Originally posted 9/16/18.
- 1/30/21. Article/link cleanup and added shootout link at the end.
- 1/26/22. Article update.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Audioengine D1 Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
Table of Contents
Features & Usage
Like most kids growing up in the ’90s, I was raised on Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Nickelodeon, and the Atlanta Braves.
Times were much simpler back then. We played outside. We got dirty. We rode bikes. We built forts. Our parents took us to the lake and we rode Jet Skis. Our Grandparents had Beach Houses. We played with Legos. We played ball in the backyard. We went swimming at the neighborhood pool.
When we came inside from playing all day, dinner was ready and we watched the Braves on TBS for the nightcap before going to bed.
The next day we did it all over again.
If you were a youngster in this time period, life was truly special. I don’t take it for granted at all. I feel very blessed to have experienced those moments and will cherish them forever.
Of course, Gaming headphones, Amps, DACs, and anything studio-related didn’t exist to us. We weren’t so wrapped up in technology as to forget the beauty around us.
I think that’s lost on kids today. Whereas technology might have accounted for 15-20% of our existence in the ’90s, I think it’s more like 80-90% for children growing up in this era of what I like to call “ready-made fun.”
More often than not, kids are turning to technology to appease their fun appetites, and I believe it’s dangerous and will only get worse.
That’s not to say no one goes outside anymore, but it’s definitely becoming increasingly rarer. No pun intended. Rare (or Rareware) was the company responsible for making the early versions of Donkey Kong for the Super Nintendo.
I said all that simply because having an Audioengine D1 as a Gaming rig makes me hearken back to simpler times when it wasn’t possible to use a headset to listen to music and the gaming environment.
We had a SNES controller and that was it. Even the games themselves were much simpler. The goal was to reach the end of the level without getting obliterated. I actually still have a Super Nintendo and from time to time play it for old time’s sake. Related: The Best Headphones for Gaming
If you think about what a video game entails nowadays, it’s truly mind-blowing and shows how far technology has come. I feel blessed to be afforded the opportunity to hunt for excellent sound quality, and today I’ll let you know why the D1 fits that criteria for an incredible price!
- Price: Check on Amazon! | Check eBay!
- Inputs: USB, Optical (Toslink)
- Outputs: Headphone-out (3.5mm), RCA
- Output Impedance: 2 ohms What is Output Impedance?
- SNR: (DC to 20 kHz) >110dB
- Crosstalk: -85db
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 25KHz (+/- 0.5dB)
- USB Sample Rate: 32kHz-96kHz – native playback, 188.2kHz, 192kHz – re-sampled to 96kHz for playback
- Dimensions: 3.5″L x 4″W x 1″H
- Weight: 1.0lbs (0.5kg)
- Warranty: 3 years
What’s in the Box?
- D1 DAC
- USB cable, 2ft (0.6m)
- Microfiber product bag
- Setup guide
- Product line brochure
The build of the Audioengine D1 is stellar for the price. It feels like if you dropped it, it would be okay.
All of the connections are solid, and the volume knob feels sturdy and rugged.
If I had to nitpick, I wish the knob had some numbering (or engraved line) to let you know how loud it was being pushed. Something like an E10K and an HA2 both have this feature.
The volume knob on the D1 does not have any indicators, so there’s really no way of knowing where the sweet spot is.
Aside from that, this is about as simple and clean as it gets with regard to its build.
No fuss no muss!
The power button also feels nice on your finger and pressing it is satisfying. After pressing, it lights up white and isn’t harsh on your eyes like some other units.
Lastly, the headphone jack feels solid. It May seem trivial, but you’d be surprised how many headphone jacks I’ve come across that really don’t put your mind at ease with regard to how well the 3.5mm plug slides in and stays locked into the hole.
BUILD QUALITY SCORE: A+
Features & Usage
As far as music enhancing features go, it’s kind of bare-bones, to be honest. No bass boost, no gain switch. I personally don’t mind it as I find the Sound to be great on its own, but your mileage may vary. It’s got a slight hint of warmth which sounds fantastic paired with an HD650.
- A couple of options that do have those enhancement features are the Oppo HA-2 and E10K if you absolutely needed something different.
If by features you mean its many uses, then it’s one of the best and most versatile in this price range or otherwise. In the open, I quickly ran down some of those. Let’s delve into each one separately.
- What’s cool about the D1 is that you can simultaneously connect it to speakers and listen with headphones, given its RCA analog outs and USB connection. It leaves a tiny footprint on your desk as well.
- Plugging this in via USB will bypass your PC/Laptop’s internal Soundcard and provide you with eye-opening clarity. What is a Soundcard? Due to its AK4396 DAC and TI OPA2134 low noise opamp, this baby will satisfy even the most demanding audiophiles. The amp was designed for an array of headphones, and the DAC is very well regarded for its low noise floor, high fidelity, and precision.
Dedicated Gaming Rig
- Because of its optical input, you’re able to use it with a PS4 or Xbox as well. I heard a notable difference in sound quality vs. just plugging my headphones into the 3.5mm jack on the controller. Dynamics, Soundstage, clarity, and detail are all improved to a startling degree. Just watch out for that Super Mutant! What is Soundstage?
