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Music lovers acquire a large number of audio equipment. They cannot get by with just speakers and headphones, they will definitely have other devices that work with sound at their disposal. In particular, digital-to-analog converters are in certain demand in online stores. Such devices serve to competently convert digital sound to analog – believe me, not all equipment solves this problem perfectly. The DAC can be both compact and stationary – we will talk about both.

Rating of the best digital-to-analog converters

Nomination

place

Name of product

price

The Best Compact D/A Converters

one

M-Audio Super DAC

17 150 ₽

2

Arcam miniBlink

11 990 ₽

3

FiiO DO3K Taishan

2 320 ₽

four

ORIENT DAC0202N

1 213 ₽

The best stationary digital-to-analog converters

one

Audio Note UK DAC 5 Fifth Element

10 000 000 ₽

2

Boulder 2120 DAC

7 390 000 ₽

3

Audiolab M-DAC

35 150 ₽

four

Atoll DAC 100SE

28 800 ₽

The Best Compact D/A Converters

M-Audio Super DAC

Rating: 4.9

M-Audio Super DAC

This representative of our rating works in one direction, like many other DACs. That is, he knows how to turn a “digit” into an analog signal that is needed by headphones or speakers. The entry of an “analogue” is possible, but only through – the signal will not be digitized. This feature is useful when connecting large speakers to your smartphone – in this case, the DAC will act as a preamplifier.

M-Audio Super DAC has a very compact size. On its top panel there is a mechanical regulator. Most often, it will be used to select the sampling rate – the maximum, by the way, is supported by 192 kHz, which not all portable digital-to-analog converters can boast of.

The signal-to-noise ratio here is 117 dB. At least this figure is stated in the technical specifications. The processor is the C-Media CM6631A chip. It should be noted that it supports ASIO drivers.

Despite the tiny size, the device received not only a standard 3.5 mm, but also a full-size audio jack. At the same time, it is possible to simultaneously connect speakers and headphones – using the aforementioned switch, it will not be difficult to turn off the signal in the speakers. It should be noted that the main power is output exactly to the 6.3 mm jack – in the acoustics connected via the mini-jack, the sound will be quieter. Please note that the 3.5mm input is duplicated here. This means that for the simultaneous connection of speakers and headphones with a mini-jack, you will not need to look for an adapter.

RCA line outputs are located on the rear panel of the device. There is also a place for digital outputs – optical and coaxial. In a word, it is unlikely that the buyer will not have enough of some kind of connector. There is also a socket for connecting the power supply.

The converter comes with an RCA-RCA cable suitable for most existing speakers. If you want to use the digital audio output, you will need your own cable.

We can safely say that the company M-Audio turned out to be an excellent DAC with a headphone amplifier. It is relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison with stationary models. Well, the support of ASIO drivers indicates that even professionals who make money writing electronic music will use this model.

Advantages

  • Dimensions are 9x9x3cm;

  • Supports 192 kHz;

  • Based on a high-quality DAC chip;

  • There are two 3.5mm and one 6.3mm jack;

  • The headphone jacks have a built-in amplifier;

  • There is support for ASIO drivers.

Flaws

  • Some possibilities are still missing.

Also Read: 7 Best Antenna Amplifiers

Arcam miniBlink

Rating: 4.8

Arcam miniBlink

Another digital-to-analog converter in our ranking, belonging to a portable form factor. This device has dimensions of 6x3x7.5 cm. In a word, it turned out to be quite tiny. The manufacturer gave it a rounded shape. On the one hand, it made him quite likable. On the other hand, the converter cannot be called stable – accidentally dropping it on the floor is not difficult.

Unlike the model discussed above, Arcam miniBlink can be considered a wireless digital-to-analog converter. It receives the audio signal exclusively via Bluetooth. This means that it will not work to transmit sound to it via a cable – there are simply no corresponding connectors for this. If your TV does not have a Bluetooth module, then it is better to choose some other external DAC. However, in the direction of this model most often look at the owners of smartphones. No wonder it’s portable!

