This MagSafe DAC makes so much sense

This MagSafe DAC makes so much sense

As more music streaming services incorporate lossless or high definition audio for what they offer, there is interest in DACs (digital-to-analog converters, or “headphone amplifiers”). go up - so much so we created this guide. What was once a haven of audio recordings is slowly becoming a touchscreen for those who want more than their phone and AirPods can deliver. But they are not without warnings. For one, they are often expensive, and sometimes not much less than the phone you are connecting them to. Enter the DAC Tea with Khadas.

Khadas started out making media - friendly single board computers (SBC - think… media - specific Raspberry Pi - type stuff before moving on to desktop DACs. Tea is the company's first mobile DAC and seems to be aimed specifically at iPhone users - although it's also compatible with Android. The reason I suggest it is more suitable for Apple phones is that it is similar to MagSafe. Combine that with the slim, all-metal iPhone-esque design and it solves one of the key problems with mobile DACs: Having something heavy hanging out on the back of your phone.

With the Tea, it sticks to the back of your phone and the low profile makes it a little more prominent than Apple's own MagSafe wallets. You can, of course, find MagSafe capable issues for Android, but your phone and budget will be a reason.

Beyond the slow form factor, Tea does not scratch its codec support. Over USB / electronic, the tea can handle audio up to 32bit / 384kHz. Since most mainstream music services offer nothing above 192kHz, streaming will be more than just coverage. Similarly, the tea can decode MQA (Tidal) along with DSD, AAC, FLAC, APE, OGG and all standard formats (WAV / MP3 etc). If you prefer to go wireless, the Tea also supports LDAC and AptX HD over Bluetooth.

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James Trew / Engadget

Here I should mention, for being iPhone friendly, Apple does not offer LDAC or AptX HD support in its flagship phones. You can still use the Bluetooth feature in Tea, but you cannot enjoy the higher quality formats. Although at least it means you can charge your phone while still using the DAC or you can walk around with the smaller tea attached to your headphones than the your mobile phone. There are plenty of Android phones out there carry out support LDAC / AptX HD, but you need to check the manufacturer's website to verify (most Pixels, Samsung's flagship products and OnePlus phones offer LDAC / AptX HD encoding).

There are a few things you won't find here, but most of them fall into the upper end of audio. For example, there is only a regular 3.5mm headphone jack - there is no option for 2.5 or 4.4mm balanced cans at this stage (although there are rumors that a "Pro" version may be on the way) . There’s also some feedback on what codec / audio quality you’re currently getting, with just a simple color-changing LED revealing the format, which you won’t see if the phone isn’t face down . Installation is limited to USB-C, so it will work with your phone and PC, but without an inline.

This puts the Tea in an interesting category. It is very capable for people who want to get the most out of their streaming service and should even be attracted to audios that are looking for a hidden option that covers most -some basics. But at $ 199 it's a reasonable expense. Perhaps the most obvious competitor is the BTR5 from Fiio. That's also a portable DAC with high resolution Bluetooth support along with a similar selection of cable formats (also up to 32bit / 384kHz with MQA support). Oh, and the Fiio offers a balanced headset option, too (2.5mm). When you notice that the BTR5 also typically sells for $ 159, you have to want that slim, MagSafe design.

That's not going to sell it though. I tested BTR5 and the Tea side by side, and the real convenience of the Tea was obvious. With the Fiio, your phone feels tethered, almost weighed down by the DAC. With the Tea, it's like using one of those iPhone cases with a battery in it - a little more thick, but you can still make the phone work as you normally would.

The Ti also has a much larger battery capacity - 1,160 mAh compared to the Fiio's 550 mAh. Obviously this is not an audio benefit, but it will be quick if you plan to listen for long hours or be away from a cost option for more than a few hours. Which, by the mobile nature of these devices feels like a reasonable capability.

Tea mobile DAC connected to iPhone.

James Trew / Engadget

I am not, however, a big fan of the user interface. Tea has three buttons: One on the left and two on the right. The single button acts as a power switch or to call your virtual assistant. The two buttons on the other side control volume or jump paths. You switch between volume and skip mode by double pressing the power button and the up button on the other side. It works… well, but it's not very elegant. Also, if you leave it in trail mode and go to change the volume, you will be on the next path before you know it. A little, but frustrating.

In stringed mode, the Tea pumps out a loud, loud, clear sound. It may not be as high as some other DACs. Even the little Firefly gives the Tea a run for his money there. However, the sound you get is clean and full of benefit, and that's the goal here: Take a good signal and hear it colorless.

Beyond his main role as a DAC, he is also unable to take on calls. A pair of microphones at the bottom of the House allow you to talk without having to fall back into the microphone on your phone. Plus, the pictures on the Tea are several leagues better than the one on the iPhone, especially when you're talking to him while he's lying on the desk. You can also order the tea through your phone if you are running low on juice, or disable this feature so as not to charge the battery on the device- your hand if you prefer.

Overall, the Tea welcomes a growing segment. At $ 199 this is not the cheapest for the feature set, but the well thought out design and beauty also make it very convenient and hidden. Unfortunately, if all this sounds your way, you have to wait a little longer. While it's clear that Khadas is ready for production, the company is opting to go the Indiegogo route, with the slate venture set to go live in the coming weeks.

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