because if you use an IEM with a neutral tuning, the Beam will sound slightly thinner than normal with male vocals.


    [​IMG]



    Instruments:

    The Audirect Beam shows a slightly bright, close to neutral, natural and clear instrument tonality. The Beam represents instruments in a detailed and airy way, with good separation and definition. Pianos sounding slightly bright and pronounced, acoustic guitars are natural, transparent and fast, violins are slightly bright and doesn’t sounding harsh, but there is missing only a hint or warmness with violas.



    Upper Midrange and Treble:

    The upper midrange of the Audirect Beam is fairly pronounced and controlled, without any remarkable interference and sibilance. Instruments like piano, violin or cymbals sounding pretty fast and controlled.

    The treble range of the Audirect Beam is not very upfront or too recessed and sounds quite neutral and clear. The treble extension is at a moderate level, but this makes a fatigue free listening possible.

    The treble quantity and intension is pretty good and is able to catch the treble speed of some fast treble intensive genres like metal music, which is in my opinion a noticeable advantage. This ability makes a good detail rendering possible. The Beam is pretty successful in terms of control, emphasis and extension with instruments like side flutes while rising from the upper-midrange to the treble range. The Beam will also satisfy those who like a good detail rendering while listening to genres like electronic music.



    Soundstage:

    The Audirect Beam offers a very spacious and airy stage, where the instruments have enough space to spread out. This feature is also avoiding any conflicting and disorganizing of the instruments.

    The soundstage has slightly less depth than its wideness, but don’t get me wrong, because the soundstage is by no way shallow. One other noticeable attribute of the soundstage is arrangement of instruments, which performs better in the horizontal direction than in the vertical.


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    Comparison:

    Audirect Beam versus Audioquest Dragonfly Black:

    Both the Audirect Beam and the Audioquest Dragonfly Back are very capable devices in a price range between $100,00 – 150,00 USD.


    [​IMG]

    The Dragonfly Black has warmer tonality with an additional emphasis at the lower end.

    The bass of the Audirect Beam sounds more linear and balanced than those of the Dragonfly Black, which has additional impact. The sub-bass of the Dragonfly Black are showing more depth and rumble, but have slightly less extension and definition compared to the Beam.

    The bass of the Audirect Beam is faster and has better layering than those of the Dragonfly Black.

    The midrange of the Dragonfly Black is warmer and ticker than those of the Audirect Beam, which has a more natural and transparent presentation. The Dragonfly Black sounds very delicious with male vocals, while the Audirect Beam has the upper hand for female vocals because of its brighter tonality and upper midrange emphasis.

    Instruments like Bass Guitars and Drums sounding better with the Dragonfly Black, while the Audirect Beam sounds more natural with instruments like violins, side flutes etc.

    The Audirect Beam has a brighter, more pronounced top end, which is superior to the Audioquet Dragonfly Black in terms of treble extension and control. The Beam sounds also slightly more detailed than the Dragonfly Black that is otherwise an already good performer at this price range.

    When it comes to soundstage performance, both have an above average soundstage wideness, where the Beam has a slightly wider presentation. The soundstage depth is for both devices on a moderate level.



    Conclusion:


    The Audirect Beam is probably one of the best sounding portable DAC/AMP’s in its price tag. The great sound, tiny size and lower power consumption makes it to a nice option for those who are not satisfied with the performance of their phone, tablet and onboard soundcard of their Laptop or Desktop PC.



    Pos and Cons:

    • + Great Sound (especially the midrange area)
    • + Good detail retrieval
    • + Low to none hissing
    • + Lots of OTG Cables (inclusive Apple lighting)
    • + Plug and Play capability for Android and IOS

    • – No battery means additional battery drain for the source
  3. IryxBRO
    AUDIRECT BEAM — ultra-portable USB DAC
    Written by IryxBRO
    Published Dec 14, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - flawless, easy to use, convenient controls, small, fairly balanced sound
    Cons - no microUSB->microUSB adapter
    Finally there is something else rather than IEMs to talk about. IEMs are good piece of technology but some rest is required while running out of words to describe the next pair. Today we would jump to another trending stuff — external ultra-portable DAC&AMP which purpose is to pump the sound quality of a smartphone, laptop or tablet. But not only that — it can also turn back the time and equip your device with beloved warm, tube-like :) analog 3.5mm audio jack, if you’ve happened to miss that one!

