Due to the wide distribution of digital music, including in high-resolution audio formats (BP), the production of digital-to-analog converters (DACs) has recently experienced a real boom. Their characteristics are constantly improving, opportunities are expanding, and the technologies on which they are based are being improved with extraordinary speed.
If, in 2010, when we compiled the first lists of DACs, about 400 models of digital-to-analog converters were produced in the world, now their number has exceeded 1,500. In response to requests from music lovers, manufacturers offer devices of various levels and purposes: from the simplest and most inexpensive do-it-yourself type to the most advanced, the cost of which is comparable to the cost of a good car.
How, among this huge number of different devices that differ in their characteristics and prices, choose the best DAC under 200 that suits the most? Check the following list and pick your favorite!
DACs Under $200 Review
Audioengine D1 – best overall
The Audioengine D1 digital-to-analog converter is designed in a compact package and is very well suited for desktop placement. This model is designed to connect to a PC via a USB connector for use as an external high-quality sound card and is also equipped with an output for connecting headphones. In addition, Audioengine D1 also has an optical digital input for attaching to other audio sources. Such as BD / DVD players or media players.
The unit has a very high-quality electronic filling, but nevertheless, it is only a candidate to be the best DAC under 200. This allows it to accurately reproduce the music of any genre. The USB interface is executed on the TI1020B chip. The AKM4396 chip with 24-bit / 192 kHz characteristics acts as the DAC.
When connecting to a laptop via USB, an additional power source is not needed. However, the unit has a dual voltage stabilization circuit obtained through this interface. In addition, the installation of additional drivers is not required, and to configure the audio device in the Control Panel. You only need to set the default settings.
Because the USB DAC receiver is in asynchronous mode, the jitter rate of the digital stream can be significantly reduced. The analog outputs of this device are adjustable. The knob on the front panel adjusts the signal level on the headphone output (when the last audio outputs on the rear panel are connected, they are disabled). This allows you to attach active speakers to the AKM4396 without your own volume controls. Also, you can set the AC controls to maximum, changing the volume only on the DAC.
The headphone amplifier built into Audioengine D1 is made on the OPA2134 operational amplifier and is compatible with almost all models of stereo phones. Thus, at a very modest price, the user gets at their disposal three devices at the same time (USB / TosLink-DAC, preamplifier, and headphone amplifier), and this offer cannot be denied as very profitable.
- The reason, many people, use exactly this one is because of the L+R RCA output and the volume control
- The case is also very solid. I really like the idea. The front of the DAC is very uniform and feels pleasant to the touch
- From time to time it spews forth a burst of digital noise at full volume (regardless of volume setting)
Topping DX3 Pro
This DAC has two AK4493 chips. The USB input is made on the XMOS XU208 (it uses a modified driver from Thesycon to best play DSD in Native format). The DAC supports operations with files up to 32 bit / 768 kHz (PCM and DXD) and DSD64-512 (Native, DoP up to 256).
The DX3 Pro operates in four modes: headphone amplifier, headphone amplifier, and preamplifier only, DAC and DAC / preamplifier only.
The DX3 Pro has a USB input, coaxial (2 pcs.) And optical. Also in the device is a built-in Bluetooth receiver that supports the SBC, ACC, APTX, APTX-II, APTX-HD protocols. Thus, it is possible to transmit music wirelessly to play it through the DX3 Pro.
The DX3 Pro is the best DAC under $200 because it also has a built-in headphone amplifier. Its power: 1000 mW x 2 (32 Ohms), 125 mW x 2 (300 Ohms). The output impedance is less than 0.1 Ohm, which makes it possible to use the device with any, including in-ear headphones.
6 digital filters, sewn by default into the AK4493 DAC, will give you the opportunity to slightly adjust the sound of the device for yourself. DACs use very low noise blocks, and OPA1612 op-amps are used in the analog part.
