Top Picks Amp/DACs

THX Onyx DAC/Headphone Amp: $199
THX is famous for its certification programs but never developed a THX-branded product until the Onyx. The digital-to-analog converter (DAC)/headphone amp is compatible with most headphones and built to handle high-resolution DSD and PCM files but its crown jewel is the patented 180-milliwatt Achromatic Audio Amplifier that uses feed-back/forward error correction to minimize noise and distortion. Listening to a variety of music over headphones with Onyx in line, Al Griffin was captivated by the “impressive drive, detail, and clear separation of instruments and vocals” and concluded that its ability to enable a “layered spatial presentation” bodes well for portable gaming and movie-viewing. (October/November 2021, Read Full Review)
AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt Headphone Amplifier/DAC: $299
Don’t be fooled by the Cobalt’s size. This latest addition to AudioQuest’s DragonFly line of mini headphone amp/DACs is fully capable of delivering sound quality that rivals standard-size components. It’s a refined version of the popular DragonFly Red that sounds better and handles MQA-encoded files. As veteran audio reviewer Dan Kumin put it, “I was very impressed with just how ‘high-end’ the best hi-res music sounded via AudioQuest’s pocket wonder.” (December 2019/January 2020, Read Full Review)
Bluesound Node Streaming DAC: $599
Whether you’re looking to bring a beloved vintage audio system into the 21st century or boost the resolution potential of your streaming setup to 24-bit/192kHz and make it available anywhere in the house, Bluesound’s compact Node is easy to operate and delivers connection flexibility and first-rate sound quality at a reasonable price. The streamer is based on the company’s excellent app-based BluOS platform, which permits the simultaneous distribution of 24-bit audio to up to 64 devices in addition to supporting AirPlay 2, Bluetooth aptX HD, and voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s also Roon Ready and offers a generous selection of analog and digital inputs. (December 2021/January 2022, Read Full Review)
Parasound NewClassic 200 Integrated Amplifier: $1,195
From a company that earned its stripes as a top player in audio electronics decades ago comes the NewClassic 200 — an impossibly thin integrated amplifier/DAC that delivers a robust 110 watts per channel into 4- and 8-ohm loads while providing high quality digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion and surprising flexibility at a reasonable price. Enamored with its rugged build quality and range of features, which includes a built-in phono preamp, reviewer Dan Kumin praised the 200 for balancing utility with simplicity and for squeezing “all the music out of your music.” (March/AprilMarch 2020, Read Full Review)
NAD C 658 Network Audio Player/Preamplifier: $1,649
The C 658 is a well-rounded streaming preamp that delivers topnotch sound from hi-res sources without leaving your analog gear behind. It facilitates streaming from Tidal and other high-quality services, including those that support MQA processing, and puts a wealth of connection options at your fingertips — from HDMI to phono. The C 658 is further equipped with the exceptional Dirac Live room correction system and gives you the choice of using a conventional remote or NAD’s app for control. All this and more for a fair price. (February/March 2020, Read Full Review)
Simaudio Moon 280D Streaming DAC: $3,000
The 280D represents a serious update of the original 280D streaming DAC Simaudio introduced in 2015. It’s now Roon Ready, meaning it is fully compatible with the Roon music-management system audiophiles love, and employs an asynchronous DAC that decodes MQA files as well as native DSD up to DSD256 and PCM up to 32 bits/384 kHz. Moon’s software-based MiND 2 streaming module has also been upgraded with support for Airplay 2 and Spotify Connect in addition to providing easy access to hi-res streaming through Tidal and Qobuz, CD-quality streaming via Deezer Hi-Fi, and aptX-enabled streaming over Bluetooth. Add to that outstanding sound quality and what’s not to like? (August/September 2020, Read Full Review)
HiFi Rose RS150 Streaming DAC: $4,995
