First Listen: Celsus Sound Companion One portable headphone amp/USB & Wi-Fi DAC

Headphone amps and amp/DACs
Celsus Sound Companion One
First Listen: Celsus Sound Companion One portable headphone amp/USB & Wi-Fi DAC

Jason Wei-Min Lim is a veteran developer of high-end product lines and brands, with his most notable creation being NuForce—an electronics company that, in the past year, has been sold to the world-famous projector manufacturer Optoma. However, not being one content to rest upon past his accomplishments, Jason Lim has gone on to found not one, but two, new high-performance audio companies, one of which is Celsus Sound (the other is NuPrime).

I received my introduction to Celsus Sound at CES 2015 where Jason showed me, and provided demo samples of, the two first Celsus products, which are, respectively, the Celsus Gramo One reference quality ear bud, and the Celsus Companion One portable headphone amplifier/USB & Wi-Fi DAC ($595). I’ve been experimenting with both products, off and on, as time in my Hi-Fi+ schedule permitted (“Time? What is this ‘time’ thing of which you speak?”)

From the outset, several aspects of the Companion One struck me as being distinctive and noteworthy. First, as seems to be standard practice these days, the Companion One’s DAC section, which is based on the well-regarded ESS ES9018K2M DAC device, is capable of decoding virtually all standard and high-res PCM digital audio file formats at up to 32-bit/384kHz date rates and can also handle DXD files as well as DSD64 and DSD 128 files. These qualifications, though desirable, are not what sets the Companion One apart, but what is unusual is the fact that the Companion One ASIO-compatible USB DAC can interface with four—rather than the usual two—classes of devices and operating systems. Specifically, the Companion one can be used in:

  • Mac environments,
  • PC/Windows environments, and with
  •  iOS iDevices, and
  • Android devices.​
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