Thanks to a partnership between high-resolution music streaming service Qobuz and audio equipment manufacturer THX Ltd., anyone who buys a THX Onyx portable DAC / headphone amplifiercan get a three-month subscription to Qobuz for free.
The THX Onyx is based on THX’s AAA audio technology (the acronym stands for Achromatic Audio Amplifier), which promises to amplify an audio signal without any coloration. With the Onyx, THX combines the amplifier with a Codec ESS ES9281PRO (compressor / decompressor) which has at its heart an ESS SABER digital-to-analog converter.
TechHive contributor Theo Nicolakis recently reviewed Monoprice’s Monolith headphone amp with THX AAA technology, and although this device cannot be directly compared to the Onyx, as it had a DAC and factor of different shape, he was greatly impressed with the performance of the amp. Contributor Scott Wilkinson was also impressed with the THX AAA powered Helm Audio DB12 AAAmp.
The $ 200 THX Onyx is a USB dongle with a USB-C stub cable on one end (a USB-A adapter is included) and a 3.5mm analog jack for your wired headphones on the other. Yes, I said wired headset. Even today’s best Bluetooth 5.0 technology falls short of what you can get with a cable. Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec, for example, is limited to a maximum sample rate of 48 kHz.
The DAC / headphone amplifier can be used with any smartphone, computer or mobile digital audio player that can connect to the Internet. But if you want to use it with an iOS device, you’ll need to provide your own Lightning adapter.
I reviewed Qobuz when the service became available in the US market in late 2019 and was immediately impressed with what I heard. Three service plans are offered on two levels, but they all provide access to more than 70 million lossless tracks (encoded via FLAC) in CD quality or in Hi-Res Audio (certified by the Japanese Audio Society). You get up to 24-bit resolution and sample rates up to 192kHz, along with original editorial content.
THX and Qobuz are planning to host a live event to offer high-resolution audio tips, tips and details on Qobuz’s Facebook page. Qobuz vice president David Solomon and THX sound engineer Andrew Mason will be the speakers. The event is scheduled for Thursday, October 14 at 4 p.m. EST.
After your three month trial, you can pay $ 129.99 for a one year Qobuz Studio Premier subscription, $ 12.99 per month for a month subscription (which comes to $ 158.88 per year), or $ 179.99 per year for Studio Sublime Level which entitles you to 10% discounts on the purchase of downloadable high resolution audio.