11 Best DAC Amp Combos Under $300: Your Buyer’s Guide

best dac amp combo

A quality digital audio converter (DAC) is essential to any new audiophile setup, as digital signal degradation usually begins internally at your computer’s sound card. However, upgrading your audio equipment to audiophile-grade gear is a slippery slope that can leave your bank account suddenly empty. Keep things simple by checking out our picks for the best DAC/amp combos under $300.

What Are the Best Budget DAC Amp Combos in 2020?

dac, best dac, best dac under 200, digital audio converter, audioengine d1, audioengine dac Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Built-in headphone amplifier
  • Inexpensive
  • Small footprint
Price: $160.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
fiio e10k dac amp combo Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Strong low end
  • Low price tag
  • Low noise floor
Price: $75.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
soundblaster g6 dac amp combo Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 32bit/384kHz output
  • Virtual 7.1 surround sound
  • Low noise floor
Price: $129.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
project headbox s2 dac amp Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Built-in digital filters
  • Smooth 32bit/768kHz output
  • Plentiful input selection
Price: $379.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
schiit fulla 3
  • Low noise floor
  • Low price tag
  • Low/high output impedance
Price: $99.00 Shop now at schiit.com Shop now Read our review
dacmagic 100 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Natural frequency response
  • Incoming sample rate display
  • Lots of speaker inputs
Price: $335.97 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
dac, best dac, digital audio converter, bluetooth dac, mass relay
  • Long Bluetooth range
  • aptX codec
  • Fast pairing
Price: $249.99 Shop now at crutchfield.com Shop now Read our review
sennheiser dac amp combo Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Smooth 24bit/192kHz output
  • Virtual 7.1 surround sound
  • Plug-and-play
Price: $183.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
denon da-10 dac amp combo
  • 2 Hz - 50kHz frequency range
  • 7-hour battery life
  • Smooth 32bit/192kHz output
Price: $399.00 Shop now at usa.denon.com Shop now Read our review
dac, best dac, digital audio converter, odac, jds labs odac Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Open-source design
  • Low output impedance
  • Natural frequency response
Price: $289.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
modi and magni 3 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Lots of inputs
  • 24bit/192kHz output
  • Inexpensive
Price: $123.41 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Audioengine D1

    Pros:
    • Small footprint
    • Inexpensive
    • Built-in headphone amplifier
    Cons:
    • No 1/4 inch headphone output
    • High impedance limits headphone selections
    • Tonal balance could be more rich

    The D1 digital-to-analog converter from Audioengine is a standout value, as it offers great sound quality at a price that is more affordable than comparable units. This USB DAC is plug-and-play with Mac or PC, making it one of the easiest ways to bring your FLAC and Apple Lossless files to life.

    The sturdy metal casing with rubber front and rear plate has a compact footprint and a simple interface, with only a volume knob, power button, and a headphone jack on the front. On the back, there is one USB and one optical S/PDIF input, plus an RCA output.

    The front 3.5mm headphone port is your output option for headphone listening. A 1/4 inch jack would have been a nice addition as they more commonly need amplification, but the 3.5mm jack will be appreciated by those who are using budget headphones since this is a budget unit in itself.

    The D1’s low 10-ohm output impedance will not work with some high impedance headphones (300 ohms or more), but when the impedances match up, the amplifier is excellent.

    For USB audio the D1 goes up to a 24-bit resolution and a sample rate of 96 kHz, which are standard specs for a DAC that aims for smooth and accurate conversion of data to sound. These two figures are commonly measured with a dual rating, in this case, 24/96. This rating puts the audio fidelity of the D1 at the level of HD Blu-Ray audio. The D1 is characteristically low in jitter, and also has a high signal-to-noise ratio of 110dB makes for a clean sound with minimal digital distortion.

    The sonic accuracy of music played through the D1 is tighter, offering more room for individual frequencies to flourish, plus a wider soundstage. The frequency response of 10Hz – 25KHz also contributes to the added depth of the sound, and although it takes a trained ear to pick up this added complexity, it will immediately shine on that one song you’ve heard for the thousandth time.

    While I have no direct complaints about the sound, I am left feeling like something is missing from the audio experience of the D1. True individuals frequencies will stand out under the D1’s subtle influence, but after comparing to slightly pricier DACs, it is apparent that this system could perform even better. Such begins the slippery slope of audiophile gear.

