Which is the best DAC

D-A converter comparison 2021

  • A D / A converter enables you to connect digital sound sources - such as a PC or smartphone - to your analog stereo system.
  • The sound quality is significantly improved by a D / A converter. Integrated sound cards in laptops or tablets cannot play music in this quality.
  • The wireless connection with a bluetooth-enabled digital-to-analog converter allows you to play your music through your music system, regardless of where you are in the room.

The triumphant advance of digital music has continued since the 1980s. What began with the CD is continued with numerous digital file formats. Today there are not only portable MP3 players on the market, almost every smartphone can entertain its user with music on the go. Numerous streaming services and are an expression of the success of digital music. In 2016, the music industry generated around half of its global sales via digital distribution channels (source: Bundesverband Musikindustrie).

There is hardly a household that does not have at least one device that can play digital music. Computers, tablets and smartphones, but also televisions, are now equipped with the appropriate technology. However, the sound of these devices is often not very satisfactory. Even when connected to the hi-fi system, the integrated digital-to-analog converters in the devices do not extract much from the sound. It looks different with an external D / A converter. In our D / A converter comparison 2021, we'll tell you how best to connect your digital devices to your stereo system and which devices are particularly worthwhile.

1. Can D / A converters convince with their good sound?

Anyone walking through the city centers or using public transport today will quickly notice how digital music has changed the world. Many people always have their smartphone close at hand and use headphones and headsets to isolate themselves from the environment. For most of you, the quality of the sound produced by smartphones and MP3 players is sufficient.

It can happen that the integrated D / A converter worsens rather than improves the sound.

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  • Bad circuit design can lead to noise during D / A conversion.
  • Timing problems can cause the sound to be distorted (jitter).
  • Sampling rate and resolution of high-quality files are often not supported, so that the files have to be calculated down first.

However, if you have really good speakers at home or have invested a lot of money in good headphones, you can get even more out of it. All you need is an external digital-to-analog converter. D / A converters with a CS4398 chip, for example, perform very well and significantly improve the sound.

Advantages and disadvantages of external D / A converters at a glance:

  • high-quality DAC chips ensure significantly improved sound quality
  • headphone amplifiers are often integrated
  • High data rate support
  • improved sound also from smartphone and tablet

2. What digital audio formats are there?

The sound quality does not only depend on the hardware. To get the best possible sound, you should also pay attention to the format of the files. So that you can find your way around the variety of different formats, we are giving you a brief overview of the different file formats at this point.

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2.1. Lossless compressed formats

For true fans of high fidelity, only lossless formats are possible. The losslessly compressed formats include AIFF, ALAC, FLAC and WAV. These lossless files contain all the data, but are still quite space-saving on the hard drive.

You can also use a D / A converter to improve the sound quality of your music player.

AIFF is the format that is mainly used on Apple devices. WAV is the counterpart from Microsoft. Both formats are primarily important for music producers.

FLAC files are around 50% smaller than the original files without sacrificing quality. FLAC is a free format that is also very often used by private users. ALAC is now also a public domain format that was developed by Apple.

2.2. Lossy Compression

In addition to the losslessly compressed formats, there are formats that take up even less space, but also have to accept quality losses. These formats are based on the knowledge that not all tones are perceived as equally important. Lossy compressed formats includeMP3, AAC and OGG (Vorbis).

The MP3 format is probably the best known among them. D / A converter test show: The quality is significantly worse, but the files take up particularly little storage space. Therefore, MP3 files are very popular, especially on mobile devices.

AAC was developed as the successor to MP3 and is used today by YouTube and iTunes, for example. The OGG format has hardly caught on with end users. Streaming services such as Spotify and Soundcloud use this open source codec.

Danger: Lossy formats are not suitable for the true listening pleasure of sensitive ears. Even sequences that are not audible can have a lasting effect on the overall impression.

3. Buying Advice: What Should You Look For When Buying the Best D / A Converter?

There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing D / A converters. We'll tell you what you need to know about the various connections and what is important when using mobile devices.

The Stiftung Warentest has unfortunately not yet carried out a D / A converter test, so there is no D / A converter test winner from this site. Instead, just take a closer look at the devices in our comparison.

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3.1. The right connection

The digital inputs on a D / A converter are decisive for which sound sources can be connected. So before you buy a digital converter, you should carefully consider which of your devices you want to connect to it.

We would like to give you an overview of the different categories of connections.

3.2. Audio outputs

A D / A converter records a digital audio signal, converts it into an analog audio signal and then outputs it again via the audio output. The audio output of most D / A converters consists of either one3.5 mm jack socket or a pair of cinch sockets.

For a D / A converter with a jack socket, a normal jack plug is suitable, as D / A converter tests show. Another connection option for D / A converters is optically on cinch, if the input of your device does not correspond to the output of the converter.

If the AUX input on your stereo system does not match the type of audio output on your D / A converter, you can use a jack-to-cinch cable without sacrificing sound quality.

3.3. D / A converter and headphone amplifier

If you use headphones a lot, a D / A converter with an amplifier is recommended, such as the D1050 D / A converter from NAD. Some headphone D / A converters are so small that they can be carried with you on the go.

3.4. Sampling rate and resolution

Converting an analog audio signal into an audio file is like creating a digital image of the audio signal. The sampling rate and resolution provide information on how exactly this image succeeds. The higher the values ​​of the sampling rate and resolution, the more accurate the digital image of the audio signal. And the larger the file is in the end.

For CDs, a resolution of 16 bit is standard and a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. Many D / A converters can also handle formats that have a bit rate of 24 or 32 bits and a sampling rate of 96 or 192 kHz. Particularly good devices can even handle formats with values ​​that go beyond this.

AD converter for audio recordings

While you convert digital audio signals into analog ones with a D / A converter in order to pass them on to your loudspeakers, an AD converter is used to record music and store it in digital form - that is, to convert it from analog to digital. D / A converter tests show: AD converters can often be connected via USB.

3.5. mobile devices

Music is no longer just played on CD players and stereo systems at home. Most people always have music with them, even when they are out and about. Smartphones and MP3 players are usually used here as mobile playback devices. Some D / A converters can also be connected to iOs or Android devices. So nobody has to do without good sound on the go.

Make sure that the converter you want to use with your smartphone requires additional equipment. You often need an additional Camera Connection Kit (for Apple devices with iOS software) or a special OTG cable (for smartphones with Android operating system) for the devices.

3.6. Furnishing

In addition to the technical data and basic functions, there are a few small things that can turn a digital-to-analog converter into your personal D / A converter test winner. This can include a practical rotary control for the volume. Some devices convince with special connection types or practical accessories such as the supplied cables, a table stand or a transport case.

4. What are the main brands and manufacturers of D / A converters?

There is a large selection of digital converters on the market. There are HiFi D / A converters from Goldkabel and devices from Audioquest. You can buy cheap D / A converters that hardly cost more than 20 euros. But you can also pay a multiple of this price and add a D / A converter test winner to your music system, such as the D / A converter M51 from NAD.

The most important brands and manufacturers include:

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  • Audiolab
  • AudioQuest
  • Cambridge Audio
  • Chord
  • Creative Labs
  • FiiO
  • Fostex
  • kwmobile
  • Marantz
  • Mytek
  • Neoteck
  • Oehlbach
  • RME
  • Sabaj
  • Swissonic

5. The most important questions and answers about the D / A converter comparison

5.1. What does a D / A converter do?

A D / A converter converts digital audio signals into analog ones. This is necessary, for example, if you want to listen to your digital music collection through your stereo system or particularly good speakers.

But also on the go, when using smartphones, an ADC converter improves the sound quality of your music files. Of course, the files must already be available in an appropriate format. And your headphones shouldn't be a cheap model either.

D / A converters are not only available with different connections, but also in different sizes.

You can use a digital-to-analog converter with a TV or stereo system. A HiFi D / A converter can improve the performance of your music system. A D / A converter for Samsung TV or other TV sets can also be used. With aYou can also upgrade your home theater with high-end DA converters. A TV digital to analog converter ensures the good sound of your home theater system.