I am glad that the device is supplemented with support for the aptX digital codec. If the sound source also understands it, then the music will be transmitted without any serious loss. The sound quality in this case will already depend on the headphones or speakers, the signal to which is output through the usual 3.5 mm audio jack. However, don’t expect perfect results. The built-in PCM5105 chip is not the limit of what you want. But most buyers are quite satisfied with the characteristics of this chip. Harmonic distortion here does not exceed 0.002%, and the signal-to-noise ratio is approximately 106 dB.

With such a DAC, you will definitely stop listening to MP3 tracks. When using high-quality acoustics, you will immediately notice the “jambs” of this format. Yes, lossless files take up more memory space, but they will allow you to squeeze the maximum out of the digital-to-analog converter. This, of course, is subject to the availability of a smartphone with aptX support (without this codec, the sound will in any case be transmitted in a rather highly compressed form).

Of course, not everyone will have enough capabilities of this device. We have already said about the absence of the function of receiving a signal over the wire. Another limitation is only one audio output – you will not be able to connect both speakers and headphones at the same time. Finally, there is no setting at all here, which is also somewhat disappointing. But on the other hand, the sampling frequency has been increased to 384 kHz! Another distinguishing feature of the DAC is its low cost – it is unlikely that for 11 thousand rubles you will find a more functional converter (if we talk about products from well-known companies).

Advantages

  • High sampling rate;

  • Low harmonics;

  • It is possible to receive sound via Bluetooth (there is support for aptX);

  • Miniature sizes;

  • Takes power from the USB interface;

  • Not very high cost.

Flaws

  • Glossy plastic successfully collects dust;

  • Only one audio output, and only analog;

  • There is no possibility of receiving sound over the wire;

  • There are no settings.

FiiO DO3K Taishan

Rating: 4.7

FiiO DO3K Taishan

One of the most affordable digital-to-analog converters in our ranking. For this baby they ask only 2-3 thousand rubles. Of course, you should not expect impressive performance from such a small and cheap device. This is evidenced by at least the sampling rate, which is limited here by the standard 192 kHz. Also, some people will be upset by the lack of a Bluetooth module. This means that a wireless connection is not possible – this device is generally not intended to be used in tandem with a smartphone.

In fact, the converter is a modest black box, on the opposite ends of which there are certain connectors. The device does not support any settings, so the top panel is a haven only for the logo and two LEDs.

So, what kind of connectors does FiiO DO3K Taishan have? Here you will find a pleasant surprise. Despite the low cost, the device received both coaxial and optical inputs. That is, the user will receive both digital audio inputs that are now popular! The device cannot accept analog sound – there is no corresponding connector here. This is what prevents the FiiO DO3K Taishan from being used in tandem with a smartphone, player, and some other similar gadget.

As for the outputs, they are, of course, exclusively analog. RCA connectors will be used to connect the speakers, while the headphone wire can be inserted into the usual 3.5 mm jack.

Interestingly, the digital-to-analog converter still has one control. And it’s not about the power button! At the bottom of the device, you can find a tiny switch – with its help you will make it clear which particular input should be processed now – coaxial or optical.

You can power the converter using any network adapter. Its connection is via USB-interface, so you are unlikely to have any problems. In a word, the device turned out to be as simplified as possible in every sense. But it doesn’t produce the richest sound either. An ordinary user will definitely not make any claims against him, but a music lover will want more.

Advantages

  • Simple use;

  • Minimum price tag;

  • Both digital audio inputs are present;

  • There are not only 3.5mm “mini-jack” but also RCA connectors;

  • Power is supplied via the mini-USB interface.

Flaws

  • No analog audio inputs or digital audio outputs;

  • Low sampling rate;

  • The sound quality will not suit the music lover;

  • There are no settings.

