Enhancing your audio system with the best DAC surely will enable you to experience a true sound quality. However, using something that is considered as a sub-optimal will definitely prevent you from getting only the best quality from your set-up.

Anyhow, we have prepared some of the most useful DACs that you can find on the market. This way, you can easily find something that is suitable for your set-up. Let’s take a closer look to the choices we made.

Best DAC Reviews in 2019

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SN Image Name Sample Response Buy
1 Chord Hugo 2 Transportable DAC Headphone Amplifie 44.1 kHz, 48kHz View in Amazon
2 Benchmark DAC3 HGC 192 kHz View in Amazon
3 AudioQuest DragonFly View in Amazon
4 FiiO E10K USB DAC View in Amazon
5 JDSLABS ODAC/USB Digital Analog Converter 10Hz to 100kHz View in Amazon
6 Meridian – Explorer USB DAC 96 kHz View in Amazon
7 Sony PHA1A Portable Hi-Res DAC 192 kHz View in Amazon
8 SMSL Sanskrit DAC 32 kHz to 192 kHz View in Amazon
9 Marantz HD DAC 192 kHz View in Amazon
10 NuPrime HPA 9 Headphone Amplifier View in Amazon
11 Audioengine D1 24-bit DAC View in Amazon
13 JDSLABS Objective2 + ODAC Combo Headphone amp By NwAvGuy model 20 Hz to 20 kHz View in Amazon
14 Creative Sound Blaster E5 High-Resolution USB DAC 192 kHz View in Amazon
15 Signstek HIFI USB to Coaxial DAC 32k, 44.1k, and 48 KHZ View in Amazon
16 Creative Sound BlasterX G5 7.1 192 kHz View in Amazon
17 Sennheiser GSX 1000 Gaming Audio Amplifier 44 kHz View in Amazon

We placed only the top DACs in this section, so, let’s see them.

Chord Hugo 2 Transportable DAC Headphone Amplifier

Our first and definitely the best DAC that we choose is the Chord Hugo 2 DAC. Namely, this is one of the most high-quality DACs that you can find on the market.

Why?

Well, this DAC is equipped with a variety of features that directly contribute to its overall performance and sound quality.

Fist, the whole chipset is equipped with Chord Electronics that are custom coded with Xilinx Artix7. This means that you can easily operate with this DAC, as it will ensure only the best sound quality. Besides that, the play time that this DAC provides goes up to seven hours which is really a lot.

As for the compatibility and support, we can say that this DAC supports a lot of different frequencies like 44.1 kHz, 48kHz, and all up to 717 kHz. Also, you can use this amazing DAC with Mac OS X, or Linux, and Windows 10 OS as well.

Benchmark DAC3 HGC

Now, we have a little bit different kind of DAC. Simply speaking, the Benchmark DAC3 HGC is a unique DAC that it is able to enhance your audio set-up and offer you the best sound quality that you ever experienced.

This DAC has a lot of output lines that offers great connectivity. Anyhow, this DAC is equipped with 192 kHz Audio frequency range and it offers quite a good sound quality. Besides that, this DAC works on a 32-bit D/A conversion system as well.

Best DAC under $100

Now, let’s see some of the quality DACs that we found in the price point category under $100.

AudioQuest DragonFly

When we searched in the category Best DAC under $100, this one surely caught our attention.

Now, the first thing that makes this DAC so great is the ability to play everything that comes from MP3s high-resolution files. This means that you can easily boost your audio set-up with this DAC and increase the definition of the sound as well.

However, to pair this DAC with Android or Apple devices, you will get a simple adapter. This adapter will provide you with the ability to connect to your device and enhance the sound quality of the sound.

On top of that, this is one of the perfact DAC devices when it comes to versatility. Namely, you will be able to improve transparency, immediacy, tone quality, and even richness of the sound that you are listening with your audio set-up in the first place.

Best USB DAC

FiiO E10K USB DAC

The next DAC that we found in the category of Best DAC under $100 is the FiiO E10K USB DAC. Now, you can really benefit from this one since it is equipped with a low noise floor. Namely, this unit is designed with a low-pass filter in a combination with selectable bass boost circuit.

