Lovers of high end audio that carry around a laptop probably won’t get the quality they crave from the regular output on their laptop, and that’s where Denon is providing a solution.
The latest attempt by Denon to make headphone sound better comes, naturally, in the form of a headphone amp, though it’s the first we’ve seen that does what it can to make computers sound better.
While the traditional headphone amp is all about bringing a coaxial or optical source to a pair of headphones, the Denon DA-300 is a little more, throwing in the ability to work as a USB sound card for either a Mac or a Windows PC, making a single computer one of its input sources.
Now since the DA-300 is a USB sound card, you’d think you would simply need to plug it in and away you go, but depending on the operating system you use, it’s not quite that easy.
If you’re a Windows user, there’s a driver and a settings change, to make sure that Windows only tries to communicate with the speaker at a specific frequency, because you could use your regular headphone jack for everything else, but when the DA-300 is plugged in, it’s high-end sound all the way.
Mac users don’t really need the extra driver, and Apple’s operating system should take care of most of the issues for you, except for that you’ll need to search for “Audio MIDI Setup” in your Finder and change the format to play at 192000.0Hz, otherwise there’ll be no sound for you.
However, once either of these are setup, you can more or less play anything and let the sound flow.
A quick hands-on with the amplifier and a pair of Denon Music Maniac D7100 headphones and we already feel spoiled, with a dedicated 6.25mm jack made for the high quality headphones, and a volume knob showing on an OLED screen not that we can change the volume from 1 to 15, but rather from -95dB all the way to 0dB.
And if you need to hit that magic zero decibel marker, consider seeing a doctor about your hearing, and then possibly an audiologist to get something to improve it considerably.
Controlling the amplifier is very easy, and Denon have made this more or less a one-button affair, with only a power button and an input button, allowing you to easily select and see on screen what mode you’re in. You can choose from USB, coax, and either of the two optical inputs, and that’s pretty much it.
But it doesn’t need to be much more than this, and already from a design and feel point of view, it’s better built than some of the headphone amps we’ve checked out prior to this, with more room to move in the input space.
Basically, you could leave this on a desk in your study and not just connect it up to your HiFi, but also your computer, making sure to get the best sound through the music on your computer or stereo when you’re working away.
Pricing for Denon’s DA-300 hasn’t been announced yet, but given that it’s been built for big and lovely headphones, don’t expect it to be cheap, because from our first play through, it mostly certainly would never be called “cheap” by anyone.
“Audio awesome-sauce” maybe, but never cheap.