Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII review

Date: 15.02.2016

In the era where digital audio is making the biggest progress ever seen in our industry its great to have at disposal vast associated digital audio products. For sure DAC became the most important epicenter component of contemporary high-end audio system surprising the existent digital and analog formats.

With the fast forward lightning pace digital audio development so called side benefit is affordability of the “step in” products widened the market offerings to the mind-blowing proportions.

Consequently, I’m having practically almost a weekly DAC incomings. Many are in the upper echelon league and price range, thus I’ve been asked to cover something that is packed as capable, potent and affordable. 

In all the vastness its not easy to pick up special gems. Abundance of digital front ends makes life not exactly easier. Especially for testers. In one of the lots Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII hit the Mono & Stereo shores. In very short time it proven itself as stand out and finally filled the gap. 

At its given price Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII manages to offer heck a lot for the money and most importantly comes with highly engaging factor. Meet the little mighty performer that could to many people in a quest for affordable and good/great sounding DAC. 


I’ve asked Børge Strand-Bergesen of Henry audio to reveal a bit more about his project. Below is a questionare that will put the ray of light on his work and nonetheless his digital baby:

How it all started for Henry Audio?

I've always been fascinated by audio electronics. Ever since about 8th grade, at least. In my last year of high school I came up with a signal interpolation idea for DA converters which I've been working on in my spare time for more than 20 years now. After a while it turned into a hi-end CD player. When the CD player needed a USB interface 6-7 years ago, I couldn't find sufficiently good commercial ICs. Luckily, I found the open source SDR Widget project which included a very good asynchronous USB interface alongside special electronics for radio amateurs. The group members started the Audio Widget project to make a pure USB DAC solution. I was the hardware guy. There are other Audio Widget implementations out there. The development boards I made for the group became more and more advanced. At that time they needed frequent software updates and were only sold to programmers. After some time a box was picked up by Norwegian magazine Watt which reviewed it as a consumer product. They were thrilled with what they heard! After that the product got 100% stable and I changed the name from the rather nerdy QNKTC (Quantization Noise Killed The Cat) to Henry Audio. Henry is my grandfather's first name and also the unit of electrical inductance. Henry Audio is now a CE marked customer product, and nobody needs to know anything about programming in order to use the USB DAC 128 mkII. 

Do you consider yourself as audiophile?

Yes! But unlike other audiophiles I care a lot about what goes on inside the box.

Its not easy to bring product as yours down to such affordable level. How did you managed to do it?

I've always loved getting things to work and selling them. So in my mind I'm a sales guy and engineer in a 50/50 mix. Add to that many years of tinkering, 5 years of university electronics education and 15 years in various roles in the industry. For many of those years I was a PCB layout consultant. Then I've been both production manager and product manager in different companies. The DAC is the sum of these skills with a thick layer of passion on top.

What was the initial goal when you started the project?

The goal of the CD player was to make the best sounding DAC on the planet. The goal of the USB DAC was initially to make a development kit for my fellow group members. Now the goal is to spread the word that it's easy to get great sound from a computer. A lot of people don't believe that's possible. 

What would you say that you’ve done so different from other companies?

Using an open sourcing the design is special. That means my innovations are shared with the general public, but more importantly that the ideas and experiences of others can be built in. I've had great help from members of the Audio Widget project in all parts of designing the Henry Audio DAC. The other special thing is that I spend 4x the usual time on PCB layout work. To me putting together a PCB is meditation. It's art and science. The effort that went into the USB DAC 128 mkII layout is much, much more than any company would budget with when a PCB consultant is hired.

Do you feel digital audio revolution is at its peak?

No, it will always keep getting better! At the moment I feel a quality pull in the consumer market. That's great news for people like me. I try to make the DAC pretty and convenient, but where I come from quality is the first thing to get right. There are many, many things to come. Two areas in particular where I expect positive development are better power supply designs and proper USB Audio Class 2 support in Windows. Microsoft can take a big chunk of the hi-res audio market if they just wish to.

What would you say your DAC is bringing to audiophiles and music lovers?

It brings great sonic quality at a very affordable price. It's a no-nonsense product which does only one thing. It gets the music out of a computer. But that one thing it does well. It is convenient because you can connect it between a computer which you probably have anyway, and your favorite audio setup. The DAC tries to please both the audiophile who has tested ten DACs before, but also the casual listener who wants to get back in touch with his music. I use the DAC to teach people that the convenience of good streaming services doesn't mean you must compromise your music experience.

What future holds for Henry Audio?

I want to launch a few more DAC products. But before that I want to bring today's DAC to as many people as possible.

Few last words for our readers?

Why not give it a shot? Both experienced listeners and casual audiophiles are very happy about my little box. 


Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII needs no complex manual. For sure my Mac computer orientation is always helpful in this regard, translating to zero or very little problems. Apple on the digital fronts get job done will less problems then on the Windows side. Well, your mileage may vary…

Børge Strand-Bergesen had a clear focus with his DAC. Planned as an engaging musical DAC a lot went under the hood. Still, I wouldn’t call it a cheap or completely boring looking device. Solid aluminum chassis fell sturdy enough to last a years to come and utilitarian or Bauhaus alike design is spot on recognizable on its own and in absence of plastic fantastic… :).

DAC is USB powered without on/off button. So one button less and semi “automatic”. Next to to mini USB input connector left and right RCA outputs are serving for the analog audio output.  

Front panel reveals large Henry Audio logo partnered with a red led, signaling when in DAC is in operational mode.

Not much to elaborate on. Straightforward as it gets and with little clutter. 


