There’s a huge focus on GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit), with many overlooking their audio. A sure-fire way to not only give your PC’s audio a boost but to expand its connectivity is the addition of a desktop DAC/Amp.
DAC stands for Digital-to-Analog Converter. This takes the digital audio signal created by your output devices, such as a PC or smartphone, and converts it to an analog signal so that you can hear it through your headphones or speakers.
Therefore, I have put together this rundown of the best desktop DAC/Amp combinations so you can turn your digital audio device into an audio hub.
Top 8 Best Desktop DAC/Amp on the Market in 2021 Reviews
1 FiiO K5 Pro – Best Compact Desktop DAC/Amp
Just because the FiiO K5 Pro is compact does not mean it is short on power or features. Take control of your audio output and listen to the way it was intended to be heard. In fact, this is one of the best space saving desktop DAC/Amps that delivers maximum sound.
Constructed from an all-aluminum alloy body, the finish is next level. Each unit has been painstakingly CNC-machined, anodized, and sandblasted. This not only adds to the strength and durability but also makes this little control box look awesome.
Compatible with multiple interfaces…
The FiiO K5 Pro is incredibly versatile when it comes to interface connections. Input options include coaxial, optical, and RCA with either 6.35 mm or RCA line outputs. There is also a USB port for a direct plug and play connection to your PC.
Up to 768 kHz/32-bit is supported by the Xmos XUF208 USB interface for superior audio quality. Listen to music, play games, or watch movies and hear every detail within the audio track through either speakers or headphones.
Instantly identify the sample rate…
Thanks to a stylish RGB LED ring around the volume control, you can instantly identify the current sample rate. Blue will display for 48kHz and below, yellow for above 48kHz, and green for DSD (Direct Stream Digital) audio.
The large volume dial provides precise and accurate control of output volume. You can also take control using two separate toggle switches. One controls the gain with low, medium, and high settings as well as other toggling between inputs.
- Compact size takes up minimal desk space while still providing maximum power.
- High-quality USB interface with up to 768kHz/32-bit.
- A stylish RGB LED ring indicates the current sample rate.
- No EQ settings.
- Only a 6.35mm headphone output meaning an adapter will probably be required.
2 Sennheiser GSX 1000 – Best Gaming Desktop DAC/Amp
The name Sennheiser is sure to be recognized by anyone who knows anything about audio equipment. However, it might not be as recognizable to those who are into computer equipment. If you aren’t familiar with this brand, you should be excited.
Sennheiser produces some of the highest quality audio equipment currently available. Their GSX 1000 is essentially an external USB sound card, making it one of the best DAC/Amp for gaming and home theater applications.
Full surround sound experience…
If your PC or laptop is the center of your multimedia hub, then the Sennheiser GSX 1000 is perfect for providing immersive audio. This is thanks to the Binaural Rendering Engine that offers a full 7.1 surround sound experience.
With precise accuracy and incredible audio detail, you will feel like you are right in the middle of the action. Clear audio cues can give you the edge while gaming by increasing reaction times. It will also create a lifelike sense of immersion when watching movies.
Create your own profiles for whatever application is being used at the time. No matter if you are gaming, streaming video, or listening to music either through headphones or speakers, you can tune the audio specifically to the task.
It is also possible to take control of the built-in microphone controls on gaming headsets. Make sure that you can still hear all the action while your online teammates can still hear you. Make the separation between game audio and chat.
- A completely immersive and customizable gaming audio experience.
- Binaural Rendering Engine offers a full 7.1-channel surround sound.
- Separate game audio and microphone chat audio.
- No user configurable equalizer.
- The microphone input uses compression.
3 Fosi Audio Q4 – Best Plug & Play Desktop DAC/Amp
If it’s simplicity you’re after and are looking for easily accessible physical audio control for your PC, then keep reading. The Fosi Audio Q4 offers plug & play compatibility with easy-to-use volume and equalizer dials.
There is a range of interface connection options available, and this DAC/Amp comes with everything you need to get started. Just plug in your devices with the included cables, and it’s ready to go. No need to download or install any software or files.
Within the box, along with the DAC/Amp, you will also find a PC to USB cable, optical cable, and a USB charging cable. There is no need to order any extra cables before you can enjoy your new device. As a result, this is one of the easiest to use desktop DAC/Amps you can buy.
Audio inputs include coaxial, optical, and USB Type-B for connecting various devices to the DAC/Amp. Output options offered are either 3.5 mm auxiliary output or RCA. Connect either headphones or active speakers directly to the Fosi Audio Q4.
Built to last…
Instead of plastic, as many other competitors use, Fosi Audio constructs the Q4 using high-quality aluminum. This makes sure it is durable, lightweight, and heat-resistant, providing solid performance for years to come.
Not only can you quickly and easily adjust the volume, but there are also two equalizer knobs. Dial in the perfect amount of treble or bass for an enjoyable and balanced audio experience no matter what you are listening to.
