THX Onyx, a USB DAC/Amp Based on THX's AAA Amp Tech

Wayde Robson

Wayde Robson

Audioholics Anchorman
THX made its first foray into actually making consumer electronics of its own with Onyx, a portable USB DAC/Amp. Its first release is not surprisingly based on its own AAA amplifier technology that it's been licensing to other companies. It's a surprisingly neutral-sounding and spacious DAC/Amp for something not much bigger than a USB thumb drive. It also features MQA rendering through its ESS Saber DAC, making it possibly the most affordable MQA DAC available. Retailing at only $200, with specs designed to top the most popular competition for $100-less than the reigning kind of its product category, THX seems to have a winner on its hands.

But the really interesting part of this release is that THX has finally done it, putting its name on its own products. This is something we may have been expecting since the brand was purchased by Razer back in 2016. I have to wonder though, since THX is getting into manufacturing equipment, will that change how people view its certification standards?

Full Review:

THX Launches Onyx, Portable MQA-DAC/AAA-Headphone Amp
THX-Onyx-Forums.jpg
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Very nice review, Wayde. Audio Science Review recently did measurements of these, and that nicely compliments your review which does more to explain their features and usability to regular users. These really look like the portable headphone amp/DAC to have right now.
 
J

Jm Want

Audiophyte
An enjoyable and informative read. Sounds like a very capable usb dac-amp,I wish it had removable connector cables. Now torn between this and Lotoo paw S1
 
N

Northern74

Audiophyte
Seems to be a well designed device. I don't think it's competitively priced though. There are plenty of dongles with similar performance for half the price. Perhaps if they left out the MQA technology they could have dropped the price.
 
cel4145

cel4145

Audioholic
The review states,

"I think we can all agree that the best way to decide if MQA works for you is to try it."

I don't think we can all agree on that.

Why is Audioholics promoting MQA?

There's evidence that MQA would likely be indistinguishable from lossless in a properly volume level double blind test. And certainly in a sighted test, perceptual biases would come into play.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
I'd have to agree calling this a review, i.e. without measurements, doesn't do Audioholics much good overall...let alone the mqa crap or the good word for Fraudioquest.

Ps let alone that Hans H idiot...
 
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Robert Stepan

Robert Stepan

Audiophyte
I'm really disappointed to see Audioholics falling for the MQA BS.
MQA has been shown rather definitively to be technically incoherent and essentially a fraud. See:
I published music on Tidal to test MQA - MQA Review

Conclusion:
  1. MQA is NOT lossless
  2. MQA adds unwanted noise and distortion
  3. MQA is not usually sourced from a high-sample rate master
  4. MQA ‘authentication’ does not authenticate/guarantee anything (NOTE: the blue light is nonsense)
That's from Mark Waldrep's [ AKA Dr AIX] summary of the video, he's written about MQA quite a bit. See MQA: Sonic Degradation and Huge Losses
 
Wayde Robson

Wayde Robson

Audioholics Anchorman
Thanks for this link, I did not know that about the ESS 9281Pro chip. I like to think I didn't give any absolutes on MQA itself. While I found the controversy fascinating, diving into it went beyond the scope of the review, and I just didn't have time to get into both sides. That's why I quoted Beekhuyzen. Knowing he'd be controversial, I referred to him as an MQA "booster", he was obviously a true believer and only represented one side.

I'd be glad to do a follow-up on MQA. It looks like MQA-enabled dongles are growing with that ESS microcontroller, and I do like to keep up on portable sound. But I'd need to learn more about Archimago's perspective. His views on MQA seem to be shared by other well-known figures in audio that I quite respect, like the owner of Schiit. I found an interview with him on the con-side of MQA and I would have liked to have found a quotable with facts but wasn't able to in time for this review.

In his article Archimago says: "Onyx uses to provide a turnkey MQA data lock and filtering mechanism which is what they mean by "rendering".

I need to learn more about this, perhaps for a follow-up on MQA and the Codec article I did in 2019, but I didn't intend to give any sort of full-throated support for MQA itself. But for Onyx, I just see it as an option, it doesn't seem to hold it back or force the cost up beyond anything reasonable (it's actually $100 less than competing product). But it's interesting that the ESS DAC chip might be using MQA to cover-up other inadequacies.

Thanks again. There's no gauntlet on my side, it makes me want to learn more about it.
 
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Y

yisami5970

Audiophyte
I just made an account just to say I am very disappointed about Audioholics. I am following the YT channel for a while now and I really respected how they debunk snakeoil nonsense. Only to find out they promote MQA?!? Wtf! Very disappointing. What happened? I believe this article should be removed because AH should know better. Wow. Just... Wow.

:(
 
J

Jm Want

Audiophyte
Saw the post about it on HiFiGo Facebook page. I'm amazed to know it got the same thx amp that has been used in the $700 FiiO M11 Pro. That dap costs like $700.
 

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