    If reading about the D1 already has you thinking about an upgrade, the Audioengine D2 offers wireless streaming, and slight improvements on signal to noise ratio and frequency range for about double the price.

    But the vast world of potential improvements aside, the D1 is where the value is, as the unit’s solid amplification and compact footprint make it a great starting point for budding audiophiles.

  2. 2. FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

    Pros:
    • Strong low end
    • Low price tag
    • Low noise floor
    Cons:
    • Not battery powered
    • Bright LED cannot be disabled
    • Limited inputs

    Many know the FiiO E10K as a crucial stepping stone into the world of high fidelity audio. As one of the cheapest DACs to still provide a decent sound, the FiiO E10K is a solid option for audio enthusiasts on any budget.

    The sound that you get from FiiO E10K doesn’t quite stack up against pricier options like the Pro-Ject Audio Head Box DS or the JDS Labs O2+ODAC but it will still likely beat out the sound card in your PC or laptop. The E10K processes audio at a sample rate of 24bit/96kHz with a low noise floor and a linear internal filter.

    There is no discernable delay, jitter, or clipping, even when you use the internal amp to crank up its digital output to max. You can only plug it into digital sources with its lone micro USB port, but you can output the sound to coax, 3.5mm line or 3.5 mm for headphones. There is a switch on the back for high or low gain but you will want to leave it on low for most uses.

    There’s not much else that can be said to make the FiiO E10K stick out from the pack, as it is ultimately pretty feature-light. It will not blow your ears to the back of your head but you will have to hear it to believe just how much sound you can get for this price.

  3. 3. Creative Sound BlasterX G6

    Pros:
    • Smooth 32bit/384kHz output
    • Virtual 7.1 surround sound
    • Low noise floor
    Cons:
    • Default settings colorize sound
    • Requires a firmware update out of the box
    • So-so materials

    Despite not being a dedicated DAC, Creative’s Sound BlasterX G6 is a multi-purpose audio powerhouse whose main draw is beautifully smooth digital decoding. It offers a smooth and jitter-free 32bit/384kHz digital output when you connect an analog source. The signal-to-noise ratio is a solid 130dB, but the stock audio settings for the G6 are a slightly colored sound with boosted treble frequencies. The Sound Blaster Connect 2 software can be used to set the G6 to a more neutral sound or you can go all-in and tweak the signal further.

    The software can also be used to set filters, enable dynamic range control, and simulate virtual 7.1 surround sound. There are also audio presets for gaming that are designed to enhance tactical audio cues like footsteps without muddying the overall mix of the game. The sample unit of the G6 I received required a firmware update out of the box but this was easy to handle through the software.

    The Creative G6 has several connections including a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a 3.5 mm line/optical-in, and a 3.5 mm mic-in. Note that only the front 3.5 mm jack uses the DAC. The rear 3.5 mm line-in will bypass the amp and only uses the DAC. The headphone amplifier is a helpful addition to the package, which has a high-low gain switch that you can use to switch between high-impedance and low-impedance headphones. The sample unit I was sent to review handled my large collection of headphones excellently, though I don’t have any over-ear monitors to test the unit to its limit. One downside for headphone aficionados is that two 3.5mm outports do not offer major flexibility for headphone options, but this can be easily fixed with adapters.

    Simply put, if music is your one and only passion, the extra features of theG65 might go to waste if you picked it over a dedicated DAC. But if you are a general media buff who devotes equal time to gaming, music, and movies, then the G6 offers a playground of extra features that will keep you busy for hours. For a do-it-all combo unit on a budget, you really can’t ask for more. 

  4. 4. Pro-Ject Audio Head Box S2 Digital

    Pros:
    • Built-in digital filters
    • Smooth 32bit/768kHz output
    • Plentiful input selection
    Cons:
    • Requires drivers on Windows computers
    • Bulky
    • High output impedance (not for headphones under 32 ohms)
    The Pro-Ject Head Box S2 Digital is a fairly hefty DAC/amp combo whose sturdy aluminum casing can take up a decent bit of space on your desk. It, however, is worth the intrusion, as this DAC box can decommission your computer’s low-quality sound card for good. The Head Box S2 offers clear 32bit/768kHz output for under $300, making it a serious competitor in its price range.
     