- Simple plug & play performance with multiple connection options.
- All cables are included with the device purchase.
- Volume, treble, and bass dials for fast and easy adjustments.
- Limited amplification capabilities.
- No support for Dolby or DTS audio.
4 FiiO EK10 – Best Desktop DAC/Amp for Headphones
This DAC/Amp is perfect for anyone that regularly uses wired headphones on their desktop or laptop PC and would like to improve their audio experience. The FiiO EK10 improves audio output quality using a PCM5102 DAC chip.
Files up to 24-bit and 96kHz resolution can be handled by this compact little device, enhancing your headphone experience. It will also reduce any noise interference often experienced when using internal DACs built-in to PCs.
Rugged and portable…
This great little DAC/Amp is compact enough to be portable along with your laptop. Measuring only 0.83 x 1.93 x 3.11-inches (21 x 49 x 79-millimeters) it can easily be packed into a laptop bag. Meaning it’s one of the best travel laptop DAC/Amps on the market.
It only weighs 2.72 ounces (77-grams), meaning you’ll barely notice it has been added to the bag. The shell is constructed from attractive and durable brushed aluminum. So, it not only looks great but can withstand the odd bump or knock.
Keeping things simple…
There is only a single input for the FiiO EK10 being a Micro-USB port for connecting to your PC. Output options include either a single RCA coaxial out or 3.5mm auxiliary output in the rear. Additionally, there is also a 3.5mm headphone output in the front of the device.
A small low/high gain switch can also be found at the rear of the device. This allows for adjusting volume power before being processed for a greater range of control. Get the most out of a wide variety of audio sources.
- The compact, lightweight design is perfect for laptop and headphone users.
- Looks great and is durable, being constructed from brushed aluminum.
- Simplified connectivity options.
- Limited amplification power.
- Only a USB input option.
5 Sound BlasterX G6 – Best Powerful Desktop DAC/Amp
Once upon a time, the ultimate sound cards for any PC were made by Creative Sound Blaster. Well, they are still making sound cards, and this is a fantastic external DAC/Amp that can be used for various gaming devices.
Not only is it a powerful external PC sound card, but it can be used on consoles too. Enjoy some of the highest possible sound quality with incredible detail and fidelity while playing the latest gaming titles.
Ultimate gaming versatility…
Compatible with not only PCs, but this USB sound card also works with PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and most other gaming consoles. It is capable of providing 32-bit/384kHz with 130dB high-quality audio.
It is also compatible with Dolby, and DTS 7.1-channel surround sound for a completely immersive experience. Feel like you’re part of the game as you can literally hear what direction the action is coming from. If you are looking for the best surround sound desktop DAC/Amp, this is your best bet.
Dedicated gaming features…
Using the Scout Mode, you can take advantage of in-game audio cues. Sounds such as footsteps and weapon switching allow users to pinpoint opponent’s locations, giving you a distinct advantage.
Easy to reach profile buttons make it simple to switch between settings dedicated to specific games or devices. The built-in headphone amplifier for each audio channel delivers an unmatched level of audio fidelity.
- Capable of high-quality 32-bit/384kHz with 130dB audio.
- Compatible with Dolby and DTS 7.1-channel virtual surround sound.
- Dedicated gaming features for a distinct competitive advantage.
- The LED light on the front cannot be switched off.
- Included USB cable is too short for most applications.
6 Audioengine D1 – Best 24-bit Desktop DAC/Amp
For warm and rich full stereo sound at an affordable price, look no further than the Audioengine D1 DAC/Amp. This product is great for acting as a pre-amp DAC for passive speakers or a DAC/Amp for headphones or active speakers.
It is simple to use and features a plug & play interface for both Windows and macOS computers. Power is supplied from the included USB cable used to connect with your laptop or desktop PC.
Process audio at high quality…
This sleek little device can process audio at up to 24-bits/192kHz based on its high-performance AK4396 DAC. Bypass your PC’s sound card and eliminate any unwanted interference for a cleaner audio experience.
The team at Audioengine believes in their product so much that it even includes a three year fully transferable warranty. They have been around since 2005 and during that time have produced some fantastic audio products.
Inputs for the Audioengine D1 include USB or optical. Connect everything from a PC, to a television, or even gaming consoles. Any product that has an optical output port can be connected to this device.
Output options include either the 3.5mm headphone jack, which can also be used as an auxiliary output. The other option is RCA output using premium screw-in-style connections that are gold-plated for maximum conductivity.
- An affordable option with premium performance.
- 3-year fully transferable warranty.
- Premium gold-plated RCA connections.
- No treble, bass, or gain functions.
- No indicator on the volume knob.
7 FX-Audio X6 – Best PC Desktop DAC/Amp
The team over at FX-Audio has produced the X6 as a small, convenient, and reliable desktop DAC/Amp. It can improve sound quality to both active speakers and headphones using the built-in amp.
