AstellKern AK HC3 hot stuff

The Astell & Kern HC3 gives all your USB-C devices an audio step up

With phone and tablet makers long ago giving up on adding headphone ports to their new releases, what are premium audio enthusiasts supposed to do? If you consider Bluetooth to be a divisive word when it comes to sound quality, it might be time to invest in the Astell & Kern HC3. This all-new dongle will add Hi-Fi sound to almost anything with a USB-C port, letting you keep using cables again.

The diminutive DAC, which will set you back £199 from today on, is the successor to A&K’s popular PEE51 dongle. Barely larger than a USB flash drive and made of angular aluminium, it looks just as premium as the company’s expensive portable media players.

Power is drawn from the connected device to keep pumping out your tunes, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it charged. Windows PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones are all supported, with a USB-C to Lightning adapter included in the box so iPhone owners can get in on the action.

Inside, dual ES9219MQ DACs from industry professionals ESS support 32-bit/384kHz PCM playback, in addition to native DSD256.

Any 3.5mm 3- or 4-pole earphones, headphones, and headsets will accept them, including those with inline controls or microphones. You’ll be able to use it while making video calls or gaming, unlike some competing DACs that can only handle traffic in one direction. An output impedance of 2 ohms means you won’t be mounting expensive over-ear headphones, but they’ll happily drive top-tier IEMs—including those with multiple drivers or planar magnetic technology.

The Astell & Kern HC3 is on sale right now, direct from the A&K website, for £199.