You´ll be surprised at what DACs in this price range can do for the sound quality of your devices. It is like a breath of fresh air to your ears hearing the expressive mid-range of the human voice, the low grunt of a well-played bassline and the crispy highs of the cymbals.
When the sound is articulate and pure, everything is enhanced. For instance, when you are using a low-quality DAC (built-in mostly), the highs are too harsh and the lows muddy while the mid-range hides somewhere in between. With a minimum of 24-bits, you can assure that you´ll get rid of those annoying sounds.
Even under the line of $50, results are way better than built-in DACs on most digital audio devices. Let´s go straight to the list of my favorite ones; are you ready? Let´s go!
Inputs: Micro USB Outputs: 3,5mm x2 balanced and single-ended Max Sampling Rate: 32-bit – 384kHz MQA: No DSD: Yes
What we like: DSD capability in a small size, 32-bit audio quality, determines the input type automatically.
Not so much: Not loud enough, the micro USB to lightning cable is so hard to find.
FiiO is one of the most cutting-edge DAC manufacturers out there. They design and build small devices that deliver state of the art sound. This Fiio Q1 Mark II is great to use with a rubber band and enjoy music with the highest definition available from your phone. I am an audiophile and hence, I got my audiophile toys like my amazing 300 ohms headphones. This gadget can handle them and also play my DSD files, the highest quality audio in my opinion. Going on a long bus trip is no longer suffering, but enjoying audio at its best.
I guess my only drawback with this device is that it is not as loud as I would want it to be. The audio quality is more than covered, but I´m always thinking that I want some extra volume. Finally, I wish more brands, including FiiO, would make a replacement Micro USB to lightning cable because I think it´s an amazing invention and I´m afraid I won´t be able to replace it if it breaks.
Inputs: Micro USB Outputs: 3.5mm, 1/8” and Coaxial Out Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 96kHz MQA: No DSD: No
What we like: The optimized bass filter works great, Excellent sound quality, Fed with the Micro USB connection only, no batteries required.
Not so much: ASIO version generated the “Kernel security check failure”, Can´t accommodate true audiophile 300-ohm headphones, Fragile Micro USB connector.
If the Q1 Mark II is the ideal DAC to take with you on the road, the E10K is the best for staying at home and plugging it to your computer. It only needs the power that the Micro USB provides it. To begin with, the sound quality is surprising; it is one of those gadgets that, once you plugged it in, you wonder what did you do all these years without it. Everything sounds much better and although it can´t really handle my 300-ohm audiophile headphones, it makes my home speakers sound great.
Adding to the good sound, the controls, and the layout are as simple as it gets and instead of the rubber bands to use with your phone, it comes with some rubber feet for your desk. The design looks sturdy and the brushed black aluminum is very good-looking. Finally, the coaxial out is great to make it part of a signal chain and the line out is cool to go to my active speakers. If you are looking for a stay-at-home good sounding DAC, this might be it.
Inputs: USB Outputs: 3.5mm Max Sampling Rate: 32-bit – 384kHz MQA: Yes DSD: Yes
What we like: As small and portable as a USB pen drive, Loud power amp for the size, Plays MQA files.
Not so much: The USB and 3.5mm connectors are not a single piece and it can fall apart, Frequent connectivity issues, Not on the cheaper side for what it does.
Ok, this is a great DAC for several reasons. Let´s just start by saying that it can fit the upper pocket of your shirt or the coin pocket of your jeans. It is about the size of a pen drive but doesn´t let that confuse you, it is a really powerful headphones amp too.
I tried it with my computer while I was streaming from Netflix with my Sennheiser Momentum headphones and the result was great. What I didn´t like particularly about it is that I got some disconnections every now and then. The software part of this little DAC is not as strong as other brands for the same price tag or even less (see some under $200 options). That being said I love I can play MQA files and also the fact that it is so small and delivers such great quality.
If what you have in mind is a no-frills, good-sounding DAC to take everywhere with you, this might be it.
Inputs: USB Outputs: 1/8” Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 96kHz MQA: No DSD: No
What we like: Works with any OS: Windows, iOS and Linux, Super small and portable, 3-year transferrable warranty.
Not so much: High frequencies (vocals and cymbals) get lost when plugged in, Muddy basses at times, It doesn´t have a cap to protect USB connection.
When I first picked up the box in which this tiny DAC comes, I was genuinely surprised they managed to put such a powerful device in such a small package. The moment I plugged it into my computer, though, I noticed that the highs got a little lost and the lows became a little muddy. It really pushes the mids forward and made guitars, pianos and snare drums very present. Since there is no way to EQ the sound on it, that can be a tad annoying.
I like the fact that they sell it with an extended 3-year warranty instead of the 1-year every other manufacturer offers. This is especially important because I don´t like the fact that there is no cap to protect the USB connection.
The size is perfect to take it everywhere with you; this could be the DAC of your choice if you want to just listen to good music at your favorite café.
Inputs: Micro USB Outputs: 3.5mm Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 192kHz MQA: No DSD: No
What we like: Real small and practical to take anywhere, Way more volume than a regular computer, Easy to use the volume controls available.
Not so much: You have to download some extra USB drivers for it to work properly and they are not stable, Sound quality is not impressive, No boosting possibility on the low and mid-range.
This little gadget works its best when plugged into a computer. It offers a lot more volume than what a standard onboard DAC offers. On the other hand, when plugged into a chain of high-end audio devices, it fails to deliver what you would expect from it. For example, I was really pleased with the sound I got out of my computer with it, but the moment I used it for my small home theatre, it was barely loud enough. Besides that, the sound quality wasn´t at all impressive when plugged into my speaker columns.
On the other hand, I love the fact that it does have a volume control on top, which makes it very easy to use when you have it on the desk and want to make quick changes on the fly.
