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Audioengine’s DAC3 Dongle DAC Can Drive Headphones and Powered Loudspeakers

The Audioengine DAC3 joins the growing ranks of affordable Dongle DACs for only $149.

Audioengine DAC3 Dongle DAC connected between smartphone and headphones

Audioengine have announced a new Dongle DAC for 2022 with a rather attractive price tag. The Audioengine DAC3 will retail for $149.00 USD and is available now on their website.

Dongle DACs are all the rage right now, especially with the price of high-end DAPs breaking through the $3,000 USD price barrier. Very few consumers are willing to spend that amount of money on a DAP, but there are a few dozen options below $300 USD that might make sense for consumers who want a DAC/headphone amplifier that can be connected to their smart phone, tablet, or laptop and has the ability to drive either a pair of headphones or powered desktop loudspeakers.

Audioengine has a wide range of powered and wireless loudspeakers that can be connected to the DAC3 and the specifications suggest that it might be capable of driving a reasonable range of headphones.

Audioengine DAC3 Dongle DAC in-hand
Audioengine DAC3

DAC3 Internal Converter

The heart of the Audioengine DAC3 is the ES9281A PRO DAC, which is well-regarded for its low noise and high fidelity. Due to the high signal-to-noise specs of the ES9281A PRO and the added benefit of double redundancy power source conversion and filtering, the DAC3 presents impressive low noise and low distortion characteristics.

The DAC3 can decode up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128. The Dongle DAC also supports MQA and will complete the final unfold of any MQA file.

Audioengine DAC3 Dongle DAC Features

DAC3 Headphone Amplifier

The Audioengine DAC3 contains a high-performance headphone amplifier based on the LME49726 low-noise opamp. This amp is able to provide low-impedance, high-fidelity audio and a 2-volt output which easily drives a wide range of headphones.

Until we actually try the DAC3 Dongle DAC with some less sensitive headphones from Audeze, Beyerdynamic, and Kennerton, we will not be able to verify the veracity of that claim.

The DAC3’s relay-controlled stereo output can also be connected to any system with an analog audio input, such as Audioengine powered speakers.

DAC3 Power

The DAC3 is powered directly from the USB bus and power is passed through two stages of regulation to ensure no USB bus power variations affect the audio quality. This low-noise, low-ripple power supply is located on a separate circuit board for extra isolation and thermal management.

Audioengine DAC3 Dongle DAC

DAC3 Volume Control

Volume for headphones and line-out is controlled directly from the DAC3 side panel.

Product Specifications

  • DAC type: USB
  • D/A converter: ESS ES9281A PRO
  • USB transfer mode: Asynchronous dual clock
  • USB controller: TI1020B
  • USB device class: Type 1.1 or above
  • Input bit depth: 32 bit
  • Input sample rate: 48.1kHz-96kHz native playback and 188.2kHz & 192kHz re-sampled to 96kHz
  • Output: Analog 3.5mm mini-jack stereo
  • Full-scale output level: 2.0V RMS
  • Output impedance: 2 ohms
  • Recommended headphone impedance range: 12 ohms to 10K ohms
  • Headphone amplifier: LME49726
  • Frequency response:10Hz-25KHz (+/- 0.5dB)
  • SNR: >116dB
  • THD+N: (1kHz FS 96kS/s) <0.002%
  • Crosstalk: -110dB
  • Power requirement: USB 5V DC, 200mA
  • USB power filtering: 2-stage redundant regulation
  • Product dimensions: 1.9” (48mm) ×0.6” (15mm) ×0.375″ (10MM) 
  • Shipping weight: 1.0lbs (0.5kg)

Where to buy: $149 at | Crutchfield | Amazon

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Billy Martin

    December 3, 2022 at 5:07 pm

    I purchased the D1 DAC (24-bit) a few years ago and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I am an engineer and am absolutely amazed at what the engineering team was able to accomplish at Audio Engine with such a low retail price and a small form factor. I have designed some audio, using DAC or ADCs, and the number of factors that have to be considered literally fill a book. It is by advanced thinking and imagination that these folks made such a marvelous device. I just for fun create adapters to every sound source I can think of then measure such things as THD, dynamic range, etc. They ALWAYS improve leaving the D1 DAC. My hats off to the team at Audio Engine, well done. Thank you for your passion.

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