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It's always difficult to be creative with holiday gift-giving, especially with connected products. But here's something that's out of the ordinary yet provides a rich result for friends and family members who prefer headphones to enjoy their music.
This is about the THX Onyx DAC-amp, a two-in-one (USB-A and USB-C) connector and fidelity enhancer that provides an astoundingly pure headphone audio session. Talk about simple to use: You simply connect the unit between your smartphone, laptop, or tablet and your headphone; nothing else is needed. The sound quality is as close to listening live to a recording session or concert as you can get without actually being there, in this product reviewer's (who's also a musician) opinion.
It works this way: The DAC (digital-to-audio converter) receives the digital audio stream from your smartphone or laptop and converts it into a stereo analog audio signal, something headphones on their own cannot do.
For this review, I listened to several different types of music (New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Canadian Brass, "Trio" by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris, and electronic music by Vangelis, among others) and found that there is a distinct sense of additional depth and perspective using this DAC amp. Once you use this, there is a strong possibility you may become spoiled.
The THX Onyx looks like part of a headphone wire, so it's like it's not even there. Please note: This product requires all its connected partners to be working optimally; when I first started listening, I realized that my headphones needed adjustment; I also got some Endust spray cleaner to blow out ports on my phones and laptops. Onyx connections are very sensitive. The device demands high quality from everything it touches.
At a standard price of $199 (Please note: A holiday special went live Dec. 13 on Amazon.com: THX Onyx for $149 for a limited time), the THX Onyx at first seems a bit pricey, but what price can a true music lover put on ultra-high end audio? That's up to you, the buyer.