It can also be used with passive speakers when combined with a separate external amplifier. The X6 is available in either a black or silver finish to blend into your desk space seamlessly. Both look sophisticated and stylish.
Surround sound compatible…
Unlike many other affordable desktop DAC/Amps, the X6 is compatible with both Dolby and DTS digital audio. This means that users can enjoy genuine surround sound, making it suitable for gaming and home theater-style applications.
When connected via USB, the X6 is capable of processing 24-bit/96kHz or 16-bit/192kHz. If the coaxial or optical output method is used, it can process up to 24-bit/192kHz for a high-fidelity audio experience.
Multiple output options…
Output options include RCA left and right at the rear of the device. There is also a 6.35mm headphone output conveniently on the front. Thankfully, an adapter is included with the device that converts any standard 3.5mm audio plug into a 6.35mm plug.
Having a 6.35mm input allows for the use of premium headphones without risking any loss of quality through the use of an adapter. This DAC/Amp is well suited for use by music lovers who are looking for a more dynamic audio experience from their PC.
- Compatible with Dolby DTS and Atmos for surround sound.
- Capable of providing high sample rates.
- Includes a 3.5mm to 6.35mm headphone plug adapter.
- Requires its own power source through the use of an included power adapter.
- No equalization or gain functions.
8 Douk Audio P1 – Best Bluetooth Desktop DAC/Amp
For something a little different, the final product is from Douk Audio. The P1 blends the best of old and new, combining older tube amplifier technology with the latest in digital wired and wireless technology.
Furthermore, the built-in amplifier can drive headphones between 32-300 ohms, therefore, making this the most versatile product here. With the fully functional blue and orange light-up vacuum tubes, this is one attractive and stylish device.
The added convenience of Bluetooth…
Not only does the P1 provide both DAC and amplifier functions, but it can also perform as a Bluetooth receiver. Using the latest Bluetooth 5.0 technology, you can wirelessly connect your audio devices with a reliable and stable connection.
Of course, there are still other input connection options available. Both USB and RCA connection ports are available, as well as wired connectivity options. However, there is no optical connection option like you’d find on most other similar products.
Function and control…
Output options offered include rear RCA ports and also a 3.5mm headphone port at the front. Along the front, you can also find some toggle switches. These include a switch for input selection, tone, and the LED inside the vacuum tubes.
On the top of the P1, there is a large volume dial along with two smaller dials. The smaller dials can adjust both the treble and bass. Giving users full control over the audio output and audio functions.
- A stylish blend of old and new technology.
- Built-in Bluetooth for wireless connectivity.
- Volume, tone, treble, and bass controls.
- No optical input option available.
- The Bluetooth range is not great.
Best Desktop DAC/Amp Buying Guide
There is a huge range of affordable desktop DAC/Amps, but not all of them offer the same level of performance. However, each of the products I’ve reviewed performs well and offers a different set of features better suited to different applications.
So, I decided to put together this buying guide to help you decide which of these great products will best suit your needs. So, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between each of these products and what they are capable of.
When playing a game, audio quality plays a huge part in the overall experience. Being able to hear what direction a competitor or enemy is approaching from is a massive advantage. However, to achieve this, you need surround sound.
There are two fantastic DAC/Amps for gamers reviewed. First, the Sennheiser GSX 1000 is great for online competitions due to its advanced microphone options. The second is the Sound BlasterX G6 which has some great gaming-dedicated features, like Scout Mode.
When sitting down and listening to music, it can be much more appreciated when you can hear each instrument. And that’s what you get when using a premium set of headphones along with the correct equipment.
A key piece of that equipment is your DAC/Amp. The FiiO K5 has a 6.35mm headphone output, as does the FX-Audio X6. Most premium headphones use this style of connection. They will plug directly into either of these devices without the need for an adapter.
No matter which of these products you choose, you will get a clearer and more enjoyable audio experience. Keep reading to discover which is my pick for the best DAC/Amp and why, but before that…
Are you Looking for Great Computer Audio?
We can help you with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best USB DACs Under $100, the Best Portable DAC/Amp Combo, the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Audio Interface, the Best iPad Audio Interfaces, the Best Portable Audio Recorders, and the Best Multitrack Recorder you can buy in 2021.
You may also like our comprehensive Behringer UMC22 Review, our Behringer UCA202 Review, our Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Studio 3rd Gen Review, our RME ADI-2 DAC Review, and our Presonus Audiobox USB 96 Review for more awesome audio currently on the market.
What is the Best Desktop DAC/Amp?
To choose which of these products is the best, I have broken it down into the following areas; the product must offer solid and reliable performance, have handy features, and still be of great value.
The DAC/Amp I believe performs best in all these areas is the…
It offers multiple connectivity options along with tone, treble, and bass controls. Additionally, it looks awesome and provides high-quality audio while still also being of incredible value. Plus, you can even swap out the vacuum tubes for different sound profiles.
Until next time, let your music play.