Best Budget DACs for High-Quality Audio on a Budget

Updated on April 24, 2024

A digital-to-analog converter (DAC) converts digital audio signals into analog for speakers or headphones. A budget DAC is great for high-quality audio without high costs. We’ve identified the best budget DACs, considering their support for different audio formats, size, portability, and compatibility with existing audio setups. Some DACs may need additional equipment like an amplifier. We’ll discuss the top budget DACs, their features, and benefits next.

Best Budget DACs

We understand that not everyone has the budget to invest in high-end audio equipment, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on sound quality. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best budget DACs that won’t break the bank. These devices are perfect for those who want to experience better sound quality without spending a fortune. We’ve tested and reviewed each of these products to ensure that they meet our standards for sound quality, ease of use, and value for money. So, whether you’re a music lover, gamer, or audiophile, we’ve got you covered. Check out our top picks for the best budget DACs below.

Fosi Audio Q4 Headphone Amplifier Mini Stereo DAC 24-Bit 192 KHz USB Optical Coaxial to RCA AUX Digital-to-Analog Audio Converter Adapter for Home Desktop Powered Active Speakers

Fosi Audio Q4 Headphone Amplifier Mini Stereo DAC 24-Bit 192 KHz USB Optical Coaxial to RCA AUX Digital-to-Analog Audio Converter Adapter for Home Desktop Powered Active Speakers

If you are looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers decent sound quality, the Fosi Audio Q4 might be a good option for you.

Pros:
  • The Fosi Audio Q4 is a versatile device that can connect with most home audio systems and headphones.
  • It has various inputs, a 3.5mm headphone output, and a Hi-Fi headphone amp chip that can power headphones with impedance ranging from 16 Ohm to 200 Ohm.
  • The device is simple to set up and requires no special software, app, or driver installation, as it is a true plug-and-play digital audio adapter.
Cons:
  • The Fosi Audio Q4 doesn't support microphones, so it might not be the best option if you need to use a microphone with your headphones.
  • The device has a specified maximum limit for the equivalent input noise voltage, which might affect the sound quality if you are using it in a noisy environment.
  • The Fosi Audio Q4 is not the best option if you are looking for the best DAC for music at this price.
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The Fosi Audio Q4 is a mini compact D/A converter with a full metallic shell that ensures high quality. It streams bit-perfect 24bit/192KHz HD with low jitter(24bit/96KHz for USB), with an output protection circuit to safeguard your expensive audio system.

The Q4 headphone USB DAC incorporates high-performance operational amplifier chips from Texas Instruments, specifically the NE5532, which combines exemplary DC and AC characteristics. The device features very low noise, high output-drive capability, high unity-gain bandwidths, low distortion and high slew rate, as well as input-protection diodes, and output short-circuit protection.

The desktop DAC Q4 is capable of delivering 160mW RMS (32 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 KHz, 0.01% THD) of power and comes equipped with bass and treble controls, making it suitable for use as a preamp or volume controller for your PC/computer/MAC/headphones/speakers system.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers decent sound quality, the Fosi Audio Q4 might be a good option for you. However, if you need to use a microphone with your headphones or you are looking for the best DAC for music at this price, you might want to consider other options.

S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder

S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder AK4493S XU316 768kHz/32Bit DSD512 Hi-Res DAC

If you're looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers high-quality sound, the S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder is definitely worth considering.

Pros:
  • USB supports MQA: Clean up the recording and encapsulate the sound
  • Support MQA CD: CD Player + MQA- Enabled DAC, your CD player's digital output (optical or coaxial) can be fed to an MQA decoder. The MQA decoder can restore the original high-resolution signal heard in the studio and confirm it, using the authentication signature. SMSL SU-1 support MQA CD.
  • AKM AK4493S: SU-1 utilizes the latest AKM DAC chip, AK4493S, for achieving a distortion lower than 0.00013%
Cons:
  • No volume control
  • No remote control
  • No USB power adapter included
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We were impressed with the build quality of the S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder. The full aluminum casing and gold-plated RCA output give it a premium feel. The device is compatible with Windows 7/8/8.1/10/11 (driver is required), Mac OS X10.6+, Linux (driverless), Android, and iOS.

