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Best USB DACs

Are you unsure of what a USB DAC is or whether you need one? If you’re new to the audiophile scene, it’s likely that you’ve heard about USB DACs by now and are wondering whether you need one. Alternatively, you might already be certain that a DAC is something you want to include in your equipment and are simply trying to choose the best USB DAC for your requirements. In either case, you should read this article!

A digital-to-analog converter may be one of the most underutilized pieces of equipment. I’ll be delving into the world of the USB DAC in this article. We’ll discuss what a digital audio converter (DAC) is, how they affect the sound quality of your songs and tracks, and of course, we’ll list some of the best models money can buy.

FiiO-E10K-USB-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed
Our Top Pick!

FiiO E10K

Although it is a relatively inexpensive digital-to-analog converter, it can easily match the performance of its more expensive competitors.

Meet the Winners!

Without a doubt, the Schiit Fulla 3 is among the top USB DAC models available for a reasonable price. Even if we were to ignore the fact that it is very reasonably priced, it would still perform fantastically well.

Despite the fact that it doesn’t get much better than this, most people are hesitant to try Chord Hugo 2 because of its exorbitant price. I suggest it to those who demand nothing less than perfection, studio engineers, seasoned producers, and those willing to shell out a sizable sum for the best possible output.

The AudioQuest DragonFly is a 32-bit DAC that is reasonably priced and provides excellent sound and flexibility on the go. One of the smallest DAC units in this review, it offers an excellent performance to price ratio. If you’re looking for a USB DAC headphone amp, I highly suggest it.

The FiiO E10K can easily compete with the performance of its more expensive counterparts despite being a relatively inexpensive digital-to-analog converter.

1. FiiO E10K USB DAC

Speakers Reviewed Score 5-0
FiiO-E10K-USB-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

OutputsCoaxial out, Line out, 3.5 mm headphone jack
Output impedance1.04
Output powerApprox 200 MW at 32Ω
InputsMicro USB
STR ratio<0.006% at 1 khz
Frequency response range20 Hz to 20 kHz
Dimensions3.1 x 0.8 x 1.9 ”
Weight2.79 oz
Selectable featuresBass boost and gain switch

Let’s start with our top pick, the FiiO e10 USB DAC headphone amplifier USB C DAC. It has a lot of great features, such as excellent, sturdy construction, is very adaptable, and has a lot of power for a small DAC unit, which is why I personally liked it a lot. I would say that the FiiO e10K Olympus 2 USB DAC and headphone amplifier are both more than worth the money.

Although it appears to be fairly straightforward, it is clear that it was made with durability in mind. Its sturdy construction is obvious from the almost vinyl-like finish, and its straightforward front panel suggests that it is also user-friendly for beginners.

Most people would assume that it doesn’t really have that much power given its small size. However, due to its compact, lightweight design, it boasts exceptional strength and promises convenience on the go.

I liked it quite a bit at first glance, especially when I took into account its price. I saw its value for money right away because of its small size, bass boost switch, and highly responsive gain control knob.

FiiO’s E10K deserves a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars if I were to judge it solely by what I can see in front of me. The only reason I wouldn’t give it a perfect score of 5/5 is that I personally prefer the “dedicated-USB” DAC units, the smaller, more portable models.

Design

In my opinion, the FiiO E10k is a perfect design when compared to a typical tabletop DAC. It is a USB-powered DAC, but it is actually quite large when compared to, for instance, AudioQuest’s DragonFly. On the other hand, compared to Chord Hugo 2, it is compact and only occupies a small portion of your workspace.

We could tell just by looking at it that this tiny DAC has a phenomenal build quality rating. You can feel how sturdy it is by flipping it through your hands. It is undoubtedly made of premium plastic materials, and it also has a lovely, exquisite hardwood finish.

Additionally, each in and out has extremely strong o-rings and hardware, so you can be sure they will last for many years to come.

The USB input, however, has occasionally been reported to be a little wiggly by some users. In fact, there is a very small hole (less than a millimeter) between the jack and the casing, which could be the cause of the unstable input.

Nevertheless, this minor flaw is so negligible as to be practically unnoticeable; it obviously has less of an impact on the E10K’s performance than it might have on your level of “comfort” while using it. All things considered, the E10K USB DAC of the FiiO is almost flawlessly constructed. The inputs and jacks are of exceptional quality, and the same can be said about the hardware in general. The knob feels great and is very responsive. I rate the build quality of this device 4.5 out of 5 because the casing is, obviously, incredibly strong.

