Dense Launches Kickstarter Campaign for Adapt Compact USB-C Audio DAC

October 29 2018, 00:55
Another week and more audio products are pitched on crowdfunding platforms. Some products have new or clearly differentiated arguments - sometimes so new or different that it's hard to believe! - while others are simply well-designed or products that have to rely on better quality and technical arguments that consumer's will find hard to understand or believe. The latter is the reason why we decided to write about the new Dense Audio USB audio DAC, called Adapt. This is a product designed by an experienced team, who have ventured into creating a new company and launch a product "that could set a new standard and be used for a long time in this fast-changing world." 

The appeal for audioXpress to promote the new USB audio DAC came directly from Brian Han, the company CEO, who explained how Dense was founded earlier in 2018 in San Jose, CA, involving people with a long experience in the electronics industry, and decided that the world needed another USB Audio DAC. At least one that would cover all the basics of what a digital to analog converter should offer for the large majority of consumers who use smartphones and digital audio players as their main mobile audio source. 

As Han explains, the Adapt was made to compete with higher tier audio products, and uses top components currently used in the most expensive hi-fi audio devices, including a 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC supporting up to 384kHz sampling rates and DSD256, as well as a high precision TCXO - temperature compensated crystal oscillator - to provide higher levels of temperature stability and audio clarity. "We are sure there is no audio DAC using a TCXO at our price point. Also, our aluminum housing has been designed as a heat sink to dissipate the heat inside and keep the thermal noise as low as possible."

To launch the company and the brand, Dense decided to go for a Kickstarter campaign and promote the Adapt compact USB DAC with two different price/quality tiers. One is the Adapt Standard, priced at only $45 USD (half the expected retail price) and the other is the Adapt Reference, priced at $75 USD ( an even larger discount, given Dense expects to sell this one with an MSRP of $209 USD). These prices will be available only for the Kickstarter campaign, which ends November 12, 2018. 

Basically, the Adapt Reference audio DAC will be the highest performance, compact form device of its type among those currently in the market, with an ES9218 chip supporting 32-bit up to 384kHz audio playback with DSD256 support and allowing for a line level 2V rms analog audio output, while the Adapt Standard will be a very affordable 24-bit/192kHz converter, still offering DSD64 support, and a less powerful audio output (1,2V, which is still twice the smartphone average), in the same compact form factor and still providing audible improvements to the output of any smartphone. More importantly, both converters are equipped with a USB-C interface - something that is a clear differentiator even against compact DAC's such as the DragonFly series from AudioQuest. The Adapt can connect to iPhones, Android phones, tablets, macOS, or Windows PCs with a single USB Type C connection and is powered only from that same source. The 2V rms output can drive active speakers and any headphones in the market including high impedance professional headphones. Volume is synced with the source device for an easy user interface and to make the hardware simpler and more robust. 

Dense started the Adapt concept design in February 2018, as the acoustic engineers in the team aimed to create a high performing DAC that could be useful today and for a long time, including the support of modern mobile devices using USB-C (Lightning connectors used by Apple's iOS devices are basically an advanced form of USB-C and there are already USB-C to Lightning (C94 Lightning) cables available, with support for up to 18 W charging). Dense expects to include a USB-C to USB-C cable together with USB-C to Lightning, USB type A, and Micro USB converters in the box. On the other side, any 3.5mm audio jack headphones or speakers can be connected to the Adapt. Combining the latest ESS Sabre DACs with a triple filtered power supply and a carefully designed PCB and housing, Dense believes they have an attractive combination for a product that will be both convenient and rewarding.

Now, lets support the Kickstarter campaign and see if they are able to make it. And maybe there is still time for Dense to consider adding support for MQA streaming before they ship. That would certainly help making the Adapt really attractive. 
Visit the Kickstarter campaign website here:
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