Do you have the curiosity to know about the Best DAC Under 500 $ to buy in 2021? 🤔 You can easily Find out now in this definitive list with our detailed review.
Without any further delay let’s find out. 👓👓
As important as the digital-to-analog converter(DAC) is, only a few persons probably really understand what it is, and what it does. However, after this review, you may have just discovered the solution to improving your various simple and advanced audio or music sound outputs.
But firstly, did you know that every gadget or device through which we output music, cannot actually play digital audio files. No, they can’t; they would only receive it and probably send it out, the same crude way.
However, humans cannot understand the corresponding output that comes from this, except a necessary conversion is made. DACs are the pivotal tools that affect the essential change from the advanced digital sound outputs to the analog formats, before sending them out as sounds that we can hear and understand.
Hence their indispensable relevance, and the reason why more people are talking about them. This means that every device or gadget necessarily needs to translate the sounds it receives from whatever source to that which humans can understand.
At the time of our research on “Best DAC Under 500 $”, we found a video about “Introduction to ADC and DAC” which is worth watching. 🏆
It is particularly important because this is about the only way you’re able to listen to the sound outputs from your smartphone or any regular music player.
Every music electronics manufacturer should know this, as well as the best specifications that suit their type of device. All of the contemporary music output devices come with an input DAC that carries out these essential and fundamental transitions.
However, external DACs have found their own place of importance over the years, and there’s quite a lot you can benefit from having one for yourself.
They are in fact, a good implement for producing quality sounds of your own- especially when you don’t want to depend on the poor outputs from some gadget inbuilt DAC provisions. This leads us to explain that, there are actually performance grades with DACs, and you shouldn’t expect all available products to perform at similar productivity output rates.
Furthermore, note that there are DACs selling for huge amounts, and it is not everybody who can make the budgets for such high-end investments. But then, we all still need good output performance DACs.
Thus, there is the need to find the best DACs on the market, which goes for a pretty fair sum. The conditions for these DACs would be that they are impressive in performance, while they also sell for relatively cheap rates.
Finding a good DAC for prices below $500 is very much possible, and it only requires you have a knowledge of the best products, and what to look out for in any product.
Best DAC Under 500 $: Our Top Picks 👌👌
Below, is the review for some of the best DACs under $500- together with their specifications, functions, as well as the pros and cons.
1. AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC
The AudioQuest dragonfly DAC is one of the most convenient and highly effective digitals to analog converters, that you can find around. Its compact USB structure makes it easy to move about and could have specifically been designed for persons on the constant go.
Asides from this, it importantly parades top function features, which are the traits of any product that would be classified as one of the best DACs under $500.
Considering the price of this product and its corresponding impressive sound outputs, we have found the AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC, to be a perfect DAC option for all categories of possible users.
Firstly, the device is a 32 Bits SABRE DAC, which outputs a 2.1v output power display. With this power specification, it is apt enough to output well for such music playing devices as headphones, Android smartphones and iOS, laptops, and other high function speakers and devices.
Hence, if your music output devices are within the power range of 2.1 volts, then you have no problems using this DAC.
Since it is just light weighted and compact, it would fit well into any small handbag or file. Hence, you can always have it on yourself- without feeling an extra load of weight. Its weight is anything around 3.2 to 5.5 ounces, with its dimension put at about 2.4 × 0.8 × 1.2 inches.
Note that the AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC has a dual-port, which allows you to connect the product to more than one device at a time. This DAC output sounds well and would play almost all types of audio formats and resolution sizes. Notably, you can play files with resolutions of up to 24-bit/96kHz.
Asides from this capacity, the product also guarantees good tone, sound richness, immediacy, and transparency for all times which makes it perfectly fit in our best DAC under 500 $ 2021 lists.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- Small size DAC product; compact and portable enough to be carried around conveniently.
- Guarantees users of high performance, quality sound output for each time it is being used.
- The device is able to function well with a good number of sound output devices
- Dual port infrastructure enables user multitasking
- The product sells for a great price- especially considering its performance too
- Easy to plug in and use, with no attached use technicalities whatsoever
- The product comes with lesser use features, as compared to other DAC features on the market
- Requires additional functioning module components before you can use it.
2. Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5
If you’re so much into contemporary computer gaming, then you’ll understand the importance of game sounds on your gaming activities. Most gamers require a good sound output for their games, considering the effects it has on their performance and winning tendencies.
However, your gaming device may not come with the best of sound output DAC, hence the reason why you could use an external DAC provision. The Creative Sound 70SB174000000 AE-5 sound blaster is truly creative in terms of sound output. It is hinted at by some users, as the gamer’s perfect sound display DAC.
With this device, every tone and effect on whatever game you’re playing is brought to life- making you have reasons to play again and again. Thus, if you have been looking for to optimize sounds on your Fortnite or Battle of the royales, then you’ve just gotten the best shot at it.
Feature and function specifications on this DAC includes a discrete headphone amplifier- which is called Xamp, by the manufacturing company.
Xamp, is a newer sound bi-amplification technology development- which finds good use of relevance in headphones. The AE-5DAC product is a 32 Bit SABRE ultra-class PCl- e sound card- which provisions it well to deliver non delayed or lagging gaming sounds.
Its other features are the custom RGB LED and LED strips, as well as up to 384kHz playback capacity. As far as gaming and general function DACs are concerned, the Creative Sound Blaster AE-5 is a top contender on the market.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5 that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- You can rely on the high sound conversion abilities of this product, as it has shown high satisfaction reviews from different users- since the product hit the market.
- It comes with several useful sound modification and amplifying features that any user would enjoy.
- The sound conversion accuracy is remarkable and has consequently made the product one of the best in this specific regard.
- Comes with beautiful ingenious RGB LED lightings and RGB LED strips
- The distortions and sound output jitters on the device is minimally low
- The device may turn out selective, and may not be compatible with some devices
- It is quite huge in structure and hence, not can be classified as a very portable type of DAC.
3. Meridian Director USB DAC
This is another DAC with high recognition, that you cannot just push aside. The Meridian Director is complete in function and design, making it a good product for your every day and everywhere sound modifications.
Note the product’s sleek and ergonomic design that makes it handy enough, and well depictive of class. While you may put it inside your work suitcase, you wouldn’t also feel any heavier- if you put it in your pant pockets.
Now, although the product looks simple on the outside, it’s sound amplification and resolution capacities cannot be undermined.
The product prices on its highly effective upsampling and apodizing framework, which is able to do justice to whatever audio source inputs- irrespective of their irregularities and distortions.
Some of the reasons why this product has gained massive market inclinations is also because of its great sound modification abilities. Hence, if you have some audio inputs with low standard performances, then the Meridian Director may be the DAC to help you boost up their quality.
With the device’s 800 series components, it is able to balance and fine-tune all the components and effects of any audio input that passes through it. Now, this makes it good equipment for sound mixers and audio recorders, who just need to ensure that the sound quality of whatever they’re working on, is at its best.
There’s a way to connect this DAC to work as a complementing module with other audio displaying devices like the USB connectable ones, coax S/PDIF etcetera.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the Meridian Director USB DAC that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- The audio conversions are good enough for the everyday audio outputs
- The classy, handy, and sleek design of the product is another good addition for users.
- Works well on converting almost all formats of audio inputs that pass through it.
- Has a remarkable sound modification infrastructure- thanks to the product’s upsampling and apodizing methods, as well as its 800 series components.
- Has a comparatively higher overall performance, when compared to several other products of the same category which makes it perfectly fit in our best dac under 500 $ 2021 lists.
- This is one of the most expensive DAC products within the $500 mark
- The device may become selective, and would not work with some devices.
4. SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder
This digital to analog converter is particularly designed to serve high audio conversion functions. However, this does not mean that it wouldn’t also work fine for low scale audio conversion activities.
As you may likely know, larger external speakers require more inputs for achieving optimized sound conversions. Consequently, they would need a digital audio converter that is able to meet their basic output specifications.
There are a reasonable number of features on this DAC, that makes it worth investing in. Firstly, the sampling rate that you’ll find on the device, tops at an impressive 192 kHz. This makes it a good use option for audio conversions that basically require a device with high bandwidth.
Another reason why intending users may flock to this device is the fact that it allows multiple input device connections at a time, hence allowing you to perform and achieve more.
The SMSL Sanskrit 6th analog decoder would essentially convert USB, optical, and coaxial signals from computers, smartphones, television sets, etcetera. There is also a provision for asynchronous transmission, which supports up to 88.2kHz.
