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Audirect Beam

Rating:
4.03846/5,
  1. Kervsky
    Set Phasers on Wow
    Written by Kervsky
    Published Aug 26, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Small, dedicated controls, good detail retrieval, good separation, near neutral but energetic signature, plug and play connectivity.
    Cons - Some android apps when given exclusive control of the Beam can only output one volume level (volume control can be source dependent)
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    Introduction: Audirect is a Chinese company that has engaged in the development of Hi-Fi products for quite some time, and they have been busy recently making their third generation product after the Whistle, a USB portable Hi-Fi DAC called the Beam. The Beam is aimed as an audiophile solution for the disappearing audio jack on mobile phones and can also double duty as your computer audio upgrade. The Beam I have is the Grey (Graphite) one and they also come in Gold.

    I would like to thank Audirect for providing me with a review sample in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. You can buy the Audirect Beam at the Audirect's online store, the Penon website or locally if your retailer has them in stock.

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    Specifications/Unboxing: "Using the critically acclaimed ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream® DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the ES9118 delivers up to 125dB SNR and –114dB THD+N, a performance level that will satisfy the most demanding audio enthusiasts."

    Output Power: -114dB TND+N, 2Vrms into 600Ω
    -108dB THD+N, 49mW into 32Ω
    up to 1.1Vrms
    Frequency response: 20-30000Hz (-0.15dB)
    Distortion: 0.0004%
    Signal to Noise ratio: +125dB SNR, +120dB DNR
    PCM sampling frequency: PCM 16-32bit, 32-384KHz
    DSD specification: DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256
    D/A conversion chip: ES9118 SABRE HiFi SoC
    Amplifier chip: ES9118
    Internal resistance: <1Ω
    Input port: USB-C
    Output port: 3.5mm
    Length x Width x Height: 52x14x6mm
    Net weight: 12g

    You can also download their Windows driver from the product page HERE if you need it, personally on Windows 10, there was no need for me to download the driver but your mileage may vary. The Beam is totally dependent on what the device it's connected to can play, with regards to file compatibility, but if your phone/computer/DAP is capable of playing DSD files and the app you use can course it through, you can get full DSD reproduction on the Beam (you'll see this when the DSD LED lights up instead of the PCM like the image below).

    Unboxing isn't very complicated, you get the nice little cardboard box with the Audirect Beam displayed in front through a clear plastic cover with information printed around it as seen above. Opening it reveals the dongle and a separate box where the 3 cables are placed along with the manual. No fuss, just like the Beam.

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    Cable: The Beam comes with 3 cables for general (modern) use, a USB C to USB C for most modern phones and DAPs to the dongle, a USB C to Lightning adapter for those modern iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads, and a USB C to USB A for computer use. Construction of the cables is nicely done with braided wires protected by strain sheaths and sturdy gold plated connectors at each end. They're flexible enough to be pliable in use but strong enough not to stretch or break easily. An adapter for USB C to Micro USB could have made the package more universal, but considering the target market of the BEAM, both people who are looking for a portable upgrade for their computer/phone audio and those with modern phones lacking the 3.5mm audio jack, this is more than adequate in terms of cables and actually a bit more than some DAC/amps I've seen recently.

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    Build/Design: The Beam case is made of a lightweight metallic material that is smooth in texture with a bit of an angular edge that is not sharp or piercing. The color on mine is called grey but I would consider it more of a Graphite color as it has a tendency to look a bit lighter or darker depending on the light angle, just like pencil lead. Still, it's rather eye catching but simple in design. There are two LED ports indicating the bit-rate of the song being played, DSD is when the file format plays in DOP mode, and PCM is for everything else. The LED's are colored white and are small enough not to be considered a factor in power drain as they are just bright enough to be easily seen. There is a dial like switch on the left side for controlling the volume and you can press that lever inward to play/pause the music. There are 4 screws on the back as part of the construction and likely makes it easier to repair in case of trouble (but I don't suggest you fix it in case something goes wrong), and at the opposite ends are the USB-C port (top) and the 3.5mm (bottom) output plug.