    The Head Box S2 has three digital inputs, an asynchronous USB B port, an S/PDIF port, and a Toslink optical port. There is an RCA input for use an amp, but you won’t find any 3.5mm cable ports on this device. This device outputs strictly to a 1/4-inch headphone jack. Obviously, you can use an adapter if you need to, but you should be warned that longer cables and more connection points mean more signal degradation.

    Cables aside, the Head Box S2 delivers an incredibly accurate and pure sound. Its internal ESS Saber ESS9038 DAC outputs  14bit/192kHz audio through optical and coaxial input, and 32bit/768kHz decoding through its USB B port. It has a standard frequency response and an impressive 120 dBA signal-to-noise ratio at max volume. It also has five digital filters pre-configured that you can cycle through to shape the sound to your liking.
     
    The headphone amplifier is quite impressive as well, offering a total 9dB of signal gain that can be adjusted and monitored on the front display panel. Because this amplifier does not offer a low output impedance mode, it should not be used with headphones under 32 ohms or else the sound will be harshly colored. This isn’t highly restrictive but you should be mindful to match the electrical load of your devices so that the source is about eight times lower than the load.
     
    At the end of the day, this will still end up being a determining factor in which DAC/amp combo is best for your needs. If you primarily need a DAC/amp combo to boost a digital signal into a pair of higher impedance headphones, then the Head Box S2 is a sure pick.
     
  5. 5. Schiit Fulla 3

    Pros:
    • Low noise floor
    • Low price tag
    • Low/high output impedance
    Cons:
    • Audio bitrate could be higher
    • Amp doesn't boost volume by much
    • Bright LEDs cannot be disabled

    Even though the Schiit Stack is already considered to be one of the best DAC amp combos under $300, Schiit simply had to go and make high-bitrate audio even more affordable. Their Fulla 3 is both a DAC and a headphone amplifier in one compact package and for the same price as either the Modi 3 or the Magni 3 on their own.

    It has a rear 3.5 mm output that can boost your digital signal by up to 4.6dB via a prominent volume knob. This rear knob has a high 10,000-ohm impedance, which allows it to properly drive high impedance headphones like the 600-ohm Beyerdynamic DT 990. If you wish to run normal headphones through this amp, then you are better off using the front 3.5 mm headphone jack. It has a low output impedance of 0.5 ohms, which is better for lower-power headphones.

    The Fulla 3 has a low noise floor whether you use the amplifier or bypass it using the front 3.5mm output. On the back of the device, you have a 3.5 mm input so you can conversely bypass the DAC and use the Fulla 2 as just an amp. It has two micro USB inputs, one for data and one for power. If you plug the device into a PC for power, it will turn on and off with the audio source.

  6. 6. Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100

    Pros:
    • Natural frequency response
    • Incoming sample rate display
    • Lots of speaker inputs
    Cons:
    • No headphone amplifier or inputs
    • Audio bitrate could be higher
    • Input selector resets when you turn it back on

    Cambridge Audio’s DACMagic 100 is a no-nonsense DAC that combines a solid selection of in/out ports with a high-quality Wolfson 24-bit DAC to make all of your high-quality digital content compatible with your killer vintage speaker setup. You can connect to it from USB, one of two digital coax ports, or a Toslink optical port. It will be difficult to use this DAC with headphones as it lacks both a headphone amplifier and headphone inputs.

    This device also doesn’t have a headphone amplifier built in. If you know that you won’t need to amplify your signal for a pair of signal hungry headphones, you can get more value for your dollar by opting for the DACMagic 100, which puts all of its resources into delivering clean 24-bit/96kHz audio.

    On that note, audio coming through the DACMagic 100 sounds pristine. FLAC and ALAC files are delivered with a wider soundstage and a full frequency range. This device has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. This seems pretty basic when devices can capture much more, but most of those frequencies are well beyond the range of human hearing. The device shows you the sample rate of the incoming data, which is a bit of a gimmick but neat to see in action.

    The DACMagic 100 marks a substantial improvement over most baked-in soundcards but it’s important to temper your expectations. This is Cambridge Audio’s entry-level DAC, which would be promptly blown away when compared to any of their top of the line equipment. Still, if you want a basic DAC that is geared towards speaker listening rather than headphone listening, then this is a solid pick.

