Audirect/ Hilidac is among the few brands whose product line-up is limited but very market trend-oriented. Audirect Beam was a unique device when only a few ultra-portable DACs were available. I have reviewed Audirect Beam at that time, and no doubt it was a very good portable DAC. Now in 2020 plenty of Type C DAC dongles are available for casual consumers but Audirect again came up with a device that not only follows the market trend but also positioned itself in the meeting point of portability and real Hi-Fi. Today I am talking about Audirect’s newest type C DAC, Audirect Atom Pro. I have purchased this device for this review and didn’t receive any compensation from the brand for this review.
Specifications of Audirect Atom Pro
- Model Number – Atom Pro,
- DAC Chip – ESS Sabre 9281CPRO,
- Structure – Aluminum,
- OTG Plugs – Type C USB 2.0 or Lightning,
- Analog Output – 3.5 mm,
- Cable – Braided OCC,
- Length – 11.5 cm,
- Color – Red, Black, Orange, Silver, Blue,
- USB Protocol – UAC 2.0,
- MAX decoding – 32 bit/384kHz; DSD128 (DoP),
- MQA – Renderer,
- SNR – 118 dB,
- Distortion THD+N – < 0.0003%,
- Frequency Response – 20Hz-40 kHz ((-0.18dB),
- Output Power Range – >46mW (16 ohms), >60mW (32 ohms), >6.6mW (600 ohms),
- Output Impedance – < 1 ohms,
- Compatibility – Windows, Mac OS, Android, IOS (I pad pro with Type C and other IOS devices with Lightning version)
- Weight – 7 grams.
What’s in the Box of Audirect Atom Pro?
- Audirect Atom Pro Type C DAC dongle,
- Quick start guide.
Tested Sources with Audirect Atom Pro
Windows 10 PC, Oneplus 6T, Realme C2, Macbook 13 inch, TempoTec V1, Hiby R3.
Tested Apps with Audirect Atom Pro
USB Audio Player Pro, Tidal Desktop, Audirvana plus, Hiby Music player, Foobar2000.
Tested Gears with Audirect Atom Pro
TFZ My Love 3, Obravo Cupid, HE 150 Pro Earbud, Sennheiser HD6xx, Tanchjim Cora, Magaosi K3 HD and Shozy Form 1.1
Product Link – Here.
No need to install any driver for Audirect Atom Pro. Audirect Atom Pro is a Plug & Play device and works across the devices without any specific setup. Audirect Atom Pro doesn’t have ASIO support but you can use WASAPI to achieve bit-perfect playback. For android apps like USB Audio Player Pro, there are some setting changes you have to make to utilize the Atom Pro fully. The same thing applies to Foobar and desktop apps like Audirvana Plus, Tidal, Roon and Foobar2000. You can get the proper setup guides on Audirect’s website or HERE.
Audirect Atom Pro does support user flashable firmware; the current firmware version is 7466 which can be found HERE. And all the flashing instructions are provided too in the zip file with clear pictures. Please note that this review is done after this firmware update.
In the instructions page, most of the instructions are in Chinese so here are some of my Foobar2000 and USB audio player pro setting screen captures for your reference. In Foobar2000 first, install the components (WASAPI output support & Super audio CD decoder), then go to output option and then select WASAPI (push): Speakers (2-atom pro) as the device then go to SACD option and select DSD as output mode. In-app like USB Audio Player Pro, allow exclusive access to Atom pro and follow the settings pointed below.
Setup & File format Support
Audirect Atom Pro comes with two variations, Type C and Apple lightning. I have chosen type C as I don’t have Apple devices. Audirect Atom Pro works without any setup with devices like Android phones (OTG enabled), Ipad Pro and Laptops with Type C ports. To use Atom Pro with PC a USB A to Type C converter is required which is not included in the box.
Atom Pro supports PCM up to 32 bit/384kHz and DSD128. The multicolor LED on the 3.5mm plug shows the status of the file format.
- Blue, Green, Red color cycle – Device starts
- Red – Idle or SD audio <=48kHz
- Blue – HD Audio >48kHz
- Magenta – MQA
Presentation, Design & Build Quality
The presentation is very good. Atom Pro comes inside a tall box and the device has been secured inside the foam. The quick start guide has been placed below that foam. Good to see, Audirect still using their signature white and blue color scheme in their presentation. While the real image of the device has been printed on top of the box, all the specifications are present back of the box. Strangely the USB A to Type C converter was not included inside the box which may be the issue with my package only.
The design is good. I have bought the black color Atom Pro but you can choose from the rest four colors. Actually, the colorful versions look really funny and cute. The entire DAC circuit is on the 3.5 mm side and that part is bulky. The multicolor LED is placed under the ‘hilidac’ logo and backside of the 3.5 mm part, branding and some specs have been printed too.
