Not everyone is an audiophile — I’m well aware of that. Most people are perfectly happy listening to streaming audio and MP3 tracks of questionable bitrate with their inexpensive earbuds, and that’s totally cool. But if you yearn for more audio quality — and if you have a top-shelf set of headphones you can no longer plug into your phone because it’s missing an audio input, then this post is for you. Right now, you can get the Audiolab MDAC Nano Portable Wireless DAC and Headphone Amplifier for $149 when you apply discount code CNET at checkout. That’s 25% off the regular price of $199.

That’s not inexpensive, but the Nano is an elegant solution to a problem that vexes audiophiles: How do you push your gadgets to deliver better sound quality in a way that’s still portable, convenient, and (at least somewhat) affordable? 

What you get is a pocket-sized DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that’s better than whatever is in your phone, tablet or laptop. It connects to your source device via Bluetooth with AAC and aptX support, and then receives your headphones with a standard 3.5mm input. Combined with the integrated headphone amplifier (which automatically senses both high- and low-impedance headphones and adjusts accordingly) and the ability to upsample audio, it promises to deliver a listening experience that’s much closer to audiophile standards. A wealth of online reviews seem to support that claim.

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The Nano’s battery gives you between six and eight hours on a charge, and it comes with a wireless charging pad.

The Audiolab Nano is clearly not for everyone, but if the thought of dramatically improving your phone’s audio quality with a pocket-sized wireless DAC scratches an itch for you, this is a good time to grab one. And let me know in the comments if you’re interested in seeing more of these kinds of audiophile deals or if you’re happy with your mobile device’s stock audio. 


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