Features

Even though I haven’t used FiiO’s E10 DAC, I’ve made sure to read what other people have to say about it, watch a few testing videos, and compare its specifications to the DACs I’ve used (and still use).

In terms of features, I generally notice that the E10K differs greatly from its predecessor. In terms of design, it actually resembles it just slightly, but almost every feature has received some serious upgrades.

The most significant change was an entirely new chipset. The WM840 chip is included with the E10, while the PCM5102 is included with the E10K. In terms of enhancing monotonicity and lowering the (already low) delay rate, the latter performs wonders. Another significant decrease in audio quality was experienced overall.

The fact that this new chipset reduces the mute intervals that frequently happen when I switch between tracks (regardless of whether I’m listening to some music or tracking my own) surprised me the most. Even though this change is barely noticeable, it has significant implications for audio engineers and producers who depend on surgical accuracy and pinpoint accuracy to make a living. The brand added that the integration of a better all-new bass boost and an optimized low-pass buffer reduced the noise floor. Again, I haven’t used the E10, but it’s clear that these new features are exquisite and create a wholly distinct DAC that shares very little with its previous iteration.

Sound and Performance

The main difference and biggest advantage is that the E10K DAC actually has a very affordable price. Its performance is on par with some of the most expensive DAC models on the market thanks to the LMH6643 buffer, which offers a superb transient response.

With the addition of the bass boost feature and incredibly sensitive gain control, listening to music is made so much more enjoyable. You will be able to lose yourself in your favorite songs like never before. It is ideal for pretty much anything you want to do with it.

Conclusion

Numerous factors contribute to the FiiO E10K’s popularity as a preferred DAC. In spite of how inexpensive it is, it has some serious features and a great sound. Although it is a relatively inexpensive digital-to-analog converter, it can easily match the performance of its more expensive competitors.

It works well for various studio applications as well as for both casual and critical listening (track engineering, producing, mixing, etc.). I strongly advise giving it a try because there aren’t any significant drawbacks or drawbacks you should be concerned about.

2. Chord Hugo 2 Transportable DAC

Speakers Reviewed Score 5-0
Chord-Hugo-2-Transportable-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

OutputsCoaxial, analog, 2 x microphone jacks
Output impedance0.025 Ω
Output power94mW at 300 Ω; 740mW 32 Ω; 1050mW 8 Ω
InputsUSB x 2, Direct
STR ratioN/A
Frequency response range20 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 0.2 decibels
Dimensions5.11 x 3.93 x 0.83 in
Weight15.87 oz
Selectable featuresFilter, Input, X-PHD

When looking for a high-quality DAC, it’s not difficult to find Chord’s Hugo 2; it’s heavily advertised, largely because it’s one of the best products in its category.

Huge and with two USB inputs, I initially assumed the Hugo 2 was just another type of connection because that’s what I thought they were when I first saw it.

It turns out that Hugo 2 ‘is’ a USB DAC amp after all, and despite being one of the largest, unwieldiest models in this class, its features and performance are practically unmatched by most of the models I’ve reviewed.

I already knew that Chord’s Hugo 2 performed flawlessly, earning a perfect 5/5 rating, but the sad part is that not many people can afford it.

Design

The Hugo 2 can still be considered a “portable DAC unit” despite having a large casing. Hugo 2 could pass for “compact” if you aren’t specifically looking for a tiny-sized USB DAC up 2.

Of course, it weighs a little bit more than, say, Schiit’s Fulla or AudioQuest’s Dragonfly, but in my opinion, 750 grams still counts as “lightweight.”

Although the plastic casing on the Chord Hugo 2 isn’t exactly shockproof, it is fairly robust. As long as you don’t accidentally drop it, its overall design is pretty fantastic. Although the casing may not be severely damaged, there are a number of exposed flimsy components that are easily breakable.

Features

Hugo 2 DAC is powered by a Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA chipset that is patented and specially coded by Chord and is one of the most powerful in this price range. It can be played for longer than seven hours in total, but it needs eight hours to fully recharge.

The casing is one of the features that particularly caught my attention; as I mentioned earlier, this DAC is quite durable but not damage-proof. It has a set of polycarbonate buttons and an aluminum-machined clamshell body. The main components are protected from damage from the outside, which is good, but the acrylic window is a little too exposed for comfort.

Sound and Performance

You can be absolutely sure that you won’t find a DAC with more attack and crispness, and you can also say the same thing about the absolute balance the soundstage exhibits.