Even with the SMSL Sanskrit 6th analog decoder’s high function and performance tendencies, the device has still found a way to minimize power usage. Its average power use output is put at about 3.1w, which yet corresponds well with its full potential activities.
Asides from this, it also comes with a power-saving roadmap, that drastically cuts down power consumption to 0.8w- when it is on, but not in use. This is definitely a good characteristic to find in a DAC, with its functional capacities.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- Works well to give optimum sound outputs in large speakers, as well as in smaller infrastructures like connectable headphones
- Has connection support for both of the synchronous, as well as asynchronous audio transmissions
- Has uses compatibilities with a good number of devices and input formats; hence its compatibility selections are very much reduced.
- Signal reception is through either of USB data sending, via optical routes, as well as the use of coaxial cables
- The device can be connected efficiently to multiple input devices at the same time.
- The portability is poor; it is not designed to be moved from location to location.
- Its design is not particularly classy or appealing
5. Cambridge Audio Azur DACMagic Plus
The Cambridge Audio Azur Dacmagic Plus is a digital to analog converter with the perfect build. It has a solid design that is made of top quality light steel material. This is one of the best DACs under $500, suitable for high-end audio conversion purposes.
Asides from the fact that it is reasonable in price, it also affords the user some great features on audio and sound conversions. Now, if you need that DAC product that is never failing in bringing you smooth furnished output sounds, then this one should also be on your list.
Notable features on the Cambridge Audio Azur are its top-notch wireless connectivity- which ensures real connectivity in no time. With this provision, the user has little to care about entangling and non-functional cables- here and there.
Also, the DAC utilizes the 24 Bits Twin Wolfson structure, to ensure quality outputs for all times. Wireless connections on the device are carried out using the attached Bluetooth provision on the DAC.
Another reason why analysts and users have continually placed this product amongst the best DACs under $500, is because of its relatively low compatibility selections. Hence, this is one of the DAC products on the market, that would work with almost every input device that it is connected to. Furthermore, it has also been aptly fashioned to take on and convert almost all audio input formats too.
The product has a dimension of 7.5 × 8.5 × 2 inches, while its weight is an average of 2.65 lbs. It carries out AFT2 upsampling, as well as asynchronous USB connections.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the Cambridge Audio Azur DACMagic Plus that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- A device is built to allow quite a number of input device connections at the same time
- Works well to convert virtually all basic audio formats, smoothly.
- Has wireless connectivity facilitated by Bluetooth, to reduce connection difficulties for the users.
- Has an AFT2 upsampling function model
- The DAC build suggests good durability of the device
- Following its function and performance, the product offers great value for money
- The DAC is best used in a stationary position, hence it is suited for use between different locations.
6. Sony PHA1A Portable High-Res DAC
The Sony PHA1A portable DAC appropriately combines an ergonomic impressive design together with top functions, in a DAC.
If you’re ready to get the best from audio conversion, then you shouldn’t forget to include this product in your list. One good thing about this product is its carefully implemented design, which gives it an important good look. The silver metal disposition is something to attract anybody, asides from it’s physical output qualities.
According to design and user observations, this product is able to amplify and modify sound outputs by up to fourteen times of what is obtainable on the inbuilt DACs of even the best mp3 players.
It would decode input audio of almost any format, with a frequency bit of up to 192 kHz/24 bits. The product makes use of the WM8740 Wolfson structure, for its sound-amplification.
This output performance is reasonable for a device in its category, as there are many other products that would not match this standard. Users are provided with multiple connectivity options such as the USB type A connection input space, as well as a second and third micro USB provision.
Note that the device comes with a lithium battery that powers the DAC functions with other devices. The battery lasts for six hours and can be recharged via the micro USB ports. This DAC is specifically constructed for use with headphones, as it also provides various headphones use supports.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the Sony PHA1A Portable High-Res DAC that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- Portable and relatively light weighted. Hence, making it easy to carry and use anywhere.
- Ergonomic aluminum design confers an attractive look on the device.
- The build of the product increases its durability and makes it less likely to get easily damaged.
- The product’s battery life is not bad, at 6hours full use after charge.
