HomeGaming Hardware- HELM Bolt DAC/AMP and DB12 AAAMP review

– HELM Bolt DAC/AMP and DB12 AAAMP review

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Chinese audio producer HELM Audio has existed since 2017 however has already made waves with its audiophile choices. HELM’s upheld that commonplace with the Bolt DAC/AMP and DB12 AAAMP. On their very own, every MixAmp enhances audio with none frustrations, however collectively, these merchandise present a cracking audio expertise.

What is Hi-Fi and Master Quality audio?

In current years, Hi-Fi and Master Quality audio have been launched as new lossless audio codecs. Hi-Fi is brief for “high fidelity,” whereas MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) format refers to an audio high quality that matches the unique or “master” recording file. Hi-Fi high quality samples above 48KHz, better than CD high quality, and MQA samples at 192 to 384KHz for studio-high quality recordings. 

While Hi-Fi audio is extra extensively obtainable by way of streaming providers like Spotify and Apple Music, the adoption of MQA is far slower. Moreover, MQA requires a DAC or AMP to decode the lossy audio correctly. Few of those gadgets exist; there’s just one devoted gaming headset that can even decode MQA.

Although MQA is framed as a lossless audio format like FLAC, it’s technically nonetheless a lossy format—like MP3 information are. MQA’s high quality, nonetheless, is sweet sufficient that many gained’t discover the distinction.

Nuts and bolts

The Bolt DAC/AMP and DB12 AAAMP are sufficiently small that they’re harking back to USB-C audio jack adapters. The Bolt connects utilizing USB-C, and DB12 AAAMP connects by way of a 3.5mm jack and a feminine 3.5mm port.

Bolt DAC/AMP

Bolt DAC/AMP additionally works with USB-A by attaching the provided adapter. We did have a problem the place the audio sign challenge was interrupted due to the angle the DAC was hanging, however this solely occurred as soon as throughout our testing.

The Bolt makes use of an inner DAC that routinely amplifies audio high quality based mostly on the detected audio format. The machine has an LED mild that glows totally different colours based on the audio’s pattern price. Blue stands for traditional or CD-high quality sampling. Red is for pattern charges above 48KHz, and Magenta (or pink) represents MQA high quality streaming.

The crimson LED stage consists of FLAC, AIFF, WAV and different related codecs encoded at greater sampling charges than CD high quality—in any other case generally known as Hi-Fi audio. These codecs pattern above CD high quality, giving a little bit of practicality for Bolt customers with out entry to MQA audio information.

The machine routinely adjusts the output stage relying on the headphone’s impedance ranges. This helps you to plug just about any headset into the DAC/AMP, and the achieve can be on the optimum stage for the sign.

Although it connects utilizing a USB-C port, the Bolt doesn’t work with PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S or Nintendo Switch because it does on cellphones. A workaround could also be attainable by utilizing a feminine USB-C to three.5mm jack adapter to attach the Bolt and the headset, although this wasn’t examined. The Steam Deck could also be suitable although, given its a conveyable PC.

DB12 AAAMP

Like the title suggests, the DB12 AAAMP enhances achieve ranges an extra 12db to 18db. It has two modes. The first will increase the general achieve by 12db, whereas the second provides an additional 6db of low-frequency achieve for a bass increase. Users can toggle these modes by sliding the swap on its facet—slide the swap as soon as to activate the AAAMP and twice for the bass increase. An LED mild signifies its mode with inexperienced for the 12db enhance and blue for the bass increase.

While the Bolt can perform with out a battery, AAAMP wants one. Its battery can last as long as 6 hours on a single cost and takes about 90 minutes to recharge absolutely. The AAAMP can be utilized whereas charging if related by way of USB-C. 

There’s onboard machine controls for skipping, pausing and taking part in songs. The on-board controls are comparatively easy—press the center button to pause, twice to skip tracks and thrice to rewind—however they solely work with particular gadgets.

Unlike the Bolt, the AAAMP works with any connection over a 3.5mm headphone jack. These embrace PC, Switch, PS5 and Xbox Series consoles. Bass increase will even work with any of the listed gadgets.

Stronger collectively

Plugging within the Bolt gained’t immediately ship higher audio high quality because it first wants a excessive-constancy audio file. Games don’t use MQA or excessive-decision audio although, so the Bolt’s advantages are restricted primarily to music streaming.

Using the AAAMP is a unique story: It immediately improves the achieve of any related supply and works with the bass increase characteristic. The bass increase is phenomenal in accentuating low frequencies, serving to loads of mixes the place the bass is just not the precedence.

For PC and cell customers, each the Bolt and the AAAMP can work in tandem to provide a richer listening expertise. The AAAMP enhances the achieve by means of the Bolt, making use of to all three audio ranges. Using Tidal with each related makes a drastic distinction in high quality when listening to grasp tracks on the service. 

On PC, nonetheless, the audio high quality can sound muffled with each plugged in at occasions. After ejecting the Bolt and bodily disconnecting it from the PC, the problem was fastened. Still, it occurred sufficient to trigger some frustrations.

To the untrained ear, the nuances in excessive-decision audio aren’t obvious. Differences between commonplace and Hi-Fi are difficult to explain with out a reference since everybody hears sound in another way. The finest comparability, on this case, can be the distinction between taking part in a game at 30 FPS and 60 FPS—it’s exhausting to return to 30 after seeing 60. 

Is the Bolt DAC/AMP and DB12 AAAMP for you?

Image by way of HELM

Many features of each the Bolt DAC/AMP and DB12 AAAMP are worthwhile. Yet, it’s exhausting to suggest each merchandise to the final gamer or music lover, specifically, due to the area of interest viewers that may use them. 

The Bolt is for PC or cell customers that need to take heed to Hi-Fi or MQA songs whereas gaming or streaming, and know the distinction between commonplace and excessive-decision audio. The DB12 AAAMP is extra versatile throughout cell, console and PC setups in growing the achieve and bass frequencies—however it might’t improve commonplace high quality audio into Hi-Fi.

For the audiophiles, HELM has created an awesome plug-and-play answer that must be part of any excessive-finish setup. However, for a normal viewers with out the means to entry MQA information, the Bolt wouldn’t make as a lot of an impression because the DB12 AAAMP can.

Pros – Bolt DAC/AMP

  • Hi-Fi and MQA codecs decode splendidly
  • Works with each cell and PC connections by means of USB-A and USB-C
  • Can work in tandem with the DB12 AAAMP

Pros – DB12 AAAMP

  • Gain enhance is notable and effectively accomplished
  • Bass increase works and doesn’t overpower different frequencies
  • Onboard controls are handy for cell use
  • Long-lasting battery

Cons – Bolt DAC

  • Unusable with consoles with out a workaround
  • Limited availability of Hi-Fi and MQA codecs to make use of successfully
  • Can sound muffled utilizing each Bolt and AAAMP when on PC

Cons – DB12 AAAMP

  • Requires an adapter for many cellphones
  • Causes occasional sound gltiches with Bolt DAC/AMP on PC



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