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Published on December 26th, 2013 | by Greg


Audioengine D3 DAC: Improve Your Audio In Seconds

If you have a laptop or desktop computer, chances are you’re using your computer’s built-in audio card to handle all of your music and sound output. This makes sense- modern machines have pretty decent sound circuitry- but you can definitely do better. Much like with video cards, a dedicated set of chips devoted to a specific task can make a big difference.

Any DAC is essentially offering that promise- stand-alone electronics that can isolate noise and improve your experience. Though some digital-to-analog converters that we’ve seen are quite large and expensive and take some know-how to setup, today’s is as small and simple as it gets. It won’t work with your iPod, iPad, tablet, or smartphone, but the Audioengine D3 is about the size of a thumb drive, plus in via USB, and makes your system sounds like it just had a major upgrade.

Offering true 24-bit processing, the D3 works with both Mac and PC, and it’s plug and play so no install is necessary or required. We use a pretty wide variety of headphones to test, and compare against other DACs after some burn-in time. For instance, the D3 is just a bit smaller and sleeker (but significantly less expensive) than the M2Tech, but sounds a bit harsher on FLAC opera and jazz tracks. It might seem unfair to set it against the non-portable, separately-powered NAD D 1050, but the D3 held up well in fact, with only a few listeners able to tell the difference on all but the highest-quality tracks, offering sharper notes on electronic, and a flatter sound on acoustic music. For your average Spotify or Pandora user, you might not tell the difference on a $100 set of headphones or speakers, but on any system above $250 or so, especially on demanding vocal tracks or those with distinct bass/treble overlays, you’ll see a major difference.

We liked the look, feel, size, and aluminum body of the Audioengine D3. Way smaller than the previously-reviewed D1, it can’t compete on depth or a broad soundstage but acquits itself nicely considering the size. Pair with other Audioengine gear- like the A2 speakers we checked out last year or their fantastic sibling A2+ model. The D3 is cute and capable, and available now online and in stores for under $200.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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