This means that this DAC will surely provide amazing sound quality and it will enhance your overall audio set-up. Anyhow, the reason why this DAC is not in theexpensive‘ price point category is that it is not compatible with every device.

Simply put, you can use this DAC with Windows OS, and it has an option for USB connection as well.

However, the value of this DAC rises when it comes to overall design. The design of this DAC allows it to be used anywhere and anytime.

Best DAC under $200

Let’s see a bit more expensive DACs that we stumbled upon on the market.

JDSLABS ODAC/USB Digital Analog Converter

JDSLABS ODAC/USB Digital Analog Converter
Price: $149.00
1 new from $149.000 used

Now, we have here a bit different DAC that belongs to this price point category. The frequency response on which these DAC works goes from 10Hz to 100kHz. Therefore, this DAC is convenient for desktop computers and similar setups.

Also, a dynamic range that excels more than 110 dB will surely bring a clear tone that you can experience.  This will enhance the sound quality and the definition of the tone as well.

All in all, this is one of the most valuable DACs in this price point category, and, that is why we choose it in the first place. Also, there is a convenient USB jitter that allows you to connect via USB as well.

Meridian – Explorer USB DAC

Meridian - Explorer USB DAC
Price: --
0 new0 used

Some of the things that best describe this Meridian DAC are compact design, amazing sound quality, and great compatibility. Now, the Meridian Explorer USB DAC surely will bring new and improved tones into your audio set-up.

As the name implies, this DAC is great for exploring new sounds and higher frequencies. Therefore, this DAC is equipped with digital optical 96 kHz output that allows you to experience a true sound quality. Also, the construction that is made out of the aluminum will surely contribute to the overall performance, making this DAC quite something special.

As for the compatibility, this DAC is great to work in a combination with Mac OS X, Windows OS X, and lots of other Window OS. This only enriches the quality of the sound that this DAC makes, and it will definitely provide you with the most variety of tones.

Best DAC under $500

Sony PHA1A Portable Hi-Res DAC

Sony PHA1A Portable Hi-Res DAC & Headphone AMP
Price: $298.00
3 new from $298.004 used from $149.75

We have chosen the Sony PHA1A DAC to be our best unit in this price point category. Namely, you can hardly find any better DAC that belongs in a Best DAC under $500 category. So, with this DAC, that has a compact and lightweight design, you can really experience some awesome sound quality.

Now, the Hi-Res audio DAC like this one is capable of supporting up to PCM of 192 kHz. This means that you don’t have to worry about the versatility of tones and sound quality when this one is on your side. Also, the Direct Digital connection for smartphones surely will come conveniently for anyone at this time.

Besides that, aluminum construction offers an amazing performance that truly separates this DAC from others on the market. And, as for the compatibility, this DAC is great when it is connected to the Windows X OS, Mac OS X, any other iOS device, and basically anything else.

SMSL Sanskrit DAC

SMSL Sanskrit 6th USB DAC
Price: --
3 new from $107.990 used

Now, as we advance further into the Best DAC under $500 category, we decided to pick this one as our next best DAC. Simply put, the SMSL Sanskrit DAC is one of the to DAC (under $500) that belongs to this price point category. With everything that this DAC offers, you can surely be able to benefit a lot.

So, what are the features? Well, this DAC is equipped with up-to-date features that are specially designed to improve the performance and the sound quality. Namely, the dynamic range of 113 dB will definitely provide more than enough power to make any sound crystal clear and awesome.

Besides that, this DAC has a sampling rate that goes from 32 kHz to 192 kHz. This means that you can experience a true sound quality with this one equipped on your audio set-up.

Best DAC under $1000

Now, let’s review some of a bit more expensive DACs. In this price point category you can find some quite extraordinary and outstanding DACs, so let’s see.

Marantz HD DAC

Marantz HD USB DAC / Headphone Amp
Price: $799.00
8 new from $799.004 used from $608.75

The Marantz HD DAC is probably the best one here. Not only that this DAC will enhance the sound quality of your setup, but also, you can easily operate with it on 192 kHz frequency.

