Greatest Bits Digital to Analog Converters

Class A

Auralic Vega Digital Audio Processor, $3,500.00
To say that I was wowed by the Auralic Vega is an understatement. "Its ability to turn music reproduction into an engaging and thrilling musical experience is simply stunning. Offering up to DXD and 2x DSD playback, the AURALiC Vega has everything going for it that a DAC should and then some." Read the Full Review
Ayre Acoustics Codex, $1795.00
The Ayre Acoustics Codex was found to not only possess an excellent headphone amp that easily drove the AudioQuest NightHawks, but a very good sounding digital volume control that allowed this DAC to directly drive an amplifier. The Codex was found to have first-class sound quality that could serve as the basis of a fine high-end audio system. Steven Plaskin felt that the Codex’s sound quality was as good or as better than DACs costing far greater than the $1795 asking price. Read the Full Review.
Ayre QB-9 DSD, $3,250.00
The upgraded Ayre QB-9 DSD offers much more than DSD. "I think the real story with the QB-9 DSD is how Ayre has taken an already very good sounding DAC, added more weight, body, and color along with what I'll call DSD's dimensional quality to come up with one musically satisfying DAC no matter what you play through it."Read the Full Review
Bricasti Design M1 DAC, $8,995.00
The Bricasti Design M1 is beautifully built with sound to match. This DAC has exceptional transient and resolution capabilities that place it among the finest DACs Steve Plaskin has yet reviewed. Multiple filter selection in both PCM and DSD playback allow the user to fine tune this DAC’s sound to one’s musical preference. Read the Full Review
Cary Audio DAC-200ts, $3,995.00
The Cary Audio DAC-200ts offers up a big, bold, and musically engaging sound. The DAC-200ts can handle PCM resolutions up to 32/384 and quad-rate DSD while acting as a digital preamp if you so desire. There's also an aptX Bluetooth input so you can invite friends and family in on the fun. "If you are considering a DAC in the $4k price range, you'd be wise to give the Cary Audio DAC-200ts as long a listen as you can afford." Read the Full Review
dCS Rossini DAC & Rossini Clock ($23,999 & $7,499)
The Rossini is more than 24-bit/384kHz and DSD128 capable DAC as it adds a UPnP streamer and volume control to the mix. Of greater importance is its ability deliver all of music's textures, colors, and voice. "The dCS Rossini DAC and Clock are capable of exploding the listening experience into a fabulous psychedelic adventure constrained only by imagination and time." Read the Full Review
EMM Labs DAC2X Stereo D/A Converter ($15,500.00)
Brains, Brawn, & Beauty. "The DAC2X takes whatever you give and gives back your music in a purely musical manner." "If you like to listen to all manner of music in all manner of formats including streaming, and you want it all to sound stunning, muscular where called for, incisive, powerful, with superb clarity and edge-of-your-seat dynamics, the EMM Labs DAC2X has what you're looking or longing for." Read the Full Review
Empirical Audio Overdrive SE USB DAC/Pre, $5,999.00 (Overdrive SE DAC/Pre and Substation AC Power Supply)
The Empirical Audio Overdrive SE takes its place in the group of the best DACs I have experienced. The Overdrive SE is very revealing with a large, very dynamic presentation. While the DAC’s volume control is quite good, it can be improved upon by using the Final Drive for direct connection with power amps. I strongly recommend that the USB Short Block filter be used with the Overdrive SE for increased detail, background silence, and soundstage size. The only caveat I have with the Overdrive SE is that it does not support OSX Mavericks at the time of my review. Read the Full Review
Esoteric D-02 Dual Mono D/A Converter, $23,500.00
The Esoteric D-02 is a dual monaural DAC that is magnificently built and physically very attractive. The D-02 is a revealing, highly detailed DAC that does a great job reproducing micro and macro dynamic contrasts. The D-02 is somewhat cool sounding, but if paired with complimentary components, can be quite stunning in its musical qualities. Read the Full Review
exaSound Audio Design e22 DAC, $3,499.00
The exaSound e22 DAC delivers detailed sound with an enormous soundstage capable of excellent resolution. Using the ASIO driver for OSX Mavericks with the software player Decibel or the ASIO driver for Windows provides some of the best DSD playback quality Steven Plaskin has experienced. Read the Full Review
LampizatOr Lite 7 DSD DAC ($5750)
The LampizatOr Lite 7 is among the most natural and musically engaging DACs I've had the pleasure of listening through; "Music sounds natural, rich, and rewarding pulling you into your music for as long as time allows. The ability to tailor the Lite 7's sound to taste by rolling in your own triode's is simply icing on top of a very musical DAC." Read the Full Review.
Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC, $20,000.00
Steve Plaskin wrote, "I feel that the Da Vinci represents a significant advancement in digital reproduction. Its strengths are easy to identify and a joy to listen to. Listening to the Da Vinci was addicting as it allowed me to enjoy music for hours on end without fatigue. Anyone looking for a world-class DAC, regardless of price, owes it to themselves to audition the Da Vinci." Read the Full Review
Luxman DA-06 DAC, $6,000.00
If you're looking for analog-like ease, you're looking in the right place. "Capable of handling up to 32/384kHz PCM and double rate DSD, the Luxman DA-06 is one luxury that pays off in musical enjoyment as rich as the contents of your music collection." Read the Full Review
Meitner MA-2, 11,000.00
The Meitner MA-2 is all that (and more), capable of playing back PCM and DSD that'll knock your music-loving socks off. "The Meitner MA-2 presents as complete and compelling a sound picture as I've heard, transforming digital data into a seemingly living, breathing, and utterly believable musical experience. Read the Full Review
Metrum Acoustics Pavane, $4,999.99
The Metrum Acoustics Pavane is the company's flagship DAC for a reason; it sounds like music. "Yes, the Pavane is a better sounding DAC as compared to the Musette. It gives you more weight, body, tonal richness, and a more natural sense of the space of the recording. Or to put it more plainly, it fleshes out your music more." Read the Full Review
Merging Technologies NADAC, $10,500.00 (Stereo)
"The Merging Technologies NADAC is more than capable of delivering the sonic goods for near-endless hours of musical enjoyment. My guess is its appeal, and distinction, is even greater for multichannel users so I'll let Kal Rubinson close out my review, '...I found the NADAC Multichannel-8 flawless. It provided some of the best sound I have ever heard in my home.'" See the Full Review
MSB Technology The Analog DAC, $6,995.00 (as reviewed)
Steve Plaskin wrote, "For those of us that have enjoyed this hobby over many years, there are a few products that come along in one’s audiophile life that leave a lasting impression on the listener. The Analog DAC is one of those products. It not only reproduces music with excellent detail and focus, but is one of the most natural sounding DACs I have ever heard." Read the Full Review
Mytek Manhattan DAC, $5,495.00
The Mytek Manhattan delivers a lot of musical goodness. "The Manhattan is a very fine sounding DAC, preamplifier, and headphone amp that delivers as solid and real a sound image as I've heard. It also sounds very natural, inviting, and engaging while offering the ability to subtly tailor its sound to your liking through the use of upsampling, various filters, and digital and analog volume controls." See the Full Review
Mytek Brooklyn DAC, $1,995.00
"While I've sharpened my critical keyboard waxing over the sonic attributes of the Mytek Brooklyn—much-more-than-a—DAC, its performance dictates as critical a listen as any other DAC. That's to say that while some DACs at this price point pale in comparison to more expensive offerings, Brooklyn is dangerous." See the Full Review
Playback Designs Merlot DAC $6,500.00
The Playback Designs Sonoma Series consisting of the Syrah Server, Merlot DAC, and OpBox modification of the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray disc player proved to be among the finest sounding systems Steven Plaskin has experienced. The Syrah Server was a snap to set up and worked flawlessly with the Merlot DAC that was controlled by JRemote (JRiver Media) iPad app or Android app. A wonderful sounding system that supports up to 24/384 kHz, DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256, especially for those that wish to avoid the hassle of setting up a computer. See the Full Review
PS Audio DirectStream Junior, $3,999.00