It’s interesting how a DAC unit with such a well-balanced sound can perform so well across the board. The treble is airy and remarkably clean, the midrange is plentiful, and the bass is a raging behemoth.

The best part of it is that, if you know what you’re doing and what you want, you can control every last detail of its performance. On the other hand, there are many features here that you’ll need some time to understand, so the learning curve is quite steep.

The bottom line is that this DAC can accomplish all of your goals and more. It is without a doubt the best digital-to-analog converter available for studio work, gaming, and critical listening if you can afford it.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that it doesn’t get much better than this, most people are hesitant to give Hugo 2 a shot because of its astronomically high price. I suggest it to those who demand nothing less than perfection, studio engineers, seasoned producers, and those willing to shell out a sizable sum for the best possible output.

3. AudioQuest DragonFly

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-8
AudioQuest-DragonFly-Black-v1.5-Plug-in-USB-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

OutputsUSB 2.0 Type-A
Output1.2V
DAC chipESS ES9010
Maximal sample rate96 kHz @ 24 Bit
Analog I/O1/8-inch; 3.5 millimeter TRS output
Supported sample rates44.1 kHz; 48 kHz; 88.2 kHz; 96 kHz
CompatibilitySupports Windows 7, 8.1 and 10; Linux; macOS 10; iOS 5OS; Android 4.1 (and later versions)
Measurements0.5 x 0.7 x 2.4 in
Weight3.52 oz

Due to their small size, dedicated DAC USBs may cause some people to have some skepticism. However, anyone who is familiar with digital to analog converters will know that they are rather complex devices, so I can understand why some people might be skeptical about what a device as small as the DragonFly is capable of.

The DragonFly from AudioQuest doesn’t seem like much at first glance; it’s a small USB stick with what appears to be a powerful chip.

The Cobalt DAC, Sabre, the Jitterbug filter, and other products with similar designs can be found in great numbers in AudioQuest’s catalog, though. It’s reasonable to say that you should expect quite a bit from the DragonFly once you realize that this brand specializes in “all things USB.”

Design

Simply put, convenience doesn’t get any better than this. One of the smallest and most portable USB DAC devices, the Dragonfly is small enough to fit in a wallet or pocket. Due to its incredibly small size, the only thing you should be concerned about is not misplacing or losing it. You can carry it anywhere and at any time.

The drawback is that this DAC is also one of the weakest ones. Although it isn’t made of cheap plastic per se, it won’t be able to withstand much abuse. Fortunately, due to its lightweight, it won’t shatter if dropped accidentally, and since the head has a removable protection slot, all of the vital components are somewhat protected from physical harm.

Features

The ESS ES9010 DAC chip, analog volume control, and excellent compatibility with all current operating systems are just a few of the high-quality features that Dragonfly is equipped with.

On the other hand, I discovered that it is significantly weaker when compared to the more recent AudioQuest Dragonfly models (Red and Cobalt). Both the Red and Cobalt Dragonflies have superior output power and DAC chips, as well as digital 64-bit volume controllers.

Sound and Performance

The AudioQuest Dragonfly offers convenience while you’re using it, but if you don’t know how to use all of its features, it won’t be much use to you. You must rely on the analog VC to adjust its performance because its output power is almost half that of the Red and Cobalt versions.

The fact that this USB DAC works with the majority of desktop PC OS versions is one of its best features. It is useful for both Windows and Linux users, but it is not just limited to PCs because it is also compatible with Android- and iOS-based smartphones.

Conclusion

Dragonfly is a 32-bit DAC that is reasonably priced and provides excellent sound and convenience while traveling. One of the smallest DAC units in this review, it offers an excellent performance-to-price ratio. I highly suggest a USB DAC headphone amp if you’re looking for it.

4. Schiit Fulla 3 Gaming DAC

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-8
Schiit-Fulla-3-Gaming-DAC-Speakers-Reviewedwebp

Specs & Features​

USB receiverC-Media CM6631A
Output Impedance0.5 ohms (headphones); 75 ohms (line out)
Inputsrear 1/8-inch jack
SNR105 decibels
Frequency response range20 Hz to 20 kHz, +/- 0.5 decibels
Dimensions3.5 x 2.5 x 1.4 in
Weight9.0 oz

A gaming DAC is by definition different from a professional DAC for critical listening, even though studio engineers and gamers almost always have the same types of requirements when it comes to sound quality. Schiit’s Fullla 3 is a gaming DAC and amp combo. Fortunately, Fulla 3 made it obvious that even at first glance.