So, this DAC actually is a pretty convenient headphone amplifier that will enrich the sound that you are listening. Also, you can use this DAC in order to play high definition and high-resolution files from your desktop computer since this DAC offers hi-resolution support.

As for the connectivity, this DAC is equipped with many output terminals and you can basically connect it to any operative system of your computer. Also, the gold-plated fix level is quite valuable on this DAC as it offers only the best transmission of the signals.

NuPrime HPA 9 Headphone Amplifier and Preamp

Our second DAC that belongs to this under $100 price point category is the NuPrime HPA DAC. Namely, this is one of the best headphone amplifiers that you can find on the market. With the zero feedback output design, you surely will benefit a lot.

Now, this DAC is equipped with class A amplification design which enriches the sound and offers high-resolution sound quality. So, you can definitely use this DAC on your desktop computer and improve the sound quality and overall audio quality as well.

Also, the phono input module allows you to connect easily and ensures great transmission of the signals. This is actually quite valuable since most of the DAC models depend on the quality of the inputs. Anyhow, this DAC is definitely equipped with the best one.

Best DAC and AMP Combination

Now, let’s discuss some of the best DACs and AMP combination units.

Audioengine D1 24-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter

Audioengine D1 24-bit DAC
Price: $169.00
15 new from $164.0011 used from $104.51

One thing that best describes this DAC is the fact that it is designed for true computer audiophiles. This means that this DAC will process at any bit depth that goes up to 24 bit and a sample rate of 192 kHz.

On the other hand, this DAC is so easy to set up. Namely, you don’t need any special software since this DAC is a plug-n-play kind of unit. Also, RCA output is able to connect to any audio system or any powered speakers.

This DAC surely is a great way of amplifying your sound and audio quality regarded the low noise and high fidelity. Possibly the best thing about this DAC is that it has low distortion characteristics. Simply speaking, this DAC is equipped with a double redundancy power source and convenient filtering system as well.

JDSLABS Objective2 + ODAC Combo Headphone amp By NwAvGuy model

When it comes to good DAC and AMP combination, this DAC surely has it all. Namely, the JDSLABS Objective2 DAC is combined with a headphone amp and it offers such tremendous sound quality.

So, the frequency response that this DAC is working on goes from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. This is actually a suitable frequency response since it ensures that our ears catch only the best audio quality. Besides that, this DAC has an AC adapter that is also a power source. However, you need a 9V battery from AC Jack to work with this DAC.

In addition to great sound quality, we can also say that the output line of this DAC is also something worth mentioning. Namely, the output is great and it offers you with the ability to connect to any audio setup that you have at your home.

Best DAC for PC use

From the variety of DACs that are designed for PC use, we choose these two. Let’s see.

Creative Sound Blaster E5 High-Resolution USB DAC

The first DAC for PC that we stumbled upon is the Creative Sound Blaster DAC. Namely, this one works on a 24-bit rate and a sample rate of 192 kHz. This means that this DAC is able to deliver a bit-perfect and high-quality sound reproduction.

Also, this DAC has a built-in amplifier that enables you to bring the clarity and crisp sound to your headphone unit. Simply speaking, you will never have to lose audio quality from your mobile device or your headphone as well.

On top of that, this DAC has a very convenient output line that has many different options. So, there is a headphone out, audio input, USB micro output, and a type-a USB host spot. This will allow you to connect this DAC to basically anything you want.

Signstek HIFI USB to Coaxial DAC

Signstek HIFI USB DAC PCM
Price: $21.99
1 new from $21.991 used from $17.99

When it comes to Signstek HIFI USB DAC, one this is certain, this DAC is fully featured with only the best things. So, the analog output and an optical digital/coaxial output, as well as the headphone output, will ensure the best level of connectivity. This means that you can easily connect this DAC to basically every kind of electronic device.

As we can see, this is a mini USB DAC that is quite convenient for many things. You can easily bring it with you on any travel.

Signstek HiFi USB DAC is quite good for musicians that need perfect sound quality.

However, this DAC doesn’t support the 24-bit rate, and the sample rate goes from 16 bit to 32k, 44.1k, and 48k.

