Our pick of the Best DAC and Headphone Amplifier for all budgets and uses
Not to be overlooked, a good quality DAC and amp can do wonders to any setup. We have seen huge growth in interest towards DACs and amps, so it makes sense that we put together our favourite headphone amplifiers and DACs to help make that decision easier.
Whether you want to use them with your TV, computer, laptop, smartphone or hifi system. We’ve gathered our picks for the best DACs and headphone amplifiers that you can buy!
Best DAC / amp under £100
Stepping up the game, Shanling UP4 builds on its acclaimed predecessor Bluetooth headphone amp UP2 with balanced output for better sound and more power. All the features of UP2 have been retained and improved upon in the UP4 extracting the best possible sound and listening experience from your pocket. Powerful, wireless high-resolution audio that supports all major codecs in a fully portable design.
Best DAC / amp under £200
More of what matters, the JDS Labs Atom DAC is built to pair with the enormously popular JDS Labs Atom Amp, adopting the latest XMOS based USB Audio Class 2 input stage with support for future firmware updates. A subtle light ring glows when in use, and automatically powers down during inactivity. A dedicated transformer ensures mains isolation. Stack Atom DAC with your Atom Amp and enjoy.
JDS Labs has mastered the art of making high quality amplifiers and DACs at affordable prices – and the Atom is their most impressive yet. For under £200, the Atom desktop headphone amplifier will drive any headphone you throw at it and will bring improved soundstage, depth and dynamics to your setup. All in a neat and tidy desktop design.
The iFi Audio hip-dac is the perfect companion for music lovers on the go. Not only will its hi-res specs make your tunes sound fabulous, but its hot, on-trend styling will make them look pretty amazing too. Smartly dressed in petrol blue with a touch of copper, the go-anywhere hip-dac was designed to slip discreetly into your pocket BUT its cool look might mean you want to keep it on display.
This one’s for the purists out there. On the outside, the Periodic Audio Ni seems like a very simple and basic headphone amplifier – plug it into your source and you’ll soon see that it most definitely isn’t simple or basic. This amp brings added power, punch and improved dynamics to whichever device it gets used with. Those that really appreciate good sound will love the Nickel.
Best DAC / amp under £500
If it is a desktop option you need, then the JDS Labs Element II will not only bring an audio upgrade – it will look great too. Beautifully designed with a simple yet striking look – the Element II will fit into any setup. Historically, JDS Labs has been known for their functional design and great sound – now with the Element II, they have shown that they can make great looking equipment too.
Best DAC / amp - premium audiophile
The Conductor uses the SABRE32/ESS9038Q2M DAC and XMOS USB receiver chips, the most advanced and expensive in the industry. Its Customised USB driver by Thesycon Germany ensures low latency bit-perfect audio playback. The result is incredible processing power, accurately playing back DSD512 and 38bit/786khz audio.
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