Looking to take your audio to the next level? A DAC (Digital-To-Analog Converter) will improve the quality of audio playback. It converts digital audio signals into audible analog sounds.
All DACs aren’t created equal, though. Generally, the better the DAC, the better the audio.
Still, choosing the best DAC in a market full of DACs can be challenging.
To help, we’ve reviewed top-rated DACs, highlighting what makes them unique. This way, you can buy yours based on key information.
A DAC takes digital data (zero and ones) and will transform it into an analog audio signal. Then it sends that analog signal to an amplifier.
DAC are in most devices these days. But are they good enough?
These DACs have what it takes to upgrade your digital music library.
1. FiiO E10K USB DAC
- Easy to Operate Design: The refined E10K-TC is tiny enough to carry with you wherever you go but is also...
- Impeccable XMOS Decoding: The E10K-TC comes with the flagship XMOS XUF208 for better USB decoding....
- Quality Chips to Delight your Ears: The DAC is the PCM5102, with improvements to the flatness and delays...
The FiiO E10K is small and sleek. It packs a punch, though.
Its built-in PCM102 chip can convert digital signals of up to 24-bits/96Hz. That’s twice the average audio quality. Further, the chip reduces delay, improving the overall sound output.
You’ll love the selectable bass-boost and low pass filter. With these functions, you can customize the sound to suit your taste.
This DAC and headphone amplifier measures 0.83 x 1.93 x 3.11inches. It is super portable. With such dimensions, it is a perfect pick if you’re in for a DAC to use on the go.
It even has a USB-C port for your laptop or notebook. You can also plug your headphone into the 1/8″ jack tucked on the front panel. Meanwhile, you can use the 1/8″ rear output to feed this DAC into a preamp.
The FiiO E10K uses an LMH6643 op-amp for impressive transient and driving power. What’s more, this DAC is optimized for low noise floors in all states.
2. Fosi Audio Q4 – Mini Stereo Gaming DAC
- UPGRADE YOUR GAMES ON PS4, XBOX ONE, NINTENDO SWITCH, AND PC | Get immediate increased enjoyment over...
- INDUSTRY-LEADING AUDIO PROCESSING TECHNOLOGY Enjoy full audio customization and enhanced audio realism...
- 7.1 VIRTUAL SURROUND SOUND AND DOLBY DIGITAL Enjoy the latest in immersion technology with Dolby Digital...
Want a DAC that you can start to use right out the box? The Fosi Q4 is just the right DAC for you.
Setting up this unit is easy. You don’t need special software, drive, or app to install it. It is a true plug-and-play digital audio adapter.
The Q4 features a USB, coaxial S/PDIF, and optical outputs. It also has an RCA output that you can connect to your amplifier. Further, the integrated Hi-Fi headphone amp chip is compatible with 16 to 200ohm headphones.
The Fosi Q4 is all about putting you in control. It has three conveniently located knobs on the front panel. With these, you can quickly adjust the volume, bass, and treble. That’s especially helpful when your audio source doesn’t offer equalizer adjustments.
This unit can convert digital signals up to 24 bit/192KHz.
The Q4 boasts a durable aluminum metal shell. The casing is heat-resistant for reliable, long-lasting performance.
3. AudioQuest DragonFly DAC
- Native Resolution up to 24-bit / 96kHz
- DAC Chip ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound
- Plays All Music Files: MP3 to MQA and Hi-Res
The DragonFly is one of the best DACs if you want to boost your phone’s audio. It is small, pocketable, and can take a beating.
This award-winning DAC can also double-up as a high-fidelity music player. That way, you can enjoy beautiful audio wherever you go.
Also, this converter is compatible with major streaming apps, including Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music.
The unit comes with a 3.5″ mini plug. Here, you can connect your headphones, audio system, or speakers. Even more impressive, it can convert digital sounds at 24 bit/96kHz.
The DragonFly thrives on noise reduction. The internal circuitry can reduce Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and electrical interference. The ripple effect is a clearer, more realistic sound. For genres that require precision, like heavy metal, it works like a charm.
This converter’s PIC32MX274 microprocessor boosts processing speed by up to 33%. In the meantime, the ESS ES9038Q2M promises to deliver audio in exquisite detail.
4. FiiO K5 Pro AK4493EQ DAC
- AK4493 DAC chips for the ultimate in decoding performance, supporting up to 768kHz/32bit and native DSD
- Equipped with XMOS XUF208 USB receiver chip+AKM AK4493 DAC+ Op-amps OPA1642 + flagship TI TPA6120
- Extremely powerful headphone amplification for a total power output of up to 1.5 W under a 32Ω load, and...