    Overall the construction feels solid but light and the fact that it's pretty small at around the width of an AA battery while being a little bit taller and (almost exactly) 3 SD cards stacked on top each other thick, it's easily portable. The control switch is a nice feature that's intuitive and doesn't take up a lot of space, keeping the whole dongle streamlined and rather clutter free.

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    Sound Analysis: Initially when I tried the Beam on multiple sources (phones, DAPs and my laptop) I felt that it was something like Mids > Bass > Treble in terms of attention provided in the frequency areas. But in addition to that, it had the technical ability to provide good detail and present a nice level of stage while sound pretty engaging. I always treat my review items to long usage times before finishing the review, just to see if anything breaks and such, so after over 250 hours of use, I'm ready to write down my findings.

    Bass: The Beam is able to present a better than average extended sub-bass with a neutral level of quantity, which ties in with a faster than average decay. This contributes to a more energetic presentation of the bass and a rather tight level of control. Bass impact and body is along the neutral side where bass hits aren't boosted (but are neither bass anemic) and sound closer to the original recording with neutral bass gear. Overall the bass is responsive and sounds smooth, lively and not exaggerated.

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    Mids: As usual, good mids are my happy pill and the Beam is able to provide a rather great level of mid frequency detail and separation. There is a little bit of forwardness to the lower mids with male vocals sounding a little above neutral with thickness that prevents them from sounding thin or hollow and gives them good presence. The upper mids are presented in a bit more forward manner and again, a little above neutral thickness, which gives a good level of intimacy to female vocals. Overall, the tone of the mids is near neutral but has enough warmth and dynamic energy to convey emotions across the middle frequency effectively and with life.

    Treble: There is a little boost in the treble region which gives the Beam a more stronger treble presence. The Beam presents an average extension in the treble region, but combined with the boost and available reach, they contribute to the sense of air the Beam can provide as well as a little brighter perception of notes. The level of clarity and crispness is affected by the boost, which gives those ear gear with 'almost' crispy highs, a push to be crisp but this can also cause brighter gear to sound a little more brighter. Sibilance and harshness is not normally induced on the Beam on listenable levels, however, very high volumes (around 95+db) with sibilance prone music and brighter ear gear can reveal some light to noticeable sibilance. Treble is accurate and responsive overall with a good amount of air, excitement and smoothness.

    Soundstage: The presented stage of the beam is of a good horizontal width and almost as good in vertical depth that sounds natural in it's spread. It can provide a good open feeling that is scaled up (or down) depending on your ear gear. Imaging is a bit above average in accuracy while the ability to space layers is pretty good.

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    Conclusion: Audirect's Beam is a great portable DAC, it's small yet packs a big punch in terms of sonic and technical ability. It presents a near neutral sound signature to get as close to how the music was intended to be and yet does not sound clinical or boring. It provides a detailed and engaging mid range, a natural sounding bass with a crisp and energetic treble which can synergize with bass heavy gear as well as those with a relatively recessed mid frequency and relaxed treble regions for a fun and engaging listening session. Cable accessories are of very good quality and perfect for modern use, but if you happen to use sources with micro USB ports, you'll need to get an extra cable for that.

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    Sound comparisons were made using a Sony WM1a (Primarily), a Hiby R6, Zishan Z1 volume matched to 90.X db of max volume for safe hearing below 8 hours of use and calibrated using a 1kh tone on a dedicated DB Meter, all sources patched through a switcher. More information will be available on the About Me page (once I find the time to write it up.)
  2. ExpatinJapan
    Audirect BEAM - ...ing with joy
    Written by ExpatinJapan
    Published Aug 23, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Easy connectivity, physical controls, great sound, small and light
    Cons - No battery, volume steps dependent upon source
    Audirect BEAM Dac/Amp Review
    - Expatinjapan

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    http://www.audirect.cc/
    The supaa smexy streamlined Audirect BEAM is the latest in the series from relatively new company Audirect,
    It is available in Gold or Black and light as a feather.
    They had previously released the Audirect Whistle which was reviewed at an earlier date here on Head pie: https://www.headpie.net/2017/08/audirect-whistle-dacamp-review.html

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    Unboxing

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    The Beam comes with a healthy array of quality cables.

