There are a number of reasons (7, actually) why a DAC could be your music purchase of the year, and our What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners in the DAC category have something to offer everyone and every budget. But there is one particular brand that stands out from all the rest.
Not content with a couple of Best Buy winners at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2021, Chord Electronics has gone one better in 2022.
This year we have five winners in the category and over half of them are from the Kent-based brand. The latest in a long line of Best Buy winners won by Chord over the years is the superb Mojo 2 portable DAC, which has knocked the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M out of the reckoning in the 'Best DAC £300-£500' band.
The sequel to the game-changing 2015 Mojo (which stands for ‘Mobile Joy’) takes performance to a whole new level at its price point. The palm-sized device is the perfect portable or desktop DAC/headphone amplifier. Powered by Chord’s proprietary 104-bit processor, Mojo 2 offers an excellent array of connectivity options and a level of sound quality that we haven’t heard before at this price.
The Qutest doesn’t include a headphone amp, mind, making it more suited to a traditional hi-fi system than a desktop one, but this doesn’t lessen its appeal for its intended purpose. The Hugo 2, on the other hand, is a premium do-it-all headphone amp/DAC with bags of appeal. It’s not found wanting in terms of features (it does have a headphone amplifier, and plenty more besides) and there isn’t another DAC at its level that can communicate as effortlessly with the listener.
Looking for a budget way to boost a desktop system? Then you should consider the excellent iFi Zen DAC V2, our 'Best DAC under £200'. It can be USB or mains powered (though a mains adapter doesn’t come in the box) and is excellent in both the features and performance department for the money, delivering a clear, expressive sound, balanced connections and file support that's about as good as it gets.
Move up a level to the 'Best DAC £200-£300' (below the Mojo 2) and we arrive at an old favourite of ours, the sensational AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt. This tiny desktop DAC remains tough to beat. That clever USB stick design is still relevant considering its compact form and the availability of dongle attachments, making it super-portable and easy to recommend in a variety of scenarios. Once attached to your laptop, it will blow you away with its clear, detailed and dynamic sound.