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Qualcomm made a USB-C DAC to show off its hi-fi audio tech

But you won't buy it from them.
Cherlynn Low, @cherlynnlow
December 7, 2017
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Cherlynn Low / Engadget

If you're familiar with the name Qualcomm at all, you may know them best as the maker of Snapdragon processors that power many, if not most, of the market's leading smartphones. But Qualcomm doesn't just make CPUs and modems, and it can now add dedicated Hi-Fi DACs (or digital-to-analog converters) to its list of products. At its Tech Summit today, the company announced its first dedicated Hi-Fi audio DAC, which has a very memorable name -- AQT1000.

Of course, per Qualcomm's usual way of doing business, the company isn't selling these devices directly to consumers, but the DAC will be available to headphone makers "for 2018 products." And to be clear, Qualcomm already makes DACs and audio codecs, but this is its first USB-C Hi-Fi DAC.

The AQT1000 looks to be a compact size for what it is. Typical headphone DACs tend to be bulky, and while the Apogee Groove (released in 2015) was relatively small for the category, it is expensive and not USB-C compatible (yet).

While the Groove can stream music at 24bit quality, the AQT1000 can do so at 32bit, allowing for richer, fuller sound. Qualcomm's external DAC also has a dynamic range of 123 decibels and comes with native DSD (direct stream digital).

Although this isn't really a consumer product yet, it looks like a decent accessory out of Qualcomm's Aqstic Hi-Fi arm, and could help audio manufacturers offer USB-C to analog audio jack dongles more easily.

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