For build quality, I have mixed feelings. Firstly good to see that the type c plug is gold plated and good in quality but the cable that connects both type c plug and 3.5mm port is not that thick. Yes, it is braided and strong enough but a thicker cable could have been appreciated. The fat 3.5 mm part is totally made out of thick aluminum and really strong.
Output power, Noise, and Temperatures
Audirect Atom Pro is very powerful. It detects the load and outputs power accordingly. Hardware volume is also available and you can access it after giving exclusive access in the app like USB Audio Player pro. Audirect Atom Pro smoothly drove all my mentioned IEM and headphones and never crossed 80% of total volume.
With all my IEMs and headphones I have never faced any background noise with Audirect Atom Pro. The solid aluminum block in the 3.5 mm part really helping to spread the heat produced by the DAC chip so no heating issue at all.
The input power of Audirect Atom Pro is not too much so the battery drainage is minimum. Still, it depends on your playback. At least a 1% battery deduction can be seen after 15 minutes of continuous .flac playback from a 3500mha battery-equipped device.
Mic & In-Line Controls and Sleep mode
The inline controls work fine. If your IEM supports 3 buttons inline control, then you can receive and disconnect the incoming calls by pressing the middle button. The middle button on the IEM cables also supports Play/Pause function when playing music. Vol+ and Vol- also work with 3 buttons inline controls. But the MIC function is not working which is sad. If your IEM/Headphone is not inserted in the 3.5 mm port the Atom Pro remains in the sleeping mode which is a great feature to save battery life.
Audirect Atom Pro is a smooth sounding DAC with almost a balanced sound profile. With adequate lower frequency, soft midrange and non-fatiguing higher frequency response. Ideal for long listening sessions. Lets elaborate all the parts individually next.
Atom Pro is capable of producing a good amount of bass for your ears. Mid-bass is more focused than sub-bass so the rumble is low but the thump is still enjoyable. Both the quality and quantity are present in the entire lower frequency area. A good amount of texture and definition is present in mid-bass. With MQA tracks the sub-bass has more impact in comparison with non-MQA tracks. For example, tracks like ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson is very much enjoyable with my not so bassy IEMS. For extreme bass lovers, the sub-bass quantity may not that much but that loss can easily be recovered with a warm sounding IEM like Fiio FH5.
The entire midrange is smooth and natural sounding without any bass bleed. No such particular emphasis present either in the upper midrange or lower midrange. A good amount of texture and timbre are present in the midrange which overcomes the smoothness and feels very engaging with instruments and vocals. Both male and female vocals sounding a bit soft still with at least a decent IEM that softness is almost not noticeable. For example songs like ‘You’ll Think Of Me’ by Keith Urban and ‘Saying Goodbye’ by J. S. Ondara sounding velvety smooth and heart touching.
The higher frequency part has been extended nicely but not too much like other ESS Sabre chips. As a result, the higher frequency part is open and airy but no harshness is present. The non-harsh treble is very much suitable for long listening sessions. Surprisingly the sparkle is still present and adding some spice in my favorite tracks. For example, I really enjoy the entire album ‘Kaya’ by Bob Marley & The Wailers (MQA version), and with Atom Pro each and every track sounding superb.
Soundstage, Imaging, and Instrument Separation
Audirect Atom Pro is capable of producing super-wide soundstage and excellent imaging. With at least a decent IEM you can enjoy the holographic soundstage. With MQA tracks the especially the Imaging is outstanding. Instrument separation is also very good and with well-mastered tracks, you can easily identify the position of each instrument in front of you.
Audirect Atom Pro Vs iBasso DC02
From the price point of view, Audirect Atom Pro is 20$ more expensive than iBasso DC02 but the advantages it has are more than 20$. Build quality is not that good like DC02 but sound-wise Atom Pro much better than DC02. Atom Pro is sleek, small when DC02 is bulky. DC02 doesn’t support MQA playback and not so energy efficient. Sound-wise Atom Pro’s sound feels more natural and especially the mid-range feels more engaging. The soundstage is also far better in Audirect Atom Pro.
Audirect Atom Pro Vs Zorloo Ztella
Zorloo Ztella and Audirect Atom Pro share the same hardware inside and sounding almost the same. Build quality wise my vote is going to the Ztella but keep in mind that Audirect Atom Pro is cheaper than Zorloo Ztella. Now sound-wise the upper midrange is not so sharp in Atom Pro in comparison with Ztella but this could be a margin of error and they sound almost the same.
Audirect Beam was a great portable device and now Audirect Atom Pro is also another good product from Audirect. With features like MQA and DSD playback, Audirect Atom Pro is now suitable for serious audiophiles too. There is an enormous number of Type-C DACs available in the market and I have used a few of them. Some of them are 10$ and some 200$ but under 100$, Audirect Atom Pro is one of the best among them.