Thanks to the global shift from analog to the digital platform, musical technologies have since advanced musical sound or audio outputs. However, most of the old storage devices are still incompatible with the recent sound outputs and vice versa. Fortunately, a digital-to-analog converter has been invented to save the situation.
This piece of equipment simply converts digital signals into an analog format, enabling users to stream content and music from digital storage devices to analog output devices. That said and done, just like any other industry, there are tens of hundreds of DACs out there in the market. That notwithstanding, most of these devices are selling for huge amounts, locking out people who cannot afford high-end investments.
While there is a need to get good output performance from DACs, there is also a need to find the best of these devices that go for a fair price to gather for everyone’s entertainment dreams. With that in mind, we have sampled and tested over 50+ pieces priced below $500 and narrowed down to the top ten best for your consideration in 2021. It includes the following:
Lists of Best DACs Under $500 Reviews
1. Meridian Director USB DAC
The Meridian Director USB DAC has been designed to specifically make all your digital music sound its best. This is a high-quality Digital to Analogue Converter that delivers superior audio quality from a digital source. Its ergonomic and sleek design makes it handy and well depictive of class. Despite the fact that it appears simple on the outside, its resolution and amplification capabilities are superb. With the product’s 800 series components, it is able to fine tune and balance all the effects and components of any audio input that goes through it.
- Item weight -9 ounces
- Compatible input devices –USB, cables, and optical devices
- Product dimensions -3.1 by 5.5 by 1.3 inches
2. Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC
The Audioengine D1 is arguably one of the most affordable DAC that allows users to bypass their computer’s headphone or soundcard output and sends the audio through optical or USB. This premium device processes any digital audio at any bit depth up to twenty-four bits and samples them at the rate of 192 kHz. Featuring low distortion and high signal-to-noise ratio, this DAC delivers high-quality sound only heard in pricey DACs. It can be connected to Linux, Windows, and Mac computers using a USB or DVD/CD players, TVs, and more using any TOSLINK Optical connection.
- Warranty –three-year transferable warranty
- DAC type –optical and USB
- Item weight -1.1 pounds
- Product dimensions -1.5 by 1.4 by 0.4 inches
3. FiiO E10K USB DAC
The FiiO E10K USB DAC is designed to improve user’s laptop audio output quality through its PCM5 102 DAC chip and can handle PCM files of up to 24-bit/96 kHz. It specifically improves audio quality by reducing delay and internal silence on changing tracks via a linear filter. It also features low-pass filter as well as selectable bass boost circuit designed for all states low noise floor. This DAC can connect to your audio input through front-panel, headphone jack, line output, and the rear-panel coaxial digital output, allowing users to send digital audio to other destinations. It can also connect to a laptop through its micro USB connection, which doubles up as a power source. Just like any other portable and durable DAC, this product boasts of compact and reliable design with a sleek, brushed, chassis aluminum shell.
- Color –black
- Item weight -2.72 ounces
- Product dimensions -3.1 by 0.8 by 1.9 inches
4. AudioQuest DragonFly Plug-in USB DAC
The AudioQuest DragonFly Plug-in USB is one of the most affordable, convenient, and highly effective DACs that you can find in the market. Its compact structure makes it easy to carry around and it is best suited for users on the constant go. It is well known for offering high value, tremendously enhanced sound, and incredibly lower power consumption than the previous award-winning model. Paired with a simple adapter, this product can work with Android and Apple phones as well as laptops and tablets. This highly versatile DAC improves everything –transparency, detail, immediacy, tone, and richness –associated with your music.
- Native resolution –up to 24-bit/96 kHz
- Output -1.2V
- Item weight -3.52 ounces
- Product dimensions -2.4 by 0.8 by 1.2 inches
5. FX Audio DAC-X6 DAC Decoder
The FX Audio DAC-X6 DAC Decoder is designed to grace high audio conversion functions, but it also works fine for low scale audio conversions. One of the many features that make this affordable piece of electronic device worth investing in is its impressive 192 kHz, hence the reason why it is a better option for converting signals with higher bandwidths. It also gives users the flexibility of multiple input connections at a go, converting optical, USB, and coaxial signals from smartphones, computers, television sets, and so on. Despite its high performance and function tendencies, this DAC comes with a power saving roadmap so it drastically cuts down power consumption to 0.8.
- Color –black
- Item weight -2.2 pounds
- Signal to noise ratio –greater or equal to 105dB
- Product dimensions -5.8 by 3.8 by 1.3 inches
6. Cambridge Audio Azur DACMagic Plus
The Cambridge Audio Azur DACMagic Plus has been designed to instantly improve the audio signal from any imaginable digital sources and turns a Blu-ray player, computer, TV, or any other device into a vital link in the chain of a Hi-Fi system. This highly affordable electronic device features a solid design made of high-quality steel material. Notable features making this product remarkable are its excellent wireless-Bluetooth connectivity, ensuring real connectivity in no time eliminating the hassle of entangling non-functional cables here and there. This DAC utilizes a 24-bit Twin Wolfson structure, delivering all-time quality outputs.
- Item weight -2.65 pounds
- Product dimensions -7.5 by 8.5 by 2 inches
- Upsampling –AFT2 technology
7. TOPPING D10 CSS XMOS Mini USB DAC
The TOPPING D10 CSS XMOS Mini USB DAC is undeniably one of the most affordable brands out there in the market offering high-resolution audio format with maximum DSD256, PCM 384 kHz/32-bit support. It connects directly to your smartphone or PC using a USB digital input. This electronic device features a compact, lightweight design allowing for seamless portability.
- Item weight -1.1 pounds
- Power supply –DC5V/0.5A
- Item measurements -10.3 by 14.6 by 3.7 cm
8. SMSL M100 USB DAC
If you are seeking to discharge sounds to powerful external speakers, then you may have to consider the SMSL M100 USB DAC. This device features XMOS 2nd generation USB audio and can support PCM signal of up to 32-bit/768kHz as well as native DSD of up to DSD512. This analog decoder essential convert optical, coaxial, and USB signals from smartphones, computers, television sets, etc.which is a provision for asynchronous transmission. With inbuilt high-efficiency power module and a myriad of low-noise LDOs, this device can provide sufficient power for analog circuits. Its AK4452 chip ensures that the DAC delivers low distortion, high performance, and many more details.
- Color –black
- Weight 258 g
- Power consumption -1.2W
- Signal to Noise ratio -106dB
- Input –USB/Coaxial/Optical
- Output –RCA
9. Schiit Modi 3 Delta-Sigma DAC
Whether you need to enjoy a better audio sound from your tablet, CD player, computer, or any other digital source, the Schiit Modi 3 Delta-Sigma DAC has your desires covered. Featuring the DC-coupled output and AK4490 delta-sigma DAC, this device delivers impeccable sound for its affordable price. You can plug it into any computer with a USB or micro cable and you are just ready to go. You can also use the included wall power supply if you need to connect to a coaxial or optical digital source. It features a toggle switch conveniently positioned on the front so you can choose different inputs.
- Warranty –two-year limited
- Item weight -1.1 pounds
- Product dimensions -5 by 3.5 by 1.5 inches
10. SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder
The SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder is designed specifically to handle high audio conversion functions. Compared to most of the other electronic devices of its class, this one features a higher bandwidth with a sampling rate of 32 kHz to 192 kHz. It implies that this DAC can produce higher and better sound quality while accommodating several devices at a go. Another feature that makes the SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder a remarkable DAC is its lower consumption power, which is just about 3.1W. This product converts optical, USB, and coaxial signals from smartphones, television sets, computers, etc. The latest version of this device support Android and Apple phone input.
- Color –black
- Connectivity technology –USB
- Material –aluminum
- Item weight -1.76 pounds
- Product dimensions -5.8 by 3.9 by 1.4 inches
Well, now you know some of the best DACs under 500 for your consideration in 2021. Indeed, all the products making into our list are unique and great in their own right, and they are more likely to yield the satisfaction you may require. Of course, before any of the DACs listed herein, you will need to make a few consideration and careful analysis. Concisely, you may need to check the device’s electrical power output usage, size, portability, connectivity options, weight, warranty, and so on. With all these info, you can now move a step further and get the DAC that you deem fit for your audio needs.
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