Having a desktop DAC/Amp combo is helpful if you want better sound quality from your PC. And having a DAC/Amplifier combo helps in elevating the audio quality on your PC or MAC. Having a DAC/Amps combo also makes it easy to have a superb sound experience. You won’t need to have any other components for better sound quality.
If you are not a professional and only want an elevated personal listening experience, this is the product you need. Now, a DAC or Digital Audio converter helps in converting digital music files to analogue files. These analogue files can then be used by the amplifier and produce the intended sound. PCs and Macs come with sound cards, but they are not on par with DAC/Amp combos.
Having a quality DAC/Amplifier combo is as crucial as quality headphones. You won’t be able to use your headphones at full potential with stock sound cards. Also, smaller-sized desktop DAC/Amplifier combos are good for preserving desktop space. If you are looking to upgrade your sound setup, consider buying one of these DAC/Amplifier combos.
- Desktop DAC/Amp Buying Guide
- Best Desktop DAC/Amps for PC and MAC
Desktop DAC/Amp Buying Guide
Choose the best Desktop DAC/Amplifier for your PC and MAC while considering the following parameters:
1. Sound quality
A clean, smooth and insightful sound desktop DAC/Amplifier would be a great choice. Imagine having an Amplifier/ DAC with a poor sound quality that twitches your ear with its high-pitched unpleasant sound.
2. MQA Support
Go for a desktop DAC/Amplifier with native MQA support.
Compact and lightweight amplifiers are handy and can be carried everywhere.
Always look for a monitor DAC/Amplifier with iOS device compatibility, which will enable it to work on Mac as well as Windows with its multi-connectivity option.
5. Bluetooth input
Bluetooth connectivity helps you connect any device to your DAC/Amplifier with complete ease anytime and anywhere. You need not carry any type of port in order to connect your smartphones to your DAC/Amplifier.
6. Designs and features
DAC/Amplifiers come in different designs and various features so try choosing the most uniquely designed DAC/Amplifier with more features than other amplifiers.
Having invested a huge amount of money on these devices seems worthless because you may significantly get the same features in your pocket-friendly DAC/Amplifiers that are available in high-end expensive models.
8. Appealing Looks
Nevertheless, the market provides its customers with a number of designs and models for them to choose the best and appealing DAC/Amplifier for their Mac and PC.
9. Quick Charge
Always look for amplifiers or DACs with quick charging features, because who likes to wait? Having a quick charging DAC/Amplifier could be a great choice for those who like listening to music for long hours without any interventions.
10. Clear display
Try buying the amplifier/DAC with a clear display showing you different information about the mode, volume, DSD and lot more.
Best Desktop DAC/Amps for PC and MAC
Here are our picks for the best desktop DAC/Amp combos
1. Burson Audio Connector 3x
The Burson Audio Connector 3x is a high-end product from Burson. It offers high standards that are overcome by a few DAC/Amplifiers in the market. Burson is a popular brand in DIY circles with its range of high-quality op-amps. The Audio Connector 3x features its latest V6 op-amps.
The Connector 3x has a lot of features and has a premium look. Its aluminium casing with a display on one end gives an excellent look for your setup. The Connector 3x is a detailed DAC with excellent imaging, soundstage and frequency response.
Its 5 Watt power output supports a wide variety of headphones. All the features combine to offer a rich, crisp and life-like sound with most headphones and IEMs. The small size factor makes it pretty easy to carry around.
The Chord Mojo Black is originally a portable DAC/Amplifier meant for smartphones. However, its performance makes it a credible competitor for desktop DAC/Amplifiers. The inbuilt battery allows you to carry it around with ease. Chord stands out by offering its microchips for digital to analogue conversion.
It can convert digital audio files up to 784kHz or 32-bit and even play quad DSD 256 files. Unlike most DACs, the Chord Mojo Black manages to deliver great-sounding mids. Most DACs often cause the vocals to get muddled, but that’s not the case with Mojo Black.
There is also great space for high and low-frequency sounds. Thus it produces a natural sound. The internal amplifier can even support 800-ohm headphones or a pair of low impedance cans. The low signal-to-noise ratio of its DAC chips makes the sound pretty detailed and natural at any volume.
The small size factor makes it portable, and you can even fit it in your pockets. It is one of the best DAC/Amplifier combos among its counterparts.
3. iFi Pro iDSD
The iFi Pro iDSD is one of the high-end DAC/Amplifiers from the popular brand iFi. It is feature-loaded and manages to produce a natural life-like sound. It has network streaming and both tube and solid-state amplification discrete circuits. The tube circuit has negative feedback, which increases smoothness while taking a hit on sound detail.
The Pro iDSD pairs Burr-Brown DAC Chips with Crysopeia FPGA chipset. This combo offers more digital filters and audio upscaling. The audio output is pretty balanced, and tonality is clean and refined. The high amount of flexibility and multitude of features of the Pro iDSD makes it one of the best-integrated desktop DAC/Amp.
4. JDS Labs Element II
The JDS Labs Element II is one of the more portable choices on this list. It has a minimalistic look and a simple design. It is essentially a small black box with a large knob on top. JDS Labs came in the limelight with its O2 amplifier.
The Element II carries on the name for delivering uncoloured sound. It manages to deliver a dynamic and a fuller sound signature, although it’s not as neutral as the O2 amplifier. It is a bargain at this price, keeping in mind the variety of features.
The striking element of this DAC/Amplifier is its amplifier circuit. Paired with its excellent DAC, rich and clear sound is produced. However, it cannot compete with some of the higher-end models on this list.