5.2. Which type of cable is most suitable for my digital-to-analog converter?

The type of cable also depends on the type of device to which you want to connect the D / A converter. Televisions, for example, are best connected with coaxial cables or optical cables. CD and DVD players as well as Blu-ray players are often connected to a D / A converter with HDMI cables, optical cables or coaxial cables.

Devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers can be connected to a D / A converter with USB cables. Alternatively, a connection via Bluetooth is possible.

5.4. What do I have to consider when connecting to a power amplifier or active speakers?

In order to be able to be connected directly to an output stage, the D / A converter must have a volume control. In addition, it should provide sufficient voltage. Particularly low-resistance devices avoid problems with longer connecting cables.

FiiO Q1 Mark II
Currently available from € 99.00
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Which headphones can be connected to the converter and headphone amplifier?The FiiO Q1 Mark II device has a balanced 2.5 TRRS output and an unbalanced 3.5 mm jack output. So every headphone can be connected.
FiiO Olympus 2 (E10K)
Currently available from € 69.00
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Can the FiiO Olympus 2 device be connected digitally and analogue?The amplifier can be digitally connected via the coaxial output on the back, for the analog connection it is equipped with a 3.5 mm jack socket.
Currently available from € 60.99
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How far does the reception with the external Bluetooth antenna of the SMSL B1 digital to analog converter extend?The stable range of the SMSL B1 digital to analog converter is up to 10 meters.

Which are the best D-A converters from our D-A converter test or comparison 2021?

Choose your personal D-A converter test winner from the following list:

  • 1st place - good (comparison winner): FiiO K3 - from 99.00 euros
  • 2nd place - good: FiiO Q1 Mark II - from 99.00 euros
  • 3rd place - good: FiiO Olympus 2 (E10K) - from 69.00 euros
  • 4th place - good: Techole 776158 - from 14.19 euros
  • 5th place - good: Techole DA converter - from 14.99 euros
  • 6th place - good: PROZOR PST054-UK - from 22.59 euros
  • 7th place - good: Avantree DAC02 - from 29.99 euros
  • 8th place - good: SMSL B1 - from 60.99 euros
  • 9th place - good: 1mii Lavaudio DS 600 - from 249.99 euros
  • 10th place - good: Oehlbach USB Bridge - from 149.00 euros
  • 11th place - good: Neoteck DAC converter - from 12.59 euros

With 3 D-A converter models, the FiiO brand has the largest product variety of a single manufacturer in the D-A converter comparison and is therefore particularly well-known among the D-A converter manufacturers for its product variety.

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From how many different manufacturers are models compared in the D / A converter comparison?

In the D / A converter comparison, 8 different manufacturers are compared. More precisely, the experts compared and evaluated models from FiiO, Techole, PROZOR, Avantree, SMSL, 1mii, Oehlbach or Neoteck. More information "

Which price categories can I choose between in the D / A converter comparison?

You can get the cheapest D-A converter from 12.59 euros, for the most expensive D-A converter you have to spend up to 249.99 euros. The D-A converters within this price range cost an average of around 74.67 euros in a D-A converter comparison. More information under D / A converter test. More information "

Which D-A converter stands out from the most customer reviews?

The Techole 776158 won the most customer reviews, but the Avantree DAC02 received the best average reviews. More information "

How many models in the D / A converter comparison were awarded "VERY GOOD"?

Which models were compared or tested in the D / A converter comparison?

The 11 different D / A converter models include:

  • Neoteck DAC converter
  • Oehlbach USB Bridge
  • 1mii Lavaudio DS 600
  • SMSL B1
  • Avantree DAC02
  • Techole DA converter
  • Techole 776158
  • FiiO Olympus 2 (E10K)
  • FiiO Q1 Mark II
  • FiiO K3
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Which other products in the D / A converter category are displayed when searching for "DAC"?

We want to offer you the best selection of products and therefore not only compare D-A converters, but also related products such as DAC, audio converters or analog-digital converters. More information "