  7. 7. Mass Fidelity Relay Hi-Fi Bluetooth DAC

    Pros:
    • Bluetooth wireless gets long range
    • aptX codec delivers solid 24bit/48kHz sound
    • Easy setup and pairing
    Cons:
    • Higher price tag
    • Additional inputs/outputs would be nice
    • Poor quality on non-AptX compatible devices like iPhones

    There is a certain romanticism in laboring over analog equipment: powering on, plugging in, dropping the needle. For high-quality digital sources, however, our only expectation besides quality is convenience and Mass Fidelity delivers both with the Relay, a high-quality Bluetooth streaming solution.

    The Relay is sleek, light, and beautifully machined from solid aerospace-grade aluminum, making it a stylish addition to any hi-fi setup.

    It can be set up in under a minute, as it has just one RCA output to plug in, while the input is handled by a small Bluetooth antenna on the back. Bluetooth pairing is quick and convenient, plus it even supports extra features like pairing to multiple devices for gatherings, and fast re-pairing for daily use.

    The Relay can decode SBC, A2DP, and AAC, but provides the best sound over aptX, making this a great choice for Android users. This does cause a minor problem for iOS devices, as even the newest iPhone 6s only supports the lower quality A2DP or AAC formats.

    At its best, the Relay performs at 24bit/48kHz, which is roughly equivalent to CD quality. While this does mean that the Relay is outclassed by pricier wired DACs for smoothness, it is still nothing to scoff at for a Bluetooth DAC.

    In fact, 44.1 kHz is the ideal sample rate for most media, as a majority of listeners will not be able to distinguish between this and a higher quality sample rate.

    This is because 44.1 kHz is accurate enough to cover the exact frequency range of human hearing, and though some barely perceptible dynamic range is lost, the added function of wireless connecting offers a fair trade-off for most people.

    This is especially true considering that the Relay sounds better coming through hi-fi speakers than most other digital audio sources connected by wires. I confirmed this by playing aptX audio from Samsung Galaxy S5 through the sample unit I received into my vintage BSR hi-fi system and then comparing it to a wired connection from my S5’s headphone jack into the same system.

    The bottom line is that the Relay’s microprocessor far outclasses the sound card of my smartphone, and provides much better amplification plus improved clarity. And then there’s the best part: it lets me stream from anywhere in my living room at low latency.

    Even with a potentially lower sample rate than you could have from a wired connection, the Relay has a phenomenal sound that is both accurate and detailed. With a 112dB signal-to-noise ratio and only 0.0001% THD (total harmonic distortion), neither noise nor distortion will come between you and your favorite tracks, which ring through accurately and with a new clarity.

    All of the tracks I tested on my Relay came through more full and rounded than they did from being directly connected to my aging speakers, the added transparency of the sound helped reveal new details in my music.

    It is easy to write off this wireless DAC because of the inherent limitations of wireless audio. But before you do, I would certainly recommend giving it a try, as I never realized how cool it is to stream wireless audio at such high quality, especially at parties.

    Wireless DACs are a fantastic idea, and though it makes so much more sense to use in my living room rather than my studio PC, the Relay allows me to finally bring my high-quality music out of my restricting little cave. If you want to do the same, then this is one of the best DAC/amp combos under $300.

  8. 8. Sennheiser GSX 1000 DAC/Amp Combo

    Pros:
    • Smooth 24bit/192kHz output
    • Virtual 7.1 surround sound
    • Plug-and-play
    Cons:
    • No software
    • Built-in mic could be better
    • No custom EQ controls

    The Sennheiser GSX 1000 may be marketed towards the gaming crowd but chances are that its 24-bit/90 kHz digital playback is better for playing music files than your computer’s built-in sound card. When you offer price-conscious performance like this, a device like the GSX 1000 can offer a surprising amount of utility for your PC setup. Not only does it provide a more clear and accurate sound but it also employs binaural rendering to recreate 7.1 virtual surround sound. It works best with movies and games even though it doesn’t typically enhance music meant to be heard in stereo sound.

    The GSX 1000 has built-in headphone amplifier that drives headphones with impedance ratings between 16 and 150 ohms, with the sweet spot seeming to be around 50 ohms. Note that this amp only affects the front 3.5 mm headphone jack while the rear 3.5 mm line-out port goes directly to the DAC. There is a 3.5 mm microphone input and a 3.5 mm line-out as well.

    Another thing to not about the GSX 1000 is that it requires no drivers. It is simply plug-and-play. But on the other hand, that also means that there aren’t any extra settings beyond what you can do through its LED touchscreen. The LED touchscreen has buttons for switching outputs, an EQ button with four preset options, sidetone level, a reverb button, and a surround sound mode button. It has a built-in microphone too but most anything else would be better if you already have one.