    The topic of our review today is AUDIRECT BEAM ultra-portable USB DAC&AMP — this is the second product of this type in AUDIRECT lineup after Whistle. This brand has 5 years experience in R&D of different video-audio appliance, mostly known for their successful HDX1000 and BD1 mediaplayers. Now they have decided to turn their sight at ultra-portable DACs due to the latest trend of many popular smartphone makers to abandon 3.5mm audio jacks (which is sad, but true). The idea is not new, but why not having one more option to bring 3.5mm back…

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    AUDIRECT BEAM technical specifications:
    • Output Power:
      • -114dB TND+N, 2Vrms | 600Ω
      • -108dB THD+N, 49mW | 32Ω 1.1Vrms, up to 1.1Vrms
    • Frequency response: 20-30000Hz (-0.15dB)
    • Distortion: 0.0004%
    • S/N ratio: +125dB SNR, +120dB DNR
    • Input supports PCM: PCM 16-32bit/32-384KHz
    • Input supports DSD: DoP64/128, Native DSD64/128/256
    • DAC Chip: ES9118 SABRE HiFi SoC
    • AMP Chip: ES9118
    • I.R.: <1Ω
    • Inputs: USB-C
    • Outputs: 3.5mm
    • Dimensions: LxWxH: 52x14x6mm
    • Weight: 12g
    UPDATE: just got to know that AUDIRECT BEAM has passed HiRES certification (JAS) and now would have HiRES sticker on it

    ES9118 DAC chip belongs to SABRE HIFI grade SoC which integrates DAC with a proprietary ESS headphone amplifier and output switch. Some additional infromation from the official website:

    «ES9118 HiFi SoC leverages the company’s patented 32-bit HyperStream architecture to deliver up to 125 dB SNR and -112 dB Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N) ensuring audiophile quality sound all the way to the headphones. It also supports the industry’s most popular high resolution and lossless audio formats including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV»

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    Among other features there are:
    • Enough power to drive up to 300Ω earphones
    • Physical jog dial with volume +|- and PLAY|PAUSE funсtions
    • OFC, silver-coated copper wires
    • No battery inside, power over USB
    • Compatible with iOS/Mac/Win10/Android operation system
    Packaging, build quality and design:

    Didn’t expect to see such a small device in a such a large box.

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    Anyway, it is neat and stiff enough to protect all the contents. AUDIRECT logo at the front and BEAM description at the back. Accessories are packed in a separate box.

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    Box contents:
    • BEAM DAC
    • microUSB typeC -> USB adapter cable
    • microUSB typeC -> microUSB typeC adapter cable
    • microUSB typeC -> Lightning adapter cable
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    Kind of embarassing that there is no microUSB typeC -> microUSB cable included… Just another adapter but covering much more smartphones, potentially. We understand that most of the smartphones running Android OS with no 3.5mm audio output are already equipped with USB typeC port but it doesn’t mean that this DAC won’t be used to upgrade the sound quality even if there is one… Come on, AUDIRECT, make everyone happy and don’t create artificial limitations to various usage scenarios!

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    This little DAC is made of 2 pieces of aluminum — top and bottom covers with four screws holding the whole structure as one piece. Quality of shell crafting is decent. Parts are perfectly aligned. All labels and indicators are neat.

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    There are two small LEDs located at the front to indicate current stream type (PCM or DSD). Spring loaded VOLUME up|down dial is combined with PLAY|PAUSE function and located on the left edge. Button is convenient to use and have a good grip. Top edge has microUSB typeC input and bottom edge contains only 3.5mm audio output. No other elements and controls.

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    BEAM doesn’t have the battery inside and totally power-dependent of the source device. We’d say that this is more proper way rather than having another device that should be charged independently and would have more weight.

    Usage scenarios:

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    We think that this device would be useful in the next scenarios:
    1. Adding 3.5mm audio output to a smartphone|laptop|tablet if there isn’t one
    Scenario 1 is obvious — if there is not 3.5mm output and you have good headphones with 3.5mm jack BEAM would be a good choice in terms of sound quality characteristics. No doubt that there are other ultra-portable DACs available to solve the same issue but BEAM is another good option.

    2. Upgrading sound quality of a smartphone|laptop|tablet not regarding whether there is native 3.5mm audio output or not.

    This implies that you are not satisfied with the audio quality of your device or|and that is BEAM is surerior in this respect. There are some capable smarphones out there nowadays that would be directly competing, but only few. Same goes for the laptops. Tablets are usually left aside when it comes to audio quality — good that they can play sound at all :) In our case it is Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X smartphone with low power&low quality sound processing and Lenovo Y500 laptop with regular integrated IntelHD sound card. So, we would opt to use external USB DAC based on more capable DAC&AMP chips to increase the audio quality.