What to expect from the DAC of this size and pricing. I’ve decided to put no precognitions on to it and explore it without any fixed judgments before my listening time. 

Pulling up my listening notes from the stacks and summing things up was quite interesting. Børge Strand-Bergesen DAC was revealed an interesting phenomena. The usual digital glare, introduced even by the bigger and quite more expensive boys were non frontal, pushed forward and acting out as main sound signature.

Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII went through the vastness of songs and playlists. My latest addition of Roon acting as Tidal’s front end made a most happy camper. Roon subscription is not exactly cheap. Along with Apple Music and Tidal subscription this adds up to the monthly bill. On the other hand, recalculating my investments in all sorts of physical mediums in the past is instantly sobering. Having 25+ millions of songs at the tip of the click and in lossless format of Redbook quality seems like a no brainer. Making sense out of the contemplating? Its best to for music lover to be in our industry and hobby. If you’re into it for music and its prolonged even profound enjoyment the choice is easy. Introduction or reflecting on any other “hidden” motives creates an instant emotional drama :).

I enjoy in all the vastness of musical genres. No horse blinders are allowed in my personal book of music. But, I do love to play and put the “stress” on any given component or a system with classical music. 

There are simply to many favorites in this genre, yet recordings conducted by legendary Eugene Ormandy rock my classical world in a special way. Especially with slavic composers, Ormandy commands an uber ardently, emotionally driven tempo giving profound rhythmic pace with a perfect genteel conveying. Needed musical inbound on the entry level DAC repertoire is not so easily achievable especially with classical music. Henry Audio DAC opened up interesting question and lay down a firm ground to be followed with its performing ability. Combined sense of the peace, atmospheric soulfulness and surprising vibrancy ignited my radars. Its not an easy task by any means to become over achiever in this fierce market. Regardless of pricing scheme. Stand out quality of the reproduction these days demands out of the box thinking and solutions. Its a trend these days to remedy  soulless sounding gear with so called special gem accessories. 

To often audiophiles are trying to counteract listening fatigue with wide array of solutions, from cables to exotic accessory paraphernalia. Solution is and needs to be simple. Just getting things right!

Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII managed to get events reenacted in both sublime and empowering way acting beyond its class. Usually in such entry level product line music reproduction becomes to quickly expletive. Instead of objective gap filled musically potent intervals a blank vacuum is main them, leaving a lot to wonder about. Henry Audio DAC on contrary materialized not only wide array of needed engaging focus points. It also created a lingering musical experience, that is more then worthy of noting and highlight. To put it simply, its a musical enriched and empowered musical box.


Its clear that Børge Strand-Bergesen designed his DAC for both audiophiles and music lovers mind as as those entering the “game” not excluding the audiophiles with mileage and budget restriction.

In the era where streaming services are getting all the focus with Tidal being as a prime example and instant lock is more then needed. Its a pubic outcry and logical demand. 

Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII is no nonsense DAC, that offers instant musical enjoyment without breaking a bank, by and means never acting as a newcomer nor product of massive industrial impact. Many brands would quite contrary level with this cold logic strictly connected as projected price point and quantitive massive production discounts. Not with Henry Audio. They’re acting much more as small boutique manufacturer skipping the made in East labeling. 

There are many audiophiles still firmly locked to the CD/SACD player on analog front end for more or less obvious reasons.  Henry Audio gives an interesting option to open the digital audio windows to them and finally explore the wonderful computer side of the digital audio at low level risk. For some this can become a permanent mating, while other will get a grander glimpse into whats possible with contemporary audio medium. 

USB DAC 128 mkII brings a lot for the money. Its a bargain and opulent in its audio output.  

Here’s the DAC that is capable of igniting both audiophiles and music lovers interest with the sound and performance. Børge Strand-Bergesen did his homework elaborately and end results speaks out the best. I’m sure Henry Audio place in the audio industry is ensured not only by performance, word is out there quite quickly, especially with the product of such DNA as Henry Audio DAC 128 mkII.

Yes, there’re plentiful of DACs above and beloved USB DAC 128 mkII price range. Magnitude is crazy. Despite all of offerings Henry Audio DAC deserves it place. Its an sole island of mighty aural impact making its loud stand out. 

For what it represent sonically and at what price, Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII deserves a vivid highlight. I’m happy to give out Mono & Stereo Best Buy award to this miniature digital audio box. 

Text: Matej Isak


• A fully assembled, tested and packaged DAC which plays music out of the box
• Asynchronous USB Audio powered by Golledge high-quality crystal oscillators at 22.5792 and 24.576MHz
• Supports the common sample rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192ksps
• RCA (phono) stereo outputs
• Asahi Kasei AKM4430 DAC
• Atmel AVR32 general-purpose MCU programmed in open source C
 fact_sheet_mkII.pdf BSB - 20141112 - 1
 Henry Audio
• ASIO driver for Windows programmed in open source C
• Low-noise 3.3V ADP151 LDOs powered from USB. No external power supply.
• The option of experimenting with the power supply.
• Lots of internal headers for experimenting.
• You must provide a USB 2.0 mini-B cable. It is not included. Use a cable shorter than 3m.
• Mechanical size: W: 114.4mm, H: 32.8mm, D: 128mm.
• Computer requirement: The DAC will work on well on all modern computers. The DAC may not work well on computers with processors below the performance of a Core 2-duo / 2GHz CPU. USB Audio Class 2 drivers may not work on Windows XP.


EUROPE: EUR 219.00


Henry Audio 
Børge Strand-Bergesen
Hvalstadlia 4
1395 Hvalstad

Tel: +47 90639918