The Helm Bolt is a great little piece of tech for audiophiles on the go

Who is the Helm Bolt DAC/AMP For?

  • The Helm Bolt DAC/AMP is perfect for someone who owns a high-end pair of headphones, and wants to use them on the go.
  • With its high quality audio support, the Helm Bolt DAC/AMP is great for audiophiles
  • The included USB converter makes the Helm Bolt DAC/AMP ideal for computer use as well as mobile device use

Cell phones and other mobile devices have given the boot to the 3.5mm headphone jack in recent years, instead focusing on Bluetooth and other wireless technologies. For many, this is fine and a natural evolution of technology. For others, especially those with great pairs of headphones, this technological shift has been tough.

However, one small device can breath new life into your old headphones without needing any batteries or charging time. In fact, this device not only brings great headsets to life, it can also bring life to subpar headphones by boosting audio quality. That device is the Helm Bolt DAC/AMP.

Just Plug And Play

The Helm Bolt DAC/AMP couldn't be easier to use. All you have to do is plug the USB-C end into your phone or device, and plug your headphones into the other end. Boom! You can now use whatever wired headphones you want with your device.

The Helm Bolt with the USB adapter on

For the computer users out there, the Helm Bolt also comes with a USB-C to USB converter, allowing you to plug the DAC/AMP into your computer. This is as easy as using the Helm Bolt on a cell phone. Once you plug the DAC/AMP into the converter, plug the converter into your computer, which should automatically detect the device as a pair of headphones.

When using the Helm Bolt with my laptop, the device did seem to get a little hot after a short usage period. While this doesn't seem to happen when using the DAC/AMP with my phone, it is something to keep in mind.

Dust Off Those Headphones

But Bob, you may be asking, aren't there dozens of USB-C to 3.5mm cables out there? Why should I care about the Helm Bolt DAC/AMP?

That's a fair question! While many other cables simply allow you to plug in wired headphones to a cell phone, the Helm Bolt DAC/AMP enhances audio. The Helm Bolt supports sampling rates of up to 384khz. While that's basically far beyond human comprehension, it means the DAC is capable of supporting DXD and SACD audio. If you haven't even heard of those file types, it means the Helm Bolt is more than capable of handling the file types you have heard of like MP3 and FLAC.

The Helm Bolt is not very large, and can easily be tucked into a pocket

Another major feature touted by the Helm Bolt is that it supports Master Quality Authenticated, or MQA, audio. MQA audio is the file type supported by streaming service Tidal, and has been touted as being revolutionary for the audio world. Unfortunately, I don't have a Tidal subscription, and that's pretty much the only way to easily listen to MQA audio.

Head To Head

I happen to have a super generic no-frills USB-C to 3.5mm converter, so I can directly jump between that and the Helm Bolt to provide side-by-side comparisons. Unsurprisingly, the Helm Bolt makes the exact same audio, with the same headphones, sound better.

While things do sound a little more clear when using the Helm Bolt, the main difference between it and a basic converter is an added layer of depth that comes with the Helm Bolt. This depth is largely fueled by an overall added boost to bass and low-end audio, but it's more than that. Audio sounds more rounded and full, and each individual sound stands out a little clearer. Music obviously benefits from this, but even a simple podcast sounds like the host is sitting in the room with you.

The Helm Bolt compared to another USB-C to 3.5mm converter

Additionally, the Helm Bolt boosts audio volume ever so slightly. This is a nice way to add a little extra oomph to audio, especially when paired with the low-end boosts mentioned above. It also helps with some pairs of headphones that just seem to be a little quiet, no matter the volume you are listening at. Of course, you can always just turn down the volume if it seems a little too loud.

As the Helm Bolt is largely focused on the audiophile demographic, its impact is more and more pronounced with the quality of headphones you are using. While the Helm Bolt made some basic headphones work great, it made the 1More Quad Driver earbuds go wild and made the Audeze LCD-GX positively sing.

Final Thoughts

The Helm Bolt DAC/AMP is a great piece of audio gear, and should be a must-have for the audiophile on the go. If you're just getting into the audiophile world and want to boost both your mobile audio and PC audio, the Helm Bolt should also be your first stop. Its ease of use and surprising specs mean it'll also be pretty future-proof, especially if MQA audio can gain in popularity.

However, if you are just looking for a basic way to connect your headphones to your cell phone, you might want to find a less expensive option. At $100, the Helm Bolt certainly proves its worth, but also might be too much for the average listener. If that's you, may we suggest the fantastic 1More Bluetooth Adapter?