One of the best things about this digital-to-analog converter is that you can either fine-tune its performance to perfection or let it do the job for you; it’s great either way. It also packs some serious features and is incredibly simple to use.

Design

Since Schiit’s Fulla 3 DAC is essentially a standard tabletop USB-powered DAC with a sturdy enclosure and a small footprint, it’s pretty practical in that regard. The only exposed component is the oversized knob, which is also quite durable like the rest of the construction.

The inputs are phenomenally made and are tucked in to avoid accidental jamming or damage. It only weighs 9 ounces, which is pretty light. Overall, I thought Fulla 3 was very well constructed.

Features

The AKM AK4490 converter, which is the main component of Fulla 3, is “responsible” for the product’s exceptional performance, and most gamers who have used this DAC say that it has significantly improved their gaming experience since then.

The auto gain control is a useful feature that allows you to benefit from DACs’ many advantages without having to know anything about how they work, at least in Fulla’s case.

Sound and Performance

Simply put, given that the Fulla is a low-cost DAC unit, I find its performance to be astounding. Despite the fact that it is advertised as a gaming DAC, I genuinely believe that it can be used in almost every conceivable setting, from casual music listening to gaming to critical listening to professional studio work.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, the Schiit Fulla 3 is among the top USB DAC models available for a reasonable price. Even if we were to ignore the fact that it is very reasonably priced, it would still perform fantastically well.

5. Benchmark DAC3 HGC

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-7
Benchmark-DAC3-HGC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

Number of channelsTwo
Indicators16 LED’s on the front panel
InputsUSB, 2 x optical, 2 x coaxial
Crosstalk-137 dB @ 20 Hz; -130 dB @ 1 kHz; -116 dB at 20 kHz
Frequency response range20 Hz – 20 kHz
Dimensions9.3 x 9.5 x 1.7 in
Weight2.95 lbs

The DAC3 HGC from Benchmark is not your typical digital-to-analog converter; at first glance, it resembles a vintage VHS, but upon closer inspection, one might conclude that it is actually a subpar mixing console due to the multitude of features integrated into its front panel.

Fortunately, this DAC is everything but; it’s an excellent converter with almost limitless audio customization options, but all good things have a price, and this one is fairly pricey. Let’s explore what it has to offer.

Design

Since this DAC has a sizable footprint, you should probably make some workspace available in advance. It weighs about 3 pounds and is also quite heavy on top of that. However, it has a strong aluminum casing and is clearly designed to withstand a lot of abuse.

Given the abundance of controls on the front panel, it is clear that the Benchmark DAC3 is a professional DAC. It has dozens of channels and a number of features (like polarity and dim/mute) that novice users probably won’t immediately understand how to use.

Features

The DAC3 from Benchmark has so many features that listing them all would take a while. Countless (balanced and unbalanced) outputs, a wide range of selectable features, including dim/mute, polarity, bypass/calibrated output, and selectable sample rate, are included with it.

Additionally, it has a remote control that has the same settings as the ones on the front panel.

Additionally, it has a bi-directional trigger, native DSD conversion, a digital pass-through filter, and, most significantly, an ES9028PRO converter. It should go without saying that most of these features are quite sophisticated, so once more, I only suggest this DAC to experienced DAC users and professional studio engineers.

Sound and Performance

Being able to do almost anything with DAC3 is one of its best features. Even if you choose not to fiddle with the many features it comes with, it is “naturally” so powerful and capable that it will elevate your gaming and music-listening experiences.

Professionals and seasoned studio users will benefit greatly from learning how to navigate through its settings; you’ll have complete control over any song or track and a clear LED display of any toggled settings. In a nutshell, Benchmark’s DAC3 is one of the best USB DAC models, even though it is quite expensive.

Conclusion

The DAC3 HGC from Benchmark is a high-end DAC first and foremost. Although most people aren’t particularly comfortable making such a large investment in a piece of technology, the advantages it offers are almost unmatched.

It sounds incredible, excels at connectivity thanks to its abundance of ports, and with a little know-how, allows for an incredible song and track customization. Is it suitable for informal listening? It’s amazing. To professionals and those who actually rely on it for their livelihood, I would recommend it.

