Best DACs

null

...because the right DAC will make your system sing, but something sub-optimal might prevent you getting the most from your set-up. If you're after a USB DAC, some high-end pyrotechnics or something in between, you're sure to find something that fits the bill.

MORE: Best DAC deals 2018

Under £100

Cyrus soundKey

The soundKey's clean, open sound has a ton of detail, and its compact and unobtrusive design make this diminutive DAC a brilliant budget option.

SPECIFICATIONS

USB micro-B | 3.5mm output | 24bit/96kHz

Reasons to Buy
Clean, open sound
Loaded with detail
Compact and unobtrusive
Reasons to Avoid
Attaching to an iOS device is a faff
Not as out-and-out dynamic as some rivals

Under £200

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

If you want to give your computer a hi-fi boost, the DragonFly Red offers a clear step up in performance from the Cyrus. It's the best option under £200.

SPECIFICATIONS

24-bit/96kHz | 3.5mm output | USB

Reasons to Buy
Sophisticated, solid and subtle sound
As convenient as ever
Smartphone compatible
Reasons to Avoid
Red finish seems easily chipped

Under £300

Oppo HA-2 SE

This USB headphone amp/DAC gives a fantastic amount of detail and breathtaking dynamics. Snap one up while you still can.

SPECIFICATIONS

3.5mm, USB inputs | 7 hours battery life | 32-bit/384kHz

Reasons to Buy
Wide compatibility
Clear, agile and detailed sound
More open treble
Tighter bass
Practical design
Reasons to Avoid
Rival is £100 cheaper

Under £500

Chord Mojo

If you don't want to spend the cash on Chord's high-end DACs, this is a great alternative. This was a deserved DAC Award-winner last year. 

SPECIFICATIONS

Twin 3.5mm headphone sockets | Coaxial, optical inputs | Micro USB input

Reasons to Buy
Informative, subtle and dynamic sound
Fine rhythmic drive
Solid build and good finish
Portable
Reasons to Avoid
Runs warm and gets hot when charging the battery

Under £1000

Audiolab M-DAC+

An organised, coherent and expansive listen - and built like a bus at the same time.

Reasons to Buy
Extensive spec
Fine build and finish
Organised, tidy and expansive listen
Reasons to Avoid
A touch more attack would make it even better

Under £1500

Chord Qutest

Goes without headphone amplification and Bluetooth but hits back with class-leading sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

32bit/768kHz PCM | DSD512 | No Bluetooth

Reasons to Buy
Clear, precise and subtle performer
Excellent timing and rhythmic dexterity
Dynamically versatile
Well equipped
Compact, stylish build
Reasons to Avoid
No Bluetooth

Under £2000

Chord Hugo 2

Chord's Hugo was already a stellar DAC, and this only improves on it. It's more expensive, but the boost in performance is worth every penny. That's why it's 2017's Product of the Year.

SPECIFICATIONS

DSD512 and 32bit/768kHz support | 3.5mm and 6.5mm headphone outputs | aptX Bluetooth

Reasons to Buy
Well made and specified
Exotic multi-coloured control system
Prodigiously detailed, dynamic, open and coherent sound
Reasons to Avoid
All those colours can get confusing
Not strictly speaking portable

Money no object

Nagra HD DAC/MPS

If you're looking for the last word in DACs, this Nagra (with its matching power supply) is a front-runner and one of the best we've ever tested.

SPECIFICATIONS

24-bit/384kHz PCM | Volume control | Headphone output | Dimensions (hwd): 8 x 31 x 35cm

Reasons to Buy
Natural, fluid and informative sound
Fine rhythmic capability and expressive dynamics
Terrific build
Reasons to Avoid
Display could be better