ORIENT DAC0202N

Rating: 4.6

ORIENT DAC0202N

This digital-to-analogue converter can also be called extremely compact. A small box fits easily in a pocket, and in a women’s bag or backpack, the product can even get lost. In Russian stores for such a miniature device they ask for only 1300 rubles. It is clear that for such money you hardly expect to get a wide-functional device. The minimum number of connectors also hints at the lack of serious opportunities. However, reading our rating, you might have noticed that some digital-to-analog converters may have fewer sockets. But there is no Bluetooth support here, so digital inputs could not be dispensed with.

This box accepts an audio signal via optical and coaxial connectors. Next to them is an indicator of the operation of the converter. It will glow red if you have powered the device. Unfortunately, there is no USB socket on the case. Instead, a round connector is used, to which the power supply is connected. However, this does not seem to be a big problem.

Well, what about the audio outputs? The device converts the digital signal to analog without any problems. This uses a sampling frequency of 192 kHz. RCA connectors are used exclusively for audio output. Most often, it is through such sockets that speakers are connected. And even if this is not your case, finding the right cable will not be difficult. But with the connection of headphones can be difficult. You will need either the appropriate wire or an adapter. However, it should be noted that most often digital-to-analog converters are needed to connect speakers. For example, in favor of the ORIENT DAC0202N, the owners of the PlayStation 4 and inexpensive speakers make their choice. As you know, budget acoustics receive a signal only via RCA connectors, while a game console outputs it via an optical output – which is why you cannot do without a converter in this case. Buying an expensive model does not make much sense – inexpensive speakers simply do not reveal the potential of a top-end DAC.

And what else can please this baby? Unfortunately, nothing more. It does not offer any settings, working strictly according to the algorithm conceived by the manufacturer. The signal-to-noise ratio is 120 dB, which is not an ideal result. However, all this does not prevent the device from performing the role discussed above. That is why the device has no negative reviews.

Advantages

  • Very small sizes;

  • Stably converts “figure” into “analogue”;

  • There are both optical and coaxial connectors;

  • Very easy to use;

  • Extremely low price tag.

Flaws

  • Large signal-to-noise ratio;

  • There are no settings;

  • For some, the 3.5mm audio output may not be enough.

The best stationary digital-to-analog converters

Audio Note UK DAC 5 Fifth Element

Rating: 4.9

Audio Note UK DAC 5 Fifth Element

Unique product. And not only because of its name, which mentions the famous film from Luc Besson. This is a professional product that will suit even concert organizers of well-known rock and pop artists. But what is most striking is not even the characteristics of the DAC, but its cost. We did not check, but it is unlikely that we have ever considered such an expensive product. In Russian online stores, they ask for 10 million rubles for this “box”! What do you get for a device priced at a good apartment in Moscow?

Inside this device is an Analog Devices AD1865N chip. Also under the body is used lamp equipment. It is she who provides the very warm tube sound. At the same time, the manufacturer got rid of the main drawback of the previously existing tube amplifiers – the performance of the components will be maintained for many years. It is possible to disable this or that lamp only, probably, by dropping this device from a great height. However, even in this case, it will not be difficult to carry out a replacement by ordering a lamp from a British manufacturer.

The high cost of this device is also associated with the internal wiring, made on silver wires. This ensures the complete absence of sound loss. Also inside the DAC, you can find expensive Black Gate WKz, NX and N capacitors. We should also note the presence of Audio Note carbon film resistors. In a word, here you will find a full stuffing! Although an unprepared person, having opened the case, will think that there is too much free space here. Indeed, all components could be placed in a smaller device. But in this case, they could negatively influence each other, and the device would no longer look expensive.

It is easy to guess that such a product did without any amateur connectors. 3.5mm jack? What are you speaking about? There is not even a full-size 6.3 mm jack here. Silver XLR connectors are used instead. And this is right, because it is precisely such sockets that are used to connect professional acoustics used in organizing concerts. There is also an RCA output, but if the buyer uses it, then only to check the device for operability. As for the input, the usual S / PDIF is built in here.