6. Naim DAC-V1 Asynchronous USB DAC

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-7
Naim-DAC-V1-Asynchronous-USB-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

Audio inputs5 x digital inputs, 2 x coaxial RCA, 2 x optical, 1 x asynchronous USB Type-B
Audio outputsHeadphone 6.35mm out, variable line out
Load impedanceApprox. 10 k Ω
THD<0.002%
CompatibilityMac OSX 10.7 and higher; Windows 7, 8
Dimensions3.43 x 8.15 x 12.36 in
Weight9.48 lbs

The DAC V1 from Naim is one of the larger USB DAC devices; despite having a sizable footprint, it also seems to have a simple design. This DAC has a straightforward user interface, a sensitive knob, and a few buttons on the front panel’s right side.

When you turn it over, you’ll understand why the majority of users describe it as a “DAC with superior connectivity.” Five digital inputs, an asynchronous USB output, numerous analog outputs, RCA, and DIN outputs—you name it—are all included. I could tell right away, even at first glance, that I was going to adore this “little” DAC.

Design

Although Naim’s DAC V1 was constructed fairly simple and straightforwardly, I wouldn’t call it “simple.” It has a limited number of onboard selectable features and is generally simple to use. It might be trickier than you think to comprehend how the gain knob functions when used in conjunction with the Naim Audio volume control.

Its extraordinary durability is something I really liked. The DAC V1 from Naim has a sturdy casing that is almost indestructible. Naturally, you should avoid dropping it because the internal hardware isn’t as strong.

Features

The SHARC DCP DAC chip is one of the main factors making Naim’s DAC V1 one of the best USB DAC models in the high-end price range. Your perception of in-game sounds and music will be permanently altered by this tiny piece of hardware’s incredible power.

This DAC has excellent connectivity, as I’ve already mentioned. It has five S PDIF inputs, selectable analog outputs, and a Class-A headphone amp out, so you can connect pretty much anything to it.

Sound and Performance

In a nutshell, this DAC performs incredibly well; you should have high expectations from it, especially given the price tag. It’s a dependable DAC that performs admirably in almost every area; portability is the only area I found it to fall short.

When they don’t have many workspaces available, people typically choose USB DACs, so Naim’s DAC V1 size doesn’t really help with this problem. Nevertheless, the excellent connectivity more than makes up for this minor flaw.

Conclusion

I thought the performance of Naim’s DAC V1 was excellent. It’s undoubtedly one of the best USB DAC units available if you can get past its size and cost. It has an extremely cutting-edge chipset, unbeatable connectivity, and, to put it mildly, performance that is steady and dependable.

7. Marantz HD-DAC1

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-6
Marantz-HD-DAC1-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

DAC ChipCS4398
Signal-to-noise ratio106 dB
Harmonic distortion level0.0012%
InputsUSB, coaxial, optical
Channel separationApprox. 100 dB
Frequency response range20 Hz – 20 kHz
Dimensions10.6 x 9.8 x 3.5 in
Weight11 lbs

If you had never heard of Marantz, you might assume (without reading the name) that the HD-DAC1 is a somewhat advanced turntable or something similar. It does have the plinth and “legs” of a vinyl record player, and the hardwood bumpers were finished in a way that gives it a somewhat retro appearance.

However, those who have at least heard of Marantz are aware that it is one of the most well-known names in the world of amplifiers (and preamps). However, the HD-DAC1 is a mid-priced digital-to-analog converter that offers astounding performance, beautiful and durable design, and a number of really cool features that we’ll discuss in a moment.

Design

The HD DAC1 from Marantz is a USB digital-to-analog converter for headphones. It has a huge footprint, weighs a ton, is reasonably durable, and it looks absolutely stunning.

The best thing about the HD DAC1’s design is that it has bumper reinforcements that offer extra security against physical harm. Of course, only the sides are shielded, so the top, the back, and the front panel are essentially completely exposed. However, you need not worry because this DAC unit’s casing is made of high-quality machined aluminum.

Features

On the front panel, there are two large control knobs. The first is the “input selector,” which you can turn up or down to switch between different inputs without using software on your desktop PC. The second knob controls the volume; while it’s handy to have, its functionality is a little redundant if your cans already have a volume control slider.

This digital-to-analog converter has a fantastic chipset (CS4398), in addition to an exquisite jitter remover feature. This particular setting completely automates the removal of unwanted signals and feedback. Jitter remover likely performs as much work as the chipset itself.

Sound and Performance

Even though they are leagues above Marantz’ HD DAC1 in terms of price, high-end models like Benchmark or FiiO’s converters are still easily comparable. Strictly speaking of performance, Marantz’s HD DAC1 sounds fantastic and is surprisingly simple to use.

It has many cutting-edge features, the majority of which are fully automatic. Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the active features (input selector, volume, and gain control); these adjustments have the power to drastically alter how a song sounds.