- Provides optimum audio conversion and amplification
- Cannot be used for high audio conversion purposes
- May be considered too expensive- especially because of its limited use features.
7. Audiolab iDSD Black Label Combination Portable DAC
As far as the best DACs under $500 is concerned, the Audiolab iDSD DAC has shown reasonable features that qualify it to rank here.
The product comes with a beautiful physical design that makes all the sense- if you’re also interested in the model appearance of whatever DAC you’re buying. According to design, this product is made to serve as a real compliment for the low output DACs that comes with smaller devices like smartphones and laptops.
Hence, connecting this DAC to either of these devices, would a step in the right direction towards improving the sounds that comes from them.
The DAC processes and outputs all the major audio formats, amplifying them at higher resolutions than you would have had with just the inbuilt DAC provisions. As such, it can output all High-Res inputs such as DXD 384, PCM 384, DSD 256, amongst others.
It comes with different connection input supports, giving the user a range of connection options to choose from. Other important features of the DAC, are its lasting battery life, and it’s pretty good portability.
Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the Audiolab iDSD Black Label Combination Portable DAC that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $ to get in 2021.
- The product has a beautiful appealing design
- Converts a good range of audio inputs that are made to pass through it
- Provides multiple connection routes, with external audio input devices
- Has a battery life of up to ten hours, after a full charge
- Shows high durability tendency
- The DAC is comparatively limited in useable features
Best DAC under 500 $:- What To Consider
Now, such things as a DAC requires that you do some careful analysis and considerations before you go ahead to buy.
This is because every intending user has their own peculiar use tendencies, and you may not have chosen the best choice for you- by merely looking at the specs alone. The following are some of the factors that need to guide your buying decision of a DAC:
Check its electrical power output usage:-
As you’ll love to use your DAC for as much you require, you’ll also not want to run huge electricity bills in the process. Before buying any DAC, find out its power usage tendencies in comparison with its overall functions.
Some DAC products have been built to optimize energy use than some others, and it is left to you to know which of the product best suits your energy use plan.
Check the product’s sound output abilities:-
Every product has its sound output threshold, and while the sound output ability of one device may turn out just fine for a first user, it may not be enough to meet the required mark for another user. Hence, before buying a DAC, find out from your dealer, the product’s sound output tendencies.
In order to better understand the abilities in earnest, find ways of using descriptions and comparisons that you can easily understand.
For instance, one DAC may be able to amplify sounds by up to ten times of the capacity of smartphone inbuilt DACs, while another DAC’s ability may not exceed five times of what is obtainable with smartphones.
Size and portability of the DAC:-
There are different models and structure patterns for different DACs in the market. From USB flash drive looking products to the huge projector sized models, you’ll find virtually anything you want. However, this is one important trait to consider before buying a DAC.
If you’ll be using your device at various locations or you’re a traveler, then it is most likely that what you need is a very portable DAC. On another hand, this may not be necessary for the user who only wants to connect his DAC to his television set. For such a user, he would be more concerned with other factors and features, over the portability traits of the DAC.
This refers to the DAC’s inbuilt infrastructures for connecting the device to sound displaying devices. While some DAC may allow users to connect via three or four routes, some may provide only one connectivity option. If you’re likely to make use of the device with several music player formats, then you’ll need to go for the option that provides this.
Important connectivity that may interest you- but which is not too common, is the Bluetooth connectivity on some DACs. Find the products that best suits you in terms of this, and let this be an important factor to consider.
📗FAQ’s on Best DAC Under 500 $
Below are a couple of queries on Best DAC Under 500 $ that everyone is expecting to answer and I did include the same for my readers.
Which DAC is the best?
1. AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC 2. Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5 3. Meridian Director USB DAC 4. SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder 5. Cambridge Audio Azur DACMagic Plus
Does a DAC really improve sound?
An outboard DAC usually offers better sound quality
Are DAC worth it?
Yes a DAC is worth it. Just because your files are lossy doesn't mean a DAC or improved digital audio system is less worth it.
Is a DAC better than a sound card?
A dedicated sound card is your best bet
When sourcing for the product to buy, there are instances where you’ll need to compromise on one feature, for another one. Usually, this would happen if the products that you’re looking to buy, have more relevant features that suit you, with the absence of just a few. Every product has its pros and cons, so basically, just make sure your product of choice meets your individual needs.