Cyber Monday is the right time to buy the HELM Audio Bolt - my favorite smartphone DAC/Amp combo

HELM Audio Bolt
(Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand)

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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) sound awesome through the Bolt.

The sound of savings

$119.99 (opens in new tab)

HELM Audio Bolt DAC/AMP: $119.99 $79.99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

If you're like me you care more about your headphones than the phone they are plugged into. That means you want something that makes them sound as good as they can, and you need the HELM Bolt.

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.

Take a look at our guides to the best Cyber Monday phone deals and best Cyber Monday smartwatch deals so you're totally prepped when it's time to buy.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.