The AMB γ1 (Gamma 1) is a DIY project by AMB Laboratories and is designed to provide a high-quality, low-cost Digital-to-Analogue converter for use with most sources like the PC.
-24-bit 192KHz high-performance Wolfson ΔΣ oversampling DAC chip.
-192KHz S/PDIF receiver chip with low-jitter clock recovery.
-The maximum USB resolution and sampling rate is 16-bit 48KHz.
-1.3mm miniature barrel-type DC power jack, RCA phono S/PDIF coax jacks, standard Toslink-style S/PDIF optical jacks, 3.5mm stereo mini jack for audio line output, mini-USB connector.
-USB host interface supports Linux, MacOS and Windows (no additional software driver necessary).
Appearance and Construction:
My unit is the Lite version, which only supports USB input. MisterX from Head-Fi put it together, and I must say his workmanship is amazing. It is housed in a miniature enclosure like the Alien, Bantam and Mini³ DAC’s so it fits in the pocket with ease. With its minimalist black color scheme and excellent build quality, the Gamma 1 is a very nice DAC to display on any setup.
Small is an understatement. The Gamma 1 is a centimeter smaller in length and width than the JDLabs P4.
The full version supports an optical and coaxial input for just 30-50 bucks more.
At $110 shipped for the Lite version, this DAC is surely worth it. Truly a small powerhouse, the Gamma 1 gives much-needed improvement on three core “C’s” of sound quality: Clarity, Crispness and Cleanness of output. Paired with the Little Dot MKIII and output through the M-Audio AV30’s and Sennheiser HD25’s, the sound from my laptop is exceptional. The highs have more sparkle, mids and vocals sound “right,” and the bass tightened even more.
Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal
The heartbeat at the start felt more powerful, more realistic than before. Michael’s vocals shined through while the instruments vastly improved in clarity and impact. Soundstaging is deeper and more transparent, giving a more “live” feel to it. Can’t help but groove to this tune!
The Corrs – What Can I Do
The opening voices of the sisters are very much more alive, immediate and awe-inspiring. Midrange became fuller without sacrificing detail retrieval. Percussion and guitars sound more recognizable and enjoyable. Overall, the music got more engaging with this DAC.
Red Army Choir – Ochi Chernye (Dark Eyes)
The powerful trumpet intro gained in intensity, and so is the Russian vocalist of this powerful song. Voices from the choir became more distinct and distinguishable than the muddled vocals without the Gamma, which is a very welcome improvement. Instruments have more power and clarity all throughout.
Harry Gregson-Williams and Stephen Barton – Game Over (Modern Warfare OST)
This orchestral music gained much-needed aggressiveness and attack, more befitting of Modern Warfare 1’s explosive ending score. Despite the fact that there are a lot of instruments playing together in unison such as violins and trumpets, the Gamma handled the congestion easily and provided an excellent, crisp playback.
Roxette – Spending My Time
Another track where the DAC’s capabilities truly shine. Instrument separation and micro-detail is excellent, it almost feels like a personal concert right in front of me! Marie Fredriksson’s smooth yet powerful voice really gained body and clarity that it becomes so breathtaking. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.
Bread – Everything I Own
While the song is an old recording, David Gates’ vocals and the instruments still sound incredibly crisp and clear. The guitars have more definition and control than previously without the Gamma, while David’s voice sounds richer than before.
98 Degrees – Give Me Just One Night
This boy band’s fast and lively song could be handled easily by the Gamma. Instruments retain detail despite the speed and dynamics, while the vocals feel more vibrant.
Styx – Babe
From start to finish, Styx’s famous love song feels more emotional than ever. Powerful yet soothing, the added tightness and control across the spectrum makes listening to Babe an even more engaging experience. Vocals sound particularly warm and more well-rounded which I like a lot.
Selena – Dreaming Of You
Selena’s hit just got a lot better. Thanks to the Gamma’s improvement to clarity and definition, the song gets more intimate much like Styx’s Babe. The Tejano singer’s voice is noticeably warmer, cleaner and less shrill-sounding, which I found annoying with my laptop’s headphone-out. The emotion just overflows…
Diminutive as it may be, the Gamma 1 is a solid DAC. It is a flexible device with a myriad input options like coax, USB and S/PDIF as well as an optional external PSU. I may only have the USB-version but to me it already made a difference in sound. It vastly upgrades PC or laptop audio and can play a big role in an audio chain. Reviews say it could even compete with more expensive solutions like the E-MU 404, Super Pro 707 and Pico DAC! Definitely a must-buy.
Specs from the official AMB Labs γ1 website: http://www.amb.org/audio/gamma1/
Special thanks to HeadPhiles member jjsoviet for contributing this article.