Skip to main content

Best DACs 2022: USB, portable and desktop digital-to-analogue converters

Best DACs 2022
(Image credit: Chord)

Best DACs Buying Guide 2022: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best DACs you can buy in 2022.

You might not realise it, but most of us make use of at least one digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) every single day. Any device that delivers digital sound – be it a laptop, Blu-ray player, digital TV box, games console, portable music player or phone – requires a DAC to convert its digital audio to an analogue signal before it is output to speakers, headphones or another analogue device.

Without a DAC, your digital music collection is nothing but a sizeable collection of “0s and 1s” that makes sense only within the digital domain. In short, DACs play an instrumental part in making digital music worthwhile. Especially if you choose the right one.

How to choose the best DAC for you

The very best DACs will make your hi-fi, desktop or audio system sing, but something sub-optimal – or sticking to the ones used in regular do-it-all components like those mentioned above – will prevent you from getting the most out of your set-up.

So, what sort of DAC will best suit your needs? If you're looking to boost your mobile sound on the go, a tiny USB dongle (with an adapter, if your phone requires it) will do the trick nicely and discreetly as the middleman between your phone and headphones. Some are wired to your headphones and source, others can connect to a source wirelessly over Bluetooth.

Then there are desktop and USB-stick DACs – both easy-to-use, typically affordable solutions to maximise your laptop or PC's sound. There are also more serious DACs that are designed to slot into your home hi-fi system to improve the quality of a digital source, some of which are geared towards headphone listening while others are strictly designed to sit between a source and amplifier.

Most DACs nowadays support a wide range of hi-res file formats, but compatibility should be considered if you play more niche music such as DSD or MQA.

Whatever style of DAC you might need, you're sure to find a contender on this list of the best DACs you can buy...

Best DACs 2022: Chord Qutest

(Image credit: Future)
Pound for pound the best DAC on the market right now.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial, optical, USB (Type-B)
Outputs: RCA
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512
Dimensions (hwd): 4.1 x 16 x 7.2cm
Weight: 770g

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, precise and subtle performer
+
Excellent timing
+
Well equipped

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth

Chord continues to light up the premium market for DACs and the Qutest is the proof. It's the product that lesser rivals look up to at this price point. The DAC delivers a crisp, clean and concise sound, with Chord's now familiar neutral tonal balance.

As with all decent hi-fi gear, it'll take a bit of running in time before the Qutest really starts to sing. But when it does you're in for a treat: songs are imbued with a great sense of scope, and there's warmth and texture in abundance.

The Qutest boasts Chord's trademark colour-denoting buttons which tell you which source it's drawing on: they glow white for USB-Type-B (capable of accepting 32-bit/768kHz PCM/DSD512); yellow for the first BNC coaxial and red for the second (24-bit/384kHz); and green for the optical (24-bit/192kHz/DSD64).

Given there's no Bluetooth connectivity or headphone amp on-board, the Qutest’s sole purpose is to be the digital-to-analogue bridge between your digital source and amplifier. And it does the job brilliantly.

Read the full review: Chord Qutest

Best DACs 2022: Chord Mojo 2

(Image credit: Chord)
‘Mobile Joy’ is in even more lavish supply in this reengineered sequel to Chord’s game-changing portable DAC

Specifications

Inputs: Optical, 3.5mm coaxial, USB-C, Micro USB
Outputs: 3.5mm x2
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 32-bit/768kHz, DSD256
Dimensions (hwd): 2.3 x 8.3 x 6.2cm
Weight: 185g

Reasons to buy

+
Benchmark transparency
+
Lively, musical, open sound
+
Several customisation options

Reasons to avoid

-
Convoluted colour display

The fittingly named Mojo 2 is the long-anticipated, re-engineered replacement to the 2015-released original, which burst onto the scene as a real benchmark-setting game-changer in the then-fledgling world of portable DACs. And while those familiar with Chord’s most affordable product will see from this review’s accompanying images that the aesthetic hasn’t exactly been overhauled for the sequel, significant progress has been made elsewhere to protect its position as the pinnacle of portable DACs.

While from a performance point of view the Mojo 2 can just as confidently raise a hi-fi system’s game too, some of those looking for a system boost might reasonably prefer a dedicated system alternative with more suitable connections, such as the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M (below). But for those who are after a primarily portable or desktop DAC solution in this price region (and cannot triple their budget to Chord Hugo 2 territory), we believe the decision to Mojo 2 or not to Mojo 2 is far easier. And what about existing Mojo owners? Honestly, Chord has left us no choice but to recommend the upgrade.

