T+A DAC 8
This dour high-end DAC from German brand T+A is nothing if not versatile. Eight digital inputs wring the utmost clarity from all sources up to 24-bit/192kHz, and it can also function as a pre amp in an all digital music system. Alternatively, a headphone amp means you can simply park it and rock out to Rammstein.
Price: £1990 | T + A
Musical Fidelity V90-DAC
This mains powered, aluminium system DAC looks as good as it sounds. Beneath the hood, the latest Burr Brown PC 1795 32-bity DAC proves to be an absolute blinder, delivering best in class performance. 24-bit/192kHz files can be played via the coaxial input, rewarding you with superb musicality. Stupidly good value.
Posher than a pass to the Henley Regatta, Meridian’s Explorer USB DAC and headphone amp usurps the motherboard audio in your laptop and replaces it with audio processing ripped straight from the brand’s Reference product line. Music files, Spotify, YouTube, the Explorer will socially ernhance any source played from your PC.
The DA-300USB is the first DAC/headphone amp from hi-fi stalwart Denon, and it’s a corker. Combining a 32-bit 192kHz converter with the same AL32 audio processing found in the brand’s disc players, it’ll upscale the audio from any connected laptop. It can also be used with games systems.
Chord Electronics Hugo
It’s easy to fall head over heels for Hugo. Svelte and superbly engineered, this portable DAC/headphone amp not only offers aptX Bluetooth streaming and delivers the highest of fi on the move (up to 14 hours), it can also function as a reference level source component with DSD/DXD file compatibility. Stunning!
The ultimate way to bring music streaming to your living room is with a combi streamer DAC, and they don’t get more ultimate (and wince-inducing expensive) than the Krell Connect. The DAC here is a 32-bit ESS Sabre, while the streamer supports a huge variety of file formats. An Ermine-grade sound solution for well-heeled audiophiles.
Price: £3,500 | Krell
Want to integrate your laptop with a high-end hi-fi? This living room DAC employs a top-flight ESS Sabre 32 chipset and promises considerable golden-eared refinement. High-res 24-bit/192kHz files can be played via the coaxial input, optical and USB inputs support 24-bit/96kHz. Boasting outstanding detail and spacious sound, it’s a serious system upgrade.
This substantial Bluetooth DAC finds extra fidelity when it comes to mobile streaming, thanks to a CSR BlueCore 7 chipset which handles aptX up to 380kbps. This is partnered with a Burr Brown PCM5102, for crisp, spacious imaging. A gorgeous gizmo that convincingly turns any smartphone into a reputable hi-fi source.
Crystal Acoustics BluDAC
This diminutive DAC connects directly to your hi-fi system and offers aptX Bluetooth streaming and NFC instant connect, making it a doddle to wirelessly stream jazzy noodles from any smartphone. A decent Wolfson DAC makes the most of whatever comes its way. Not the highest of fi, but a bargain nonetheless.
CYP AU-D3 DAC
Give your Freeview box an audible boost with this cutesy bare bones DAC. Simply connect via optical and feed the resulting stereo output to an amplifier. Alternatively, use it convert the optical digital output from your TV. There’s no point using it with anything other than budget kit, but the uplift could surprise.