After years in the relative wilderness, a standalone DAC could be one of the most important parts of your system – we round-up the best on the market...

The story of the DAC is a story of peaks and troughs. After a few years in the relative wilderness, the digital-to-analogue converter is back at the forefront of many people's music systems.

As digital music has surged in popularity, the role of the DAC has once again become important, helping you to get the best from your digital source, whether that be a laptop, computer or hi-fi separate.

From the compact USB DAC, such as the AudioQuest DragonFly, to more substantial offerings from Oppo and Chord we've been through all our DAC reviews to uncover the best DACs to buy, whatever your budget.

MORE: What is a DAC? Everything you need to know

MORE: Awards 2015: DACs

Best DAC under £100
Our Rating 
Read the full review »

Tested at £100

If you absolutely insist on not breaking three figures for a DAC, then you should be looking in the direction of the DacMagic XS (and dusting off your bartering skills, as you'll need to get a 1p discount or better to creep under £100...). 

The best USB DAC if you're on a super tight budget, the DacMagic XS is also truly portable, requiring no external battery, and connections are simple with just a USB input and 3.5mm output. The sound is anything but, delivering a refined and detailed performance.

MORE: Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS review

 

Best DAC under £200
Our Rating 
Read the full review »

Tested at £130

The USB DAC market was pretty much kick-started by the original Audioquest DragonFly and the new DragonFly v1.2 has simply upped the ante once more.

Transparency and detail are what sets this apart from the slightly cheaper DacMagic XS, which itself offers a slightly smoother vocal presentation. Up to us? We'd take this genius USB stick at £130. That's still remarkable value.

MORE: Audioquest DragonFly v.1.2 review

Compare prices

Also consider...
Best DAC under £400
Our Rating 
Read the full review »

Tested at £250

This £250 USB headphone amp/DAC is a lovely looking thing. Primarily designed for use with portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, it has a classy leather cover wrapped around the nicely machined metal casework. Being only 12mm thick and 175g in weight, it is ideal for using on the go.

It's a combination of dynamics, timing and detail regardless of the genre to which you’re listening that makes the Oppo so adept. Partner that with the portability, compatibility and creativity of the design, and we’d struggle to recommend anything else.

MORE: Oppo HA-2 review

Compare prices

Also consider...
Best DAC under £800
Our Rating 
Read the full review »

Tested at £400

We were so impressed with the Chord Mojo that we made it our DAC Product of the Year 2015.

Its superb build quality, compact design, high-res support and outstanding performance (for the money) meant it had winner written all over it. Put simply, the £400 Mojo delivers much of the performance of the £1400 Chord Hugo (another Award winner) at a fraction of the price.

MORE: Chord Mojo review

Also consider...
Best DAC under £1000
Our Rating 
Read the full review »

Tested at £995

What happens when you combine two Award-winning products into one? You get the brand new Chord 2Qute – a standalone DAC that’s the latest in Chord Electronics’ hugely successful Chordette range.

The £995 Chord 2Qute replaces the 2014 Award-winning Qute EX (£990), with upgraded specification taken from the class-leading Chord Hugo – also a 2015 Award winner.

MORE: Chord 2Qute review

Best DAC under £1500
Our Rating 
Read the full review »

Tested at £1400

This is a bona fide digital preamp with DAC, internal volume control, optical and coaxial inputs, two USB sockets, an analogue output, three (yes, three) headphone outputs and, last but not least, aptX Bluetooth connectivity.

And it’s portable! That’s right, Chord has even found enough room inside that petite aluminium casework for built-in rechargeable batteries. A two-hour charge should be good enough for 12 hours’ use. It’s really going above and beyond the call of duty for a product of its type, and should be applauded.

MORE: Chord Hugo review