Read the full Chord Mojo 2 review

Best DACs 2022: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
Cambridge’s generously featured DAC is the best you can buy at this level

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial x2, optical x2, USB (Type-B)
Outputs: RCA, XLR
Bluetooth: Yes (aptX)
Max file support: 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512, MQA
Dimensions (hwd): 5.2 x 21.5 x 19.1cm
Weight: 1.2kg

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth, clean, insightful sound
+
Generous connectivity
+
Native MQA support

Reasons to avoid

-
No remote control
-
Tough competition

If you're looking for a DAC that combines all manner of useful features into an attractive and sonically astute package, the DacMagic 200M is a bot of a no-brainer, especially at this price.

It's well-equipped enough to slot effortlessly into any hi-fi or desktop system. A wide selection of digital inputs caters to a range of sources and there's aptX Bluetooth on board too. Add balanced and unbalanced outputs into the mix, plus a headphone output and hi-res audio support and that's pretty much any and all bases covered.

Sonically, it's got that recognisable 'Cambridge' sound which means a full, smooth tone partnered with an open, expressive, and authoritative delivery. Ignore this talented all-rounder at your peril.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M

Best DACs 2022: iFi Zen DAC v2

(Image credit: iFi)
One of the very best ways to upgrade your desktop headphone system on a budget

Specifications

Inputs: USB 3.0
Outputs: RCA, 6.3mm, 4.4mm x2
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256, MQA
Dimensions (HWD): 3 x 10 x 11.7cm
Weight: 0.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Clearer and more insightful than predecessor
+
Expressive dynamics
+
Good output selection

Reasons to avoid

-
No mains adapter included

The ‘if it ain’t broke…’ saying isn’t lost on us. But at the same time we realise that in a competitive industry such as hi-fi, making the best even better off your own back isn’t necessarily a bad idea. It’s what iFi has done with its budget home DAC and headphone amp offering, with the original Zen DAC now making way for a ‘V2’ model that offers improvements in terms of processing, MQA decoding and circuitry.

They pay off. This budget DAC, which can be USB or mains powered, is excellent in both the features and performance department for the money.

Offering a significant upgrade over computer sound quality in an era where people need it most, the Zen DAC V2 is another feather in the cap for iFi’s budget Zen series.

Read the full review: iFi Zen DAC V2

Best DACs 2022: AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt

(Image credit: Audioquest)
Another brilliant portable DAC from AudioQuest with a clever design.

Specifications

Inputs: USB
Outputs: 3.5mm
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 24-bit/96kHz PCM, MQA
Dimensions (hwd): 1.2 x 1.9 x 5.7cm
Weight: 20g

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, insightful sound
+
Excellent timing and dynamics
+
Extensive file support

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most relaxed sound
-
Adaptor can be tricky to fit

Want all the benefits of the DragonFly Red (2.1v headphone output, bit-perfect digital volume control and MQA renderer) with more detail, greater dynamics and an even better sense of timing? Then you should try the latest installment in AudioQuest's line of portable DACs – the DragonFly Cobalt.

The new model boasts a more advanced DAC chip, and a new microprocessor draws less current and bumps up the DAC's processing speed. Yes, it costs around a little more, but it does take performance to another level. We'd willingly pay the extra.

Once attached to your laptop or smartphone, and selected as means of audio output, the DAC’s LED will shine one of six colours to indicate the sampling rate: red for standby, green for 44.1kHz, blue for 48kHz, yellow for 88.2 kHz, light blue for 96kHz or purple when decoding MQA. It's a great feature for at-a-glance checking and helps justify the extra outlay.

Read the full review: AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt

Best DACs 2022: iFi Go Blu

(Image credit: iFi)
A super-small DAC/headphone amp that can do big things with your music

Specifications

Inputs: USB-C
Outputs: 3.5mm, 4.4mm
Bluetooth: Yes (aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, LDAC)
Max file support: 24-bit/96kHz PCM
Dimensions (hwd): 5.4 x 3.4 x 1.3cm
Weight: 26g

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed, expansive presentation
+
Wired or wireless connectivity
+
Balanced and unbalanced inputs

Reasons to avoid

-
No notification for bitrate

The headline is that this portable DAC/headphone amp offers a Bluetooth 5.1 connection to your source device (although not to your headphones, those still need to be wired into the unit) thus eliminating one wire from the potentially bulky, tangled equation of phone, to DAC, to headphones. 

When discussing DACs to improve the sound quality of your music, Bluetooth puts the cat among the pigeons owing to the inescapable truth that its delivery has yet to catch up with both wi-fi and wired listening for a truly high fidelity sound. However, when portability is paramount and convenience is key, you cannot currently better the iFi Go Blu. It levels up your phone’s sound with very little effort or added weight in your pocket or strain on your wallet. It can sit in the tiny watch pocket of your jeans, doing its good work nowhere near your actual phone, and if you’re working in a cafe, it will both look and sound exceptionally good next to your flat white. Highly recommended.

Read the full iFi Go Blu review

Best DACs 2022: Chord Hugo 2

Chord's Hugo was already a stellar DAC, and this only improves on it.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial, optical, Micro USB
Outputs: 3.5mm, 6.3mm, RCA
Bluetooth: Yes (aptX)
Max file support: 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512
Dimensions (hwd): 2.1 x 10 x 13cm
Weight: 450g

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed, dynamic and open sound
+
Well-made and specified
+
Exotic multi-coloured control system

Reasons to avoid

-
All those colours can get confusing
-
Not strictly speaking portable

The superb Hugo 2 features all the inputs and outputs you could realistically require from a product of this type, including digital optical, coaxial and mini-USB. Music can also be fed to a pair of wireless headphones via aptX Bluetooth. 3.5mm and 6.3mm headphone outputs also feature, plus a pair of stereo RCAs to connect an amplifier.

So to say it's a versatile piece of kit would be an understatement.

The Chord is a smooth, neutral listen – it doesn’t overstate, yet it doesn’t underplay. For some DACs, that could be playing it safe, but the Hugo 2 still manages to keep things interesting, creating a holistic sound: it arranges the pieces into a convincing whole where bass is balanced against treble in the most unforced and crystal-clear manner. There isn’t another DAC around at anywhere near this sort of price able to communicate so well and so effortlessly. We like it a lot.

Read the full review: Chord Hugo 2

Best DACs 2022: ifi-hip-dac 2

(Image credit: iFi)
Like a great single malt, iFi’s hip-dac is even more delicious second time around

Specifications

Inputs: USB 3.0
Outputs: 3.5mm, balanced 4.4mm
Bluetooth: No
Native sample rate support: 384kHz PCM and DXD, DSD256, MQA
Dimensions (hwd): 1.4 x 7 x 10.2cm
Weight: 125g

Reasons to buy

+
Zealous and agile sound
+
Snappy, expansive bass
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this level

At this level, you’re unlikely to find a portable DAC as clear, zealous, fully featured, or as downright good-looking as the iFi hip-dac 2. When a product leans quite heavily on a gimmick – i.e. masquerading as a vessel for alcohol, albeit a nice one – you might feel yourself dismissing it before you’ve given it a chance. To do so where iFi is concerned would be wrong, because really, this DAC is anything but a joke. 

It improves the quality of portable music without issue, faithfully plays virtually anything you ask it to, and the extra oomph afforded by the company’s more premium processor, in conjunction with its favoured Burr-Brown DAC, is well worth the nominal extra outlay over the original. Said original is still a noble, inexpensive DAC. It’s just that its successor is that little bit better.

Read the full iFi hip-dac 2 review

Best DACs 2022: Audiolab M-DAC nano

A great way to cheaply improve the sound of your phone or laptop

Specifications

Inputs: N/A
Outputs: 3.5mm
Bluetooth: Yes (aptX)
Max file support: 16-bit/44.1kHz PCM
Dimensions (hwd): 4.4 x 4.4 x 1.4cm
Weight: 28g

Reasons to buy

+
Sonic punch and refinement
+
Compact and lightweight
+
Wireless operation

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life could be better

A great way to improve the sound of your phone or laptop, we can’t think of a better alternative for portable use. The M-DAC nano is a tiny unit, barely bigger than a custard cream biscuit. It’s light, weighing in at just 28g, and there's a built-in rechargeable battery, too.

Being small and light are major plus points for portability, but the nano’s biggest advantage over rivals such as the Cyrus Soundkey or the AudioQuest Dragonfly (below) is that the connection with your device is done wirelessly, in this case by aptX Bluetooth (v4.2). Just like the iFi Go Blu above.

Sonically, it's just as sweet as the custard cream we mentioned earlier: this is an impressively solid performance, giving a marked improvement in bass punch and power. Not only that, but it also adds volume while still managing to refine the sound. Overall, it's an exciting and entertaining performance that will improve your music on the move with minimum fuss. 

Read the full review: Audiolab M-DAC nano

Best DACs 2022: Astell & Kern AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable

(Image credit: Astell & Kern)
Another brilliant portable DAC from AudioQuest with a clever design.

Specifications

Inputs: USB-C
Outputs: 3.5mm
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256
Dimensions (hwd): 5 x 1.7 x 1cm
Weight: 27g

Reasons to buy

+
Notable improvement to audio
+
Clean, precise character
+
Nicely made

Reasons to avoid

-
No iOS device compatibility

Before Astell & Kern announced its AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to imagine the company making such a product. After all, it has been in the portable digital audio game with portable music players for years and enjoyed much success.

That know-how has been put to good use in offering USB-C device owners an affordable, practical way to soup up their smartphone or desktop sound through wired headphones. Adding the AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable between these headphones and our source devices (which provide power to the DAC) makes the world of difference. It’s such an appealing option that we can almost forgive the unwieldy name.

Read the full Astell & Kern AK USB-C Dual DAC Cable review

Best DACs 2022: AudioQuest DragonFly Red

The DragonFly Red is another excellent portable DAC.

Specifications

Inputs: USB
Outputs: 3.5mm
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 24-bit/96kHz PCM
Dimensions (hwd): 1.2 x 1.9 x 7.2cm
Weight: 22g

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated, solid and subtle sound
+
As convenient as ever
+
Smartphone compatible

Reasons to avoid

-
Red finish seems easily chipped

The majority of DACs and headphone amplifiers fitted to smartphones or laptops are cheap and not very good. Adding a dedicated DAC, no matter how small, can make all the difference. So, a DAC and headphone amp disguised as a USB stick sounds like a great idea – and the DragonFly Red, like the DragonFly Cobalt above, pulls it off superbly.

Though on first glance, it might seem a bit underpowered. After all, its hi-res support tops out at 24-bit/96kHz, which is the same as the much cheaper AudioQuest DragonFly Black. But it does have a higher voltage output (2.1v), which makes it better suited to driving more demanding headphones.

And it makes a real difference. Use it instead of the headphone output on your computer and you'll notice improved weight and texture to your tunes, combined with a natural and subtle sound. All told, it's a supremely compact and convenient device that can be taken anywhere for an immediate musical boost.

Read the full review: AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Best DACs 2022: Audiolab M-DAC+

This impressive DAC delivers an organised, coherent and expansive listen.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial x2, optical x2, XLR, RCA, AES/EBU, USB (Type-B), USB
Outputs: 6.3mm
Bluetooth: No
Native sample rate support: 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256
Dimensions (hwd): 11.4 x 24.7 x 29.2cm
Weight: 3.7kg

Reasons to buy

+
Extensive spec
+
Fine build and finish
+
Organised, tidy and expansive listen

Reasons to avoid

-
Could sound more attacking

The original M-DAC was among our favourite pound-for-pound DACs for half a decade – and in 2016 Audiolab finally gave it the long-overdue update treatment. Thankfully, the M-DAC+ was well worth the wait and is still up there with the best DACs at the money.

You don't just get a bigger box, you get much better specs too. Such as? There's support for 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 hi-res music, plus a host of new connections to keep you entertained. It also has added tweakability: there are a ridiculous 11 filters to play with, each making a subtle but noticeable difference to the sound. That should keep you busy.

And on the audio side, you won't be disappointed. There's a wide, believable soundstage, impressive detail levels, and good timing. It's not the last word in attack and drive but if you can handle that, there's not much else to quibble with here.

Read the full review: Audiolab M-DAC+

Best DACs 2022: iFi hip-dac

(Image credit: iFi)
This talented portable DAC delivers high-quality sound on the go.

Specifications

Inputs: USB 3.0
Outputs: 3.5mm, 4.4mm
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256, MQA, 384kHz DXD
Dimensions (hwd): 1.4 x 7 x 10.2cm
Weight: 125g

Reasons to buy

+
Easy-going by engaging sound
+
Battery power
+
Fine build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Up against tough competition
-
Larger than some rivals
-
Sub-par sampling rate indicators

Like its newer variant, the hip-dac 2 (above), this portable DAC resembles a hip flask and delivers a shot of high-quality sound on the move. The most compact option in iFi's range, it's essentially the guts of the British brand's excellent desktop-based Zen DAC (below) squeezed into a smaller, battery-powered package. 

The aluminium case feels rock solid and is accented by a nicely-damped metal volume control. As for audio quality, the hip-dac serves up the typical easy-going, refined iFi sound – we're big fans of its "undemanding nature, expressive dynamics and pleasing rhythmic precision."

In short, the iFi hip-dac is a superb buy – but it's up against a strong field. The likes of Zorloo’s Ztella set high standards for below the £100 mark, while the Cyrus soundKey remains hard to beat. Still, if you're looking for a high-quality portable DAC, this talented box of tricks warrants an audition.

Read the full review: iFi hip-dac

Best DACs 2022: Chord Hugo TT2

Chord has produced another class-leading DAC.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial, optical, USB (Type-B)
Outputs: 3.5mm, 6.5mm, RCA, XLR
Bluetooth: Yes (aptX)
Max file support: 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512
Dimensions (hwd): 4.6 x 23.5 x 22.3cm
Weight: 2.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Articulate, informative sound
+
Great dynamic expression
+
Fine build

Reasons to avoid

-
Ergonomics can be frustrating

Chord's DAC dominance only continues as you go up the price spectrum. In performance and feature terms it’s possible to make a strong case for the Hugo TT2 to be considered the best value DAC the company makes. You’ve got to have a mighty transparent system (not to mention a mighty fat wallet) to justify the use of anything more expensive than this.

There’s now also plenty of clear air between the performance of the TT2 and the Hugo 2, enough to make the price difference easily justifiable in a suitably talented set-up. Bluetooth aptX is onboard for wireless playback from a phone or tablet, and while it sounds good, it's not a patch on one of the TT2's wired connections. But these are a cut above, painting a vivid picture brimming with attack and a sense of coherence few can match, let alone better. It’s a wonderfully detailed and expressive presentation.

So, Chord’s seemly unstoppable digital bandwagon rolls on with yet another class leader. We're not a fan of the Hugo TT2's scrolling menu system, but in every other respect, it’s a stunner.

Read the full review: Chord Hugo TT2

Best DACs 2022: Chord DAVE

We haven’t heard a DAC at this level that sounds so natural or insightful.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial, optical, USB (Type-B)
Outputs: 3.5mm, 6.5mm, RCA, XLR
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512
Dimensions (hwd): 7.1 x 33.3 x 15.4cm
Weight: 7kg

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading sound quality
+
Impressive feature list
+
Distinctive appearance

Reasons to avoid

-
If the price isn’t an issue, nothing

Unlike the Mojo and Hugo 2, the Chord DAVE isn’t about portability. It’s about maximising performance, and it does this brilliantly. The DAVE’s sound is superbly refined, but it never uses that as an excuse to smooth things off and remove the sparkle from recordings.

It’s faithful to the source, and we can ask no more than that. You get plenty of source options too: there’s the usual trio of digital inputs (one USB type B, four co-ax and two optical) to go alongside the much rarer AES/EBU balanced digital input. There's also a quartet of BNC connectors that Chord calls DX inputs, for as-yet unannounced Chord source products.

It impresses on paper, too. The single USB accepts PCM signals with sampling rates up to 768kHz - that's very capable indeed, though we're not sure how many people will actually be able to take advantage of such numbers.

DAVE doesn't come cheap, but then this DAC is quite some product. We're smitten and we think you will be too.

Read the full review: Chord DAVE

Best DACs 2022: Nagra HD DAC/MPS

This Nagra (with its matching power supply) is one of the best DACs we've ever heard.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial, optical, USB (Type-B)
Outputs: 6.5mm, RCA, XLR
Bluetooth: No
Max file support: 24-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD128
Dimensions (hwd): 7.6 x 35 x 27.7cm
Weight: 3.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Natural, fluid and informative sound
+
Rhythmic and expressive delivery
+
Terrific build

Reasons to avoid

-
Display could be better

We've no hesitation in saying Nagra’s HD DAC is one of the best DACs on the planet. It's a hugely desirable piece of kit that boasts immaculate build quality and immense attention to detail. Of course, to get the best from the Nagra you need to add premium partners (otherwise it's like running a Bentley on pram wheels), but once hooked up you're treated to a wonderfully organic, natural and detailed sound.

While there’s plenty of refinement and a total lack of unwanted hardness, there remains a healthy dose of dynamic punch when required. Whether enjoying aggressive or subtle selections, the Nagra is capable of staggering levels of detail presented in an effortlessly musical style. And of course, it goes without saying that the build quality is second to none (as you would expect at this price).

If you're in the market for a serious high-end DAC, then you need to hear this.

Read the full review: Nagra HD DAC/MPS

How we test DACs

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door – including DACs.

What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we listen to every DAC we review against the current leader in its field to gauge how it compares to the best-in-class competition. We keep What Hi-Fi? Award winners in our stockrooms so we can always pit new products against ones we know and love, and we do our best to review as many new models in as many markets as possible to ensure our contextual knowledge is the best it can be.

We are always impartial in our testing and ensure we hear every DAC at its optimum. We'll use them in their best use case with different partnering source kit and headphones, as well as play plenty of different types of music through them. Naturally, we give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in).

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.

You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.

MORE:

Becky is the Hi-Fi and Audio editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, Australia, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her eight years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.

  • djh1697
    The MARCH USB DAC is only £260, and made the Naim DAC sound pale! Works great with Tidal/Qobuz/Roon. Grab one while you can! They are superb! The will take DSD64 and 384/24 PCM
    Reply
  • aaadavid
    I had a Rega Dac R - just upgraded to this DAC : RME adi-2 fs dac - astonishing improvement - see this review as an example https://www.themasterswitch.com/rme-adi-2-dac-reviewI have no affiliation with RME
    If you want the best DAC this is it.
    Please review What HiFi !!
    David
    Reply
  • Jacore
    Nice list. Would be good to see some reviews of R2R ladder DACs. Massive analogue dynamic sound. I’m currently running the Denafrips Ares II and it sounds astonishing. Like having my LPs on demand :)
    Reply
  • jgladden
    Agree w aaadavid, huge miss excluding rme adi-2. Either the list is wildly out of date or whathifi is getting a kick back from chord. The rme costs less than the qutest, offers mind blowing options to dial in the sound, superior reproduction across the frequency range, balanced and unbalanced output, much quieter output (the qutest hiss is a thing folks), qutest might edge out the rme in regards to wider soundstage - it remains hotly contested which is the better DAC, but missing the rme entirely is unforgivable. Come on whathifi, its 2020, test a wider range of product please!
    Reply
  • david_malcolm
    I agree that not featuring the RME ADI-2 and R2R ladder DACs seem to be either oversights or commercial decisions in this review.
    Reply
  • Jota180
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    The digital-to-analogue conversion process is absolutely critical, so make sure you enlist the help of a decent DAC.

    Best DACs 2019: USB, portable and desktop DACs : Read more

    No RME, no list.
    Reply
  • Jota180
    jgladden said:
    Agree w aaadavid, huge miss excluding rme adi-2. Either the list is wildly out of date or whathifi is getting a kick back from chord. The rme costs less than the qutest, offers mind blowing options to dial in the sound, superior reproduction across the frequency range, balanced and unbalanced output, much quieter output (the qutest hiss is a thing folks), qutest might edge out the rme in regards to wider soundstage - it remains hotly contested which is the better DAC, but missing the rme entirely is unforgivable. Come on whathifi, its 2020, test a wider range of product please!

    Agree with all of this. I was thinking of pulling the trigger on the Chord and was looking around the internet and I'd never heard of RME beofre, but once I'd read up on it, looked at the specs and feature list it's an absolute no brainer.
    It's just so well specced with useful things, well thought out and the two plugs for headphones and in ear phones is the icing on the cake.
    I'm so glad I found this one because the sound and features makes this unbeatable in my view.
    Reply
  • Friesiansam
    I would want to see far more than just that one review about the RME. It tells us that the noise floor is low, timing is good and clarity is good but, there is lot more that affects perceived sound quality and this review tells us nothing else about the sound it delivers. Make sure to buy from a retailer that will facilitate easy returns.
    Reply
  • gaburko
    Again no RME? Guys, your objectivity has always been questionable, but when you persistently ignore one of the best products out there for years, it makes me think you might have other things on your mind apart from product quality.
    Reply
  • TenTonTarantula
    No Schiit, Denafrips, RME....in general in WHF, not just this list. Must be something to do with not upsetting established relationships with manufacturers, but would make WHF much more interesting if they covered the full range of the industry, not just the same old roster of incumbents. Might given the reviewers a bit more excitement too...and even the chance to give something less than four stars for a change.
    Reply