The S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder delivers a clean and neutral sound. Compared to other DACs in its price range, it offers a brighter sound with zero sibilance and a flatter sound stage. The device is easy to set up and use. It comes with a USB-C cable, and the driver installation process is straightforward.

One downside of the S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder is that it doesn’t come with a volume control or remote control. Additionally, it doesn’t include a USB power adapter, so you’ll need to purchase one separately. However, these are minor drawbacks considering the device’s affordable price.

Overall, we recommend the S.M.S.L SU-1 MQA MQA-CD Audio Decoder for anyone looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers high-quality sound. It’s easy to use, offers excellent build quality, and supports MQA CD.

Schiit Modi 3E D/A Converter – Delta-Sigma DAC (Silver)

Schiit Modi 3E D/A Converter - Delta-Sigma DAC (Silver)

If you're searching for a budget DAC that delivers exceptional performance, the Schiit Modi 3E is worth considering.

Pros:
  • The ES9018 delta-sigma DAC and DC-coupled output provide exceptional sound quality.
  • The Schiit's exclusive Unison USB interface ensures the best USB audio experience.
  • Modi 3E accepts virtually any input you can throw at it.
Cons:
  • The Modi 3E will not work with Windows 7 or earlier.
  • Some users may find the toggle switch to select different inputs inconveniently located on the front.
  • The Modi 3E's design may not be as sleek or modern as other DACs on the market.
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The Schiit Modi 3E is a versatile DAC that can be used with virtually any device, including computers, streamers, CD players, phones, tablets, and TVs. The Unison USB interface provides exceptional USB audio experience, while the coaxial SPDIF, Toslink SPDIF, and USB inputs, and single-ended RCA output offer flexibility in connecting to different devices. The toggle switch on the front allows you to select different inputs easily.

One of the highlights of the Modi 3E is its exceptional sound quality. With the ES9018 delta-sigma DAC and DC-coupled output, the Schiit delivers clear, detailed, and accurate sound. The Modi 3E supports sample rates and bit depths of 16/44.1 to 24/192 via USB, Coax, and Optical.

Another advantage of the Modi 3E is its compatibility with different platforms. The DAC works with Windows 10, Mac OS 10.7 and up, iOS7 and up, most Android devices that shipped with Android M or above, and most Linux distros that support UAC2 natively. The Schiit is also recognized by Roon and is plug and play with most streamers.

The Modi 3E is covered by a limited warranty that covers parts and labor for two years. The vast majority of the total production cost of Modi 3E goes to US companies manufacturing in the US.

Overall, the Schiit Modi 3E is a solid choice for anyone looking for a budget DAC that delivers exceptional performance. Its versatility, compatibility, and sound quality make it a worthwhile investment for anyone looking to upgrade their audio setup.

KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6 Mini HiFi 2.0 Digital Audio Decoder DAC Input USB/Coaxial/Optical Output RCA/Headphone Amp 24Bit/96KHz DC12V (Black)

FX-Audio DAC-X6 Mini HiFi 2.0 Digital Audio Decoder DAC Input USB/Coaxial/Optical Output RCA/Headphone Amp 24Bit/96KHz DC12V (Black)

If you're looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers exceptional audio quality, the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6 is definitely worth considering.

Cons:
  • Versatile inputs and outputs
  • Upgradable op amp
  • Plug-and-play, no driver needed
Pros:
  • Volume control knob only adjusts headphone volume
  • Some users report issues with power supply
  • No balanced output
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We were impressed with the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6’s versatility when it comes to inputs and outputs. The rear panel features a Type-B USB input, a Toslink optical input, and a coaxial digital input that can be connected to a variety of devices, including computers, TVs, and gaming consoles. Plus, there are two RCA pre-outs for connecting to power amplifiers, tube vacuum amps, or active speakers.

Another standout feature of the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6 is its upgradable op amp. This allows you to customize the sound to your liking and experiment with different op amps to find the perfect match for your headphones.