If you haven’t heard of South Korea’s HiFi Rose, you’re not alone. A division of the 50-year-old Seoul-based consumer electronics manufacturer Citech, the brand specializes in audiophile-grade media streamers that incorporate many original components. Built like a tank, the RS150 packs a streamer, DAC, and digital preamp into a standard-size component with a positively stunning touchscreen. As reviewer Howard Kneller is quick to point out, the core of this flagship streamer is a super-fast processor that supports playback of PCM and DSD signals up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512, respectively. Oh, and it’s Roon Ready in addition to supporting Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. The RS150 doesn't come cheap but it provides a wealth of features, operational flexibility and sound that doesn’t disappoint. (April/May 2022, Read Full Review)
Amp/DAC Archive
AudioQuest DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red Amp/DACs: $99 (Black), $199 (Red)
The newest entries in AudioQuest’s proven DragonFly series are designed to enhance the sound from any PC and are the first models that work with smartphones and tablets. Which one is right for you? “If your headphones are tough to drive and you need more output, the Red is the logical choice,” explained audio maven Mark Fleischmann. “If they’re fairly efficient, you’re buying your first DAC, and you don’t want to spend much, the Black is the better value.” Either way, you can’t go wrong.” (December 2016, Read Full Review)
AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 USB DAC: $149
Audio editor Mark Fleischmann revisited this new lower-priced version of the original DragonFly—which made its debut in Top Picks in 2012—and found its sound even more open than its predecessor. (July/August 2015, Read Full Review)
iFi nano iDSD Black Label Amp/DAC, $199
iFi’s pocked-sized nano iDSD Black Label is a full-featured amp/DAC that will coax the best possible performance out of almost any set of headphones. It handles PCM files up to 384-kHz/32-bit in various formats and decodes exotic file types such as DSD (up to 11.2 megahertz) and MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). (April 2018, Read Full Review)
Oppo HA-2 Headphone Amp/DAC: $299
Reviewed as one of five several portable amp/DACs, the Oppo stood out with its elegant leather case, slim form factor, versatile inputs/outputs, and excellent Class A/B sound quality.(July/August 2015, Read Full Review)
Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital Headphone Amp/DAC: $399
Pro-Ject is best known for its impressive turntables and related phono gear but the 27-year-old Austrian company is quite accomplished at building a variety of other audio components. The versatile Pre Box S2 Digital delivers a step up in performance with low- to medium-priced headphones, especially those with a treble emphasis, but it’s more than a headphone amp/digital-to-analog converter (DAC) — it doubles as a stereo preamp that differentiates itself with dual DACs, separate left/right signal paths, and support for MQA and DSD playback. (Posted 9/9/18, Read Full Review)
NAD D 3020 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier: $499
An update of a classic amplifier known for its conservative power rating and impressive performance, NAD’s D 3020 is ready to handle anything you can throw at it—analog or digital. Most notably, it has digital inputs that feed a high performance digital-to-analog converter and a USB connector, and it supports high-quality aptX streaming from Bluetooth-enabled devices. How’s it sound? “Great! In a desktop configuration…the NAD delivered all the output anyone might wish, with never a hint of strain,” wrote reviewer Mark Fleischmann. (October 2013, Read Full Review)
TEAC AI-301DA Integrated Amplifier/DAC: $549
This smartly conceived amp/asynchronous DAC combo is loaded with versatile inputs and outputs and, when mated with good speakers or headphones, is a perfect low-cost way to get into High-Res Audio. (May 2015, Read Full Review)
PS Audio Sprout100 Integrated Amplifier/DAC: $599
In recent years PS Audio has established itself as an innovator in the burgeoning ultra-compact amp/DAC category. Its latest specimen, the Sprout100, is a multi-faceted marvel that rises above the competition thanks to its inclusion of a phono stage, aptX Bluetooth wireless streaming, and a generous selection of connections. All this plus an impressive 2 x 50-watt ICEpower amplifier housed in a machined aluminum case about the size of a cigar box. (October/November 2018, Read Full Review)
NAD D 3045 Integrated DAC/Amplifier: $699
At a glance, NAD’s D 3045 could easily be mistaken for its predecessor, the D 3020 we reviewed with accolades back in 2013. But looks are about as far as the similarity goes. Power output has been doubled and a number of features added, including aptX HD Bluetooth streaming, MQA processing, an HDMI-ARC input, moving-magnet phono input, and line-level preamp/subwoofer outs. Given its compact size, the D 3045 is best described as a powerful integrated amp with the bonus attraction of an eminently capable onboard DAC. (April/May 2019, Read Full Review)