The DirectStream Junior is more than a DAC as it includes the company's Bridge II network card (soon to be Roon Ready) so you can stream directly from network attached storage to Junior via Ethernet. "If your taste in DACs runs toward smooth, natural, and musically engaging, you may very well find, as I did, that Junior has got the grown up goods." Read the Full Review
PS Audio DirectStream DAC, $5,995.00
Capable of handling up to 24/192 and double rate DSD, the PS Audio DirectStream DAC offers a clear window into your music. "If you're looking for a DAC and digital preamp that is both well-built and sonically transparent, the DirectStream DAC should be on your short list." Read the Full Review
Resonessence Labs Invicta DAC, $3,995.00
The Resonessence Labs Invicta DAC rang most of my listening preferences bells & whistles like a champ. I found it neither too hot, nor too cold. "Which is to say if you're looking for a DAC (and preamp and dual headphone amp) to connect you to your music in a wonderfully transparent and engrossing way, I would point you to the Resonnessence Labs Invicta without reserve or hesitation." There, I said it again. Read the Full Review
Resonessence Labs Invicta Mirus DAC, $4,550.00
The Resonessence Labs INVCTA Mirus is an exceptional sounding DAC that features support up to 24/384 kHz and DSD64/128 playback in both USB and built-in SD Card formats. The Mirus has some of the best galvanic isolation from computer noise and USB cable differences that I have experienced. It is physically a beautifully built DAC with sound to match. Read the Full Review
MOON by Simaudio Nēo 280D MiND, $2,200.00 (DAC-only version)
"As a $2200 DAC, the Nēo 280D, which I'm going to call "Alice", is at the top of my heap and reaches beyond its price-point bettering the Auralic Vega according to my ears. Seeing as I've never felt this way before, I'd call that sexy." Read the Full Review
SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier, $2,900.00
The battery-powered SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier can function as a full-function preamp along with a 32-bit/192kHz and DSD DAC. "More importantly, the sDP-1000's sonic performance is at once delicate, nuanced, and finely detailed with stunning low-level resolution offering a clear window onto your music." Read the Full Review
T+A DAC 8 DSD, $3995.00
The T+A DAC 8 leapt onto my Favorite DAC list faster than most. "...the T+A grabbed me, shook me (well that was actually the music's domain), and didn't let go. Consider the DAC 8 highly recommended for a very long term audition of your music's guts and glory." Read the Full Review.
totaldac d1-tube-mk2 DAC (9100euros excl VAT)
"Listening through the totaldac late at night in the relative darkness, I can listen in to my music as deeply as I care to go. There is nothing in between it and me except my thought..." The d1-tube-mk2 DAC adds a pair of ECC82/12AU7 dual triodes in the output stage where the d1-dual DAC (below) employs a discrete class A transistor circuit. While I could easily live with either, I'd go tube-mk2. Read the Full Review
totaldac d1-monobloc DAC with DSD and Server, 23600 EUR (Approximately $32,325.00)
The totaldac d1-monobloc with DSD and server is one of the finest DACs Steven Plaskin has had the opportunity to review. The DAC is very revealing, but extremely musical. The DSD option sounds as good as the PCM performance. The totaldac server outperformed Steven’s Early MacBook Pro and is also highly recommended for its sonic performance. Read the Full Review
totaldac d1-Dual DAC, $12,100.00
The totaldac announced its presence with a sweet, clear voice from the get go and it just got better from there. "With PCM data, the totaldac d1-Dual DAC is one of the finest sounding DACs I've had the pleasure to live with. It is at once natural sounding, dynamically realistic, effortlessly fluid, tonally complex, and it portrays a very solid and life-like sound image for you to explore. Add to that an absolutely astounding sense of clarity and you have yourself one helluva impressive and above all else one helluva musical DAC." Read the Full Review