Also, this DAC is compatible with Windows OS X and Mac operating system as well. So, you don’t have to worry about whether will your computer support this DAC.

Best DAC for Gaming

Here are some of the best DAC for gaming.

Creative Sound BlasterX G5 7.1

Creative Sound BlasterX G5 7.1 Headphone DAC
Price: $99.99
You save: $50.00 (33 %)
5 new from $99.760 used

The Creative Sound BlasterX G5 7.1 DAC is equipped with many great features that directly contribute to its overall performance and sound quality that it provides. So, this DAC has a built-in audio processor that delivers the high-resolution sound quality for your gaming hours.

Next, this DAC works on a 24-bit rate and a sample rate of 192 kHz which is basically the best frequency response for gaming units. This DAC will actually be a massive upgrade for your PC or Mac device. Besides that, this DAC is also equipped with Blaster Acoustic Engine pro that offers the clarity of the sound and high-definition as well.

Furthermore, you can expect from this DAC to ensure the best gaming experience when it comes to audio and sound quality.

Sennheiser GSX 1000 Gaming Audio Amplifier

Sennheiser GSX 1000 Gaming Audio Amplifier
Price: $169.95
You save: $60.00 (26 %)
8 new from $169.952 used from $179.95

This is one of the easy-to-use designed DACs that is also equipped with an audio amplifier. Namely, this DAC is similar to the previous one that we reviewed, but it has some different features that might be a bit better.

So, the frequency response that this DAC works on goes from 0 to 44 kHz. This means that you will have the perfect frequency response for your gaming audio that variates a lot as we all know. Besides that, this DAC is sensor-activated and it allows you to easily operate with it.

It brings an impressive sound quality to your desktop computer and it allows you to experience what true audio quality is. You will also be provided with the four equalizer settings so you can adjust the sound for games, music, movies, and much more.

Headphone DAC Buying Guide

In order to get the best possible DAC for your setup, you should take some things into consideration first. In that light, we have prepared this section in order to explain some of the most important things about DAC. So, let’s start.

How to choose a DAC for you

Choosing a suitable DAC for your setup isn’t always easy. Therefore, some of the most important things to know about the DAC are:

  • What DAC actually is
  • Types of DAC and their specifications
  • What are DAC connectors
  • Bit Rate

What is DAC

As you could already suspect, DAC stands for Digital to Analogue Converter. Anyhow, the sounds we hear on a daily basis are transmitted in soundwaves. These sounds travel through the air in order to reach our ears in a varying analog signal.

Image Source: pexels.com

So, in the past, analog signals were gathered on the shellac discs or cassette tapes. However, as the industry advanced, these signals are now present on the CDs which are definitely perfect for digital audio transmissions.

So, what exactly is DAC then? Well, DAC is a convenient device that converts digital audio information into the analog audio signal. This signal then is usually sent to the headphone amp, so you can hear and experience great sound quality.

DAC Types

In order to choose the best DAC for you, we have prepared these DAC types. First of all, every DAC type is a bit different from the other, they all hold some unique advantages and benefits. So, let’s get a closer look of these DAC types.

Portable USB DAC

When it comes to portable USB DACs, one thing is certain, you can use them anywhere and anytime. So, how exactly does this type of DAC usually work? Well, the best way to use this type of DAC is as a headphone amplifier, for your laptop.

This DAC type offers some other advantages as well. Namely, you can easily connect this DAC to your computer’s stereo system and enhance the sound quality. Also, these models are quite compact and very convenient when it comes to travel.

Besides that, this type of DAC doesn’t require any special source of power since it will draw the power from your computer. However, there are some portable USB DAC models that have built-in batteries, which are very convenient if you are a music player and in a constant need of a good DAC.

Desktop USB DAC

This type of DAC is similar to the Portable USB DAC model. So, Desktop USB DAC also works in a way of connecting to your computer via USB. They all offer a quite good sound quality, but, that usually depends on the model and the price point category.

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However, some of the types of Desktop USB DACs require AC power to work. In that light, they are not that convenient for travel and they can’t offer that much versatility like Portable USB DACs. This, of course, doesn’t lower their value, but it kind of makes them usable only on a Desktop computer.