Conclusion

Give the Marantz USB DAC1 a try if you’re searching the market for a high-quality DAC but don’t want to shell out a ton of cash. This DAC sounds fantastic in addition to having a very sophisticated and elegant appearance and a ton of great features. It has every feature a DAC should have; its only flaw is a sizable footprint.

8. EarStudio ES100 MK2

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-6
EarStudio-ES100-MK2-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

Output power1.1 Vp @ 16 ohms (3.5 mm); 2.2 Vp @ 16 ohms (2.5 mm)
Output impedance0.5 – 1 ohm
Connection typesUSB, Bluetooth 5.0
CodecsLDAC; aptX HD; AAC; aptX; SBC
Bluetooth rangeApprox. 32 ft
Battery life14 hours
Frequency response10 Hz – 40 kHz
Dimensions1.0 x 2.0 x 0.5 in
Weight0.6 oz

Think again if you believed that the Dragonfly is one of the smallest USB DAC models. The ES100 MK2 from EarStudio is without a doubt the smallest, most compact digital-to-analog converter currently on the market.

No need to assume its strength or ability based solely on appearance; instead, let’s concentrate on the advantages you can enjoy right away. This is the smallest, lightest DAC on the market, and it includes inline volume controls and pause/stop functions. In essence, this is a contemporary MP3 player with the capacity to significantly improve the audio quality of your songs rather than merely playing them. Let’s get into the specifics a little more.

Design

This little DAC is almost weightless. It is entirely made of relatively flimsy plastic, but because it weighs only 20 grams, even if you drop it from a height of about a meter, it won’t be harmed.

You can use the ES100 MK2 while driving, jogging, working, or working out because it was created to fit into a pocket. In fact, it has a very long battery life and a Bluetooth connection feature, so you can use it however you like.

Features

Who would have imagined that a tiny DAC would have two chipsets? The dual-drive AK4375a chips in the ES100 MK2 give it the power to enhance even the muddiest, dirtiest mixes and polish them up to a level of pristine quality.

Additionally, it has analog inline volume controls, a fully-adjustable integrated gain amplifier, and a ton of app-based features. You’ll be able to use the 10-band EQ, battery & volume control, DAC filter and oversampling, channel trim, and maximum volume limit as some of the most rewarding app-based settings.

Sound and Performance

In a nutshell, the ES100 MK2 operates flawlessly. The fact that most of the features must be used through an application may seem somewhat inconvenient to some people, but I personally find that to be even more convenient.

We can confidently say that it’s one of the most capable, most dependable DACs in this price range because it includes not one, but two premium-quality chipsets and a ton of volume and fine-tuning features. The majority of smartphones and smart devices are compatible with this USB DAC headphone amp USB DAC android.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re searching for a small, high-quality, or affordable DAC, the ES 100 MK2 meets all requirements. This powerful pocket-sized digital-to-analog converter offers a high degree of adaptability and dependability. Please give it a try; I’m confident you’ll enjoy it at least as much as I did.

9. Audioengine D1 Premium DAC

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-5
Audioengine-D1-Premium-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

DAC typeUSB, optical
InputsUSB, S PDIF optics
ChipsetAKM 4396
USB transferAsynchronous dual clock
USB classType 1.0 and above
Input bit-depth16 bit; 24 bit
Optical input sample-rate39 kHz – 192 kHz
Dimensions3.5 x 3.75 x 1.0 in
Weight1.0 lbs

The D1 DAC from Audioengine has a sleek, cool appearance that I liked as soon as I laid eyes on it. Judging by the lack of features on the front panel, I assumed that this DAC was made for beginners, gamers, and people who just want to up the audio quality of their music.

I wasn’t too far off with my initial assumption; this is a fairly basic and uncomplicated USB DAC that is furnished with high-performance features; it also boasts a strong level of connectivity and does quite a lot for the money.

Design

The D1 DAC from Audioengine has a simple, uncomplicated design. There are no additional reinforcements that would shield it from physical damage, but it has a sturdy plastic casing. On the other hand, every feature is safely concealed inside the casing, leaving the output level knob as the only exposed component.

This DAC is not only gorgeous, but it also has a tiny footprint and is incredibly light. Because you can literally place it whenever you like, you won’t need to worry about storage or workspace.

Features

The D1 DAC from Audioengine has a small number of features, but they are all of exceptional quality. The three key components—the volume control knob, the power indicator, and the headphone output—are located on the front panel. These features are essentially ideal for those who don’t want to experiment with DAC units and just want to improve their audio in the most straightforward manner.

