Okay, one two machines and more, i think, for a lot of gaming builds. There is a big focus on graphics, quality and rightfully so, but one often overlooked area of importance to the gaming experience is audio quality and most of us just use our motherboards built in audio codec. However, a great audio solution is as important to the gaming experience as a good graphics card. There are some decent motherboard solutions out there, but even the good ones, they’ll be outclassed by a dedicated standalone amp. So what i wanted to do today was start exploring some solutions. We’Ll start out, looking at the chat hell and in some future content. We’Ll look at a different set of options. Um ideal solution would be a separate dac and headphone amp, but that solution results in more cables, more space taken up and typically that’s, going to be more of an upfront cost as well. So an all in one unit, like this guy here, is an elegant compromise that i think most discerning, gamers and music lovers will be very happy with. Is a california based company that’s been around for about 10 years, they specialize in high quality audio at very reasonable prices. Now the good folks they’re sent by a review unit of this hell, combo dac and headphone amp, so a big thanks to them for making this review possible. So let’s dive right in so this guy. Here the hell is shit’s gaming oriented unit and it features an akm ak, 4490 digital analog, converter or dac.

For short, the combined headphone amp stage gets you a thousand milliwatts at 32 ohms which, by my calculation, is sufficient for even a difficult to drive set of planar magnetics like the high end hifiman ag6. That being said, i think that kind of pairing would be a bit asymmetric. I would expect most users interested in this unit to be pairing with a high end gaming headset or a set of headphones in the one to three hundred dollar range and the hell definitely has you covered in the power department. So this unit has two usb ports. One to receive the digital signal out of your computer, your phone or whatever compatible upstream device you want to use and the other usb port is to power the unit uh. The recommendation is to use the included wall wart, but since i measured the unit to draw around 2.1 or 2.2 watts, even with a more power hungry set of headphones in general, you should be able to power it off of your motherboard’s usb. Now that really depends on how much power your motherboard can supply, but even older boards will give you two and a half watts, but again the official recommendation is plug it in to the wall directly through this. At the back, there are two three and a half millimeter jacks one is for an analog in and that just allows you to use the unit’s headphone amp stage. The other is the analog out.

If you just want to use the unit’s dac and send to a downstream amp, either to speakers or a different headphone amp, if you have one, the front panel features a quarter inch headphone jack for audio out this adapter to a three and a half millimeter is Included right so pretty convenient there, and also a three and a half millimeter mic in now, don’t try your typical trrs connector directly. There is a dongle included that will split that signal into a mic and headphone, but i found this connection to be a little iffy with that dongle, so preferably you’re using a dedicated connection for the mic, a trs and a trs for the uh for the headphone. This small knob here this will control your mic level and we’ll get to the mic in in a second, the first toggle switch controls the audio source between the digital source from usb or the analog in at the back. This second switch controls the amount of gain. If you’re using iems, efficient or sensitive headphones, you might want to select that low gain and then use higher gain for more power hungry headphones, such as a set of planar magnetics. The way i think most users will set up this unit is using all of its combo goodness and just let the unit process a digital audio source and also amplify a set of headphones. So i tested this unit in configuration with three sets of downstream devices.

The first was a gaming headset. I just used my sennheiser pc37x. The second was a set of easier to drive headphones in the sennheiser hd 598, and the last was a set of harder to drive planar magnetics in the hifiman he4xx, which is a fantastic set of headphones at a very reasonable price. Now, invariably, all of these devices benefited from having this gain switch set on high. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the planar magnetics absolutely needed it to sound good, but all three of these sounded much better with the gain on high. I played through a variety of titles, but really enjoyed the sound most from red dead 2, where the dialogue sound effects and background music really melded together beautifully through the hell. The sound of that cattleman revolver was sharp and acute and arthur morgan’s low growl was entertaining in a new way. I hadn’t experienced before the music was lurid and enchanting and with the he 4xx, the whole experience was completely immersive. Certainly, a cinematic title like this benefits heavily from good audio in a first person shooter, the clarity from having the audio come through. The hell does mean little things like footsteps become a little more prominent though it’s not like you can’t hear these things, while directly plugged into your desktop’s audio either. If i could just describe it one way, the sound has a little bit more punch and weight. So you’re more directionally, aware of them, where i think this setup is at the very best, though, is if you love music, particularly from high quality digital sources.

I sampled my own account piano trio’s sentimental reasons and the amount of clarity from the hell paired with the he4 excess was simply breathtaking. Now this was especially apparent in the sound of the wire brushes on the cymbals, and i thoroughly enjoyed that delicate metallic quality. Listening to nat king coles, when i fall in love on dsd through the hell, one can really feel the vibrato in his voice and the vocal presence is immediate. Prominent and glassy on the live version of leyla. The sound of clapton’s triple o 28 martin guitar was lucid that flatter sound quality imposed by that acoustic. Guitarist pickup was faithfully reproduced by the helm so across a wide spectrum of styles. The unit performs well, if i could summarize the output sound quality of the hell. It’S neutral, it’s, clear and it’s true, it doesn’t tend to color the sound either way and that decision is left to the last element in your signal chain. Your headphones, but output, isn’t. All that this guy does, in fact it is a high quality mic input as well and let’s just test that on a gaming headset versus plugging directly into your computer, so here i’m recording through the motherboard’s onboard codec directly this one isn’t asus, x570 itx. A very good audio codec on this motherboard and this required a plus 30 db mic boost in windows to hit proper recording levels. This is a sound test, one two, three one, two three and now this is the hell i’ve equalized, the my gain on the hill.

In fact, it could go a lot higher it’s, only a 75 percent right now, but that would most definitely result in clipped audio. This is the sound test, one two three with the hell one, two three one, two three one, two three, so i think in general, recording through the hell results in a more full sound, whereas the motherboard directly results in more flatter sound profile. Definitely at least to my ears, the hell sounds a little bit more pleasing. Now i can’t guarantee that your teammates or co workers on zoom will take notice of your improved, sound quality, but hey at least you know you sound good and sometimes that’s. All that matters right. Another plus is that this unit is also portable. If you have a way to power it, you can plug your phone or your laptop into it when you’re on the go. So depending on your choice of device, you might need a different cable that will terminate in a mini usb end to connect to the hell. So that most likely will be a lightning cable or a usb c end now these are all made in us by which is awesome, and the build quality for this unit is not at all reflective of the company’s name. It has a very satisfying, heft and sturdiness about it. The small red led can be entertaining, but not intrusive, there’s no way to disable it, but it is helpful to know that your unit is on the top and the front has a luxurious powder coat the side and the bottom is painted a glossy red.

I can’t find many flaws with this unit, but if i could change one thing, that would be updating it to take a usb c connection for the input and i think that will be a bit more flexible, especially for connecting it to mobile devices. Many more will already have a usb c to c or lightning to usb c cable. At the end of the day, though, i really enjoy this unit. The sound is superb, and even if you’re just a part time audio file, it really caps off a high end. Gaming experience, in fact, i think this is so good that for most users, this a set of planar magnetics and a separate mic is as good as you’ll ever need for your gaming, audio setup and it’ll scale. Well too, if you start out with a gaming, headset it’ll improve that and when you upgrade you only get more out of it and it’s easy enough to use on your gaming, pc, move it to your gaming laptop and even to your phone. If you want so, i will be leaving some product links down for your reference.