The FiiO K5 Pro is a powerful desktop DAC and amplifier.
This unit can decode analog sound up to 32 bit/768kHz. The audio quality is intricate and detailed, thanks to the AK4493 chip.
We love the minimalist yet chic design that offers total control over your sound. The single knob makes it easy to adjust the volume.
It also allows you to fine-tune the bass and gain in a snap.
The K5 Pro is appealing to the eye too. It flaunts an all-aluminum body, anodized for a great feel in your hands.
Further, you can identify the current sample rate at a glance. The RGB indicator around the knob lights up with a different color for every sample rate.
As for the output, this DAC gives you several options for different uses. It comes with coaxial, optical, RCA, and headphone outputs.
In addition, this converter uses a DC 15V power supply designed to reduce noise.
5. Periodic Audio Rhodium
The Periodic Rhodium is as simple as they come. It is the best DAC on this list if you’re after simplicity.
This tiny dongle can handle files up to 32 bit/384kHz.
The best part? You can plug it directly into your portable music player charging socket. Or you can connect it to your laptop using the included USB adapter.
The Periodic Rhodium offers a 3.5 mm headphone output. You can use it with a 6.3 mm jack, but you’ll need a separate adapter.
Expect tight and low sub-bass with this converter. The mid-bass is full and textured. It promises clean mid to lows, with great detail. And, setting up this dongle is incredibly easy. Just plug it, and you’re good to go.
While the Periodic Rhodium isn’t the most powerful portable DAC, its performance. Plus, it is a great digital analog converter if you’re on a tight budget.
6. iFi Hip-dac Portable Balanced DAC
- ✅ PORTABLE DESIGN - Your music will never stop with up to 6 hrs of battery life and a slim, lightweight...
- ✅ HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO - From Spotify to Tidal MQA to MP3 and beyond, play any high res audio format...
- ✅ POWERFUL AMPLIFIER - Suited to your style, listen to in ear monitors or drive over the ear headphones...
The iFi Hip-dac is the best-looking portable DAC on this list. It features a luxurious petroleum-blue and copper finish. The hip-flask design is appealing, to boot.
Aesthetics aside, this baby will make your music sound good.
Sure, it doesn’t offer Bluetooth connectivity.
However, it packs a plethora of connectivity options to support pretty much every codec. With such versatility, the Hip-dac will meet all your Res Audio needs.
This converter runs on a Burr-Brown DAC chip. It will ensure your audio formats remain bit-perfect throughout the analog conversion. All this while eliminating digital distortion.
You can plug in just about any headphones, thanks to the PowerMatch button. And there’s the nifty “X Bass” button on the converter to elevate lower frequencies. The bottom features a male USB Type-A port to plug your mobile devices.
Grab the iFi Hip-day if you’re after audiophile sound quality.
7. Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC
- LEVEL-UP YOUR LISTENING: You deserve better sound. Play high-resolution music from Apple Music, Amazon...
- TRULY USEFUL FEATURES: USB and optical audio inputs for all your sources, computer/phone/tablet support,...
- HI-RES AUDIO: ESS ES9018 DAC, ES9601C headphone driver, and CT7601 USB audio bridge.
The Audioengine D1 is a fine performer. Boasting innovative features, it promises an informative and well-balanced sound.
This DAC can accept 24 bit/92kHz signal through the USB input. However, you can also use the optical connection to convert content up to 24 bit/192kHz. Further, it can work with Pcs and Macs without the need for additional drivers.
The Audioengine D1 earphone op-amp uses OPA2134. Its performance is quite satisfactory with low impedance earphones.
The bass volume is sufficient, as is the diving ability. Overall, this is a good DAC if you’re after delicate and smooth audio.
The D1 is a pocket-sized decoder. It measures 8.89×10.16×2.54CM, slightly larger than a business card.
So, you shouldn’t have a problem carrying it around. While it’s not the fancies of DACs, we love the no-frills yet sophisticated design.
It is important to mention that this decoder only supports USB 1.1. Still, you can use optical fiber, especially for 24 bit/192kHz.
8. Khadas Tone 2 Pro USB DAC
- Amaze Listening Experience:Khadas tone2 pro come with MQA decoding support The onboard XMOS XU216...
- Powerful Amplifier:Portable DAC with ESS ES9038Q2M DAC has been paired with four powerful OPA1612...
