Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC
Input: USB 2.0, single-ended RCA pair
Output: single-ended RCA pair, 1/4" headphone jack
Dimensions: 6.1 x 11.4 x 2" (155 x 290 x 50 mm)
Availability: Authorized Dealers
The main character in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner from Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is named Rick Deckard. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies so I could not disassociate typing or saying "Deckard" from thinking of the film. Phew. I'm glad I got that off my mind. Audeze is, for anyone not living on planet headphone, a maker of some very well regarded 'phones. I have a pair of their LCD-X here for use with their Deckard Headphone Amplifier/DAC and I've been living with this combo, on my desktop, for a few months. My first thought when listening through the Deckard was—they should have charged more.
The all Class-A amp'd Deckard uses a TI PCM5102A DAC chip which supports PCM resolutions up to 32-bit/384kHz. The ruggedly handsome and toothy-sided all-aluminum chassis was designed by BMW DesignWorksUSA and the aluminum acts as heatsink (it gets hot to the touch). The unit's backside houses the inputs (USB 2.0, 1 pair analog RCA) and outputs (1 pair analog RCA), IEC inlet for the included power cord, and the on/off switch. Up front we have a 1/4" headphone jack, a blue power LED, input selector toggle switch (USB/RCA), a three-position gain toggle switch, and a nice chunky volume control knob which gets warm to the touch as Deckard heats up.
In terms of 'phone drivability, the company claims 3 ohm output impedance and 4W (at 20 ohms) of output power for the Deckard. That three-position gain switch lets you dial in the appropriate amount of drive (Low=0dB, Mid=10dB, High=20dB).
I connected my iMac running Roon to the Deckard with a length of the AudioQuest Diamond USB cable and the Deckard's RCA outputs to my ADAM A3Xs with my favorite ICs from Auditorium 23. The Audeze LCD-X were also on hand for more intimate moments.
"They don't advertise for killers in the newspaper." Rick Deckard, Blade Runner
Listening to music through the Audeze Deckard is kick-ass fun, plain and simple. Music is very full bodied with bodacious bass output, rich and rewarding mids, and nice sweet highs. It makes music that makes you smile. Bravo.
Playing with my ADAM A3Xs, the Audeze headphone amp/DAC made a fine mate. I found the "Low" gain setting to work best, giving me freer range of the volume control which I found myself turning up and up again more than usual (that's good). After a few minutes listening to Deckard, I immediately searched Roon for "Jimi" and hit Play on "Once I Had A Woman" from Blues, one of the few posthumous Hendrix releases I enjoy. Then I smiled, turned up the volume, sat back, leaned forward to turn it up again, and sat back for the duration, smiling all the way. OK I admit to a few licks on the air guitar, apologies for that image.
I spent weeks just listening to Bach, Beethoven, Karin Dalton, fka Twigs, The Gun Club, The Lounge Lizards, Nina Simone, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nils Frahm, The Stooges, Morton Feldman, Debussy, and on and on and on. It was, in a word, all good. Yea, I even listened to Vangelis' Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary. "More human than human."
I am not a headphone guy. Maybe I'm too paranoid, I don't really know. But if I was a headphone guy, the Audeze LCD-X/Deckard combo would be on my A-list. Their combined sound is elegant, supple, rich and rewarding. Or if you prefer normal-people speak, it's killer. Arthur Grumiaux's violin on Bach: Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (CD-rip) sounded just lovely, with ample space for the sounds to decay within. Digitally reproduced violin can bite, at least in my experience, but the Audeze combo had no problem making Grumiaux's violin sound like a violin instead of a high frequency string grater.
fka Twigs stunning and menacing "Figure 8" from her new M3LL155X EP sounded menacing and stunning. Deckard's Classy-A amp delivered gobs of body and drive. I also gave the NAD VISO HP50 'phones a listen and while comparing a $299 headphone to a $1,699.99 headphone is fairly silly, I have to admit that the sonic let down was not unsubstantial. All of that lovely supple body and drive I heard with the Audeze duo was replaced with a leaner and less fun sonic picture so I quickly switched back to the LCD-X. I chalk this up to the hazards of reviewing.
If you're thinking I'm fairly jazzed about the Audeze Deckard, you'd be correct. Slapping my comparative reviewer hat on tightly, where the Deckard loses sonic ground to the twice-the-price Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC (see review), which I use most days on my desktop, is ultimate resolution. Of course the Mytek also gives you DSD, XLR out, and a ton of options, but speaking purely on an apples to apples sonic level, the Mytek lets you get a closer glimpse into your music. In terms of LCD-X listening, I preferred the Audeze which offered a fuller, more robust sound = more Fun.
"I'm working. What are you doing?" Rick Deckard, Blade Runner
Sometimes, like this time, reviewing can be pure fun. While kind of tongue in cheek, wishing Audeze charged more for the Deckard was meant to say I hope people don't pass it by because they're willing to spend more. The Audeze Deckard Headphone amp/DAC made the experience of listening to music an experience to be savored and enjoyed. When paired up with the Audeze LCD-X headphones, the combo delivered all of music's goodness directly into my head. Bravo!
Also in-use during the Audeze Deckard review: Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC