An Amplifier or a DAC are essential parts of your smartphone. The amplifier helps in elevating the sound level for your headphones to play it. A DAC is necessary to convert the digital audio files to analogue files that the amplifier can work with. In this article, you will read about Best Portable DAC/Amplifier Combo.
Every smartphone has an amplifier and a DAC. However, they often lack quality. To eliminate the inferior sound, you can opt for an external amplifier and DAC. The lack of quality is due to space constraints in your smartphone. Most smartphone manufacturers are hesitant to spend on quality audio components.
Always look for the following features while buying the best portable DAC/Amplifier for your iPhone and Android:
Weight and Size
Check the portability of the DAC/Amplifier after examining the weight and size of these amplifiers, according to your preference. These amplifiers/DAC come in different sizes and shapes to meet the needs of different customers.
Look for amplifiers/DAC with DSD, MQA or high sample-rate and bit-rate formats only in order to experience the best quality and performance.
Digital Input and Analog
Different amplifiers come with different features, so always go for the one with a variety of analog and digital inputs. However these features are not available in all models, so choose your amplifier wisely.
Make sure your amplifier has a Bluetooth connection for easy connection and linking of devices anytime and anywhere. In a world of wireless technology, Bluetooth plays a major role in making connectivity simpler and easier.
The most important feature to look for is the internal battery of the DAC/Amplifier to know long can a portable DAC/Amplifier run on iPhone or Android.
Compare the sound quality of all the DAC/Amplifiers before you buy one and then go for the best sound-quality amplifier.
These Amplifiers do not require much investment as you may find many models of DAC within less price and great quality. Expensive is not the best always, sometimes cheaper ones are the real game-changers.
While buying an amplifier /DAC check if you need a dongle to connect your smartphone to it, if yes then do not consider buying it, always go for a dongle-free amplifier.
Always choose the one with best reviews from users as it may help you discover various loopholes or demerits of various amplifiers, which will eventually help you choose the best.
12 Best Portable DAC/Amplifier Combo for iPhone and Android
Most users are satisfied with the audio quality, but this can be improved a lot. To solve this issue, there are some fantastic DAC/Amplifier Combos available for Android and iPhone. If you have some high-quality wired headphones, a DAC/Amplifier Combo is a good investment.
These DAC/Amp connect to your smartphone, and you can use your headphones or speakers. They will increase the sound quality by a lot. You will experience richer, crisper and more natural audio from your smartphones. We recommend buying any of the following DAC/Amplifier Combos for your smartphone.
The AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt is the refined version of the Black and Red models. It has the same digital volume control and MQA renderer. It also features 2.1v headphone output like its predecessors. The presence of the MQA renderer increases the sound quality significantly.
The new DAC chip also helps improve power consumption and reduces interference. It offers an overall better sound quality than the Red and Black models. The only drawback is the presence of a USB-A dongle.
This DAC/Amplifier Combo is similar to a 3.5 mm headphone jack to USB-A dongle. Due to this, you will need to use an adapter to connect it with your smartphone. The power consumption is adequate for most headphones.
However, high-impedance headphones may suffer from volume inadequacy due to a lower power supply. Headphones below 250 Ohms will have no issue with this DAC/Amplifier Combo. You can experience a clear and crisp sound with the help of Dragonfly Cobalt. We recommend buying this if you have headphones below 250 Ohms and have a USB-A adapter.
The FiiO Q1 Mark II is an affordable DAC/Amp made for iPhones. The DAC/Amplifier Combo is shipped with a micro-USB to lightning adapter inbox. The Mark II is of considerable size and may even match the size of old iPhones. However, it has an inbuilt battery which means it won’t draw power from your smartphone.
Unlike most portable DAC/Amplifiers, this will not consume the battery of your smartphone. You can thus enjoy music for longer periods while using the Mark II. The AK4453 DAC chip lets you play music, even 32bit/384kHz audio files. It is a great choice especially considering the low price the features.
3. Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC Cable
This is a new portable DAC/Amplifier and is the first from Astell&Kern. As the name suggests, it features two high-quality DACs. It has both Cirrus Logic CS43198 and MasterHIFI DACs.
The dual DACs are paired with an independent analogue amplifier that offers high-quality sound. It even features a full-metal body which has a sturdy feel as most products of Astell&Kern.
The dongle does not need any adapters for new Android smartphones due to its USB-C cable. Newer iPhones are shipped with a USB-C to lightning cable in the box. Hence you won’t need any adapter. Thus, the Astell&Kern USB-C Dual DAC cable is a flexible choice that does not need any adapter or headphone jack for most smartphones.
4. Fiio BTR5
The FiiO BTR5 is a DAC/Amplifier made for the general public. The DAC/Amplifier offers a splendid upgrade to your smartphone’s audio quality. It comes with a lot of technology like one-touch NFC pairing and a high-quality dual DAC setup.
It even has support for Bluetooth audio format, native DSD support and digital filters. All this results in a balanced sound output with crisp and clear audio. The design and feel of the FiiO BTR5 are also excellent, with its rounded corners and curved edges. The long yet slim form factor makes it an excellent choice for most users.
5. iFi Hip-DAC
The iFi High-DAC is an excellent DAC/Amplifier with many features. You will find its small factor quite appealing with rounded corners and a sturdy feel. The DAC/Amplifier features a quality tactile volume knob and a 2200 mAH battery. This way, your phone’s won’t be drained due to using this DAC/Amplifier.
It supports audio files up to 32-bit/384kHZ and has a gain control button. This allows you to change the power supply to the internal amplifier depending on your headphones. The iFi Hip-DAC has high flexibility, and you can experience high-quality sound on any headphones. Thus, the iFi Hip-DAC is a great choice for all smartphone users.
AudioQuest is a popular brand when it comes to portable DAC/Amplifiers. The Dragonfly Black is an entry-level product from AudioQuest and comes at a low price. It is an excellent choice for people who are not looking for high-end DAC/Amplifiers. It is not as powerful as the Dragonfly Cobalt or the Dragonfly, yet it is a decent performer.
The DAC/Amplifier is able to improve the sound quality of your smartphone and delivers a crisp, clear sound. As with other Dragonfly series DAC/Amplifiers, you will need a dongle to connect it with your smartphone. For people who are new to DAC/Amplifiers, the Dragonfly Black is a superb product to purchase.
7. FiiO Q5S
Using different amplifier modules offer unique power and impedance ratings and sonic signatures. The presence of 3.5 mm single-ended and 2.5 mm balanced output allows you to use different headphones. It supports Bluetooth, and you can use it both as a portable or desktop DAC/Amplifier.
The large variety of options, upgrades and features make it an excellent choice for a large number of users. The Q5S is the successor to the popular Q5 and offers some sonic improvements and changes. You can enjoy a more refined and smoother sound. It also has a lower treble that makes the sound a bit warmer.
The AudioQuest Dragonfly Red is a mid-range option from AudioQuest. It shares the power output that makes it compatible with a wide variety of headphones. It even has the same ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amplifier. Dragonfly Red can support audio files up to 24-bit/96kHz.
The major difference-maker is its DAC. Dragonfly Red features an inferior DAC as compared to Dragonfly. However, it still delivers high-quality sound and is suitable for most smartphone users. You will need a dongle, as is the case for the Dragonfly lineup. You will experience crisp and clear sound while using the Dragonfly Red.
The iFi Micro DSD Signature is the successor to the Micro iDSD and the earlier Black Label version. It features a classy blue coloured all-aluminium body. This is a feature-loaded DAC/Amplifier with multiple digital filters, XBass, 3D Sound and even an IEM match mode. It also has multiple power output settings, a balanced 4.4 mm Pentaconn socket and dual DAC chips.
The DAC/Amplifier has sample rate support and a top-notch bit rate. All this is paired with DSD and MQA, but there is no Bluetooth. The XBass and 3D Sound allow better user control on audio settings than typical digital filters. The output power of this DAC/Amplifier is adequate for a wide variety of headphones. The high user-control over audio settings also make it an excellent option.
10. Lotoo PAW S1
The Lotoo PAW S1 is an excellent reference-grade DAC/Amplifier USB dongle. It features dual 3.5mm audio outputs, which is quite rare in USB Dongles. They come in a black aluminium body which gives a classy look while maintaining durability. It even has a screen that offers information like gain mode, volume controls and equaliser mode.
The PAW S1 has an almost neutral audio output with a slight lean towards the warmer side. The size factor of the PAW S1 is also right in the sweet spot, making it pretty portable. You will experience top-notch sound quality while having portability.
11. Shanling UP4
The Shanling UP4 is a superb DAC/Amplifier offering high-quality sound. It also produces balanced output for the smartphone and is available for a low price. The Shanling UP4 surprises with its dual DAC chips at a reasonable price and supports most Bluetooth codecs. The glossy finish gives it a modern look, and it features a thin and sleek design that can fit in your pocket.
The sound signature of Shanling UP4 is neutral, and it emphasises detail and resolution. The balanced 2.5 mm output lets it use the full potential of its dual DAC chips. The 160 mW at 320 ohms power rating makes it compatible with most headphones.
12. xDuoo Link
The xDuoo Link is the right dongle for people wanting an improved DAC/Amplifier at a reasonable price. It features a dedicated audio DAC chipset for decoding native DSD. It does have a slightly warm and smooth sonic signature.
The xDuoo Link offers an exciting experience while having no harshness and no sibilance. It has strong bass, which is also well-controlled for an enjoyable audio output. If you want to experience high sound quality at an affordable rate, the xDuoo Link is a perfect choice.
A DAC/Amplifier combo for your smartphone is an excellent addon. Nowadays, you can find tons of options for iPhone and Android smartphones. A DAC/Amplifier significantly elevates the audio output of your smartphone. You can experience a natural, life-like audio output from your high-end headphones by using a DAC/Amplifier.
We compiled a list of the best DAC/Amplifier combo for Android and iPhone. All the DAC/Amplifier Combos present in this list significantly improve the audio quality of your smartphone. If you have a pair of high-end headphones, buying a DAC/Amplifier is the right choice. By using a DAC/Amplifier Combo, you can truly unlock the potential of your headphones or IEMs.