    If you are looking for a DAC/amp specifically for enhancing music, then your money may be more wisely spent on something that doesn’t lean so hard on its virtual surround sound. If, however, you want a DAC that can deliver an edge up in games while overall clarifying your sound, then the GSX 1000 is a solid pick.

  9. 9. Denon DA-10 Portable USB DAC

    Pros:
    • 2 Hz - 50kHz frequency range
    • 7-hour battery life
    • Smooth 32bit/192kHz output
    Cons:
    • Requires drivers on Windows computers
    • Bulky
    • Doesn't switch sources automatically

    Since Denon’s roots stretch back to the days of pure analog setups, it only makes sense that this celebrated brand would make a budget DAC/amp combo worthy enough to maintain relevance.

    The Denon DA-10 is just that. This DAC has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 7 hours on one charge and it supposed small enough to take with you for portable listening. Personally, I find it a bit bulky for pocket use but I would certainly throw it in a bag before a long commute. However, this device has enough features and connectivity options to become a permanent fixture by your computer too.

    This speaker connects to your PC or laptop via Micro USB-B, though it also has a USB port on the back to connect an iOS device via the included Lightning to USB adapter. There is a 3.5mm input for when you plan to use this a headphone amp and bypass the DAC.

    It has a sole 3.5mm cable for output which is designed to be used for both headphones and line out. The side of the DA-10 has a series of sliders to toggle between normal or high gain and fixed or variable output. You’ll want to have it set to variable when using it with headphones. The last slider is to toggle between your inputs. I would have preferred a more elegant way to switch between them, or better yet, automatic source switching based on what is playing.

    The DAC has a stream rate of 32bit/192kHz, while audio through USB-B has a max stream rate of 24bit/192kHz. Lossless audio processed by the DA-10 is clear and expansive. Its low signal to noise ratio (108dB) means you can appreciate the full dynamics of a track without inviting distortion into the mix.

    Its frequency response range is 2 Hz – 50kHz, demonstrating an even wider spectrum than units double its price. The DA-10 is a rare piece of budget audiophile equipment. It is the kind that both looks good on paper and sounds good in person. It is definitely one of the best DAC/amp combos under $300.

  10. 10. JDS Labs O2+ODAC COMBO RevB

    Pros:
    • Open-source design offers flexibility for custom orders
    • Low output impedance works with most headphone loads
    • Transparent and natural frequency response
    Cons:
    • Frequency range could be larger
    • Gain is still high in low gain mode
    • Limited in/out options on default model

    The ODAC and Objective2 are two powerful pieces of audio gear designed fully open-source by audio genius NwAvGuy, who took a scientific approach to make a small, portable, transparent and low-cost headphone amplifier and DAC.

    These two individual units can be purchased separately if your setup requires it, but together they form one of the best DAC amp combos around.

    Slightly higher price considered, the combo unit still brings a great value. They are small, portable, and powerful. It was built from the top-down to be simple and effective, which means it is light on additional features and aims to instead provide the best sound possible.

    For example, the default configuration of the O2+ODAC ships with a front 3.5 mm line in, a mini-USB port in the back, and a 3.5 mm headphone-out jack, but if you want a 1/4-inch or RCA line out, those have to be custom-ordered from JDS Labs.

    The ODAC has a solid 24-bit resolution and a sample rate of 96 kHz, giving it the same 24/96 rating as the D1. This high sample rate reveals improved sound staging and a more balanced sound spectrum in a high-quality audio file. The sound is transparent and brings tighter bass with less frequency bleeding between midrange and low-end sound. High-end sounds are also enhanced, and dynamic range is solid despite a mediocre frequency range of 20Hz – 20kHz.

    The most impressive element of the ODAC’s sound, its transparency, comes easily through the O2’s low output impedance of 0.54 ohms, which allows the ODAC to power a wide variety of headphones without influencing the sound.

    The exception to this statement is very sensitive headphones, as the constant gain of the amp floods the sound, even when the high gain mode on the volume knob is disabled. Despite this, this device offers <0.005% total harmonic distortion, making for a very clean sound. Assuming you have a nice set of speakers, this carries over to speaker listening as well.

