When it comes to mobile audio, sometimes the sound your phone and headphones get just isn’t enough. That can be especially true if you prefer a set of wired cans over anything wireless. For the best audio on the go, you’ll likely need a hi-res player or portable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amp combo. There are already a number of options on the market, but today immersive video and audio technology company THX is adding its name to the list. With its first consumer hardware, the Onyx, the company adds a tiny, high-powered alternative to traditional DAC amplifiers.
Like much of the competition, the Onyx is a USB device with a cable on one end and a headphone jack on the other. The USB-C plug is magnetic, flips back, and connects to the main body of the audio accessory when not in use. The company suggests using it to keep the headphone cord coiled up and keep things tidy. On the front, a trio of LEDs indicate the quality of the audio you’re listening to with options for Standard, Hi-Res, Direct Stream Digital (DSD), and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA). The device comes with a USB-C to USB-A adapter, so if your laptop isn’t equipped with the former, you can still use it with the latter.
Inside, the Onyx has a THX AAA-78 amplifier chip. Not only is this the highest powered THX mobile achromatic audio amplifier setup, but the company says this is the first portable DAC / amplifier to use the component. THX explains that the AAA-78 makes the Onyx as powerful as a desktop DAC or amp setup, but it’s much smaller. The chip reduces three types of distortion by up to 40dB and maximizes power output for a more dynamic range and sound pressure level (SPL). Of course, it also guarantees impeccable sound quality, or as THX put it, “extreme maximum fidelity audio”. An ESS ES9281PRO DAC also helps with heavy lifting, a component known for its ability to deliver studio-like sound quality.
For the extreme of such high fidelity, THX has designed the Onyx to support the aforementioned MQA or Master Quality Audio. Teachers include all the original details of a recording, or how the music was tracked in the studio or during a live performance. MQA technology captures and authenticates audio before “folding” it into a streaming-compatible file size (MQA literally calls this “Music Origami”). Onyx has a built-in MQA renderer to reproduce all the intricate sounds by “unfolding” encoded files from a service like Tidal. That streaming service, for example, offers millions of MQA tracks as part of its most expensive Hi-Fi subscription.
The Onyx is compatible with any device that has a USB-C port or a USB-A connector if you connect the adapter. That includes PC, Mac, Android, and iPad. The device will also work with an iPhone, but you will need Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to use it. Lastly, you will need a Windows 10 PC, as Onyx only supports that version of the operating system.
The THX Onyx is available today for $ 199.99 (€ 209.99 / £ 199.99) from both the company website and Razer, which has worked with THX in the past to certify its Opus and Hammerhead Pro True Wireless headphones for immersive audio. . Additionally, THX explains that Onyx can also improve sound quality for games and movies, which means it should pair well with Razer’s line of laptops.