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    3. Adding some juice when driving higher loads (headphones with higher impedance)

    Scenario 3 is the addition to either scenario 1 or 2. Headphones with higher impedance would require more output power from a device to be driven to a better sound quality level in terms of dynamics, amplitude, volume, etc. Regular smartphones or tablets would usually give out ~30mW power while BEAM is capable of ~50mW @ 32Ω resulting in more volume and more driving ability.

    4. Adding 32bit/384kHz and DSD/native DSD playback to a device

    Another addition to the previous ones but in terms of source device compatibility with various audio formats. Passing the stream to modern external DAC would remove some source limitations and allow you to listen to more sophisticated formats. For example, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X doesn’t want to eat DSD files unless you would connect external USB DAC. But even if it did — it would still be DSD over PCM and not DSD native.

    Getting it to work:

    AUDIRECT BEAM is a user-friendly device. Using it under Windows 10/MAC OS/iOS and Android is straight forward — just connect and it would be recognized by the system. In case of Windows 10 it should be hiliDAC (HS) . If Windows10 has not recognized this device or if you are still running Windows 7/8 there is an additional driver which can be found HERE. This driver seems to belong to ASIO family which is even better than system Windows10 driver but would result in larger audio lag. The next step in Windows environment would be going to recognized device options and selecting the maximum desired audio quality (right click on volume icon in tray -> sounds -> playback devices tab -> select the device -> properties -> additional -> select 24/32bit, 192/384kHz -> ok). Run some music player like Foobar2000 and pass the stream over WASAPI (push) or ASIO to BEAM DAC. No problems in our case.

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    Using it with Android is even easier — just connect BEAM and run some audio player like HibyMusic. You can also set HibyMusic to use external DAC in «Exclusive HQ Audio mode» to get bit-perfect stream.

    Can’t tell anything about iOS or MAC OS — we don’t have any APPLE devices to test BEAM with.

    Sound quality:

    Tested with Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X, Lenovo Y500, Anew U1 IEMs

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    Connected to smartphone:

    The differences in sound quality between bare 3.5mm audio output of Xiaomi smartphone and BEAM are apparent: better presence and bass extension, more powerful and full-bodied midbass, crispier and brighter treble together with better extension as well. Some of those differences are the result of better driving ability while others are due to more capable DAC/AMP SoC. Native smartphone audio output sounds thin, parts of the midbass dynamics is totally lost, deep bass sounds blurry and the treble is far too simple and limited. Therefore, concerning that BEAM is a little and lightweight device that doesn’t require charging — it is a good option for a smartphone to upgrade SQ and add the ability to play more formats even while on the go.

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    Connected to laptop:

    Almost the same differences in sound here, although less emphasized. Laptop audio output is more powerful and can produce some good midbass dynamics with better extension of lower end but the crispness and extension of treble as well as overall resolution are still better when passing music through BEAM. Using ASIO instead of WASAPI should be capable of even better results but we would sacrifice that in favor of less audio lag which is vital while watching video content.

    Compared to Hidizs SONATA HD DAC cable:

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    Hidizs Sonata HD cable is very similar device purpose-wise but very different in terms of design approach. It is even smaller, doesn’t have any controls or indicators and is not that capable when it comes to DSD or maximized bit depth. There are some major sound differences when compared to BEAM: Sonata can reach deeper bass levels but with less texturing, it emphasizes treble more and elevates upper mids. Moreover, lower mids are a bit thin and underpowered resulting in more apparent U-shaped tuning. It definitely has a brighter tonality and bit more power to drive higher loads. More prone to hissing, though. BEAM sounds more natural and balanced, with more even distribution of gains on lower and treble ranges. Midbass is rich and powerfull on both devices.

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    Conclusion:

    In our case AUDIRECT BEAM served its purpose very well. It is a clear win over intergrated audio interfaces in our smartphone|laptop and really managed to increase its sound quality with a better driving ability and more capable DAC element base. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of revelation but is able to normalize frequency gain levels, increase instrument separation and add more resolution. Sound is fairly balanced and detailed to provide good listening experience while at home or on the go. It also did provide our smartphone with the ability to play more advanced audio formats like DSD (native) together with higher bit depth and sampling frequencies of FLAC files. Furthermore, BEAM is user-friendy, doesn’t require charging, has the convenient formfactor to be carried and used in a pocket, free of software and hardware issues. Consequently, all minor and major characteristics of AUDIRECT BEAM are looking implemented right as expected and this little device could be recommended for anyone who wants some more juice and quality of sound or simply misses 3.5mm audio output.

    AUDIRECT BEAM is available for purchase at PenonAudio store