Your computer, phone, tablet, CD player, Bluetooth headphones, powered speakers, and TV all have a DAC built into them. Built-In DACs typically aren’t very good. They don’t decode digital audio with high precision, suffer from electronic interference, and output a noisy signal. If you listen to music on your phone or computer and don’t use a standalone DAC, you’re getting a degraded experience.
There are many ways to improve the experience of enjoying digital music, but one of the best (and easiest) is to listen through a dedicated DAC (Digital Analog Converter). This component is required to turn any digital audio file into sounds you can hear. Many great DACs are now being offered by Gustard, Topping, Matrix Audio, and other Contenders. As time moves, some DACs are no longer available. However, most contenders are still going strong.
Getting a good DAC will make your library of digital music (streamed or local) sound a lot clearer. You should be able to hear nuances (background instruments, individual voices in a harmony, and even errors) you may have missed otherwise.
DAC helps an amplifier to amplify your audio reproduction by turning the digital signal into a low–frequency one. This conversion helps your headphones to output pure sonic performance. So, if you want the best musical performance out of your headphones, invest in a DAC.
DACs can be expensive. However, you can get decent performing DACs under USD 1000.
Types Of DACs:
Portable DACs: Portable DACs are made for use on the go, connecting to a cell phone or laptop as an upgrade to the inferior (in most cases) DACs built – into those devices.
Desktop DACs: Desktop DACs work similarly to portable DACs except they usually pull power from a wall outlet, and have more connections and functionality.
Component DACs: Component DACs are basically the same as Desktop DACs, except they are usually sized to fit on a hi-fi rack as opposed to on a desktop.
Best DACs Under $1000:
A good DAC is a necessity for individuals who are willing to go the lengths to listen to the perfect sound output from their playback devices and finding a good DAC to do that job is a difficult task.
That is why we have compiled some of the best DACs for under $1000 below to make your task a little easier and you don’t have to commit all that time to just looking for a good DAC.
1. NAD – D 3045 Hybrid Digital DAC/Amplifier:
At one point in time, other than being known as one of the best stereo amplifier brands, NAD was known for nondescript grey audio components that sounded great and didn’t cost a lot of money.
The D 3045 Hybrid Digital Amplifier may look like a desktop amp, but it can easily drive the most demanding speakers to high volumes without difficulty.
NAD has integrated a moving magnet phono stage into the D 3045 which will be a huge selling point for those who already use a turntable or are looking to add one to their system.
My Review: Since I purchased NAD – D 3045, I have been a fan of it. It can drive just about anything you want to connect at a continuous 60 watts – per – channel. It has every feature one could want in an integrated amplifier.
This amazing component receives my highest recommendation.
- 2 x 60W Hybrid Digital Amplifier.
- Two-Way Bluetooth powered by Qualcomm aptX HD audio.
- Asynchronous USB 24/192 Input supporting MQA and DSD.
- HDMI Audio Return Channel.
- Coax and Optical Input.
- MM Phono and Line Input.
- Compact, low-profile design.
- Low-impedance headphone amplifier.
- IR Remote.
2. Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier:
Chord Electronics, Mojo (Mobile Joy) digital to analog converter (DAC) and headphones amplifier create a new approach to high-end digital audio sound via headphones and in-ear monitors (IEMs).
Unlike many of its rivals, Chord has refused to use the off-the-shelf DAC chips inside its converters. Instead, the company’s digital products feature powerful programmable processors loaded with proprietary software to do the job.
There’s no display as such, but the power button lights up in different colours depending on the sampling rate of the input signal (red for 44.1kHz, green for 96kHz, white for DSD). Similarly, the lighting colour behind the volume buttons changes according to level.
- Cool aesthetics and avant-garde side of things, with colored marble buttons.
- Massively powerful headphone amplifier that will deliver crystal clear audio.
- Mojo plays all files from 32kHz to 768kHz and even DSD 256.
- Mojo is able to charge to full in only four hours and will give between eight to ten hours continuous use.
- Inputs are auto sensing with USB taking priority followed by coax.
- Outputs are limited to a pair of 3.5mm jacks.
My Review: Despite its many clever features, digital connections, super-versatility and so on, the one feature I’ve been most impressed with is Chord Mojo’s audio detail. Chord Mojo gives an outstanding performance.
3. PS Audio Sprout100 Complete HiFi DAC Amp:
PS Audio Sprout100 is known as much for its personable co-founder and CEO Paul McGowan as it is for its relatively value-priced high-end audio separates. Sprout offers sonic ideals and design principles enjoyed by many thousands of users daily.
Sprout100 offers double the output power, which—apart from providing renewed efficiency, lowered distortion, and greater separation and detail—also serves to galvanize the sonic benefits of extended headroom.
- Full featured integrated amplifier.
- 100 watts per channel power amplifier.
- Drives any size loudspeaker.
- Fully asynchronous DAC supports up to 384/24 PCM or double rate DSD.
- Passive EQ moving magnet phono preamplifier.
- Low output impedance headphone amplifier.
- TOSLINK optical digital input.
- USB input.
My Review: The Sprout 100 is a musical integrated amp that gives you so much for your money. The Headphone Amp/DAC alone is worth what they charge for this thing.
This integrated would be a perfect product for young guys putting together their first hi-fi setup, or someone who wants a quality amp and doesn’t have a lot of room to spare.
4. Sony PHA3 PHA-3 Headphone Amp, Black:
This Sony headphone amp with built-in DAC is a great pocket-sized option for you if you’re looking for something to boost the sound quality of the files on your phone. You can also maximize your audio experience on PCs, digital music players, and more.
On the technical specs, the PHA-3 can comprehensively decode PCM audio sources up to 384 kHz/32-bit in addition to DSD audio sources at 2.8 MHz / 5.6 MHz formats. The rechargeable battery provides up to 5 hours of playback when connected digitally via the USB, or up to 28 hours of playback when you’re using the analog stereo input.
My Review: This device really packs a good audio punch if you are a discerning listener. It delivers a high-resolution audio experience through your headphones. It is very sleek and stylish.
I highly recommend this device to you.
- Flexible, Powerful, and pocket-able.
- Convenient Analog and Digital connectivity meets powerful digital audio conversion/amplification circuitry.
- Supporting up to 384 kHz/32-bit PCM and DSD (2.8/5.6) sources, for immersive and pocket-able Hi-Fi frequency response 10–100 kHz.
- Compatible with USB Audio, PCM 384 kHz/32-bit, DSD.
- Superior sound from a balanced audio output.
5. Moukey Headphone Amp Amplifier:
This ultra-compact stereo Headphone Amplifier can hold 4 high-power stereo headphones & maintain the clarity of sound even at maximum volume levels. These ultra-low-noise operational amplifiers are included for outstanding audio performance.
Moukey 4-Channel Portable Stereo Headphone Amplifier uses the latest DC 5V power supply mode, no longer restricts the application scenarios.
It allows up to 4 people in a music session to listen to the mix making each capable of adjusting to their volume level preference.
- Independent MONO/STEREO control buttons is easy to control
- Independent Channel Rotary Volume Controls.
- It uses the latest DC 5V power supply mode.
- Independent volume knob.
- Lightweight and simple Sturdy metal structure headphone mixer.
My Review: It is a great device for splitting your audio source as long as your source has adjustable volume.
If you’re looking for quality audio look elsewhere, this doesn’t cut the cake in that department. If you just want multiple simultaneous outputs and not care about audio quality, pick this up.
6. Marantz HD-DAC1- Reference Quality Headphone:
For those that listen to everyday digital music through consumer–grade headphones, the HD DAC1 is a practical treatment that is affordable and sounds great.
The Marantz HD – DAC1 headphone amplifier and DAC is one of Marantz’s premium models, in the popular, smaller HD form factor case, that makes it perfect for bedside or desktop use, or for someone who wants a stylish unit on display in a living room.
The powerful HD DAC1 can drive audiophile high – impedance headphones up to 600 ohm with complete mode ease. It is so powerful, it not only drives headphones, you can also directly connect it to your Hi-Fi integrated amplifier or to a pair of active speakers.
- Can decode PCM fed via its two optical or single coaxial digital audio inputs.
- Sample rates from 32kHz to 192kHz are supported.
- It can also act as a DAC for a computer – it’s a USB Audio Class 2.0 device.
- Display is round in shape.
- Optical and coaxial digital inputs.
- Highly connectable.
My Review: Marantz HD DAC1 looks stunningly beautiful. It has great sound quality, and can distinctly hear all instruments. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it does not have XLR balanced outputs which other units do have.
To Sum Up:
DACs are commonly used in music players, television, mobile phones, etc. which convert digital audio signals into an analog ones for connection to a standard amplifier.
Without a DAC, your digital music collection is nothing but a sizable collection of “0s and 1s” that makes sense only within the digital domain. In short, DACs play a large part in making digital music worthwhile.
If you are searching for a better quality DAC, you can choose the DAC which is under 1000 dollars.
Therefore, better the DAC, better the sound!
Frequently Asked Questions: