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Schiit Audio Fulla 3 DAC/Amp Review: An Affordable Upgrade

By Christopher Coke on November 20, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Schiit Audio Fulla 3 DAC/Amp Review: An Affordable Upgrade

We’ve covered a few of Schiit Audio’s headphone amp and DAC solutions and have found ourselves near-universally impressed. Their products have been stellar but one other thing has also been true: for the average gamer, they’re a bit expensive. Enter the Fulla 3, Schiit’s $99 solution for gamers who want better audio without breaking the bank - and it saves on desk space too. Should you upgrade to the Fulla 3? Join us as we find out whether big things come in small packages.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $99
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, +/-0.5db
  • Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 400mW RMS
  • Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 250mW RMS
  • Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 200mW RMS
  • Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 40mW RMS
  • THD: <0.002%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS
  • IMD: <0.002%, CCIR
  • SNR: >105db, A-weighted, referenced to 1V RMS
  • Crosstalk: >-80dB, 20Hz-20KHz
  • Output Impedance (headphones): 0.5 ohms
  • Output Impedance (line out): 75 ohms
  • Input Impedance (rear 1/8" jack): 10k ohms
  • Gain: 1.7 (4.6db)
  • USB Receiver: C-Media CM6631A
  • DAC: AKM AK4490 with TI OPA1662-based filter stage
  • Sample Rates and Bit Depths: 16/44.1 to 24/192 supported without drivers on Windows 10, Mac, Linux, Android (UAC 2 device)
  • Output Stage: TI LMH6643 x 2 (1 per channel)
  • Power Supply: Via USB, with +/- 5V rails via high-current dual-polarity switching regulator, with inductor filtering and local regulation
  • Power Consumption: 0.8W typical
  • Size: 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.375” (including knob)
  • Weight: 9 oz

An Affordable Entry to High-End Audio

As gamers, we’re a demanding bunch. We want good graphics, instantaneous inputs, low ping times, and immersive audio. For many of us, it’s about getting that competitive edge. For others, it’s about sinking in and immersing ourselves inside our favorite game worlds. No matter which camp you fall into, the heart of the experience is about being swept away into another place. Our brains want to be tricked and fall into fun, our hobby.

To that end, audio is the under-rated superstar that makes it all happen. You can have the best graphics in the world but if you’re listening through a pair of 2-watt tin cans built into your monitor, you’re not going to have a very fun time. Having a great listening experience is important whether you’re an eSports pro, an MMO fan deep exploring a new world or even a casual puzzle gamer. Graphics and story deliver the experience but audio sells it.

The Fulla 3 is a gateway to that better audio experience and won’t break the bank getting there. In fact, compared to many DAC/Amp solutions, it’s remarkably cheap, coming in at only $99. That investment won’t just pay off in games either, it will allow you to have a better experience with all of your listening, especially if you have a set of headphones you like to use for music also.

What the Fulla 3 has to Offer

If you’re new to the world of audio equipment, you might be wondering what a DAC/Amp even is. Inside your computer, like all things, sound is composed of 1s and 0s. It exists in digital form. In order to be heard through headphones or speakers, it needs to be turned back into analog form. This is accomplished with a Digitial-to-Analog Converter or DAC. DACs come in all different stripes, from the simple and integrated, to affordable external solutions like the Fulla 3, to ultra-high-end dedicated boxes that can easily stretch into the thousands of dollars.

An amplifier, like a guitar amplifier, does exactly what you would think: amplifies the volume. Like guitar amps, they can do much more than that and often add touches of color to what you’re listening to. It’s important to understand that how they accomplish this is by sending extra electricity into the headphone, which can change the way the speakers in your headset respond. Often, motherboards or even USB connections will give headphones just enough to get to a reasonable volume and stop there, without any headroom. A good amplifier will do the same while improving the overall presentation of the sound, usually in conjunction with a good DAC. 

The Fulla 3 combines these two functions into a small 3.5 x 2.5” box. Compare it to the Hel, which is also small, and it’s easy to see what a small footprint it has. Inside that small metal box is Schiit’s AK4490 DAC, which is able to support high-resolution audio all the way to 24-bit/192kHz. If you have a pair of Hi-Res certified headphones, the Fulla 3 will have no problem delivering that source with full fidelity. Because the DAC is external to your PC, you’ll also be sure that you’ll be free of any electrical interference which might degrade your listening experience.

The headphone amp is also great for its size. It’s able to deliver 400mW into 16 ohms and 40mW at 300 ohms. What this means is that for all but the highest impedance headphones, the Fulla 3 is able to deliver enough juice to really drive them and make them sound their best. Schiit has packed enough power delivery here that they’ve even included a preamp output in the back to run powered monitors - all this through USB power (or a wall-wart if you’re using an older system that can’t deliver the required current).

In my testing of amps, I always love to hear headphones and gaming headsets “open up” as the soundstage expands with the extra juice. My HyperX Cloud Orbits definitely did so and the sound seemed to crystalize a bit too. For competitive games, the extra volume headroom allowed me to better hear sounds in the distance and pick up on the direction of gunshots in PUBG and Apex Legends. At its core, though, the Fulla 3 just seemed to enhance the all-around sound of most headphones I threw at it in a subtle but definite way, the kind of thing you really only notice when you try to go back to integrated audio.

The other thing the Fulla 3 brings to the table is a high-quality mic input. It’s not quite at the level of the Hel, which had a near-silent noise floor (no hiss), but it still captures at 24-bits and managed to make my Audio-Technica gaming headset sound much better than when plugged directly into my gaming PC. Have a listen:

 

What you’ll find absent here is virtual surround sound and EQ profiles for different types of content. Some might find that to be a big loss but I really don’t. You can easily enable Windows Sonic for excellent spatial audio; there’s just not a switch for it on the device itself. EQ profiles are also not a major loss, though if you’re coming from an Astro MixAmp or Turtle Beach, I can understand your concern. The Fulla 3 is not a processor in the same way those devices are; it’s a very purpose-driven device and it does its job well. EQ curves are something you’ll need to turn to Windows for.

Though, to be frank - I rarely switch once I find a curve I like. I don’t use the “footsteps” presets on other gaming amps because they destroy the audio. The other settings, well… they might be fine, but more often than not it’s just rather annoying to be changing EQ curves all the time. Most gamers I’ve met are the same, though if you need those, you will  have to turn to software.

Final Thoughts

For $99, the Fulla 3 from Schiit Audio is an excellent buy. It delivers excellent audio with its AK4490 pre-amp and offers lots of headroom for all but very high impedance headphones. If you’re looking for a small solution to buy into high-end audio for the first time, the Fulla 3 is a solid option.

Pros

  • Affordably priced
  • Very small footprint
  • Great AK4490 DAC
  • Lots of headroom for most consumer headphones and gaming headsets
  • Quality mic preamp
  • Can power speakers

Cons

  • No built in surround sound (Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos will work with the Fulla 3)

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight