If you are an audiophile, you know that the equipment is just as important as the music itself. For some people, equipment even comes first. The first step for most people is to invest in a good pair of headphones. A pair of high-quality headphones will engage you properly. After that, you’ll never want to go back to regular headphones again. Most of these headphones are superior compared to the mainstream options out there. However, you need a DAC and Amp combo to get the most of the time.
A good DAC and Amp combo can take your audio experience to the next level. A DAC acts as the source, and the Amp amplifies the signal and adds extra sound/detail in some cases. The combination of these two things will give you crystal clear and Hi-Fi audio. You’ll also need a headphone Amp if you the impedance is higher than what your PC or phone supports.
So, with all of that said, here are some of our favorite DAC/Amp combos worth buying in 2021.
Audioengine D1 is one of the most popular DAC and AMP combos and it provides great sound quality along with a nice design. The design of this device is more attractive than most of the competitors, as it offers a premium metal casing with rubber pieces at the front and the rear. The price of this device also makes it a very attractive product because it offers some serious sound quality at a fraction of the price of high-end DAC and AMP combo devices. There is a volume knob, power button, and headphone jack at the front while at the rear, there is a USB port, an optical S/PDIF input, and an RCA input.
It uses a 24-bit DAC, that has an input sample rate of 96 kHz with the USB and 192 kHz with the optical. The SNR of the device is more than enough, at 110 dB, although you can find devices with better SNR at this price point. The overall sound quality of this device is fabulous but you get what you pay for and definitely one gets better sound quality with the higher-priced combo devices. The device comes with a 3-year transferable warranty, which is a very nice thing.
Overall, Audioengine D1 is one of the best DAC and Amp Combos under $200 and you should definitely take a look at its details if you want to buy a device that offers great performance and impressive aesthetics as well.
Schiit is a highly regarded company manufacturing audio equipment and is well-known for its high-end amplifiers. The company uses names from Norse mythology for its products and Schiit Fulla 3 is no exception. This DAC and Amp combo is targeted towards gamers and it offers a very compact design. There is a big volume knob at the top while the front of the device provides a microphone and a headphone jack. Also, there are four ports at the end of the device for connection.
While it is intended to be used for gaming, Schiit Fulla 3 is a great device that you can use regularly for headphones and speakers too and it is one of the best DAC and Amp combos for speakers. Since it also provides a microphone passthrough, it can be used for streaming as well. The device uses AKM AK4490 DAC, which is a well-known DAC and provides crystal-clear audio. The amplifier supports up to 300-Ohm headphones, so even if you own high-end audiophile-grade headphones, you don’t have to worry about the juice.
Conclusively, Schiit Fulla 3 is one of the best DAC and Amp combos for gaming and if you want to improve your gaming performance, perhaps this device would be useful to you.
AudioQuest is a company that designs extreme performance devices and their Dragonfly-series DAC and Amp combos are highly regarded in the community to be used with mobiles. The Dragonfly Cobalt is the company’s latest addition to the series and it offers a portable USB drive-like design that enables you to use this device with mobiles easily during travels and for commuting.
The device comes with ESS ES9038Q2M DAC, which is one of the best DACs for the price and it provides high-res audio, having 24-bit / 96 kHz specifications. The performance of this device is although not a lot better than the Dragonfly Red, the difference is there, which would be definitely felt by audiophiles, especially in case of instrument separation.
All-in-all, Dragonfly Cobalt is one of the best portable DAC and Amp combos that you can buy for your mobile or laptop and you can definitely use it with other devices too, although it is somewhat on the pricier side.
FiiO is a company dedicated to high-end audio devices and FiiO BTR5 is a wonderful DAC and Amp combo. It is a wireless device, which essentially means that you can connect your headphones to this device and the device wirelessly connects with your mobile or other devices via Bluetooth. The design of the device is very impressive, as it provides 2.5D glass at the top and it just feels premium to touch.
The device comes with a Qualcomm chip for wireless connectivity and the DAC of the device offers high specifications. It provides around 9 hours of battery, which is a downgrade from the previous generation BTR device, although it doesn’t make much of a difference as long as the performance is better. You can easily pair the device with your mobile and listen to high-res audio, which is why this device can be used as a portable combo device too. It also offers equalizer settings so that you can customize your listening experience and there is a microphone passthrough in the device as well, which could get handy for calls.
Overall, FiiO BTR5 offers lots of functions and if you want a cheap device for your mobile or even your PC / laptop, it won’t disappoint you, although it will take some time to get accustomed to the settings of this device.
Syba Sonic is one of the best DAC and Amp combos under $100 that you can buy right now and it offers lots of ports for connection, whether you want to connect your headphones, speakers, or microphone. Moreover, it also supports 1/4″ jack headphones, although you should definitely use a better DAC if you own audiophile-grade headphones. The design of the device is although very functional and easy to use looks quite ugly.
The performance of the device is good for the most part; definitely, an upgrade from the onboard ones, although the SNR is not a lot better. You could use this device as a daily driver with your computer and it will serve you well, although if you want to improve the performance of your audiophile-grade headphones, perhaps you should invest in a better DAC and amp combo.
Conclusively, Syba Sonic is a cheap DAC and Amp combo that offers noticeable improvement from the onboard DACs of the laptops or PCs and if you don’t have the budget to go for expensive devices, this one should work just fine.