    In either case, it is important to remember that because of this transparency, high-quality files sound better, and low-quality files sound worse. This DAC will not color your low bitrate files to sound better, but will otherwise bring better recordings one step closer to their original studio sound.

    One of the best things about NwAvGuy’s ODAC design is that it is open source, and can be found in various permutations from other manufacturers. JDS Labs is the easiest to work with, however, as they are very open to custom orders, should you need specific changes to be made to the O2+ODAC. With that kind of freedom, this DAC can work for a listener of any experience level.

  11. 11. Schiit Modi & Magni 3

    Pros:
    • Plentiful input selection
    • Smooth 24bit/192kHz output
    • Inexpensive
    Cons:
    • Requires drivers on Windows computers
    • No option for a built-in headphone amplifier
    • Bright LEDs cannot be disabled

    The audiophile community absolutely reveres the so-called “Schiit Stack” as one of the best DAC amp combos under $300. It says a lot that this entry-level equipment can be so beloved with such a horrendous name. Either way, you certainly can’t deny that Schiit offers one of the best values in entry-level audiophile equipment, namely their Modi 3 DAC.

    The Modi 3 is meant to combine with the accompanying Magni 3+ Headphone Amplifier, which can be acquired at the same price to make the infamous Schiit Stack. Because this modular setup allows you to combine headphone listening with hi-fi listening in the same way the O2+DAC does, these two units draw a lot of comparisons.

    Unfortunately for those with little desk space, there is no combined unit for the Schiit Stack, though their rubber feet to help them sit atop one another easily. The low impedance Magni 2 amplifier performs comparably to the O2 and adds great functionality to your audio setup, but for the sake of sticking to DACs, I will focus on the Modi 2 specifically.

    The brushed aluminum case of the Modi 3 is elegantly designed, and matches the “strictly business” front plate with a small selector button and LED display to show which of its three inputs are selected.

    On the back, you have the choice of either USB 2.0, optical TOSlink SPDIF, or coaxial SPDIF inputs, all of which are paired with a lone RCA output. The only gripe with the Modi’s form factor is that the LEDs are painfully bright in a dark room, and cannot be disabled.

    In terms of sound, the Modi 3 sounds smooth no matter which input is used, as it is capable of up to 24bit/192kHz output. This high sample rate makes for a smoother sound and also offers more information for your speakers to create dynamic range. With a THD of <0.002% and a signal-to-noise ratio of at least 104dB, musical intricacies shine with minimal interference.

    Highs are more clear, and the mids and lows blend much less, making for an overall more defined sound. One of the biggest auditory boosts is the improvement to sound staging, which helps bring out each unique instrument in the mix. Like any good DAC, the Modi 3 enhances the natural sound without adding warmth or coloration, allowing you to enjoy your music in a more true light.

    For what it is, Schiit offers immense value for improving your music-listening experience. Note that neither unit comes included with cables, but even with this expense considered, Schiit gives you a ton of value in a very small package.

    Buy the Schiit Modi 3 here.

    Buy the Schiit Magni 3+ here.

Is a Budget DAC and Amp Worth It?

DACs are highly preferred over the internal equipment in your computer or MP3 player, as these dedicated units have better conversion chips, power supplies, and output circuitry than what is in your media device.

Upgrading to an external DAC will improve amplification since they usually pair with an amplifier unit. Together, the two improve dynamics, sound staging, and all other aspects of your audio.

However, the double-edged sword of audiophile equipment is that absolute best DAC amp combo setups sit behind an insurmountable price barrier.

As previously mentioned, the essential issue with audiophile equipment is that there is always a more expensive piece of equipment looming over your head, making your setup feel perpetually incomplete. Then you're stuck like the rest of us, chasing the ever unattainable "endgame." But if you can put that sentiment aside, then you may be surprised to find that an entry-level DAC can vastly improve the experience of your high-quality audio files.

A DAC amp combo is a significant upgrade from most integrated sound cards, and there is no shortage of fantastic values in the sub $300 price range.

All of the DACs we listed include a built-in headphone amplifier, save for the Schiit stack which is made from two discrete units. This way you can drive both high and low impedance headphones with one device.

Before you go upgrading your headphones way beyond your price range, try adding an inexpensive DAC/amp combo to your sound setup and see if you can't find a sound you like at a price you're comfortable with.

See Also

10 Best Reference Headphones for the Studio

10 Best Home Bluetooth Speakers: The Ultimate List

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