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DAC buying guide 2020 (non technical) – Tracks for testing a DAC for your home and portable audio

DAC buying guide 2020 (non technical) – Tracks for testing a DAC for your home and portable audio

Discovering new music has become a lot easier with a rapid rise in the number of applications and websites offering services. Whatever format we listen to these days, be it, MP3, FLAC, streaming services like Spotify, YouTube Music and Tidal, all are in a digital format. All that music at the source is nothing but 1s and 0s. This digital signal in the form of 1s and 0s is not audible. At this stage we need a conversion of this signal into an analog signal. This analog signal then drives the amplifier which in turn drives the speakers and then sound is produced. This conversion of a digital signal into an analog signal is carried out by a DAC. To know more about the operation of DACs, click here.

A Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)

Now the question is How good is your device DAC? What is the need of an external DAC or Headphone amplifier? Is it possible to enjoy far superior sound quality through an external DAC than what your device’s standard sound card will produce? The answer is YES. You will get a noticeably better sound quality that will enhance your overall listening experience.

A phone, a laptop or a tablet, none of these can make sounds without a DAC chip inside them. No digital source can ever do so. Sometimes the audio output from these devices is not up to the mark with a lot of distortion and noise. Since, DACs are not perfect, there can be problems like Jitter, Aliasing, Narrow Dynamic Range and Limited Bit-Rate. To know more about these, click here and check out the article on Jitters. Internal device DACs are generally not very well equipped and hence, the above mentioned problems may occur. But empowering them with an external DAC, which is well equipped to mitigate these errors, can really boost up the audio signal and offer far greater clarity than the original form.

Since, a good DAP will give a good output, different DACs perform differently because of a difference in the built quality and tuning of various components. You can try out Shanling UP4 Balanced Hi-Res Portable Bluetooth Amplifier DAC/AMP from our collection which is priced at $99.99 or Topping E30 USB DAC AK4493 Hifi Decoder Desktop DAC which is priced at $129.99, which happens to be one of the best small sized converters around. If you use it, you will be instantly able to experience a noticeable boost in the quality of the output.


Check out the various DACs from our collection at Hifigo, click here.


Which is the Best DAC for you? What are the different types of DACs available? Which one will suit you the most? We are here to answer all your questions.



Type of DAC to suit your needs perfectly


Portable USB DACs  with Amplifiers 

Perfect  for smartphones and tablets. If you use your smartphone or a tablet to listen to your favourite music in the form of MP3s or use streaming services from your device, portable USB DACs are the best to suit this purpose. This enables a USB connection from the device’s digital output. This output is usually the same where you connect the charger.  Some DACs can even connect to your phone via Bluetooth. This forms a bridge between your device and the headphones thereby boosting up the overall sound. Most of the DACs these days have a built in amplifier as well which boosts the signal to drive the headphones or your speakers. The best part about these portable USB DAC s is that they are not expensive and some of them though come at a cheaper price but offer excellent boosting capabilities.

Check out the best portable DACs from our collection. Click here.

Some of the best selling portable DACs are listed below: 

FiiO BTR5 Dual ES9218P DAC Native DSD Decoding Portable Bluetooth Amplifier

Audirect Hilidac Beam 2 Portable DAC/Amp 32bit 384KHz MQA-certified Dual ES9281C PRO

FiiO Q5s BT 5.0 Dual AK4493EQ DSD256 PCM 768k/32bit DAC

Shanling UP4 Balanced Hi-Res Portable Bluetooth Amplifier DAC/AMP


Desktop USB DACs with Amplifiers

If you are used to enjoying your music in a static or fixed position, say on a desktop or on your couch, these USB and sometimes AC powered DACs have a lot more in store for you. Some of them have headphones jacks also. Some are equipped with wireless streaming services as well. These will have far more inputs and are designed in a specific manner to offer better output. These are also accompanied by an amplifier to boost the signal and drive the speakers or sound systems connected to them. 

Check out the best Desktop DACs from our collection. Click here.

Some of the best selling Desktop DACs are listed below:

Topping E30 USB DAC AK4493 HiFi Decoder Desktop DACs

FiiO K5 Pro Headphone AMP AK4493EQ 768K/32Bit DSD Decoding Deskstop DAC Amplifier

TOPPING D90 DAC Full Balanced AK4499 BT 5.0 DSD512 32bit 768kHz Pre-Amplifier

SMSL M200 DAC AK4497EQ Bluetooth 5.0 32Bit/768KHz DSD512 Decoder


Headphone DAC with Amplifiers

DACs specifically designed for headphones are portable and also incorporate an amplifier to boost the output signal to drive the headphones. Robust power and high quality sound processing adds a new life to the source.

A wide variety of DACs offering wireless connectivity through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

are also available to suits the respective needs of the listeners.

Some of the best-selling Headphone DACs with Amplifier are listed below:

XDuoo LINK HD Digital AMP & DAC Type-C to 3.5MM Decoding Hi-Res Adapter

COZOY TAKT C Portable Headphone Amp 32Bit/384Khz DSD HiFi

SMSL M500 HiFi Audio ES9038PRO/ES9311 DAC Headphone Amplifier AMP

Audirect Hilidac Beam 2 Portable DAC/Amp 32bit 384KHz MQA-certified Dual ES9281C PRO

You can check out the entire collection here!


An audiophile is always ready with a playlist to test any audio equipment. Let’s check out some of the most amazing tracks we have listed for you that will really enhance your listening experience through your DACs:


Train Song – Holly Cole


Falling – Olive


Ulili E – Dennis and David Kamakahi


Madness – Muse


Wade in the water – Ramsey Lewis


Iron Band – Dire Straits


Stairway to Heaven - Rodrigo Y Gabriella 


Blackfield - Blackfield


There can be an obvious choice of DACs depending upon the application, but we cannot ignore the source of music. That needs to be equally good. Premium services from Tidal and few other streaming platforms offer lossless music to the listeners, wherein, there is a huge difference in the sound quality offered. A DAC with a better sampling rate and offering decent bit depth will provide far more superior results. Hope this will help you choose the best one for yourself!


Don’t forget to check out the DACs from our collection at Hifigo and grab your favourite one!


We will keep sharing regular updates, latest news and more recommendations on here. So stay tuned, keep enjoying the good music and watch this space for more.


By: Atul Pandey

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