Top 10 Best Desktop DAC/Amp Combo

It is quite difficult to envision our life devoid of music. Music is entwined with most of our daily life.

A top digital audio converter (DAC) of the highest quality is quite essential for an audiophile PC setup because a motherboard’s stock sound card was not designed to replicate lossless audio. A high-quality headphone amplifier is equally important as solid studio-grade headphones when it comes to enjoying music from a good sound output mechanism. We have researched the best DAC/amp combos so you can enjoy the best set up possible.

You can choose to purchase separate components, but we believe a good DAC/Amp combo streamlines the process and reduces the need for cables and additional expense. Here are out top 10 DAC/Amp combos. Let’s get started!

Top 10 Best Desktop DAC/Amp Combo

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Burson Audio Conductor 3x

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The Burson Audio Conductor is our first pick in this review for the 10 best desktop DAC combos. It highlights everything that you record with impeccable attention to detail. It can even capture the likes of fingers sliding on strings or details within distortion.

Everything that is recorded on the Burson Audio Conductor comes out brilliantly well. The most popular songs will sound wonderfully different. We should also note that it requires drivers for a Windows machine but is more or less a plug and play device. 

Chord Mojo Black

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Its design may be polarizing for some but we loved it. It will fit into your pocket quite easily and will give you countless hours of musical entertainment. The Chord Mojo comes paired with the HD600 or Etymotic ER-4RP which will give you equally excellent variations that are good on your ears. It’s the perfect way to get crystal clear audio.

Monolith 124459 Desktop Amp DAC

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The Monolith can be described as quite simply as pure music. The sound is unmatched and beats many other competitors. It doesn’t miss anything that is recorded. Most DAC combos sound a bit flat but you can’t say the same about this. Its only drawback is you will have to manually install an audio driver. This may be a deal-breaker for some but once you install it you will be amazed at the excellence of the device.

iFi Pro iDSD

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If you’re looking for a brilliant range of features then the iFi Pro iDSD could well be the model you’re looking for. Along with being a brilliant DAC, it works perfectly for network streaming along with having solid-state and tube amp circuits. It helps to give a very smooth sound and much better than many of its cheaper rivals. You’ll fall in love with the powerful high-resolution audio.

Pro-Ject Audio Head Box S2 Digital

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Small and pretty with an excellent sound improvement from many audio devices. Its only downside is its volume seems to be on the lower side but that can be easily solved. It adds a significant upgrade to your headphones and allows you to shape the sound to exactly what you want. It’s also highly durable so it’s great for those looking for a portable solution.

Questyle CMA Twelve

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The Questyle CMA Twelve is excellently designed and built audio gear. It’s made to make headphones perform brilliantly and is possibly the best all-rounder available today. If you are a digital listener, and if you have a good pair of headphones or a collection of headphones that you are looking to squeeze out the last few percentage points of performance, then the CMA Twelve is very appealing. There is alsoa great range of inputs/outputs here.

RME Audio ADI-2 DAC

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This is the same DAC combo used by many recording studios. However, it comes with an unnerving 200-page manual though. What we didn’t like about the manual is that it’s written in a not so user-friendly way. If you can get past this hurdle then you will enjoy the excellent sound output. It can be a steep learning curve but it’s worth it for the phenomenal sound quality and functionality.

AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt

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The AudioQuest Dragonfly is the perfect portable DAC. It’s small and plays from your back pocket while hanging on your phone. It requires no extra batteries and won’t drain your phone’s battery and leans the sound quality of your portable system next to audiophiles. If you need perfect sound while on the move, then get this.

Audioengine D1

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The construction of the Audioengine D1 is quite solid and we like its design. The front in particular feels very smooth and easy to use. For a small device it has a good range of inputs/outputs and they are able to deliver impressive quality. It also comes with a strong warranty so you can buy it with confidence.

Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100

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The Cambridge DACMagic 100 does an excellent job of turning bits into analogue sound. We could listen to the Cambridge Audio DACMagic for hours on end. It’s also on the lower end of the price scale, making it phenomenal value for money. Its sound quality doesn’t quite match the excellence of some of the options above but for a budget option, it can’t be beaten.

Final thoughts

Adding an external DAC and amplifier will do wonders for your listening experience. Your device’s default DAC or sound card may not provide the best audio quality. The sound quality depends on many factors including bit rate and digital filters. A DAC can bypass the default lower audio decoding present on your computer or smartphone. As a result, the output sound adds more precision to the original audio.

So the main reason to get a DAC/AMP combo is to enjoy premium sound every time you listen to music, watch a video or play a high-end game. If you’re new to the audiophile route, you might just have a good media player or a sturdy pair of headphones. But there is a lot more to do if you want to achieve truly lossless audio quality. DACs are highly preferred over the internal equipment of your computer or MP3 player, as these dedicated units have better conversion chips, power supplies, and output circuitry than what’s in your media device.

Upgrading to an external DAC will improve amplification, as they are usually paired with an amp. Together, the two enhance dynamics, sound staging, and all other aspects of your audio. All of the DACs we list includes a built-in headphone amplifier. This way you can handle high and low impedance headphones with just one device.

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