While home audio systems have been steadily improving in performance for many decades, you only have to go back a few years to find a time when portable audio was a cruel joke that no audiophile would take seriously. This all changed with the introduction of personal music players like the Apple iPod, and has been progressing at a rapid pace with many new portable DACs, headphone amplifiers, and high resolution music players. Now the Celsus Sound Companion One looks to take that progression a few steps further.
Celsus Sound may be a new name, but the company was founded by a certain Jason Wei-Min Lim, the former CEO of NuForce, so there is a track record to back it up. What Lim has created for his new venture is a true Swiss Army knife of portable DAC amps, ticking off just about every box on the wish lists of on the go audiophiles.
For starters, the Companion One can connect to just about any type of device you might want to use for portable music listening, including Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows devices. It can also do this using either a wired, or a wireless connection. It can decode just about any type of file you want to throw at it including DSD64, DSD128, and PCM up to 384/32 using a wired connection, plus high res PCM up to 192/24-bit over a wireless connection.
Looking kind of like an Apple iPhone that went out on a fast food binge, the Companion One’s height and width fall right between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, although it’s a bit more than twice the thickness of either one. A quick check on my postal scale revealed that it actually weighs in at a little over 255g... about twice that of a standard iPhone 6.
Why all of these comparisons with the Apple iPhone? Basically, it’s because the Companion One appears to borrow heavily from the iPhone 6’s styling, and the two look like they were meant to go together. The front and rear surfaces are Gorilla Glass, wrapped with a slightly curved satin metal frame. Even the buttons and ports look familiar. In any, er, case, the fit and finish of the Companion One is exceptional, and the whole unit positively oozes quality and luxury. In addition to the Companion One itself, you get an extra luxurious leather carrying case that even smells nice, a screen protector, and a set of cables to handle connections to an Android with OTG, iOS Lightning device, PC, or Mac computer, and even a 30‑pin Apple cable for your older iDevice.
On the hardware side of things, the Companion One uses the ESS ES9018K2M DAC to convert all of those files, then delivers its output to your headphones via OPA1612 and AD8397 opamps. Celsus specifies the output voltage at 3Vrms in high gain setting and half that in the low gain setting, delivering 160mW into a 32 Ohm load and 28mW into a 300 Ohm load. While that doesn’t exactly make it a powerhouse, it should drive most headphones without problems.