Best DACs Under $200 For The Best Music Experience

In order for music and other audio recordings to be available in digital format (ie 0s and 1s) (as a downloadable or streamable file), they must first be converted from analog to digital.

However, our hearing aids are not designed to perceive this format, so we need a DAC. DAC (or Digital to Analog Converter) is a tool used to convert a digital audio signal into an analog signal, so that we can hear it in the appropriate format. In most cases, the DAC is built into the device you are using to listen to music (TV, laptop, phone or tablet), but this version is not optimized for the best sound quality.

That’s why if you want to get the best sound quality from a DAC, you’ll need to purchase a separate device specifically designed for this purpose. You can use it with your laptop, TV, home theater system, phone, etc.

Even if there is a built-in version, it will be bypassed, and a separate DAC will be relied upon, creating a better audio experience.

Best DACs Under $200 For The Best Music Experience - The Best

Fortunately, you can buy a cheap external DAC from Amazon, which will allow you to get an audio experience that is closer to reproducing music. But like everything else, it is not easy to find the right DAC. The price starts at a few dollars and goes up to thousands of dollars. Fear not, in this article, I will cover some options that are under $200. They are versatile enough to work on any operating system and don’t need a separate AMP until you decide to use higher impedance headphones. let’s start.

Best DAC under $200

1. FiiO K1

FiiO K1 is for someone who is looking for one of the cheapest options available. Under $50, it looks pretty good. It draws power from the laptop like any other USB DAC and can play files up to 24bit/96kHz, which makes it impressive for the price. Connect it to your laptop and you will definitely hear higher quality and stronger sound. But it somewhat fails to provide a clean, more balanced tone.

Best DACs Under $200 For The Best Music Experience - The Best

It might save you a few bucks, provide you with cleaner sound but it still lacks the quality to qualify as a good DAC.

Buy FiiO K1 ($39.99)

2. Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Audio Cable

It’s a portable DAC convincing as it has a Type-C connector. It’s only intended for phones, although you can also use it with computers. So if you don’t want to use a dedicated music player but prefer to turn your phone into a better device for outputting audio with just cable, you might want to give it a try. The cable has Hi-Resolution certification and can achieve 24bit/192kHz output. It comes with a small case, in addition to that, there is also a Type-C to USB connector which can come in handy while using it with computers. Gold-tone four-way wire and 3.5mm TRS input.

Best DACs Under $200 For The Best Music Experience - The Best

It is definitely a well-made product as it offers features beyond 3 mode selection options, which allows you to improve not only the quality of the music but the quality of the connection as well.

Buy Hidizs Sonata HD DAC Audio Cable ($45.99)

3. Audio Quest DragonFly Black

Another affordable device with high customer satisfaction. It is very portable and powerful. Dragonfly Black comes with an additional USB setup and does not require any external drivers. In addition, it is capable of 24bit/96kHz data decoding. It’s not power-hungry, so it can be used with Windows, MAC, and with Android and Apple phones as well. Designed with the ESS ES9010 with a fast roll-off filter.

Best DACs Under $200 For The Best Music Experience - The Best

It also supports volume control from the host, so if you control the volume from the host (Mobile/PC), it will use the proxy and make a change from the console. So, if it plays MP3 files or high definition files, this easy plug and play DAC tool might be a great choice.

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What’s so cool about it? Its color will change depending on the quality of the audio you are broadcasting. So you will be able to know in real time if you are listening in high fidelity or not.

Buy DragonFly ($98.00)

4. iFi Audio Nano iDSD Black Label

Another DAC/Amp that has garnered great performance reviews. With a black coating, it delivers incredible sound quality, including high fidelity audio playback up to DSD256 or MQA with TIDAL Master. It includes a Burr-Brown Multibit DAC so you don’t have to connect it to any device.

Best DACs Under $200 For The Best Music Experience - The Best

The main problem is power generation. DACs often fail to provide adequate power to headphones, with Black Label you have settings to choose from. It has three power levels, Eco (2.0V/[email protected]), Normal (4.0V / 1,000mW @ 16Ohm) and Turbo (2.0V /[email protected]).

3D+ is another perfect feature for someone looking to immerse themselves in a live performance-like experience. Works best with closed headphones If you have one, imagine being able to listen to a concert as if you were a part of it.

Buy iDSD Black Label ($199.00)


It doesn’t really matter which DAC you choose unless you have a very low budget as functionality may vary. The ones discussed are portable and do not need any external drivers. Whether it’s DragonFly or BlackLabel, they both provide impeccable sound quality. I would say if there is a local shop, feel free to try it yourself. I’d also recommend buying a good pair of headphones/IEM with a streaming system like TIDAL that has HD audio to offer. Devices like this take time for you to invest in, but I am sure any spark will enable your ambition to be revived and it will make you a better decision-maker.

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