If you work with audio, or you’re just into amazing sound from your music, movies and games, you know that some digital formats and devices can let you down. While there are new music services popping up like Tidal that brag about being able to deliver music in the highest fidelity possible, sometimes how YOU listen to it can mean you’re not getting the best quality by the time it gets into your ears. Enter THX Onyx.
THX Onyx review
THX Onyx is a compact, portable device designed to enhance the sound between your source device and wired headphones or wired speakers, and I’d like to thank THX for sponsoring this post. Their sponsorship helps me keep the blog and YouTube channel running. THX has not told me what I have to say or what I can’t say, so you can consider these thoughts my own. These devices are also known as DACs or Digital to Analogue Converters. It’s made to boost audio not just from a volume perspective but to provide a better listening experience, more power and overall improvements to audio, that can more accurately replicate high resolution audio formats.
Unlike some other DACs, THX Onyx also has microphone support, so you can take calls, or use your gaming headset to communicate with other players.
Somewhat surprisingly, the THX Onyx is the company’s first consumer product… mainly because they’ve existed in the pro and cinema worlds until now…
THX Onyx: What you get
The Onyx is a 8-inch cord with a cable and a harder plastic dongle end. At one end of the Onyx, there’s a USB-C plug, and at the other is a 3.5mm or aux jack. There’s also a regular USB adapter included in the box. This is a small, slim, very portable DAC. It’s got a magnetic pad on the back of the device where the end of the cable can clip to keep headphone cords from getting tangled, or to transport it easier.
Installing and using THX Onyx
To use the Onyx, plug the USB end into a computer, or add an adapter (like a lightning adapter for iPhones) to connect it to your phone. Then just hit play on your audio. There’s no need to download software or apps, no buttons to press; it just works seamlessly.
Why do I need THX Onyx?
The truth about audio is that when we convert it from analogue to digital so we can hear it on our phones and computers, we lose some of the smoothness. Since digital data is just simple ones and zeroes, audio loses some of the subtleties and can be, albeit subtlely, a bit more jagged. My crude graphic shows you what I’m talking about (I’ll draw this, but similar to this one: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-digital-analog-audio-eilbron-khoshabeh/ )
To simplify, Onyx is smoothing out those digital steps, allowing you to hear music as if you were listening to an original recording instead of a digital copy.
This decoding process makes it easier, for instance to hear individual instruments or voices. Onyx uses what’s called “THX AAATM technology”, to ensure the highest fidelity mobile listening experience when you’re using headphones for your music, games, and movies. The triple-A-TM technology stands for Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA) and it’s a lot of letters that essentially means better clarity, smoothness, and no interference. You can read up on this technology here.
Do you need a DAC?
There might be a few ways you’d know if you need a DAC; If your audio always sounds kind of muddy or scratchy, or it sounds kind of all compressed together, you might want to entertain a DAC. If your laptop, smartphone or device has noticeable noise or distortion you might what to try using a DAC. Also, if you’re looking to listen to MQA-calibre recordings, but your devices are otherwise not able to operate at a higher bit rate, you might want to give some thought to a DAC. Finally if you’re getting hissing, distortion, noise or blips, a DAC could help clean things up for you.
What will THX Onyx work with?
THX Onyx is designed to work with all devices including Windows computers, Apple Mac laptops and mobile phones including iOS (adapter not included) and Android.
It can also decode ultra high quality MQA or Master Quality Authenticated tracks, which are essentially audio files that come straight from the studio without being muddied up through various streaming services. Tidal currently has a huge array of these tracks as part of its higher tier music subscription service.
Testing out THX Onyx
I tested the Onyx out with a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PX7 wired headphones and my Apple MacBook Pro. I can definitely confirm a pretty great sound improvement when I used the THX Onyx. It absolutely boosts the overall volume, but it also seems to expand the sound. Almost as if you took a deck of cards and puffed them up, if that makes sense; they layers of sound, vocals and instruments seem to expand and become fuller and richer. It’s a pretty cool effect.
You can also plug a microphone into the onyx using the 3.5 mm auxiliary jack. Potentially worth noting is 30 mic input will not work correctly if you’re using it with an Apple lightning adapter, meaning you can’t use it when you’re making or receiving phone calls.
What do the lights mean?
On the Onyx device there are three LED lights, and these will change colour based on the different level of audio coming in. Blue denotes standard quality audio, Yellow shows High Resolution, red is for DSD or Direct Stream Digital, while pink is for MQA or Master Quality Authenticated tracks, the highest fidelity audio possible.
Overall, if you’re looking for a way to get better quality audio, THX Onyx is the way to go. It sells for about $269CAD/$199USD and you can get it from Amazon.
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