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    Volume switch, push in for play/pause. LED lights for PCM and DSD.

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    Beam Portable Hi-Fi DAC Earphone Amplifier
    Beam Specifications

    Using the critically acclaimed ESS patented 32-bit HyperStream® DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the ES9118 delivers up to 125dB SNR and –114dB THD+N, a performance level that will satisfy the most demanding audio enthusiasts.
    THD Compensation,Minimize distortion from external PCB components and layout
    Specifications
    (Output Power) -114dB TND+N, 2Vrms into 600Ω
    -108dB THD+N, 49mW into 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, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256
    D/A(D/A Chips)ES9118 SABRE HiFi SoC
    I.R. <1Ω
    (Amplifier Chips) ES9118
    (Input port) USB-C
    (Output Port) 3.5mm
    (L W H)52x14x6mm
    (Weight)12g

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    Audirect Beam and Whistle specs compared.

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    Price
    The Audirect Beam package (Beam plus cables) is $99 US dollars.
    http://www.audirect.cc/buy
    The cables can also be bought individually at $11.99 to $14.99 and are of a good quality.

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    Connectivity
    The Audirect Beam is a simple plug and play device with no mess, no fuss.
    I had no problems connecting to my aging Macbook Pro and ipod Touch 6G,
    nor to the upcoming Hidizs Ap80.


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    DSD settings for iOS mobile app.
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    DSD LED light on. Using Onkyo App on iOS.(Set DOP: DSD over PCM).

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    Onkyo app on iOS


    Sound and summary

    The Audirect Beam is solid successor to the previous Whistle (which was no slacker in its own right).
    It was a bit difficult to do a full A/B comparison due to the BEAM being USB-C and the Whistle Micro USB which meant I didnt have in my stock a set of identical cables that could be used.
    But rest assured in my simple check I did deduce across the board the Beam improved upon the Whistle.

    With a solid black background and no detectable hiss to my ears even via my Macbook with Campfire Audio Andromeda makes the Beam an ideal affordable choice for improving upon your computers audio sound.
    The sound signature of the Beam is neutral with no strong emphasis on either the lows/mids or highs. Each part performing in an excellent synergy resulting in a pleasing aural experience.
    The lows are fast and full and can delve deep, the mids clean and prominent enough to give vocals that realness and emotion, and the treble just reaches over the edge without extending into the dreaded Sabre glare zone.
    There is a naturalness within the neutralness, a smoothness to alleviate the crispness.
    It even survives the severe Coldplay test.

    The Beam has detailing, layering to please and doesnt restrict my earphones that have a wide sound stage (more width and height than depth).

    The Andromeda is known for its large sound stage and quietly for its exquisite separation that is delicate and subtle which results in a rich yet not over bearing layering with beautiful texturing, these points are compounded and extended when combined with a dap higher up the chain from mid fi to totl. When combined with the Audirect Beam, a lower priced item the Andromeda still shines and I experienced pleasure when using them in unison.
    Depending on the device the Beam is connected to the volume steps at times can be a bit tricky to get the right setting.

    With the Hidizs AP80 there were no problems with its many volume steps.
    On my ipod touch there was a slight jump and finding my particular sweet spot at times was difficult. This was made easier by using a music app and dialing back the gain to allow for more room to set the volume. (More volume steps please Apple!).
    On the Macbook pro I encountered the same problem (Apple really needs to implement more volume steps for IEM users or any user) this was solved when I used the VOX music player which has more volume steps.
    The Beam has the best control at low to upper mid volumes with some IEMs, going beyond what could be users regular listening levels can introduce some loss of coherency or sibilance with some music. But I found this to be a rare occurrence and earphone/track dependent. I listen at fairly loud volumes 75-90db so you`d really have to pump it to have a problem.

    It has two LED lights for PCM and DSD.

    Nice to have the physical switches for play/pause and volume whilst on the go.

