Audio Nerdery

02023-01-02 | Music, Sound, Technology | 13 comments

Early December, while I was in Lisbon, I noticed write-ups about a new digital-analog-converter from Astell & Kern, called the HC3 – link. It uses the ES9219MQ chip from ESS, is very small, and can be plugged into laptop with USB-C. The HC3 also comes with an adapter for the iPhone’s Lightning port. Price is around $200 and available sometime soon, in February I think. While looking into this DAC I came across this one, the Go-Link, made by an English company called ifi-Audio.

The chip in the Go-Link is the same one that powers the HC3. The Go-Link comes with a USB-C plug plus a Lightning adapter for the iPhone and an adapter for a USB-2 port, for computers that don’t have USB-C. I found the Go-Link at BH-Photo (link). The price is $59. The A&K looks cooler, perhaps, but is it nearly four times cooler? Plus, the Go-Link is available now. I pre-ordered in December and it arrived this morning.

I immediately plugged the Go-Link into my phone and used my Euclids to listen to a variety of lossless files (16/44.1 downloaded files on Apple Music, 24/96 files on Dropbox) and, while direct comparison is not possible, my impression was that the music felt more alive, more present, more dimensional. I really think this is the tool we were waiting for to be able to listen to high quality audio while on the move, without breaking the bank. Only a year ago, listening to this level of quality meant having a DAP (digital audio player), which costs at least $500 and can go up to $3,000 and more. And it’s one more thing to carry around. Now that Apple Music has caught up to Tidal and one can download hi-res files and play them back on the phone, or if one uses Dropbox in conjunction with a player-app like CloudBeats, the last barrier was how to get digital sound from the phone to your headphones. Bluetooth is practical, and I use it myself, but doesn’t sound very good. There were DACs, of course, but they weren’t tiny and they weren’t cheap. This Go-Link is the missing link, perhaps. I am psyched.

13 Comments

  1. Steve

    That ES9219 is a pretty nice chip. Not sure what’s up with the Astell & Kern price point. ESS looks like their engineering team is in B.C. Canada. Fab is probably in Taiwan (like most of the rest of the non-Intel world) … price point of this chip is < $10/each. I may get one of those Go-Link … looks like a nice DAC.

    Reply
    • ottmar

      I was shocked at how much better this sounded. :-)

      Reply
  2. Steve

    > Bluetooth is practical, and I use it myself, but doesn’t sound very good.

    And Apple has really pee’d in their Cheerios on their Bluetooth implementation.

    viz., Apple STILL doesn’t support APTx or LDAC. So, on the Apple platform for HD audio, Bluetooth is a non-option.

    Reply
    • ottmar

      Agreed. I appreciate learning a new phrase. :-)

      Reply
  3. Ian Findlay

    Thanks for sharing – I just ordered one

    Reply
  4. Ali

    I recently switched from Audioquest Dragonfly Red to the MoonDrop MoonRiver2. The Moonriver2 uses 2 Cirrus Logic DAC chips in its implementation, and it sounds really great. It can even power full sized over-ear headphones, decode just about anything out there, and it even has a balanced output jack.

    Not quite up to the quality of the Chord Mojo, but since it is a simple dongle, it is a super clean solution.

    By the way, Ottmar, you can get a usb-c to lighting cable and make your chain simpler, for the MoonRiver 2, which is what I use. So, one 6″ usc-c to lightining cable from the Moonriver2 to my iPhone.

    Reply
  5. Stephen Duros

    This is very cool!! Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Ali

      Hi Stephen – I haven’t seen new music from you for a while? Are you not actively releasing music anymore?

      Reply
      • ottmar

        Ali, have you checked out Stephen’s page on Bandcamp? He releases music there all the time. Take a look!

        Reply
        • Ali

          Thank you, Ottmar. I will do that today!

          Reply
  6. Steve

    Got my Go-Link yesterday (20230105). Really nice sound. Thanks for the advice: that’s a keeper!

    Reply
    • ottmar

      I am so glad. I am really impressed with the sound. Game changer, I find.

      Reply
  7. Steve Lea

    Ottmar and all posters here-thank you for the information on the Go-link. I ordered the last one on Amazon and it arrived today, 3 days earlier than scheduled. Anxious to try it so, even with iPhone and beats 3 a definite improvement and will try with my Shure SE846 IEMs. For Bluetooth earbuds I have been enjoying the new STATUS Between Pro- 3 drivers and although a bit odd looking, they sound better than most Bluetooth

    Reply

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