Meridian Explorer combines headphone amp and portable DAC with $299 price tag

Feel that? If you're an audio purist, the sensation of your wallet tingling is probably a familiar experience. This time, you have Meridian to thank, which is aiming to help you get the most from your nice headphones. The company just debuted the Explorer: a portable, USB-powered DAC and headphone amplifier that's priced at $299. Like all external DACs, the unit promises better sound quality than typical onboard solutions can deliver, and as a high-end touch, the Explorer offers asynchronous USB audio for greater timing precision and reduced jitter. Alongside the 3.5mm amplified headphone output, you'll also find another 3.5mm jack that supports both analog and mini Toslink connections. Each Explorer is built in the UK and measures approximately 4.0 x 1.25 x 0.7 inches. Perhaps most importantly, though, its design doesn't reek of something that was cobbled together in the garage.