Lots of Sound in Very Little Space
- Completely flat and extensive frequency response, above 40 kHz.
- Overall sound quality.
- Very small size and weight.
- Cable quality.
- Micro USB cable missing.
- Looks like some specifications aren’t real.
- Sensitive function stick. Does not work with the same precision in all environments.
- Absence of physical buttons for the volume on the front.
Link to the Store
- Output Power：
- -114dB TND+N, 2Vrms into 600Ω.
- -108dB THD+N, 49mW into 32Ω 1.1Vrms.
- Frequency response：20-30000Hz（-0.15dB）
- S/N ratio：+125dB SNR, +120dB DNR
- Input supports PCM：PCM 16-32bit, 32-384KHz
- Input supports DSD：DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256
- D/A Chips：ES9118 SABRE HiFi SoC
- Amplifier Chips：ES9118
- Input port：USB-C
- Output Port：5mm
- Size (L/W/H)：52x14x6mm
Package Dimensions (H x W x D)
- 130x145x21 mm
- Type-C to type-c cable
- Type-C to lightning cable
- Type-C to USB cable
- Instruction manual
The dimensions of the packaging are very large for how small the product is, it certainly comes well protected. The package is opened like a book by using a magnetic cover. Inside, embedded in a cardboard box, is the Beam. Next to it, in another box, there are three sachets with each of the cables.
There is no USB Type C to micro USB cable when many Smartphones still use that type of connector.
Construction and design
The Beam is very small, you don’t get the idea of its dimensions until you have it in your hands. It is extremely light although it is metallic. It is made up of two pieces assembled by 4 screws, which gives it even better strength and durability. The blue colour is very striking. All the written legends are white, as well as the logo of the brand.
Headphone output is 3.5mm unbalanced.
The USB input is type C.
The connection cables have very good quality connectors, linked by very flexible tricolour braided cables.
To the left of the Beam there is a stick that offers two functions: volume (movement up or down), Play/Pause (push). The use as a push button (Play/Pause functions) is fast and precise. On the other hand, the use as a volume does not respond quickly in Windows: it must be kept pressed upwards to increase the volume or downwards to decrease it. Both operations respond slowly and the volume jumps are considerable. However used with my Android mobile, both functions are immediate. I have only noticed that the volume jumps are a little big, although this detail may depend on the Smartphone itself.
Due to the size of the Beam, it fits anywhere. I still can’t find the ergonomic function stick, I would have preferred fixed buttons.
My smartphone has micro-USB, whose cable is not included, so you need to buy another cable to connect it.
I managed to use the Beam with my smartphone using the Hiby Music app.
For the connectivity with the PC with Windows was necessary the installation of a driver that can be downloaded from the web:
Once installed and after restarting the system, I ran Foobar2000. The reproduction was not fluent using the driver ASIO Bravo-HD (stock), however using ASIO4ALL 2 I managed to solve the reproduction problems.
I measured the output of the Beam using a Fluke digital oscilloscope, using pure tones encoded in FLAC with a resolution of 24 bits and a sampling frequency of 96 kHz, making a frequency sweep between 20 Hz to 46 kHz. As a player I have used the Foobar2000 in my Windows PC, using the Asio4All driver. With these measurements, it has become clear that the Beam meets the Hi-Res specifications, because it is able to reproduce without problems tones above even 40 kHz.
The measurements have been taken at the maximum possible volume without visible distortion being observed in the reproduced waves. Fixed resistors of 32 Ohms, 100 Ohms and 320 Ohms were used as loads.
The linearity of the frequency response between 20 Hz and 20Khz, the range defined as audible, is almost perfect, the difference is only a few millivolts. Above that frequency, the drop is somewhat higher, but even up to 30 kHz the linearity is still excellent.
There is a feature in the Beam’s voltage delivery: the higher the connected load, the higher the voltage delivered. You might think this fact is due to a high output impedance, but in my opinion I think it’s some kind of «autogain» system. Even so, in the specifications it says that the Beam is capable of delivering 2V at 600 Ohms. This time I do not have loads with that resistance, but seeing that for 320 Ohms is only capable of delivering less than 1.15V, it is difficult to reach that number.
As can be seen in the following graph, the Beam delivers 0.71V to 32 Ohms, 0.95V to 100 Ohms and 1.14V to 320 Ohms.
The sound of the Beam has several very marked characteristics, in my opinion: the sound produced is totally flat, there is no doubt about it after the previous graphic. There is no enhancement or recession in any of the audible frequencies.
On the other hand, its sound is quite wide, very ethereal and zenithal. It provides a lot of separation and depth, especially to the bass. That’s why I find its sound with a certain warmth.
Another characteristic is the softness of the sound. Compared to the Fiio Q1 Mk1, whose response is also quite flat, the highs are less penetrating and hard. In the Beam, the music is more harmonious and delicate, while in the Q1 it is more direct and aggressive. Following the comparison with the Q1, I haven’t missed anything in the bass, neither using IEMs nor closed headphones, like the SoundMagic HP150. And as I said before, I’m amazed at how it’s able to go down and deliver power to the sub-bass without turning pale.
In other aspects where the softness of the Beam is reflected, it is in the sibilances, even in the songs more susceptible to them, they are more subtle than in Q1.
On the other hand, the Beam has some electronic features that must be taken into account, as it can alter the sound of the connected headphones. Earlier I talked about the possibility that the Beam has some «autogain» circuit. Maybe this feature, or maybe it is that the output impedance is not less than 1 Ohms, as specified in the box, modifies the frequency response of some connected headphones. I’ve checked sensitive sound differences in some IEMs in the comparisons between the Beam and the Q1 (whose output impedance is proven to be less than 1). While with others, the differences have only been due to the change of source.
The Audiodirect Beam is a remarkable product. It is excellent in size, weight and functionality.
The use is not just perfect in all scenarios: the stick is sensitive and its operation is not the same on PC as with the smartphone.
I recommend it for use with IEMs or headphones with low/medium impedance and/or high sensitivity, both on PCs and Smartphones, whose audio output is not very adequate.
The sound is very good, starting from a magnificent and flat frequency response, the scene is wide and deep, the separation is noticeable and the presentation is smooth and musical. I find no substantial differences, used with the PC or with the smartphone.
The accessories are good, quality and very useful, just miss another cable with micro USB connector.
On the negative side, the specifications do not seem to be 100% met.
Headphones used during analysis
- NiceHCK M6
- 1More Triple Driver
- Dunu DN-1000
- Fiio FH1
- SoundMagic HP150