Wavelength Audiod Crimson / Quotient Q1 with Silver Transformers, $19,500.00 as reviewed
The Wavelength Audio Crimson, with its new Quotient DAC module board, has significantly raised the bar of performance for this tube output DAC. The midrange is glorious sounding with reduction of grain and digital artifacts compared to previous versions. The soundstage is second to none in its ability to float a wide and deep stage with wonderful resolution and detail retrieval. For those that own this DAC and are using the Denominator board, the Quotient Q1 will not only enhance the sound, but provide PCM support up to 32/384 kHz and DSD 64 / 128. Read the Full Review

Class B

Audeze Deckard, $699.00
Don’t let its price fool you—the Deckard delivers some mighty fine music making, especially through your favorite 'phones. " The Audeze Deckard Headphone amp/DAC made the experience of listening to music an experience to be savored and enjoyed." Read the Full Review
Benchmark Media Systems DAC2 HGC, $1,995.00
Don’t let its small size fool you. The DAC2 HGC is a full featured DAC with a highly adaptable preamp with excellent remote features. This asynchronous USB DAC is sonically neutral with support up to 192kHz and directly processed DSD by 4 ESS Sabre processors per channel. A headphone amp is included with enough power to drive most anything presented to it. One would have to spend considerably more to get higher performance at its $1995 price. Read the Full Review
Bryston BDA-2 DAC, $2,395.00
When used in conjunction with the Bryston BDP-2, the combo excelled with bass response, resolution, and dynamic snap appeal. "With excellent dynamic snap, astoundingly full and fit bass, and plenty of resolution revealing of the most your recordings have to offer, Bryston's dynamic duo pack a lot of musical punch." Read the Full Review
Chord Electronics Chordette QuteHD (DSD) DAC, $1,795.00
The Chord's way with CD-quality 16/44.1 music was a real eye and ear opener, "lifting 16/44.1 performance to near-HD heights". Add DSD playback, up to 24/192 PCM via USB and 32/384kHz playback via Coax S/PDIF and you've got one lovely package. Read the Full Review
Chord Electronics Hugo Mobile DAC/Headphone Amp, $2,395.00
As with Chord's QuteHD DAC, the portable Headphone amp-endowed Hugo does an amazing job playing CD-quality music while also offering PCM playback up to 24/384, DXD, and DSD 128. "If you're looking for a DAC/Headphone amp with Bluetooth capability that can go anywhere you go and do double duty in your main hi-fi while performing equally well in both scenarios with PCM data up to 24/384, DXD, and DSD 128 while making good old CD-quality truly shine, the Chord Hugo merits a serious listen. " Read the Full Review
exaSound e20 Mk III DAC, $2,899.00
The exaSound e20 MK III scales new heights supporting up to 384kHz PCM and quad rate DSD (12.288 MHz). But "Forget about numbers. The exaSound e20 DAC makes some fine music with all of the music your likely to get a hold of." Read the Full Review
Exogal Comet DAC, $2,500.00
The Exogal Comet DAC is a hair away from Class A. "The Comet delivers more than its fair share of the musical message and is very capable of keeping you connected to your music over time. Highly recommended." Read the Full Review
M2Tech Young DSD DAC, $1,695.00
Listening to the Young DSD DAC/Digital Preamp was a pure, relaxing pleasure. "The Young DSD DAC is like a comfy sofa of sound, inviting you in to stay as long as you'd like and play whatever music suits your mood" Read the Full Review
Metrum Acoustics Musette, $1399.99
The Musette is a non-oversamplng DAC (NOS) with a pair of Metrum-designed DACs inside that embue digits with music's spark of life. Impressive. "I also know some listeners simply like, love?, the NOS approach, in theory. Simple, direct, no nonsense. The Metrum Musette delivers this theory in music. Bravo! Read the Full Review.
