Five dynamite DACs take What Hi-Fi? Awards 2017

Finally the humble DAC is getting the recognition it deserves. Every link in your audio chain is important, of course, but taking the digital data and converting it into analogue information your ears can comprehend is arguably the most important of all. So leave nothing to chance and let one of these five fine items take care of business.


This category has been the domain of AudioQuest for quite a while now - and, sure enough, the company's DragonFly Red (above) is back to claim the title of 'Best USB DAC £150+'. Linked to your smartphone or laptop, it's able to transform your listening pleasure.

But for an even more affordable rocket up your digital tunes, don't look any further than the soundKey (top) by Cyrus. This tiny hi-res marvel is among the very best pound-for-pound upgrades you'll ever make.

The Chord Awards

Our three favourite full-size, full-on system DACs have more than functionality in common. They're all Chord products, and they all perform brilliantly in the appropriate system.

The Mojo (£400), for instance, has long been our preferred DAC at this sort of price. Slip it into a mid-range system and, whether functioning as a DAC, a headphone amp or both, it'll bring its open, wide-screen and lavishly detailed talents to bear.

If your set-up is a little more ambitious, though, we'd suggest the 2Qute (£995). Beautifully made, lovely to hold and to look at, and - crucially - capable of stunning results, it could be all the DAC you'll ever need. Unless you've spent an arm and a leg on your dream system, in which case... want Hugo 2 (£1800). As long as you can laugh about its arcane control system rather than be driven around the bend by it, Hugo 2 (above) is a monumental performer. "There isn't another DAC... able to communicate so torrentially, so unambiguously or so effortlessly" is what we said when we first reviewed it, and we've haven't altered our opinion in the slightest.

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Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as GQ, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others.