If you are looking for a small DAC to improve the sound quality and power of your computer, this might be it. On the contrary, if you want a DAC to use with other high-end audio equipment, I recommend you keep on looking.
Inputs: Micro USB and OTG Port Outputs: 2x 3.5mm Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 192kHz MQA: No DSD: Yes
What we like: 32-bit extra transparent sound quality, Powerful power amp, SPDIF connectivity makes it more versatile.
Not so much: No cables provided inside the box, Flat on every frequency makes it a little boring.
To be honest, the first thing I thought when I plugged in this DAC was that I was plugging in a pair of studio monitors with ultra-flat frequency response. This is both a great and a bad thing. On one hand, it unveils all the nuances of any musical production letting you hear what the artist was hearing on the studio. On the other hand, it sounds kind of boring and dull without any boost in the whole frequency spectrum.
Although it is pristine clear, we are talking about a loud power amp; I would say it is 10 to 15% louder than its predecessor. The SPDIF input makes it a great addition to any sound system.
Finally, I didn´t like at all that the company didn´t add any kinds of cables in the box with it. This is a great purchase for those who want pure sound with no bells or whistles or an EQ curve.
Inputs: USB and OTG Outputs: 2x 3.5mm Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 192kHz MQA: No DSD: Yes
What we like: Gain switching plus handling headphones over 300 ohms, Great power in the amp, USB OTG makes it compatible with many devices.
Not so much: The volume is not balanced, Random noises when using the OTG, The amp has a bass-oriented EQ that can be annoying with some music styles.
I said it before, but I’ll say it again: I am an audiophile and if I buy a DAC I want to be able to plug in my expensive hi-fi equipment. That being said this Proster DSD64 (see review) is great for those of us who are lucky owners of 300-ohm (or higher) headphones. It supports up to 500 ohms and with the gain switch, you will never fall out of volume due to high impedance.
I also loved the OTG to use it with my tablet; I just wish it wouldn´t make such a noise when plugged in. It works normally for some minutes and then you can clearly hear some noise in the signal. Yes, it is very low noise only picked up by high-end equipment, but that is what we, audiophiles, need a DAC for.
Finally, the lack of balance in the volume and the EQ being oriented to bass frequencies made it a very difficult gadget to tame to my likings. If you want to spend little money and get a much better sound than your onboard DAC, it is a great choice; just don´t expect a mind-blowing audio quality.
Inputs: Coaxial, optical Outputs: 3.5mm and RCA Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 192kHz MQA: No DSD: No
What we like: Versatile outputs to accommodate all devices, Included power adapter, Weighs only 50 grams.
Not so much: No USB in, just used for powering the unit, Can´t control the TV volume when the DAC is plugged in, The high-frequencies tend to be a little harsh on the ears.
This is not a portable DAC, but the unit FiiO built for your Chrome Cast, Apple TV and such. It is a very small DAC that weighs only 50 grams. To begin with, I was a little annoyed by the fact that it needed to be plugged in because I needed an extra socket to fit it. On the other hand, it is great that the adapter is included with the price tag this DAC has. Another thing I really liked is that it features optical and coaxial inputs so I can plug whichever I want from Chrome Cast.
The sound quality is much better than the standard one you get with your Chrome Cast or Apple TV (or whatever you use). The two things that made me doubt were the fact that you just can´t adjust the volume once plugged in and that it destroys the high frequencies. This being said, I only realized about the high frequencies after playing some very loud drumming videos and hearing the cymbals.
If you want a very small and affordable DAC not to move around and keep your Chrome Cast and Apple TV sounding better than factory standards, this might be it.
Inputs: SPDIF and coaxial Outputs: RCA and 3.5mm Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 192kHz MQA: No DSD: No
What we like: RCA and line out capabilities for external power amp or headphones, Optical and coaxial inputs, Isolated inputs and outputs with internal short cut prevention.
Not so much: Volume is too low for most uses, No volume control included, Only works on more modern TV sets you can set the audio output.
This is a very small and handy gadget that works great at changing the standard factory sound of many devices like TVs, Blu-rays and gaming consoles to name a few. This was the idea of Prozor when they created it and although it does what it should, it lacks any power at all. I tried my headphones and thought it was the high impedance, so I plugged in my iPhone´s ones but the result was the same. Then plugged it to my power amp with the RCA outs and had to really crank it to get a decent volume. Sound-wise it works great improving the overall audio quality.
Please bear in mind that if your TV is too old and doesn´t have PCM or LPCM options on the menu you won´t be able to use this DAC in it. In fact, the whole process of changing volume settings is kind of annoying with it.
It is a good DAC to set-it-and-forget-it with a strong power amp.
Inputs: Coaxial, Optical, and Bluetooth Outputs: 3.5mm and RCA Max Sampling Rate: 24-bit – 192kHz MQA: No DSD: No
What we like: Bluetooth to analog RCA conversion is very handy, Built-in volume knob, 5.0 Bluetooth technology.
Not so much: No remote way to have a volume control, Connecting your headphones kill all other audio outputs, RCA outlets are not powerful.
I never thought I was going to be able to stream music from my cellphone straight to my state of the art power amp I use with my record turntable. With this device plugged in, you can just stream your Spotify tunes with a great sound. Bluetooth 5.0 technology is as good as it gets offering a very stable connection all the time.
Although the RCA outlets are not as loud, if you have a good power amp like the one I have, you can get a great sound out of it. Same thing when I hook it up to the Chrome Cast.
The one thing that I found very annoying is that there is absolutely no way to change the volume remotely, you have to stand up, walk to the thing and turn the wheel. For those looking for a cheap, no-frills DAC with the option of Bluetooth connection, this is a great choice.
Last update on 2021-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API