Home Ustad Review 9 Best DACs Under $500 – Get High-Quality Sound on a Budget

9 Best DACs Under $500 – Get High-Quality Sound on a Budget

Do you have the curiosity to know about the Best DAC Under 500 $ to buy? 🤔 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, few people probably understand what it is and 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 we output music cannot 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 we can hear and understand.

Hence their indispensable relevance is why more people are talking about them. Every device or gadget needs to translate the sounds it receives from whatever source humans can understand.

It is particularly important because this is the only way you can listen to the sound outputs from your smartphone or any regular music player.

Every music electronics manufacturer should know this and the best specifications that suit their type of device. All contemporary music output devices have an input DAC that carries out these essential and fundamental transitions.

However, external DACs have found their place of importance over the years, and there’s quite a lot you can benefit from having one for yourself.

They are 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 performance grades with DACs, and you shouldn’t expect all available products to perform at similar productivity output rates.

Furthermore, note that DACs are selling for huge amounts, and not everybody can make the budget 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 and sell for relatively cheap rates.

Finding a good DAC for prices below $500 is very much possible, and it only requires you to have knowledge of the best products and what to look out for in any product.

Best DAC Under 500 $ – Get The Best Bang for Your Buck

Below is a review of some of the best DACs under $500, including their specifications, functions, pros, and cons.

1. iFi Zen Blue V2 

The iFi Zen Blue V2 is a top contender for the “Best DAC Under 500 $.” You can stream music to any powered speaker, A/V receiver, or amplifier with ease thanks to its desktop DAC capabilities and HiFi Bluetooth 5.0 receiver.

9 Best DACs Under $500 - Get High-Quality Sound on a Budget
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Additionally, the Zen Blue V2 provides several outputs, including 4.4 balanced, optical/coaxial/SPDIF/BRCA, and S/PDIF/BRCA, allowing you to connect to various audio devices.

The Zen Blue V2 has more advantages than that, though. Additionally, it features a superior digital-to-analog converter with excellent sound quality to make sure your music sounds its best. The Zen Blue V2 will dazzle everyone who enjoys high-quality sound, whether they consider themselves audiophiles or not.

People seeking the best DAC under $500 should choose the iFi Zen Blue V2.

Thanks to its adaptability, excellent audio performance, and reasonable pricing, it stands out among other options in its category.

Pros:-

  • Music may be easily streamed to a range of audio devices with the help of a desktop DAC and HiFi Bluetooth 5.0 receiver.
  • Flexible communication choices are provided by multiple outputs (optical, coaxial, SPDIF, BRCA, and 4.4 balanced).
  • Excellent sound quality is delivered through a high-quality digital-to-analog converter.
  • inexpensive pricing range

Cons:-

  • If the iFi Zen Blue V2 has any particular flaws, they are not immediately apparent. As with any product, it might not be the ideal choice for every person’s needs and preferences.
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2. Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC

The Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC is one of the best DAC under 500$ on the market today.

Its high-resolution audio playback, USB and optical inputs, and flexible preamp capabilities provide an audio quality and level of ease that is difficult to match at its price range.

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Delivering crystal clear, high-resolution audio is one of the D1’s unique advantages. The D1 ensures you’re getting the most out of your music, whether you’re streaming it from your computer or playing back lossless files from your hard drive.

You may easily play back virtually any kind of audio file because of the DAC’s broad support for file formats like FLAC, WAV, and AIFF.

The D1 is a terrific option for listening while traveling because it delivers excellent audio quality and several practical features.

Its lightweight construction, USB power capability, and several input options make it convenient to take with you wherever you go. You can even connect your smartphone or tablet to it.

Overall, the Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC are great options for anyone trying to improve their audio system without going over budget.

The D1 has plenty to offer, whether you’re an audiophile or just a casual listener, and if you’re looking for a new DAC, it’s worth considering. As a result, it can be the best DAC under $500 for you.

Pros:-

  • High-resolution audio playback: The D1 can produce incredibly clear, detailed sound, making it a wonderful option for people who want to get the most out of their music.
  • You can connect several devices and sources to the D1 thanks to its numerous connectivity options, which include USB and optical inputs.
  • The D1 is compact and lightweight, making it simple to carry with you wherever you go.
  • The flexible preamp features: The D1 can be used as a stand-alone preamp, enabling you to connect it to various speakers and audio systems.

Cons:-

  • Only a 3.5mm headphone jack is available on the D1, which may not be ideal for individuals with larger headphones or speakers.
  • The D1 doesn’t have a volume control knob, so you’ll need to use your computer or another device to change the level.
  • Lack of battery power: The D1 requires a power supply, which may be bothersome for some users.
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3. AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC

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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 is important to parade 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.

The device is a 32 Bits SABRE DAC, which outputs a 2.1v power display. This power specification is apt enough to output well for music-playing devices such as headphones, Android smartphones and iOS, laptops, and other high-function speakers and devices.

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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 around 3.2 to 5.5 ounces, with its dimension 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 audio formats and resolution sizes. Notably, you can play files with resolutions up to 24-bit/96kHz.

Asides from this capacity, the product also guarantees good tone, sound richness, immediacy, and transparency at all times.

Pros:-

  • 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 can function well with a good number of sound output devices.
  • Dual-port infrastructure enables users to multitask
  • The product sells for a great price- especially considering its performance too
  • Easy to plug in and use, with no attached use technicalities whatsoever

Cons:-

  • 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.
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Review: Audioquest Dragonfly Black 1 5 and Red
Note:- I have written a post for people looking for the Best Wireless Access Point to buy?, do read it If you are interested.

4. Creative 70SB174000000 Sound BlasterX AE-5

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If you’re so much into contemporary computer gaming, you’ll understand the importance of game sounds in 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 have the best sound output DAC, so 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- giving you reasons to play again and again.

Thus, if you have been looking to optimize sounds on your Fortnite or Battle of the Royale, you’ve just gotten the best shot at it.

Feature and function specifications on this DAC include the manufacturing company’s discrete headphone amplifier, called Xamp.

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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 and up to 384kHz playback capacity. Regarding gaming and general function DACs, the Creative Sound Blaster AE-5 is a top contender on the market.

Pros:-

  • You can rely on this product’s high sound conversion abilities, as it has shown high satisfaction reviews from different users- since the product hit the market.
  • It comes with several useful sound modifications 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.
  • It comes with beautiful, ingenious RGB LED lighting and RGB LED strips
  • The distortions and sound output jitters on the device are minimally low

Cons:-

  • 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.
Note:- I have written a post for people looking for the best capture card to buy?, do read it If you are interested.

5. Meridian Director USB DAC

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This is another DAC with high recognition that you cannot push aside. The Meridian Director is complete in function and design, making it a good product for everyday 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 feel any heavier- if you put it in your pant pockets.

Although the product looks simple outside, its sound amplification and resolution capacities cannot be undermined.

The product prices on its highly effective upsampling and apodizing framework, which can do justice to whatever audio source inputs- irrespective of their irregularities and distortions.

One of the reasons why this product has gained massive market inclination 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 their quality.

9 Best DACs Under $500 - Get High-Quality Sound on a Budget
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The device’s 800 series components can balance and fine-tune all the components and effects of any audio input that passes through it.

This makes it good equipment for sound mixers and audio recorders, who 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.

Pros:-

  • The audio conversions are good enough for the everyday audio outputs
  • The product’s classy, handy, and sleek design is another good addition for users.
  • It 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.
  • It has a comparatively higher overall performance than other products in the same category.

Cons:-

  • 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.

6. SMSL Sanskrit 6th Analog Audio Decoder

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This digital-to-analog converter is designed to serve high audio conversion functions. However, this does not mean it wouldn’t also work fine for low-scale audio conversion activities.

As you may likely know, larger external speakers require more inputs to achieve optimized sound conversions. Consequently, they would need a digital audio converter to meet their basic output specifications.

A reasonable number of features on this DAC make it worth investing in. Firstly, the sampling rate you’ll find on the device tops at an impressive 192 kHz.

This makes it a good use option for audio conversions that require a device with high bandwidth.

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Another reason intending users may flock to this device is that it allows multiple input device connections at a time, allowing you to perform and achieve more.

The SMSL Sanskrit 6th analog decoder would 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 about 3.1w, which 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 a good characteristic in a DAC, with its functional capacities.

Pros:-

  • Works well to give optimum sound outputs in large speakers, as well as in smaller infrastructures like connectable headphones
  • Has connection support for both the synchronous, as well as asynchronous audio transmissions
  • Has uses compatibilities with many devices and input formats; hence its compatibility selections are greatly reduced.
  • Signal reception is via USB data or optical routes and coaxial cables.
  • The device can be connected efficiently to multiple input devices simultaneously.

Cons:-

  • The portability is poor; it is not designed to be moved from location to location.
  • Its design is not particularly classy or appealing

7. Cambridge Audio Azur DACMagic Plus

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The Cambridge Audio Azur Dacmagic Plus is a digital-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.

Aside from its being reasonable in price, it also affords the user some great features for audio and sound conversions.

Now, if you need that DAC product that never fails to bring you smooth furnished output sounds, this one should also be on your list.

Notable features of the Cambridge Audio Azur are its top-notch wireless connectivity, ensuring real connectivity in no time.

With this provision, the user has little to care about entangling and non-functional cables- here and there.

