U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm recently unveiled a new Hi-Fi audio DAC (digital to analog converter) designed to connect to smartphones over a USB Type-C port. Based on the company's Aqstic audio engine, the Qualcomm AQT1000 offers native Direct Stream Digital (DSD) support and while it plugs into a USB Type-C port, it has been designed to output audio through a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. It's important to note that the AQT1000 is not a consumer-grade product and won't be put into mass production by Qualcomm; instead, the company intends to provide the DAC to third-party accessory manufacturers willing to make use of the technology in the near future.
As an increasing number of smartphone manufacturers might make the full conversion to USB Type-C connectors while abandoning standard 3.5mm headphone jacks next year, Qualcomm's solution or something similar could become increasingly popular among smartphone users who might not yet be ready to adopt a pair of USB Type-C headphones. After all, there are countless premium Hi-Fi audio solutions for music enthusiasts that continue to rely on 3.5mm jacks, despite the smartphone market's newfound interest in phasing out this particular standard. Having said that, the Qualcomm AQT1000 is basically a USB Type-C dongle with a headphone jack designed to give smartphone users a powerful 32-bit DAC with a sampling rate of up to 384kHz and a 123dB dynamic range, as well as native support for DSD audio which should provide a more natural sound, especially at higher levels. Lastly, the chip will deliver a THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise) of -105 dB, according to the manufacturer.
While the Qualcomm AQT1000 won't be commercialized by Qualcomm, its partner companies might agree to employ the AQT1000 chip and manufacture their own USB Type-C dongles based on the chipmaker's specifications, technologies, and designs. As far as availability goes, the San Diego, California-based tech giant claims that the consumer market might see these products on shelves as early as 2018, but pricing remains unknown and will largely depend on the exact specifications of dongles third-party companies come up with. The AQT1000 is yet another indicator that the mobile industry is moving away from 3.5mm ports but it remains to be seen how long will the standard remain in the mainstream as Samsung, LG, and some other OEMs still appear to be keen on keeping it.