NAD C 510 Direct Digital Preamp DAC, $1,299.00
The NAD C 510 offers a pure, clean, and clear view into your music while double duty as a digital preamp. "For many listeners, you really can't ask for much more." Read the Full Review
Pathos Converto, $1,295.00
The Pathos Converto impressed with its analog-like ease while retaining a nice sense of resolution? "For those looking for a PCM-only DAC and headphone amp that can handle up to 24/192 resolutions and who find most digital to sound overly-analytical, too incisive, harsh or sharp, the Pathos Acoustics Converto is worth your time and a long listen." Read the Full Review
PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC, $1,299.00
"The PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC offers the ability to play every common file format you can buy, exceptional build quality, and a way with your music that will leave you wanting more: Whether that's more time to listen or more music to listen to is up for grabs." Read the Full Review
Resonessence Labs Concero HD Digital to Analog Converter, $850.00CA
The Concero HD is a resolution animal and delivers the goods whether we're talking PCM, DXD, or DSD all in a nice, sleek and small package. "With the addition of DSD and DXD playback, Resonessence Labs has made a good thing better." Read the Full Review
Teac UD-501 Dual-Monaural PCM/DSD USB Digital to Analog Converter, $849.00
The Teac UD-501 delivers PCM, DXD, and DSD and it does so, so musically, and it does so for $849. "For those looking for a DSD-capable DAC without the need for preamplifier functionality but with the need for addictively engaging music, the Teac UD-501 comes very highly recommended." Read the Full Review

Class C

Asus Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition, $899.00
Offering 24/192 playback on all inputs including Asynchronous USB, Coax and Tosklink S/PDIF, single-ended and balanced outputs, and a very nice preamplifier and headphone amp, the MUSES is a budget-priced powerhouse. If you like your music served up mid-range rich and liquidy smooth, the Asus Xonar Essence One MUSES Edition may be for you. Read the Full Review
AudioQuest DragonFly Black ($99.00) and Red ($199.00)
"What I will say is given your system context, either DragonFly can make you very happy as they both fly way above their weight. The more resolving the associated gear and the more demanding the headphone, the more I'd bet on Red." Read the Full Review
iFi micro iDSD DAC, $499.00
The iFi micro iDSD DAC can play back up to DSD512 as well as PCM files with sample rates to 768kHz and double rate DXD! Can you spell future proof? "Of greatest importance beyond all of the bells and whistles is the fact that it makes some nice and natural sounding music you can pass along to your hi-fi or headphones." Read the Full Review
iFi nano iDSD DAC, $189.00
The iFI nano iDSD DAC offered a rich, round sound from the get go. "It offered a lovely dimensional quality to the music it reproduced that I've come to associate with a handful of mostly more expensive DACs." and, "The iDSD offers what I hear as a more fulsome, dimensional, and all around more engaging sound as compared to many of the like-competitors on the market."Read the Full Review
iFi iDAC, $299.00
The iFi iDAC and iUSBPower take their technology from Abbington Music Research's (AMR) pricier electronics and wraps them into small, affordable packages. The little iDAC is a mid-range rich, 24/192-capable tone monster and the iUSBPower makes it better. Read the Full Review
Korg Audiogate DS-DAC-100 high resolution audio playback system, $599.99
The Korg combo offered a very musically satisfying presentation with PCM and DSD. "If you're interested in a DAC that sounds at once resolute, natural, and lit up without ever getting harsh or shrill, the Korg combo is worth your time."Read the Full Review
Meridian Explorer USB DAC, $299.00
The Meridian Explorer USB DAC can handle up to 24/192 data and offers both fixed and variable headphone outputs. Small enough to fit in your pocket yet it packs one helluva musical punch. "I found the Explorer served music exceedingly well and very nicely balanced. This presentation means a focus on the music, which is exactly where we want to be." Read the Full Review
NAD D 1050, $499.00
"With a host of digital inputs including an asynchronous 24/192-capable USB port, a very nice sounding headphone amp, and single-ended and balanced outputs, the D 1050 wraps up a lot of functions into a visually and tactilely appealing package that also happens to be damn fun to listen to." Read the Full Review
Pono Player, $399.00
We don't have a proper category to put the Pono Player in since it is a portable digital audio player/headphone amp that can currently play back PCM resolutions up to 24/192 (DSD is on the way). When run balanced mode as a DAC connected to your hi-fi, Pono comes damn close to moving up to Class B. "If you are looking for a portable high res player that can do double duty in your hi-fi and deliver a very musical signal, especially when run in balanced mode, then absolutely consider the Pono Player. For $399, it strikes me as a steal of a deal." Read the Full Review
Discontinued
AudioQuest Dragonfly
AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.2
Halide Design DAC HD
LH Labs Geek Out 1000 DAC/Headphone Amplifier
LH Labs Geek Pulse Xfi
Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC
Schiit Loki
Simple Design Sonore/exD DAC
Wadia Digital 121Decoding Computer