The QueStyle CMA Twelve takes a no-nonsense approach to an integrated DAC/Amplifier. The Chinese company is well-known for producing professional gear. In this product, there are four groups of current-mode amplifiers that work in class A amplification mode. The tactile switches and a variety of tiny indicator LEDs give it a solid feel.
The tactile switches and a weighted volume knob give an impressive feel to the user. It features the 4490 DAC chip, which is known for its neutral tonality. All this paired with the Class A amplification, its sound signature is controlled and cohesive. It may be a bit over the top for mid-range IEMs but adequate for full-sized headphones.
The RME Audio ADI-2 DAC features a full-colour display and even has a real-time spectrum analyzer. RME is a german company well-known for producing high-quality devices. The ADI-2 has also received regular updates, but the user base is still pretty small. They have made some significant changes, like upgrading to an AK4493 DAC chip.
The newest ADI-2 even has a lower noise floor and better remote control. It features a 5-band Equalizer and can even record DSD audio. Users can view all the information from the display.
The only drawback is the lack of support for many digital inputs and Bluetooth. This makes the ADI-2 confined to a specific user base. It automatically sets the suitable output depending on the headphones. ‘
You can set the appropriate volume while switching between headphones. RME claims that ADI-2 can drive any headphone or IEM, and there are separate outputs given. It has separate outputs for ultra-sensitive IEMs and a dedicated extreme power mode. You can use the extreme power mode while using full-size headphones.
The Monolith 124469 Desktop DAC/Amp is a product of the popular cable company Monoprice. Monolith features a minimalist design and produces a neutral and clean sound output. This means you can experience true lossless audio.
The Monolith 124459 is an excellent DAC/Amp that does not take a major hit on your budget. It features dual AK4493 DACs and dual AAA-788 amplification. The stereo amp modules make use of THX AAA.
THX AAA helps them deliver linear amplification and low levels of noise, distortion and power consumption. This means that you can turn the gain to high levels without noticing any distortion. Considering the price to performance ratio, the Monolith 124459 is challenged by few. Its system has EQ settings and Dirac Sensaround mode, but you won’t need them for quality playback.
It also supports almost every digital and analogue input. There are both single-end and balanced outputs. You can choose between the outputs depending on the pair of headphones. Apart from its bulkier size, there seems to be no other major issue with Monolith 124459 DAC/Amp.
8. Sabaj D5
The Sabaj D5 is one of the most affordable DAC/Amplifiers that has the flagship ESS ES9038Pro DAC chip. The company has a good job of implementation, and you won’t experience any distortion. It does have an OLED display and has an aluminium case that offers a modern yet sturdy feel.
The Sabaj D5 only has a single knob in the front, thus offering a minimalistic look. It supports a variety of inputs and outputs but does not have support for Bluetooth. It has 6.35 mm single-ended and 4-pin XLR headphone outputs.
The Sabaj D5 produces a clean and detailed sound with high resolution. The sound output is quite neutral, and no part of it feels boosted. If you are looking for clean and clear audio, this is a great choice.
9. Mayflower O2+ODAC Combo RevB
The ODAC and Objective2 are two powerful parts of audio gear that are fully open-source. These were made as an attempt from NwAvGuy to make a portable and affordable DAC. The DAC/Amplifier has been designed to be simple and effective; thus, there is a lack of additional features.
The Mayflower O2+ODAC has a front 3.5 mm headphone line-in, a 3.5 mm headphone-out jack and a mini-USB port in the back. The ODAC supports 24-bit resolution with a sample rate of 96 kHz. Lossless audio files offer excellent frequency response and excellent sound staging. There is minimal bleeding with a tight bass even at mid-range.
You can also experience high-end sounds in their most natural form. The low output impedance of 0.54 ohms makes it suitable for most speakers and headphones. This device offers less than 0. 0165% total harmonic distortion that produces a clean sound.
The issue with this transparency is that low-quality files sound worse. You will experience the true form of your high-quality files, but low-quality files won’t be coloured to sound better. At this price point, this is one of the best-integrated DAC/Amplifier combos available.
10. Schiit Jotunheim
The Schiit Jotunheim is a beast for a headphone amplifier. The DAC/Amplifier is also modular, and customers can decide on their preferred DAC chipset. The optional modules are distinct from the amplifiers and power circuits that help reduce noise. The Jotunheim amplifier has Schiit’s Pivot point circuitry. This offers both balanced and single-ended outputs for a variety of headphones.
The internal power supply is a beefy 48VA transformer with 6-stage discrete regulation. It has a total of 70000 uF of filter capacitance. The high power is handled quite well. The sound quality is excellent and has fantastic tonality with detail. The bass response is also strong due to the powerful amplifier.
The Pro-Ject Audio Head Box S2 is a hefty DAC/Amplifier combo that also takes up quite a space on your desktop. The Head Box S2 supports 32-bit output while being three to four times cheaper than high-end DAC/Amp combos. The S2 has three inputs and strictly outputs to a 1/4 headphone jack. You should not use adapters as they often result in signal degradation.
It features the ESS Saber ESS9038 DAC that can output 14 bit/192kHZ from the optical and coaxial output. Its frequency response has ample space for high-end sounds, and it even has five digital filters. The headphone amplifier is pretty impressive and offers 11dB of signal gain.
With an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio, you won’t hear any crackle or pop from the electronics. You won’t experience any harshness in low-impedance headphones. The Head Box S2 is an excellent choice that produces crisp and clear sound. It is one of the best DAC/Amplifiers for your PC or MAC.
A DAC/Amp Combo is an essential gear if you are looking to become a professional. A DAC/Amp combo significantly increases the sound quality of your PC or Mac. You can choose any DAC/Amplifier combo from this list and have an amazing listening experience.