- It supports all modern audio formats, in PCM 32/768 and DSD resolution, although the manufacturer does not specify to what sampling rate
- Using Bluetooth 5.0 LDAC, you can transfer hi-res music wirelessly
- The disadvantage is expressed primarily in inconvenient control, which is partially offset by the presence of remote control
Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100
Cambridge Audio has been able to pack a wide range of features and options into this compact package. You can connect a TV, computer or set-top box to it through two coaxial inputs, one optical and one USB port; There are audio outputs for transmitting the signal to a stereo system or AV receiver.
The asynchronous USB port allows the DAC to take on the generation of clock pulses and thereby control the time it takes to receive digital streams from the source; this approach improves data transfer efficiency and sound quality.
The DAC supports all major formats: from 16 to 24 bits and from 32 to 192 kHz. Receiving files with sampling 24 bit / 192 kHz via USB from Mac computers does not require additional effort; PC owners must download the driver from Cambridge Audio. You will also have to switch the USB port from USB 1 Mode to USB 2 Mode while holding down the source select button when you turn on the DAC from idle mode.
- Switching capabilities are simple, but there is everything you need: optical input, 2 coaxial and USB-type B
- There are no frequency restrictions, depending on the connection method
- The sound is open, light enough, but too straightforward. Lacks dynamics and scope
- No wireless capabilities
FiiO K5 Pro
The FiiO K5 Pro is one of the best DACs under 200. It is made in a high-quality aluminum case with polished surfaces. The device has a nice design and small size, and it can be conveniently placed on the desktop or near a Hi-Fi system. On the front panel of the FiiO K5 Pro, there is a large volume knob with a pleasant blue backlight, as well as miniature input and gain switches. All controls work clearly and with a pleasant tactile feel. Also on the front panel of the device is a 6.3 mm jack for headphones.
FiiO K5 Pro is equipped with USB, coaxial, optical, as well as line inputs. The device uses AK4493 DAC with Velvet Sound technology, which provides a comfortable and very accurate sound.
It supports playback of High resolution signals: PCM up to 32 bit / 768 kHz (24 bit / 192 kHz from S / PDIF inputs) and DSD. The FiiO K5 Pro headphone amplifier has three signal amplification modes, the selection of which allows you to optimize the work with different models of headphones. In addition, the device has an adjustable analog output, which allows you to use the FiiO K5 Pro as a preamp in a multi-source system.
- The DAC / headphone amplifier has a high-quality sound with support for the latest audio formats and a good set of functions
- The FiiO K5 Pro is equipped with a precision oscillator to eliminate the digital signal jitter and associated sound distortion
- It has its drawbacks. Among them, detail, dynamic range, separation of plans and elegance
Sound BlasterX G6 – best for gaming
Want the best DAC below 200 intended for gaming? Take a look at this option. The case of an external sound card Creative Sound BlasterX G6, will be familiar to fans of the products of this manufacturer since the Sound Blaster E5. A rubber pad is glued to the base of the case. It hides the screws with a triangular slot, so those who want to look inside the device will not only have to spoil the appearance of the device but also get a set of non-standard bits for a screwdriver.
On the left side of the device, there is one stereo 3.5 mm jack of the combined linear and optical input and one similar output, as well as micro USB for power and data transfer. The input and output work with 3.5 mm mini-jacks and with optical 3.5 mm Mini-TOSLINK cables. The right side is usually given to a large volume wheel with a convenient ribbed edging and two stereo connectors: for headphones and a microphone. All connectors are gold-plated. The volume wheel rotates in both directions without restrictions and is highlighted along the inner rim (can be disabled in the software).
As a stereo DAC, the new Cirrus Logic CS43131 chip with support for a 32-bit audio signal with a sampling frequency of 384 kHz and a dynamic range of 130 dB was used. The Sound BlasterX G6 is suitable for any headphone from in-channel high-sensitivity models with low impedance to studio models with impedance up to 600 Ohms.
- Excellent sound quality (high-end ADCs and DACs)
- Xamp discrete headphone amplifier with up to 600 Ohm impedance
- Possibility of direct sound output without processing
- Optical connectors are not dustproof
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