- Power-Noise Isolation.: Balanced headphone amp includes a 4.4 mm balanced headphone jack in addition to...
Making it to our best DAC reviews is this decoder by Khadas.
First, the Tone 2 Pro can play any music format you can imagine. It decodes MP3, DSD, or PCM. It can fully convert MQA files. The unit derives its power from the proprietary ESS DAC chip.
On the top is a large knob, which uses turns and clicks to select the settings. At the back is a pair of analog outputs. You can use RCA phono cables on these outputs.
Other connectivity options include a coaxial digital input and two USB-C ports. One of the ports serves as a power socket and for plugging external modules. The other is for connecting your smartphone.
On the side are two headphone outputs. One can handle a standard 3.5 mm TRS jack. The other accepts a 4.4 mm balanced Pentacom.
The control when can perform multiple tasks at different times. You can use it to select inputs or adjust the volume.
The base features a silicone material to make sure the decoder doesn’t slip during use.
The Tone 2 Pro delivers excellent audio with no background noise or hiss. This high-quality sound makes this decoder ideal for driving headphones with impedance up to 150ohms.
The Khadas Tone 2 isn’t the cheapest of DACs but is worth every dime.
9. HELM Bolt DAC
- STUDIO GRADE PORTABLE DIGITAL ANALOG CONVERTOR WITH MQA: BOLT delivers studio sound on the go from any...
- HIGHEST FIDELITY SOUND: MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) rendering “unfolds” every detail of the...
- SMARTPHONE, TABLET, MAC & PC COMPATIBLE: USB-C input to a 3.5mm Headphone Output supporting playback of...
The Bolt is diminutive, stylish, and affordable. Despite its size, it fuses a DAC and amplifier into one.
On one end is a USB-C port for your mobile devices. On the other end is a 3.5 mm headphone.
You don’t need any additional cable when using the Bolt. After all, it derives power from USB.
Included in the package is a UBC-female to USB adapter. That way, you can use this DAC with devices that don’t support a USB Type C connection.
The Bolt offers top-notch cross-platform support. It is compatible with Windows, Android, Linux, iOS, and macOS.
This DAC boasts 384kHz sample rates and DSD rates as high as 5.6MHz. It is also MQA-enabled. With such capabilities, the unit can decode high-fidelity audio files such as Tidal.
Further, HELM Bolt is THX-certified for ultra-low crosstalk and distortion.
This DAC’s build quality is excellent. Its solid braided cord and cable feel great to the touch. Meanwhile, the rugged vibe gives the impression that the Bolt can withstand everyday use.
It even has an LED indicator to show the sample rate audio playback. That’s premium quality right there!
10. RME ADI2 DAC
- The most versatile DAC available, the ADI2DACFS provides balanced/unbalanced analog I/Os, extreme power...
- Developed by RME engineers, the updated ADI-2 DAC uses ESS's ES9028Q2M in a particular circuit variant...
- The ADI-2 DAC FS allows those who use in-ear-monitors to receive the full dynamic range on playback, and...
The ADI2 doesn’t come cheap. On the flip side, it is one of the best high-end DACs you can get.
This decoder can handle audio files up to 768kHz. That’s an impressive performance at any price point. It delivers super-clear audio whether you’re using your headphones or PC speakers.
Speaking of headphones, this thing is a headphone amplifier too. You can use it with any headphone or in-ear mirror irrespective of impedance.
Further, the DAC can detect the headphone and switch the output automatically. It won’t even start playing at your set volume.
Instead, it slowly increases the volume in a second or two. That way, you can yank your headphones off if the Extreme Power function is on.
Also, the ADI2 features a five-band equalizer to let you adjust the bass, treble, and mid.
In addition, this DAC can sense your file and adjust its settings automatically. It will disable the volume control if you’re using the DSD Direct Mode.
Regarding the design, the ADI2 sports a solid box made of reassuring metal. We love the power indicator to show you when the decoder is on/off. The ring around the volume knob lights up as well.
Apart from the incredible sound, there’s the 2″ by 1″ display screen.
You can view a wealth of information on the screen, including real-time frequency, volume, and level meters.
DACs offer an easy and convenient way to “clean” your sound. An excellent DAC will assist you with accomplishing a cleaner sound foundation, taking your sound to the next level.
Our best DACs roundup offers a mix of everything. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious or portable DAC, these DACs are worth checking out.
It is worth bearing in mind that there are DACs that can’t handle some analog signs. So, be sure to check which files a DAC can convert before spending your money.