by Joshua Emmons
Calyx Audio is a South Korean manufacturer that produces an array of digital processors and amps for home audio enthusiasts. But at AXPONA, they were all about portables.
The Calyx M is an Android-based audio player by Calyx Audio. In my short time playing with it, it definitely feels more “Android-y” than many of the high-end audio players I’ve used. It seems clear that Calyx has chosen to build on top of the OS’s solid foundation, leaving the low-level stuff to Android while concentrating on the part of the interface that really matters to audio enthusiasts: managing music. Finding, creating, and rearranging playlists on the M is a comparatively straightforward affair.
Calyx Audio is perhaps best known for their DACs, and this heritage shows with the M. It plays just about every digital format I can think of. AIF, FLAC, WAV, AAC, OGG, DFF/DSF, DXD… Oh yeah, and MP3. All this at 16/24/32bit at pretty much everything from 44.1–384kHz. You can also use the device as a stand-alone DAC for whatever computer it’s plugged in to via USB, which is a handy feature.
It’s internal 64Gb of storage doesn’t sound like a lot for high-resolution audio, but it can be expanded with SD cards. It has one standard and one micro SD port, and if you have a ton of music, you can fill both for an official total of 448Gb of music on the go.
The design of the M is pretty standard. It’s a rectangle of glass surrounded by aluminum. In this case, the aluminum is anodized with Calyx’s signature brown; a fairly neutral choice. It has an odd-looking plastic “chin” emblazoned with its signature “M” that seems to have no purpose other than to give your thumb something to rest on, but that’s hardly a deal breaker.
More concerning is that it’s thicker (0.58″) and heavier (0.5lbs) than I’d like — essentially twice as thick and heavy as an iPhone 5. I imagine most of that extra space is given over to battery, but even so the M only ekes out 4-5 hours of continuous play time. Calyx representatives tell me that it charges via micro USB in about 3 hours.
And you can’t talk about the M without mentioning its innovative volume fader. It is, certainly, a creative alternative to including a pot. And without a doubt a welcome improvement over a discrete up/down clicker. But it does seem prone to being jostled in a pocket, not ideal for your volume. Is there any way to lock down the volume?
It turns out the fader is really just a magnet that sticks in the groove milled into the side of the case. So you can actually remove it all together just by pulling it off! There’s an option in the settings menu that lets you toggle on-screen controls for volume if you decide you really don’t want to mess with the cool magnetic volume dingus.
Which is all very nice. But still, the majority of the world thinks their highly compressed Spotify streams played on bargain basement cell phones sounds just fine, thank you. Even some of us with hifi leanings prefer the convenience of our iPhones over the hassle (and expense!) of buying a dedicated high-end player. Are we doomed to a life of music decoded by a 2¢ DAC?
Not if Calyx has anything to say about it. Meet PaT. It’s a handy and, if I may say so, adorable little DAC for mobile devices. It draws power from your phone’s USB (you need the inaptly-named “Camera Connection Kit” to attach it to an iPhone), so all you need to do is plug it in and go.
Unlike the M, PaT only plays PCM up to 16bit/48kHz. No DSD support or a comprehensive list of sampling rates. Rather, the Calyx representative told me, PaT’s meant to be cheap and simple. A gateway drug for non-audiophiles into the high-end audio world.
Given it’s cuteness, this seems a solid plan. At only $99 a pop I think we can all think of people who we’d like to give the gift of a decent DAC.
- Calyx M: $999
- Calyx PaT: $99