THX Onyx gives audiophiles a mobile music upgrade with MQA amp

THX is wading into the consumer electronics space, and if you've ever wished for higher-quality music from your smartphone, the THX Onyx might fit the bill. Designed to plug in-line with your headphones and your iPhone or Android device – or, indeed, your Mac or Windows computer – it packages a tiny DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) with the company's THX AAA amplifier tech.

While 3.5mm headphone jacks have been a vanishing feature on modern phones, we've also seen a general push toward convenience over absolute quality. Streaming music at mediocre bitrates, Bluetooth headphones with limited bandwidth, and phone DACs that aren't potent enough to drive serious headphones have all left audiophiles out of the loop. Meanwhile, phone makers that do take high-res audio seriously, such as LG, are now leaving the segment altogether.

The THX Onyx, however, promises a simple audio upgrade. Inside the metal CNC-machined body there's a THX AAA-78, the company's highest-powered mobile amp with AAA support. The THX "Achromatic Audio Amplifier" promises to cut harmonic, intermodulation, and crossover distortion by up to 40 dB, while boosting maximum power levels. The result, the company says, is desktop amp-style performance but in something that can fit in a pocket.

The ESS ES9281PRO DAC is also up to five times more powerful than other USB DAC/Amps, THX says, and it has an onboard Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) renderer. That supports MQA tracks from TIDAL and other services.

There are no drivers required, THX says, with a USB-C plug and a USB Type-A adapter included. They cling magnetically to the body of the Onyx to keep things tidy. If you're an iPhone user, of course, you'll need a Lighting adapter as well. Onyx works with headphones that have built-in microphones, too, though not on iOS/iPadOS devices.

LEDs along the side show the sort of audio quality you're getting, from 44.1/48 kHz PCM standard quality, through to MQA. In general, though, everything is just plug-and-play, with Onyx getting its power from the source device.

THX Onyx is available to order from today, priced at $199.99. It's available direct from THX, or via Razer in the US.