THX Onyx Review: An On-The-Go DAC You’ll Never Want To Be Without
As far as audiophiles go, I’d put myself in the category of “informed listener.” I certainly don’t consider myself to be someone who is bogged down by technical specifications, but I understand and appreciate the science behind high-quality audio devices, and applaud those who are continuing to move the industry forward. My ears are the ultimate judge, though, as to whether or not an audio peripheral is successful in its attempt to elevate my listening experience.
THX is a brand that needs no introduction in this regard, as one of the most recognizable and longstanding names in the audio industry. The company continues to push the industry forward, collaborating with other notable brands like TCL and Razer to bring high-quality sounds to new mediums such as gaming. The THX Onyx is the latest accessory to hit the market, touting the highest-fidelity mobile listening experience, whether you’re listening to it on your mobile phone, or using it while gaming on PC.
As far as audio peripherals go, the Onyx has a fairly straightforward premise and is one of the less cumbersome accessories that I’ve encountered. The Onyx is a portable USB DAC/Amplifier that elevates the audio quality of whatever you’re listening to, to studio-grade – whether you’re plugging the dongle-like product directly into the USB-C input slot on your phone, or using the USB adapter to connect it to your gaming PC.
It features THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (THX AAA), which highlights “ultra-low distortion and noise, while maintaining 5x more output power than other similar USB DAC/Amps.” So, essentially, when plugged in, the Onyx improves upon the audio coming from your device before it makes its way to your headphones or desktop speakers via the 3.5” audio jack. That enhancement is noticeable, too.
I compared the audio quality of different sources both with and without the Oynx. Using my Razer 2 phone, listening to music with the Onyx sounded cleaner and crisper. This was especially true when taking a listen to Master Quality Audio (MQA) track via the Tidal platform – MQA tracks boasting a higher resolution of audio quality than most HiFi tracks that most of us consume on a daily basis. Listening to MQA-quality audio on Tidal with the Onyx makes me feel like I’m in the recording studio listening to the original tracks.
This experience extends to the PC, whether it be for watching movies or playing video games. The Onyx has a list of certain gaming headphones that are best suited for pairing with the Onyx, but I used the Razer Krakens – one that wasn’t on that list. However, I could still hear a difference in gameplay audio. Whether I was playing a first-person shooter or horror game, I was able to distinctly hear sounds that would otherwise be garbled or drowned out entirely. Encroaching footsteps from enemy players come through earlier than I’m used to while playing Call of Duty, and the unsettling whispers and creaks from pretty much any horror game are far more audible with the Onyx.
What makes the Onyx even better is that it’s not intrusive while you’re on the go. It’s essentially a nine-inch extension to your wired headphone’s cord – a length that can be cut in half if you fold the cord of the Onyx over and attach the magnetic ends to each other. There are no finicky apps to deal with and no secondary attachments are required for mobile use (other than an adapter that will be required for iPhone users). It’s plug-and-play in its simplest form.
Coming with a price tag of $199.99, whether or not it’s worth it will be dependant on how much you appreciate the highest-quality of audio. If you’re a music buff (or already a subscriber to Tidal), the Onyx is a must-buy. On the Gaming side of things, I found that the Onyx does provide a feeling of having the upper hand in online FPS games with its enhanced audio. That advantage is probably pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things, but if you’re looking for any type of advantage, you’ll likely appreciate the Onyx.
I wasn’t able to pair the Onyx with my favorite pair of headphones – the VZR Model Ones – as I had to send my preview model back to the manufacturer. You can bet that once I get the post-production final version of those headphones, I’ll be pairing it with the THX Onyx for what I have to imagine will be the best damn audio experience I’ve encountered in my entire life.
A product sample was provided to TheGamer for this review. The THX Onyx is available now at THX.com and Razer.com for $199.99.
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Sam has been writing for TheGamer since early 2018, earning the role as the Lead Features & Review Editor in 2019. The Denver, Colorado-native’s knack for writing has been a life-long endeavor. His time spent in corporate positions has helped shape the professional element of his creative writing passion and skills. Beyond writing, Sam is a lover of all things food and video games, which – especially on weekends – are generally mutually exclusive, as he streams his gameplay on Twitch (as well as TheGamer’s Facebook page) under the self-proclaimed, though well-deserved moniker of ChipotleSam. (Seriously…just ask him about his Chipotle burrito tattoo). You can find Sam on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @RealChipotleSam.
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