Setting up the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6 is a breeze, as it’s a true plug-and-play digital audio adapter that requires no special software or drivers. The USB input supports 24bit/96kHz and 6bit 192kHz, while the optical and coaxial inputs support 24bit 192kHz.

While the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6’s volume control knob is convenient for adjusting headphone volume, it doesn’t affect the volume of other connected devices. Additionally, some users have reported issues with the power supply, so it’s important to keep this in mind before purchasing. Finally, the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6 doesn’t have a balanced output, which may be a dealbreaker for some users.

Overall, the KGUSS FX-Audio DAC-X6 is an excellent budget-friendly option for anyone looking to upgrade their audio setup. Its versatile inputs and outputs, upgradable op amp, and easy setup make it a great choice for both music and gaming.

HiBy FC1 Portable dac Headphone Amplifier USB c dac amp hi-res Audio decoder with High Audio Quality Low Power Consumption for iOS Android Smartphones Computers-Black

HiBy FC1 Portable dac Headphone Amplifier USB c dac amp hi-res Audio decoder with High Audio Quality Low Power Consumption for iOS Android Smartphones Computers-Black

If you're looking for a budget DAC that delivers high-quality sound, the HiBy FC1 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier is definitely worth considering.

Pros:
  • The HiFi DAC ES9270 brings high resolution sound quality, supporting PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD128 DoP.
  • The 70+70mW@32Ω high output power for a USB headphone dongle powers all sorts of HiFi earphones, and low power consumption reduces smartphone power consumption.
  • The FC1 can be used together with HiBy Music on the cell phone to turn on its HQ USB audio access mode and enjoy the happy experience of HiFi audiophile.
Cons:
  • For use with iOS smartphones, a cable with OTG capability is required (not included).
  • The mic input is weak and scrambled.
  • The indicator light comes up in different colors according to the currently playing music format/sample rate, which may be distracting to some users.
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We recently got our hands on the HiBy FC1 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier, and we were impressed by its sound quality. The HiFi DAC ES9270 brings high resolution sound quality, supporting PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD128 DoP. The 70+70mW@32Ω high output power for a USB headphone dongle powers all sorts of HiFi earphones, and low power consumption reduces smartphone power consumption.

The FC1 can be used together with HiBy Music on the cell phone to turn on its HQ USB audio access mode and enjoy the happy experience of HiFi audiophile. However, for use with iOS smartphones, a cable with OTG capability is required (not included).

Overall, we found the HiBy FC1 Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier to be a great budget option for those looking to improve their sound quality. The mic input is weak and scrambled, which may be a downside for some users. Additionally, the indicator light comes up in different colors according to the currently playing music format/sample rate, which may be distracting to some users. However, these minor issues are outweighed by the device’s high-quality sound and budget-friendly price.

FiiO K11 DAC and Headphone Amplifier

FiiO K11 DAC and Headphone Amplifier for Home Audio or PC, 6.35mm and Balanced 4.4mm, RCA, Coaxial, Optical, 1400mW, 384kHz/24Bit DSD256 (Silver)

If you're looking for a budget DAC and headphone amplifier that delivers high-quality audio and is easy to use, the FiiO K11 is an excellent choice.

Pros:
  • The FiiO K11 delivers rich, detailed audio with a powerful output of up to 1400mW, making it suitable for driving high-impedance headphones up to 350 ohms.
  • The device supports a variety of inputs and outputs, including USB, coaxial, and optical inputs, as well as 4.4mm/6.35mm (1/4 in.) headphone out, RCA line-out, and coaxial outputs.
  • The sleek and compact design of the FiiO K11 makes it an attractive addition to any workspace, and the high-definition VA display screen provides a clear presentation of the current status of the device.
Cons:
  • The volume knob is used for everything, which can make it difficult to adjust the volume precisely.
  • The FiiO K11 has a slight delay when playing audio, which can be frustrating for some users.
  • Some users have reported issues with the software experience, including problems with the volume knob not registering a 1% increment.
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We’ve been using the FiiO K11 for several weeks now, and we’re impressed with its performance. The device is easy to set up and use, and the audio quality is excellent. We’ve tested it with a variety of headphones, including high-impedance models, and the FiiO K11 has been able to drive them all with ease.

