Believe it or not, there are a few people left who want to use their phone with a pair of wired headphones. I'm one of them. That means a dongle, and because my favorite headphones need a little bit more power than a phone can provide, I need one with a good Amp as well as a DAC inside. I have tried more than a few ( I have an unhealthy addiction to all things headphones) and the one I carry is the HELM Audio Bolt, which happens to be on sale for Cyber Monday at 33% off.
The Bolt is auto-sensing when it comes to your headphone impedance and delivers 1 volt for headphones of 150 ohms or less and 2 volts for headphones over 150 ohms. That means it's not going to blow out your headphones that can't handle a ton of power but it will ramp up to deliver it to a pair that needs it.
The Bolt won't drive certain headphones very well, but for the vast majority of in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear premium headphones it's just right. In fact, you don't need a pair of $2,000 headphones to notice the difference — a pair like the $126 Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro 250 ohm cans sound awesome through the Bolt.
The sound of savings
The Bolt does more than let you use big over-ear headphones with any device. It's cool that you can plug it into anything with a USB port — phone, tablet, PC, laptop, Chromebook, whatever — but it's even cooler that it makes your music sound incredible.
It houses an ESS Sabre DAC, is THX-AAA and MQA certified, and can support files up to a 384Khz bitrate. This is paired with an amplifier that doesn't introduce any discernable noise but is still powerful enough to drive most headphones. If you know what that means cool. If not, it means you can play just about any uncompressed audio file or stream and it will sound great. Best of all is that it doesn't have much effect on battery life — my phone lasts as long with it as it does without it. I love this thing and when I reviewed it I gave it 4.5 stars. Seven months of using it later, I still give it 4.5 stars.
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