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Also, the DAC utilizes the 24 Bits Twin Wolfson structure to ensure quality outputs at 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 connected. Furthermore, it has also been aptly fashioned to take on and convert almost all audio input formats.

The product has a dimension of 7.5 × 8.5 × 2 inches, while its average weight is 2.65 lbs. It carries out AFT2 upsampling, as well as asynchronous USB connections.

Pros:-

  • A device is built to allow quite a several input device connections at the same time.
  • Works well to convert virtually all basic audio formats smoothly.
  • Has wireless connectivity facilitated by Bluetooth reduced user connection difficulties?
  • It 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

Cons:-

  • The DAC is best used in a stationary position. Hence it is suited for use between different locations.
 
Note:- I have written a post for people looking for the Best USB Audio Interface to buy?, do read it If you are interested.

8. Sony PHA1A Portable High-Res DAC

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The Sony PHA1A portable DAC appropriately combines an impressive ergonomic design with top functions in a DAC.

If you’re ready to get the best from audio conversion, 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 its physical output qualities.

According to design and user observations, this product can amplify and modify sound outputs by up to fourteen times 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 of up to 192 kHz/24 bits. The product uses the WM8740 Wolfson structure for its sound amplification.

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This output performance is reasonable for a device in its category, as many other products would not match this standard. Users are provided multiple connectivity options, such as the USB type A connection input space and 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 six hours and can be recharged via micro USB ports.

This DAC is specifically constructed for headphones, as it 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 $.

Pros:-

  • Portable and relatively light weighted. Hence, making it easy to carry and use anywhere.
  • The 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 6 hours full use after charge.
  • Provides optimum audio conversion and amplification

Cons:-

  • It cannot be used for high audio conversion purposes
  • It may be considered too expensive- especially because of its limited features.
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Sony PHA-1A DAC Amplifier with Nexus 6P via USB-C

9. Audiolab iDSD Black Label Combination Portable DAC

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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 complement for the low-output DACs that come with smaller devices like smartphones and laptops.

Hence, connecting this DAC to either of these devices would be a step in the right direction toward 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, and DSD 256.

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 good portability.

Below are some of the Pros and Cons of the Audiolab iDSD DAC that earned it a spot in our list of Best DAC Under 500 $.

Pros:-

  • 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
  • It has a battery life of up to ten hours after a full charge
  • Shows high durability tendency

Cons:-

  • The DAC is comparatively limited in useable features

Best DAC under 500 $:- What To Consider

Now, such things as a DAC require careful analysis and considerations before you go ahead to buy.

This is because every intending user has 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 as you require, you’ll also not want to run huge electricity bills. Before buying any DAC, find its power usage tendencies compared to its overall functions.

Some DAC products have been built to optimize energy use more than others, and it is left to you to know which 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, determine the product’s sound output tendencies from your dealer.

To better understand the abilities in earnest, find ways of using descriptions and comparisons that you can easily understand.

For instance, one DAC may amplify sounds by up to ten times the capacity of smartphone-inbuilt DACs, while another DAC’s ability may not exceed five times what is obtainable with smartphones.

Size and portability of the DAC:-

There are different models and structure patterns for different DACs in the market. You’ll find virtually anything you want, from USB flash drive-looking products to huge projector-sized models. 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, you will most likely need a very portable DAC. On the other 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.

Connectivity options:-

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 use the device with several music player formats, you’ll need to go for the option that provides this.

Important connectivity that may interest you- but is not too common is Bluetooth connectivity on some days. Find the products that best suit you, and let this be an important factor.

📗 FAQs on Best DAC Under 500 $

Below are a few queries on Best DAC Under 500 $ that everyone is expecting to answer, and I did include the same for my readers.

What is the best DAC under $500?

AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC, Meridian Director USB, Cambridge Audio Azur Dacmagic Plus, and Sony PHA1A portable DAC are rated the DAC Under 500$ by several users.

Are cheap DAC any good?

If you are low on the budget, you can consider buying the cheap DAC chip. When used accurately in a circuit design, they can usually function well.

Which is the most accurate DAC?

There are a variety of DAC devices available in the market. However, based on factors like sound output, usage, electrical power output, connectivity, and portability Cambridge Audio Azur Dacmagic Plus is the most accurate DAC option.

Will a DAC improve sound quality?

Yes, you’ll surely see a significant improvement in the audio quality after connecting Digital Analog Converter. A high-grade DAC ensures a better sound experience by providing a cleaner sonic background and a deeper listening score.

Which DAC chip is best?

Some of the best DAC chips that can make your digital music worthwhile are Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M, Chord Qutest, AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt, and iFi hip-DAC 2.

Conclusion on the best DAC under 500$ list

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 you’re looking to buy have more relevant features that suit you, with the absence of just a few.

Every product has pros and cons, so basically, make sure your product meets your individual needs.