One of the things we like about the FiiO K11 is its variety of inputs and outputs. We’ve been able to connect it to our computer, TV, and other devices with ease, and the 4.4mm/6.35mm (1/4 in.) headphone out, RCA line-out, and coaxial outputs have been very useful.

The design of the FiiO K11 is also a standout feature. The device is compact and attractive, and the high-definition VA display screen provides a clear presentation of the current status of the device. We’ve found it to be a visually appealing addition to our workspace.

Overall, we would recommend the FiiO K11 to anyone looking for a budget DAC and headphone amplifier that delivers high-quality audio and is easy to use. It’s not without its flaws, but we think the pros outweigh the cons.

Syba Sonic USB DAC Stereo Headphone Amplifier

Syba Sonic 24bit 96KHz USB DAC Stereo Headphone Amplifier 2 Stage EQ Digital/Coaxial Output and RCA Output SD-DAC63116

If you're looking for an affordable DAC that can improve your computer's sound quality, the Syba Sonic USB DAC Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a great option.

Pros:
  • The Cm6533 Intelligent Noise Reduction Chip filters noise and restores high-fidelity sound quality.
  • The recording standard of the studio with higher than CD sound quality is up to 24Bit/96KHz, allowing you to enjoy the audio quality of the fever.
  • Super simple to set up, plug and play for a cheap price.
Cons:
  • The plastic housing may not be as durable as metal alternatives.
  • Some users have reported connection issues.
  • The device may not power high-impedance headphones as well as other DACs.
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We were impressed with the Syba Sonic USB DAC Stereo Headphone Amplifier’s ability to enhance the sound quality of our computer. The device was easy to set up, and we noticed a significant improvement in sound quality. The Cm6533 Intelligent Noise Reduction Chip worked well to filter out noise and restore high-fidelity sound quality.

One thing to note is that the plastic housing may not be as durable as metal alternatives. Some users have also reported connection issues, so it’s important to ensure that the device is properly plugged in. Additionally, the device may not power high-impedance headphones as well as other DACs.

Overall, the Syba Sonic USB DAC Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a great budget option for those looking to improve their computer’s sound quality.

Fosi Audio K5 Pro Gaming DAC Headphone Amplifier

Fosi Audio K5 Pro Gaming DAC Headphone Amplifier Mini Hi-Fi Stereo Digital-to-Analog Audio Converter USB Type C/Optical/Coaxial to RCA/3.5MM AUX for PS5/PC/MAC/Computer

If you're looking for a budget-friendly DAC for your home gaming system, the Fosi Audio K5 Pro is worth considering.

Pros:
  • The K5 Pro provides excellent sound quality, making it easy to get immersed in your music or gaming experience.
  • With a variety of inputs/outputs, the K5 Pro is suitable for PS5/Computers/PC/MAC/active speakers, etc.
  • The K5 Pro is compact and easy to use, making it a great option for those who want to improve their audio quality without taking up too much space.
Cons:
  • The power dial isn't as sturdy as the treble and bass dials, which can be a bit frustrating.
  • The jacks are too close to each other, which can make it difficult to connect cables.
  • The speaker channel is susceptible to crosstalk, which can be a problem if you plan to use this as more than just a headphone amp.
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The Fosi Audio K5 Pro is a great budget DAC that offers excellent sound quality and a variety of inputs/outputs. While the power dial isn’t as sturdy as the treble and bass dials, and the jacks are too close together, these are minor issues that can be overlooked for the price. If you’re looking for a compact and easy-to-use DAC for your home gaming system, the Fosi Audio K5 Pro is definitely worth considering.

iFi Zen DAC V2

iFi Zen DAC V2 | Desktop Digital Analog Converter with USB 3.0 B Input only/Outputs: 6.3mm Unbalanced / 4.4mm Balanced/RCA - MQA DECODER - Audio System Upgrade (Unit only)

If you're looking for an affordable yet high-quality DAC, the iFi Zen DAC V2 is worth considering.