It remains to add that this digital-to-analog converter has dimensions of 560x260x540 mm. The weight is 20 kg. You can find on sale a device not only with a silver, but also with a black case. However, the second option is less common.

Advantages

  • Lamp accessories;

  • All the most necessary connectors are present;

  • The most pure and high-quality sound;

  • A large number of adjustments are available;

  • Connectors and wiring are silver.

Flaws

  • Great weight;

  • Astronomical price tag.

Boulder 2120 DAC

Rating: 4.8

Boulder 2120 DAC

Another representative of our rating, which is hardly affordable for most Expertology readers. However, many visitors to our site are still interested to know what the €44,500 device can offer. If you think about it, then for that kind of money you can buy about 40 top-end smartphones, endowed with the maximum amount of memory. By the way, this DAC can really be compared with modern phones, because it also has a full-fledged LCD display. Yes, this is a digital-to-analog converter with a screen, and even with a 12.3-inch one! It is used to select music compositions and work with settings. However, a lot of money is not asked for the display.

The device can receive absolutely any digital audio signals. The maximum support for a 32-bit signal with a sampling rate of 284 kHz is declared. Is it necessary to say that something like this is realized only at concerts and other significant events? Also, such a device is useful in the studio where sound recording is carried out. Implemented here support and DSD128.

Boulder is known to some professionals for its power amplifiers. She has long proved that her experts know a lot about audio technology. The Boulder 2120 DAC is another example of how to make a reference signal converter as good as possible. The manufacturer even moved the power supply into a separate case so that it does not affect the incoming or outgoing signal in any way! There is also a built-in preamplifier. By the way, although it is called that way, in some cases you can do without a power amplifier in the form of a separate device.

In this case, the signal will be transmitted to the left and right channels independently. This also excludes the possibility of at least some influence on each other. All this allows you to get a physically perceptible sound, which should be on a concert stage.

Well, what about connectors? Everything you could possibly need is here. The device can receive a digital signal in almost any modern way. There is even an HDMI interface here, which only receivers can usually boast of! The display is useful when connecting a USB flash drive when reading data from this media. It is also possible here to stream video from popular online services such as YouTube or Netflix – the aforementioned HDMI interface is used to get the picture. In a word, the manufacturer has thought of absolutely everything! He did not forget about the convenient remote control.

In a word, this is a chic device, which some professionals can only dream of. And yes, this is a professional technique, so all the analog connectors here belong to the XLR type! No “jacks” and “mini-jacks” for you!

Advantages

  • Four cases isolated from each other;

  • It is possible to receive a digital signal on completely different connectors;

  • Built-in high-quality pre-amplifier;

  • There is a large LCD display;

  • A huge number of digital audio formats are supported;

  • It is possible to control over IP and a complete remote control;

  • Implemented support for 384 kHz and 32-bit audio;

  • At the end, you can achieve the perfect sound.

Flaws

  • astronomical value.

Also Read: 12 Best Smart TV Apps

Audiolab M-DAC

Rating: 4.7

Audiolab M-DAC

Of course, stationary digital-to-analog converters are not necessarily studio monsters. Our rating also included such a relatively simple model as the Audiolab M-DAC. Its cost, which does not exceed 40 thousand rubles, allows an ordinary music lover who does not write music on a professional basis and does not organize concerts to get hold of a device. At the same time, this model is unlikely to suit him with something.

Here, too, there is a display, but not the one that can display graphics. Only all kinds of settings are displayed on this screen, of which there are very few. The device does not support ultra-frequency, it is limited to the usual 192 kHz. The chip used here is ESS ES9018. Not ideal, but for the money you can not expect any more professional solution.

Unlike many other digital-to-analog converters, the headphone connection is great here. The manufacturer brought the corresponding socket to the front panel, so the process does not take any long time. There is also a tuning knob and five buttons, one of which is responsible for turning on the device.

Please note the headphone jack is 6.3mm! If you are using a simple headset, you may need an adapter! Its purchase is not difficult.

As for the connectors for acoustics and digital signal reception, they are all located on the rear panel. If you look at it, it immediately becomes clear that the Audiolab M-DAC can be used as a receiver. But only if all your devices produce exactly digital sound, because there is no possibility to receive an analog signal here. It is noteworthy that two optical inputs are duplicated here by the same number of coaxial connectors.

There are even more exits here! Let’s start with the fact that there are coaxial and optical outputs. It is completely unclear whether they will be useful to the user. However, suddenly the buyer will someday have excellent acoustics that ideally process a digital signal? There are also XLR connectors for outputting analog audio to the left and right speakers. There are also balanced outputs. In a word, it is unlikely that the buyer may need some more nests.

Audiolab M-DAC can be easily connected to a computer using the same USB connector as on printers and MFPs. Using a computer, you can not only test the device, but also control it. However, it is much easier to use the knob and buttons on the front panel, or the bundled remote control.

What can you complain about? To a signal-to-noise ratio of 122 dB? It seems that for equipment of this class this is a normal value. The harmonic coefficient is also not annoying – it is 0.0008%. But the lack of RCA connectors will scare someone. But this suggests that we are no longer an amateur converter. It can also confuse the lack of a regular USB port for a flash drive. This means that you still cannot do without connecting an external sound source.

Advantages

  • Low harmonics;

  • Quick connection of headphones;

  • Built-in two coaxial and optical inputs;

  • It is possible to output a digital signal;

  • There are linear and balanced outputs;

  • It is possible to control the remote control with the help of a computer.

Flaws

  • Someone would not hurt the ability to connect a flash drive;

  • The price tag may seem high;

  • There is no possibility of audio output via RCA connectors.

Atoll DAC 100SE

Rating: 4.6

Atoll DAC 100SE

Our rating is completed by a digital-to-analog converter from a French manufacturer. Unlike the model discussed a little earlier, it only supports 24-bit audio. The sampling rate cannot exceed 192 kHz, which is quite predictable. Another simplification is the lack of any LCD display here. That is why the number of controls is kept to a minimum. But they did not disappear completely – on the front panel you can find not only the power key, but also three more buttons. There are also light indicators that indicate the presence of a connection to certain connectors.

This model traditionally can work in preamplifier mode. In this case, you will need a coaxial or optical output – both of them are on the rear panel. But much more often, such a device is used to convert digital sound into an analog signal – in this case, the speakers are connected to RCA jacks. Unfortunately, there are no other options. And if only a professional will remember about XLR sockets (this DAC is clearly not for him), then a headphone jack would definitely not hurt.

So what about entrances? You can easily guess their number by counting the number of LEDs on the front panel. Yes, the manufacturer has built in three optical and coaxial inputs. You can also see a USB interface on the rear panel, but it is used to connect to a PC. By the way, the DAC also has an infrared receiver that recognizes signals from the remote control.

That, perhaps, is all that can be said about this model. Atoll DAC 100SE is not something out of the ordinary. This is a simple digital-to-analog converter belonging to the stationary type. It uses TI/Burr-Brown PCM1796 as a chip.

Advantages

  • Not very high cost;

  • A large number of coaxial and optical inputs;

  • Can be used as a preamp;

  • Simple use.

Flaws

  • No XLR connectors;

  • Connecting headphones without tricks will not work;

  • LEDs can be annoying for some.

Conclusion

Now you know which digital-to-analog converters are the best. Connect them to a variety of devices. For example, some people use a DAC paired with an LCD TV. It is known that TVs that do not belong to the top price segment do not convert sound to “analog” in the best way. That is why some users prefer to output sound to speakers through an external DAC. Well, portable converters help you enjoy music played on your smartphone.