There are a ton of inputs and outputs on the rear panel, including one RCA out, one optical/TOSLINK input, and the solid USB input that helped this amazing DAC land on this list.

Sound and Performance

Simply put, the Audioengine D1 is a mid-priced DAC that offers exceptional value. Its chipset is a powerhouse, despite the limited number of customizable features it has. It functions flawlessly with Windows, Mac, and the majority of Linux operating systems, and for a 24-bit DAC, it actually offers excellent value.

Conclusion

All things considered, the fact that this USB DAC performs better than expected for the price is the main factor that made me like it so much.

There are certainly many other DAC models with comparable connectivity and power at somewhat more affordable prices, but the D1 seems to perform slightly better overall. Its learning curve is less demanding than with other models of a similar price because it is practically good for anything.

10. iFi xDSD Portable Bluetooth DAC

Speakers Reviewed Score 4-5
iFi-xDSD-Portable-Bluetooth-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed

Specs & Features​

Inputs1/8 inch; 3.5-millimeter S/PDIF coaxial input, TOSLINK
Outputs1/8 inch; 3.5-millimeter TRRS
USB inputUSB 3.0 Type-A digital; micro-USB (charging)
Volume control-101 – 0 decibels (1 dB increments)
Dynamic range<113 dBA
Output impedance<1 ohm
Battery lifeUp to 10 hours
Dimensions3.7 x 2.6 x 0.7 in
Weight4.5 oz

The xDSD portable Bluetooth DAC from iFi is one of the best-looking and best-performing digital-to-analog converters in its price range if you’re looking for a special, exquisite DAC.

This DAC looks like a lot of fun to use in addition to having a beautiful design. The front panel’s features are largely self-explanatory, and the main volume control knob is pointed and edgy.

Design

This DAC’s incredible design is what makes it so unique. Everything about it, from the casing to the features it includes, is exceptional and one of a kind.

The xDSDaptX DAC’s casing is made of an extremely durable metal material, which makes it heavier than average but also ensures that it will withstand years of rough use and abuse.

The design of this DAC can be characterized as beginner-friendly in addition to the fact that it looks sharp and is fairly robust. On the front panel, there are only a few features, including the master volume control, the 3D+, and XBass+.

Last but not least, the xDSDaptX DAC has a very small footprint. Because of its portability and lightweight, you can easily move it from one location to another whenever you like.

Features

This DAC has a ton of high-end features. First of all, it features a wide range of digital inputs, rocks the Burr-Brown Chipset created and produced by Texas Instruments, and is compatible with the majority of Bluetooth devices (aside from smart headphones).

I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised when I learned what 3D and XBass functions were. When the “3D” button is pressed, the entire soundstage is amplified, which essentially means that any song (or track) you play will become significantly louder, meaner, and deeper.

Contrary to what I initially believed, the XBass button corrects the bass output rather than acting as a booster. By pressing this button, you can instantly add clarity and depth to the bass in your songs or tracks by filling in any gaps and enhancing the bass’s overall sound.

Sound and Performance

One of the best-sounding DAC systems I have ever used is iFi’s xDSDaptX DAC, to put it briefly. It is incredibly versatile in terms of audio customization, has excellent connectivity, is one of the best chipsets in the class, and is also a lot of fun to use.

Even though it’s a bit pricey, xDSD’s performance can easily compete with some of the most expensive high-end DAC models. It performs much better than I anticipated it would.

Conclusion

Although it might have appeared that I saved one of the best USB DAC models for last, this was not the case. In actuality, iFi’s xDSD DAC is genuinely fantastic because it’s portable, has a stellar performance rating, and isn’t even that expensive when compared to the advantages it offers. Everyone, not just audiophiles and studio engineers, should strongly consider purchasing it.

What qualities should you look for in the best USB DAC?

Intended Use

First and foremost, you should ask yourself, “What do I intend to do with my DAC? “; generally speaking, some people just want to enhance the audio quality of the music they’re listening to, while others (studio engineers, mixers, DJs) rely on DACs to deliver their product and make a living.

There are different DAC units for each “category”; though this isn’t a rule, novices and those looking for a DAC for light music listening should look at budget models. Meanwhile, experts and seasoned veterans are urged to research the high-end “boutique” category, where some of the best (and most expensive) models are.

Sound Quality

You wouldn’t believe how differently each DAC will modify your songs or tracks. This is due to the fact that each DAC is shipped with a unique chipset. In fact, some models—like the Earaudio E100—even have two.