Pros:
  • The compact design makes it easy to use and transport.
  • The Burr Brown True Native digital to analogue converter provides rich detail and warm natural tones.
  • The technology-packed features, such as Variable analogue volume control and PowerMatch adjustment, make for a smoother and cleaner playback.
Cons:
  • There may be a slight channel imbalance under 9 o'clock on the volume dial.
  • The unit only has USB 3.0 B input and limited outputs.
  • The price may be slightly higher than other budget DAC options.
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We were impressed with the iFi Zen DAC V2’s ability to upgrade our audio system with ease. The compact design made it easy to use and transport, and we appreciated the easy connectivity with USB3.0 input. The Burr Brown True Native digital to analogue converter provided rich detail and warm natural tones, allowing us to hear familiar songs in a whole new light. The technology-packed features, such as Variable analogue volume control and PowerMatch adjustment, made for a smoother and cleaner playback.

However, we did notice a slight channel imbalance under 9 o’clock on the volume dial, which may be a concern for some users. Additionally, the unit only has USB 3.0 B input and limited outputs, which may not be ideal for those who need more connectivity options. Finally, the price may be slightly higher than other budget DAC options, but we believe the quality of the iFi Zen DAC V2 justifies the cost.

Overall, we recommend the iFi Zen DAC V2 for those looking for an affordable yet high-quality DAC.

FiiO K7 Full Balanced HiFi DAC Headphone Amplifier AK4493S*2, XMOS XU208 PCM384kHz DSD256,USB/Optical/Coaxial/RCA Inputs, 6.35mm/4.4mm Output Red

FiiO K7 Full Balanced HiFi DAC Headphone Amplifier AK4493S*2, XMOS XU208 PCM384kHz DSD256,USB/Optical/Coaxial/RCA Inputs, 6.35mm/4.4mm Output

If you're looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers excellent sound quality, the FiiO K7 Full Balanced HiFi DAC Headphone Amplifier is a great option.

Pros:
  • The FiiO K7 offers excellent sound quality, with clear and detailed audio that brings out the best in your music.
  • This DAC is highly versatile, with multiple inputs and outputs that make it easy to connect to a variety of devices.
  • The FiiO K7 is well-built and durable, with a solid construction that ensures it will last for years to come.
Cons:
  • The FiiO K7 is a bit bulky and heavy, which may make it less portable than some other DACs on the market.
  • While the FiiO K7 is a great value for the price, it may still be too expensive for some budget-conscious shoppers.
  • Some users have reported issues with the FiiO K7's software, which can be a bit finicky to set up and use.
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Overall, we highly recommend the FiiO K7 Full Balanced HiFi DAC Headphone Amplifier for anyone looking for a budget-friendly DAC that delivers excellent sound quality. With its versatile inputs and outputs, solid construction, and clear and detailed audio, this DAC is a great choice for music lovers of all kinds.

Buying Guide

When it comes to choosing the best budget DAC, there are a few key features to consider. We’ve compiled a list of important factors to help you make an informed decision.

Connectivity

The first thing to consider is connectivity. Make sure the DAC you choose has the right connections for your setup. For example, if you plan on using headphones, you’ll want a DAC with a headphone jack. If you plan on connecting to a stereo system, you’ll want a DAC with RCA or optical connections.

Sample Rate and Bit Depth

Another important factor to consider is the sample rate and bit depth. The sample rate determines how many times per second the DAC converts the digital signal to an analog signal, while the bit depth determines the number of bits used to represent each sample. Generally, higher sample rates and bit depths result in better sound quality, but keep in mind that higher specs also come at a higher cost.

Form Factor

The form factor of the DAC is also important to consider. If you plan on using the DAC at home, a larger desktop model may be more suitable. If you plan on using the DAC on the go, a smaller portable model may be a better fit.

Price

Of course, price is also an important factor to consider. While budget DACs may not have all the features of higher-end models, they can still provide great sound quality at a more affordable price point.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when choosing the best budget DAC for your needs.

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I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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