If you’re an audiophile with a penchant for portable audio, there are a few things you need to have. While a good pair of headphones is obviously the most important part of that setup, you’ll also need a good source device and digital-to-analogue conversion in the middle. If you opt for the latter, it’s likely because you’re using your smartphone or computer as an audio source device. Smartphones and computers these days come with enough storage, format support and more, but the DAC is often a pain point between listeners and good sound.
Today we’re reviewing a product that will help you eliminate that pain point. The Opus #11 USB DAC sits between your source device and headphones, taking care of digital-to-analogue signal conversion. It’s both the simplest and most important part of the audio process, and a good DAC can make all the difference in producing a good enough output. How does the Opus #11 perform? We review to find out.
Look and feel
The Opus #11 is design to be compact and easy to take with you wherever you go. It’s about the size of a credit card, although it’s a bit thicker than your typical credit card. There are no buttons on the device; it’s designed as a single metal block. The bottom has ports for charging through DC5V, the micro-USB port and the headphone jack. Plugging in headphones serves as the power button for the device; it automatically switches on when you do so.
To connect to a source device, you need to plug in a cable to the micro-USB port, with the other end of the cable plugging either into a phone or a PC. To do that, the Opus #11 comes with two cables: a micro-USB to micro-USB, and a micro-USB to USB Type-A. Note that if you have a phone with a USB-Type C port or an Apple iPhone, you’ll need a special cable to create the bridge. Charging the device is also through the micro-USB port. When I tried charging it through a laptop, it didn’t work. I needed to use a power adapter to charge the #11.
The amplifier in the device can drive headphones with an impedance range of 16-100 Ohms, and the device has a 1,400mAh battery that is slated to run for eight hours on a full charge. On the whole, using the Opus #11 is easy enough, with it seamlessly acting as an intermediary between your device and headphones. ALSO READ: Cayin N3 Digital Audio Player Review: Audiophiles, listen up
Setting up the Opus #11 is as easy as charging the device, and plugging in the right cables and devices. I used the Opus #11 with a Windows-powered Lenovo laptop, and Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones. Focus tracks for the review were Bonobo’s Days To Come, and an operatic version of Sting’s Walking On The Moon.
I started out with direct output to the Momentum headphones using the laptop’s native DAC and 3.5mm socket, and sound was naturally weak, soft and tinny, as would be expected from the basic audio hardware in a laptop. Switching to the Opus #11 DAC bypasses the native DAC and sends the audio signal digitally out of the laptop. Plugging in the Opus #11 and turning it on by connecting headphones automatically installs the firmware on the computer. Similarly, with the right cables and music app, plugging in the DAC to a smartphone will automatically route audio digitally through the port.
The sound is immediately cleaner, more defined and vastly more detailed. Instrument separation sees a noticeable improvement, as does your ability to hear the minute details. While the improvement in sonic capabilities isn’t quite as distinct as you would expect on high-end equipment, it’s certainly noticeable. It’s particularly distinct on some of the MP3 files I tried, and I heard more detail in pretty much everything I listened to. With Days To Come, the lighter elements in the track are particularly clean and noticeable.
Switching to the M4A version of Walking On The Moon, the level of detail is astounding for a device priced at Rs 15,999. From the timbre in the lows to the realistic crashing of the cymbals in the highs, everything sounds real, present and distinct. The stereo separation is fantastic as well, giving you a true, clean and smooth representation of the direction of the sound as well. On the whole, the Opus #11 adds detail, definition and stereo separation across the frequency range, providing sound that is a step above what you’d typically expect from a standard setup. It does all of this relatively affordably for an aftermarket DAC as well.
The Opus #11 is a great first step into the world of high-resolution audio and audiophile equipment, thanks to its Rs 15,999 price tag and small shape. The ease of use helps as well, and the ability to use it either on-the-go or at home with a computer make it superior when it comes to utility. The sound is a significant step up when it comes to detail, and it’s possible to completely transform your listening experience by just adding this one device in the middle. DON’T MISS: Portable audio has changed the way we listen to music: Eric Denise, Sennheiser
The Opus #11 works best with other mid-range equipment, and you’ll need high-resolution audio files and good headphones to make the best of the DAC. It’s available now through Headphonezone.in and Amazon India.