    When combined with a dedicated dap such as the upcoming Hidizs AP80 the Audirect Beam really took off. With the IT04 the Beam really shone, a fairly neutral earphone with a bit of low end bass and mids can really complement a Sabre dac. But each to their own tastes.

    Also the size, weight and form makes it an attractive option for an on the go dongle: especially with phones who have removed the headphone jack, which some may prefer to the small Dap/dac/amp option such as the popular Shanling M0, or the larger iFi Audio xDSD. Both great performers in their price points which loads of features.

    The Beam is deliciously neutral, clean sounding with excellent texture, no grain and exquisite clarity.

    Well color me impressed.

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    Upcoming Audirect `Bean` earphones sneak peek


    Thank you to Audirect for sending the Beam to Head pie for review.
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  3. audio123
    Audirect Beam - Beam Delight
    Written by audio123
    Published Aug 23, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Details, Size, Energetic
    Cons - Treble extension can be better
    Introduction

    Audirect is a Chinese company that specializes in portable digital analogue converters (DACs). They started with the Whistle and released the Beam recently. I would like to thank Audirect for the review unit of Beam. At the moment, you can purchase the Beam from http://www.audirect.cc/buy .

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    Specifications

    • Output Power: -114dB TND+N, 2Vrms into 600Ω / -108dB THD+N, 49mW into 32Ω
    • Frequency Response: 20-30000Hz(-0.15dB)
    • Distortion: 0.0004%
    • S/N Ratio: +125dB SNR, +120dB DNR
    • Supported Inputs: PCM 16-32bit, 32-384KHz / DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256
    • DAC: ES9118 Sabre HiFi SoC
    • I.R.: <1Ω
    • Input Port: USB-C
    • Output Port: 3.5mm
    • Dimensions: 52x14x6mm
    • Weight: 12g
    Unboxing & Accessories

    The Beam comes in a white package which sports the model name and brand logo. There is a transparent film that shows the Beam. After opening the package, there are the Beam and a blue box that contains 3 cables – USB-C to USB-C OTG, USB-A to USB-C OTG and Lightning to USB-C OTG.

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    DAC Build & Design

    The Beam has a rectangular design and it is gold in colour. At the top of the Beam, there is the input port. At the bottom of the Beam, there is the output port. On the front, there are the brand logo, signs for the button and indicator lights.

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    Sound Analysis

    Lows

    The Beam is able to extend its sub-bass well with a moderate quantity. The sub-bass reproduction on the Beam is exciting to listen to. There is a consistent punch. The bass decay has speed and the agility enhances the engagement level. Bass texture on the Beam is rendered smoothly. Each bass note on the Beam is articulated rather accurately. There is moderate tightness. The mid-bass on the Beam has a fair amount of body and the slam is quick without a weighted feeling.

    Mids

    The Beam has a lively midrange and it boasts good transparency. The midrange is rendered in a manner with a high level of details retrieval. There is slight lack in the lushness. The lower mids has moderate quantity and male vocals are expressed well without any dry feeling. The upper mids has a nice boost and the forwardness accentuates the intimacy level of female vocals. It ensures a captivating listen. There is energy which contributes to the overall vibrance.

    Highs

    The treble is extended moderately and demonstrates a fair stretch. There is no sibilance and harshness. The crisp is good and there is slight sparkle to inject excitement into the overall sound. There is moderate brightness. Treble articulation is accurate with an acceptable amount of body. The amount of air rendered helps to create an airy feeling at the top end.

    Soundstage

    The Beam has moderate naturalness in its expansion. The width magnitude is good and the depth is closed in. It is able to provide a fairly open feeling . Positioning of vocals and instruments is rather accurate.

    Conclusion

    The Beam is a detailed sounding DAC that is able to provide a performance that combines agile bass, lively midrange and airy treble. The transparency is great and the midrange is the star of the show. In addition, its compact size gives the added convenience of bringing it around. The release of the Beam as Audirect’s latest offering comes in the form of an engaging yet portable DAC that is sure to delight many.

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    For more reviews, visit https://audio123blog.wordpress.com/ .
      Audirect and Moonstar like this.