Elac Element EA101EQ-G Integrated Amplifier/DAC: $699
Elac, the German brand whose latest Andrew Jones-designed speaker systems have won accolades from Sound & Vision and others, has come up with an integrated amplifier that is both compact and multi-talented: The mini power block doubles as a USB DAC, a sophisticated room/subwoofer equalizer, a headphone amp, and an app-enabled Bluetooth receiver. All that in a chassis that’s only 8.4 x 2.1 x 11.6 inches. (April 2017, Read Full Review)
Arcam irDAC USB DAC: $699
About the size of a thick paperback, the irDAC is a PC-friendly digital-to-analog converter designed to ensure that music files, whether lossless or compressed, sound as good as they can. The box is equipped with coaxial, optical, and Type A and Type B USB inputs plus stereo analog and coaxial outputs, meaning you can connect it to a computer or any digital-output source component in need of a sonic upgrade. Reviewer Mark Fleischmann concluded that the irDAC “made nearly everything sound great.” (April 2015, Read Full Review)
Meridian Director USB DAC: $699
Can a digital-to-analog converter deliver a music experience that is transformative? Reviewer Mark Fleischmann thinks so: “I hooked the Director up to my desktop system, started playing The Next Day, David Bowie’s comeback album, and then had to hunt around the room for the top of my head because it had just been blown off. It was the voice that did it. The Director made the elusive Bowie stand out like a flesh-and-blood human against the skeletal backdrop of guitar, bass, and drums.” (December 2013, Read Full Review)
AudioControl Rialto 400 Amp/DAC: $799
AudioControl saw the need for a compact yet high-performance amplifier/digital-to-analog converter that could boost the performance delivered by many of today’s wireless music systems. The solution? Combine a robust power amp and topnotch DAC in one stylish box. AC engineers even threw in an AccuBass control that adds depth and richness to compressed audio files. As reviewer John Sciacca put it, “The Rialto 400 definitely succeeds at what it was designed to do; it provides a terrific amplifier and DAC solution in a small package.” (, Read Full Review)
TEAC AI-503 Integrated Amplifier/DAC, $1,000
The AI-503 sounds as good as it looks. Whether you’re powering a full-size system or playing hi-res music on a desktop rig, you can expect a clean, refined presentation, courtesy of the 503’s high-performance Verita DACs and high-efficiency Class D amp. The amp/DAC also boasts an asynchronous USB input, dedicated headphone amp, and supports Sony’s LDAC technology for streaming 96-kHz/24-bit files via Bluetooth. (April 2018, Read Full Review)
Wadia 121 Decoding Computer: $1,299
(replaced by Wadia 321 Decoding Computer) Tired of hearing music that’s been mangled by MP3? Want to squeeze every last drop of resolution from lossless files? The Wadia 121 is a DAC to be reckoned with—not to mention an awesome headphone amplifier. Signaling a new chapter in audio history, it will reveal new layers of detail with compressed music files and wow you with high-resolution files. Reviewer Mark Fleischmann reveled in the “unexpected detail, variety, and pinpoint imaging” he heard while listening to the Deep Purple classic Machine Head. In a word: Fabulous. (, Read Full Review)
Moon by Simaudio Neo 230HAD Amp/DAC: $1,500
The Neo 230HAD is, simply put, a state-of-the-art headphone amplifier/DAC that makes good headphones sound great and great headphones sound extraordinary. Veteran audio reviewer Mark Fleischmann heaped rare praise on the little box: “The Neo 230HAD is the best-sounding headphone amp/DAC I’ve ever heard…It was, to my ears, tonally neutral, with tight, unexaggerated bass, a fully realized midrange, and plenty of top-end nuance and air…There was nothing about the sound that I would change.” (May 2016, Read Full Review)
Primare Prisma I15 Integrated Amplifier/DAC: $1,999
Sweden’s Primare has broadened its audiophile appeal with the Prisma I15, which provides a generous selection of wired and wireless connectivity options, streaming flexibility, and impeccable sound quality thanks to its use of top-performing components, including a Hypex Class-D amplifier and an AKM digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Dan Kumin cut to the chase: “I was surprised by both the scope and excellence of its reproduction, which came shockingly close to good-as-it-gets levels.” (June/July 2019, Read Full Review)