FEATURES SCORE: A
I docked a few points off for lack of listening enhancements, but overall it still gets a solid A.
& Ease of Use
I would say the D1 is very efficient given its ability to power any headphones I’ve thrown at it. Do steer clear of trying to use it with anything over 300 Ohms, but I found it to power an HD600 and 650 with relative ease.
In actuality, there will be very few scenarios in which you’re going to even have a very high impedance (Over 300 Ohm) headphone at your disposal, as most people simply won’t ever have a need for one (nor will they want one given how difficult some are to drive).
For Gaming, this unit is also very efficient. I turned the dial up all the way on Fallout 4 but found that it really wasn’t necessary. In gunfights, you’ll notice it’s plenty loud enough and even too loud in some cases. What was stunning to me however was that even at ear-piercing volumes, the sound was still clean as a whistle.
Even so, I like to keep the volume of the D1 set at around 75% or thereabouts. I find that it’s plenty. It’s super easy to set up too. For your PC, just plug that bad boy in via USB. No drivers. No hassle. No headache. It’s really that simple. My PC recognized it immediately, and yours will too.
- Control Panel > Hardware & Sound
- Sound > Right Click the Device
- Set as Default Device
You’re done! For Gaming?
Note: The PS4 Slim does not have Optical capability.
- The PS4 receives an optical cable in the rear.
- The other end of the optical cable plugs into the back of the D1.
- Use a USB cable from the back of the D1 into the front of the PS4 or Xbox One. I’m not familiar with the SexBox because I don’t have one, but there are USB inputs on it so don’t fret!
- Plug your headphones in.
- Go to Settings > Sound & Screen on your PS4.
- Go to Audio Output Settings.
- Click Primary Output Port
- Change it to “Digital Out”
- The Input format should be Linear PCM.
- Go back to Settings > Devices > Audio Devices.
- The Output Device should be the name of your DAC, i.e Audioengine D1.
Note: With the DAC Magic 100 (another of my favorite DACs) I had no issues. With the D1 I ended up having to change the output device from “Audioengine D1” to “TV/Amplifier.” No big deal. Your mileage may vary. Switching it to TV/Amplifier allowed the sound to come through the headphones. I’m not sure why it was being difficult, or why the sound wouldn’t come through even though the settings were right. If you have any insight into this, let me know!
ERGONOMICS SCORE: A+
We kind of discussed it in some of the other sections, but the sound of this beast is truly special given it’s so inexpensive.
I did a comparison of the D1 and Objective 2 and came to some interesting conclusions. Let’s get into some of them!
Keep checking back for future updates/comparisons with different headphones and various other Amp/DACs!
- Headphones Used: Sennheiser HD600
- Amp/DACs used: Audioengine D1 vs. JDS Labs Objective 2 paired with a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100
- Source: Spotify
- Sample Rate: 96kHz
Fickle Friends – Paris
- I noticed that out of the Objective 2, vocals seemed to have more presence, with the Soundstage opening up a bit more. The D1 sounded a bit less detailed by contrast but still sounded very good.
Caroline Pennell – Drive Me Home
- Seems as though the O2 and DAC Magic brought out the little details a bit more. The D1 was slightly essier and more metallic sounding, but the difference was very subtle.
Golden Vessel – Hesitate
- The D1 seemed more detailed and articulate than the O2.
Xavier Omar – Blind Man
- Both of these Amps had fantastic separation of the voices and instruments. Both sounded extremely clear and gave room for the track to express itself.
Flor – Unsaid
- The O2 seemed busier, with the chorus coming across a tad jumbled. The D1 handled the chorus a lot better. It didn’t seem to get out of control and was less sterile overall.
I would say that the overall sound of the D1 provides a bit more warmth, while the O2 is definitely more sterile and clean if you will.
For Gaming, I could discern this quite a bit easier. The D1 just seemed more creamy in comparison to the O2. However, it’s still immensely detailed, so you may actually enjoy it more.
I can’t say I really preferred one over the other. I think both were fantastic, and the comparison takes nothing away from either.
Just know that the D1 is going to excite you regardless. It provides plenty of volume and clarity, with a touch of warmth for some added pleasure.
SOUND SCORE: A+
What’s the final grade?
There’s no reason why the Audioengine D1 deserves anything less than an A+ my friend.
It combines everything you need into a ridiculously small and nonintrusive package.
Build Quality, Ergonomics, Features, Sound, Ease of Use, and Versatility are all top-notch, and for less than $200 it’s a great purchase.
The problem is that since this update, there are more versatile options for around the same price or less. My go-to Amp/DACs in the entry-level range are the Zen and K5 Pro.
Whereas the D1 only has analog outputs and an optical input, the K5 Pro provides those but also adds Coaxial input and Analog inputs. It also has low/medium/high gain and more power than the D1.
Interested in my go-to Amp/DAC for beginners?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audioengine D1 Review.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Is the D1 still worth a purchase today or is the K5 Pro the better option? I would love to hear from you.
Until next time…
All the best and God bless,