Because so many other elements affect the overall sound, evaluating a chipset’s quality may be challenging. However, you can always check a chipset’s release date to see how recent (or old) it is by looking it up.

Compatibility

The ‘intended use’ and the DAC’s compatibility are closely related. Do you want to plug it into your phone in addition to your PC, or just your PC? Some DAC models are compatible with all major operating systems, but the majority of them are limited to the most recent releases of Android, Windows, and occasionally Linux. If you intend to “share” your DAC with a housemate or roommate, think about models with better compatibility.

Portability

You might as well get a portable USB DAC since you’re already choosing one. “Normal” DAC units are typically larger, and what portability they lack in power and versatility, they make up for in strength. People who don’t have a lot of extra space should choose a smaller DAC, such as the Dragonfly or the Earstudio ES100.

Connectivity

The applications for your DAC are determined by connectivity. While models with superior connectivity enable you to use your DAC with any device, models with low connectivity will only let you use them in a limited number of scenarios (and any number of devices, sometimes even simultaneously).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a DAC and what does it do?

Modern society absolutely requires DACs because every digital sound or noise we hear is produced by these tiny devices.
What is a DAC and what can you do with it are good places to start. DAC, which stands for a digital to analog converter, is a term that the majority of people aren’t even familiar with. A DAC essentially refers to the “system” rather than a specific device with adjustable features.
Despite the fact that DACs come in a wide variety of forms, all of them are intended to convert digital audio to analog audio. Naturally, there are systems that are intended to perform the exact opposite task; we refer to these as analog to digital converters, or ADCs.
To put it simply, DAC units ‘read’ digital audio signals and convert them into analog sound waves. Once the conversion is complete, the newly analog data is sent through pre-amplifiers and then further down to amplifiers where it is processed. After completing this last step, the sound waves are transformed into audible sounds, noises, and/or music.

What distinguishes digital from analog sound recording and reproduction?

To help you better understand what DACs do and why they are so important, we should define a few technical terms before we go into more detail.
Basically, digital audio refers to sound information that has been recorded or transformed into a digital format. Digital sound waves are always encoded as discrete, sequential numerical samples that are invisible to the human eye. Digital audio can also be edited, copied, and changed in a variety of ways. You can do this as often as you like. However, as it stands, you can’t really use it.
Analog audio, on the other hand, is very different in that it cannot be edited or changed once it has been recorded. On the other hand, the only method for recording and reproducing sound in the past was analog audio. Its primary drawback was that it couldn’t be changed, but its biggest advantage is that it’s simpler to use (or at least, it was easier to work with).
Analog and digital sound waves can best be understood by comparing them to the original sound waves to which they are related.
In that regard, analog sound waves are exact replicas of what the original audio “looked” like; they are identical to the original. There isn’t even the slightest difference between the graph of analog waves and the original sound waves.
Essentially a binary representation of the analog recording, digital sound waves. DACs, pre-amps, and amps use them to “refine” them into audible audio. Compared to a graph of analog sound waves, a graph of digital sound waves is “pointy” and “edgy.”
As previously mentioned, digital audio can be altered, just like a digital representation of digital sound waves. Graphs are represented differently by different programs.

What is a USB DAC?

Tabletop devices make up the majority of DAC units. Although they are typically not large, some models, like the E-Vaughan DAC from M2Tech, can be quite heavy and awkward. Owning a USB DAC is primarily motivated by the desire to save workspace and, of course, convenience.
In comparison to their tabletop counterparts, USB digital-to-analog converter units are significantly lighter and smaller. In fact, the majority of tabletop DAC software (along with necessary accessories) can fit inside something as small as a USB stick.

How does a DAC work?

DACs convert binary numbers that have already been stored on various digital platforms into analog voltage and current. In essence, a DAC unit “reads” “digital” sound waves and modifies them until they are “analog” sound waves. Although different DAC models employ various “methods” of conversion, in essence they take soundwaves from digital forms and transform them into analog soundwaves.

What is a USB DAC UP?

The “UP” in DAC refers to the significantly cleaner circuits these digital-to-analog converters have, which results in significantly smaller DC voltage fluctuations, which ultimately results in less buzzing and sound “ripples.”

FiiO-E10K-USB-DAC-Speakers-Reviewed
Our Top Pick!

FiiO E10K

Although it is a relatively inexpensive digital-to-analog converter, it can easily match the performance of its more expensive competitors.

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