On this page you’ll find the DAC recommendations of this moment. This is an ever evolving list and the units are ranked from cheap to expensive.
Topping E30 DAC [Added 24/05/2020]
It’s a great time to be a budding personal audio enthusiast when affordable audio gear is as well-packaged, well-specced, and well-performing as the Topping E30. In fact, audiophiles with a little more experience who know that investments in transducers and amplifiers will yield greater net audio performance in their system should absolutely consider the E30 as an affordable and utterly competent DAC that ought to last them a very long time without the worry of ‘upgrade-itis’ creeping-in. I finished the listening component of my review several days ago, and yet I still have the E30 sitting right here on my desk feeding much more expensive equipment, and I’m not about to take it out in a hurry – it sounds awesome.
The E30 gets an easy recommendation from me as an affordable and highly versatile DAC, and its remote functionality and overall usability make it an easy choice over pretty much everything else under $200.
Topping D90 DAC [Added 14/05/2020]
This has been my first ever experience with Topping. And they did indeed surprise me. The D90 has solid build quality, comes with a vast number of digital inputs and on top sounds really good.
The D90 is a supremely linear DAC that provides a reference guided signature, that is only flawed by its cold vocals, and missing emotions and blood to me. It however reproduces a very high amount of information and displays them with excellent precision. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the D90’s performance speaks books. For 699 USD this is very hard to not recommend to anyone who wants something detailed and precise. Topping shows that a very good DAC doesn’t have to break the bank and can come in a neatly compact package.
To me, the D90 is in the sub 1000$ region, what the Qutest is in the sub 2000$ range – a benchmark. It is the current product to beat.
Chord Electronics Qutest [Added 10/07/2018]
Tiny in size the Qutest sports a very big sound with incredible resolution, sound stage and neutrality. I am going to repeat myself, but like the Hugo2, the Qutest’s sound is perfect. It is impossible for me to find a flaw in it. To me it is a perfect solution to a miniature problem – taking the Hugo2 to work and back home each day made it impossible to go into desktop mode for me. That meant stressing the battery each day with cycles. Qutest offers the same wonderful sound as Hugo2, but in a desktop package.
The missing power button on Qutest is surprising, but I am sure Rob Watts knew what he did. For ease of use I would have wished for one thing actually: a secondary RCA output so I can have my integrated amplifier and my headphone amplifier connected at the same time, and not having to switch cables each time. I suppose the size of Qutest didn’t allow for that, but in my opinion it would be a great to have a parallel output to use. The Qutest is highly recommended to everyone who wants the Hugo2‘s performance, but doesn’t need it in a transportable package. For everyone who wants to enjoy a highly addictive and impressive sound at home, who wants to play around with external amplifiers and who wants class leading design and wants to save space. One day I would love to experience the Qutest in a real high end two-channel system. Something with big floor standing speakers with the likes of Triangle or Tannoy, just to hear what it can achieve with other top notch components of the HiFi world. The Qutest will be heavily missed, that’s for sure.
If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, do take a look at the category overview:
Best DAC/AMP: https://www.headfonia.com/best-dac-amp-combos/