Never the less, this type of DAC usually features line-level audio outputs which offer to connect of the powered speakers or even an amplifier. That is exactly the value of the Desktop DAC models, they offer so great and versatile connectivity.

You will basically be able to connect even an external CD player. Also, if you need to stream something, you can easily connect a streaming device to your desktop DAC and enhance the sound quality after all. Besides that, many models of the desktop USB DAC offer a headphone output that is so convenient for private listening.

Wireless DAC

Now, we have a little bit different kind of DAC here. Namely, the Wireless DAC models don’t work in the same way as the USB DACs. So, what is the difference? Well, Wireless DACs are able to broadcast a digital signal content which then travels to an audio system. All that is stored in a different location and that is why Wireless DACs are unique and different from the other type of DACs.

Anyhow, this type of DAC usually uses a convenient transmitter which needs to be connected via USB to your computer. Then, this transmitter will send digital information to the wireless receiver and once the audio is received, the whole digital signal can be converted.

However, it might not be that convenient to deal with some cables, since Wireless DAC can only be connected to your stereo or an amplifier via RCA cables. But, on the other hand, these type of DACs are usually the best ones when it comes to sound quality and amplification of the tone.

In addition to that, these type of DACs are convenient and usually seen in the music industry since they provide a much better quality of the sound than any other type of DACs.

Headphone Amp/DAC

fifo-e17k Headphone DAC/amp
Fifo E17k Headphone DAC/AMP

If you want to get only the best and the most out of your headphones, then you should definitely consider getting this type of DAC.

Simply speaking, Headphone DACs are specially designed to enhance sound quality for your headphone setup. These DAC type models have built-in amplifiers which actually drives them.

Some of the things that headphone DACs is offering are an amazing power and high-quality sound. You will definitely bring a new life to your headphone setup with this type of DAC. And, they are usually seen in the gaming industry.

Component Hi-fi DACs

SMSL AD18 HiFi Audio Stereo Amplifier with Bluetooth 4.2
Image: SMSL AD18 HiFi Audio Stereo Amplifier with Bluetooth 4.2

This type of DAC models is specially designed to connect onto your audio system at home. This being said, the component hi-fi DAC is usually so powerful and it is super convenient for two-channel stereo systems.

Anyhow, if you ever plan on setting up a home theater, then, getting one of these will surely help you with the audio quality. Some models of this type of DAC also provide the ability to adjust the volume on them.

On the other hand, this type of DAC certainly offers the widest connection options. You can choose the way that suits you the best when it comes to connection.

DAC Connectors

Dac Connector
File source: WikiMedia.org

DAC connectors are specially designed cables that have SFP connectors on both ends. They are usually the high-speed cables since they are able to transmit signals very fast. In that light, DAC connectors are very convenient when you need to connect your DAC to your stereo system.

Some DACs have their own way of connecting, like wireless or USB DACs. But, there are some DACs that require these cables. However,

DAC connectors are probably the best thing when it comes to connecting.

They (Connectors) offer a quite good transmission speed and they transfer the signal without any complications.

Bit Rate: Sample Rate vs. Bit Depth

Bit-rate is the key factor when it comes to audio quality.

Namely, audio quality actually depends on the bit rate and on the sample rate. Also, the file format of the audio file and the encoded method also contribute a lot to the overall audio quality.

So, Bit Rate directly refers to the quality of the audio of the stream. This means that bit rate is measured in kbps, and the more kbps you have, the better the audio quality will be. However, high bit-rate requires higher bandwidth, but it usually produces amazing sound quality.

And, for good sound quality, the 64 to 128 kbps is definitely more than enough.

Sample Rate (aka) sample frequency

As for the Sample rate, the sample rate refers to the number of samples per unit. The sample actually is a measurement of a signal that is rich with the information about the amplitude value and level.

We all know a sample rate as the sample frequency, so if the frequency is higher, the signal will be better and you will get the best sound quality.

All in all, the sample rate is measured in Hz or kHz, so the rate of the sample should be above 40 kHz for good sound quality.