Helm Audio’s New $99 Bolt Dongle DAC/Amp Does MQA

Sometimes seemingly simple things can be rather complicated.

Take Helm Audio’s new portable Bolt DAC which sports a USB-C Input and 3.5mm Headphone Output. See, simple if the device you want to attach the Bolt to has a USB-C connector (like a MacBook or Android device). But, seeing as iPhones are Lightning-only, owners who want to bolt a Bolt DAC to their iPhone need to add a USB-C to USB (A) Adapter which will plug into a Lightning to USB Camera Adapter which will plug into your iPhone.

Like so:

blame Apple and its dongle-loving ways

Bolt’s MQA support means that when playing back hi-res content from Tidal’s HiFi subscription service, the Tidal app, or Roon if you are a user, performs the first MQA “unfold” to 88.2kHz or 96kHz. For MQA-encoded resolutions greater than 96kHz, the Bolt performs the final “unfold” to full resolution. When playing back non-MQA high-res content, PCM resolution is capped at 96kHz.

While clearly geared toward headphones users, you can also add a 3.5mm to dual RCA adapter if you’d like to connect the Bolt’s output to powered speakers or your hifi.

The Helm Audio Bolt DAC is available direct from the Bolt website.