Best Portable DAC/Amp Combo Reviewed

One of the major drawbacks to owning a lot of high end headphones is that they are usually not good at all with portable devices. The sound quality can be lacking, and carrying around a DAC/amp combo often feels like overkill.

But there are some great options on the market for those who want convenience while still getting an excellent listening experience.

Buying Guide

So what are the things you should look for when choosing a good portable DAC/amp combo? Let’s take a look at some important factors that will help you choose the best one for your needs.

How Portable Should it Be?

Most people want something that is very portable so they can carry it around in their backpack or purse wherever they go. The criteria for how small or light something is usually depends on what type of headphones are being used. However, there are some more picky requirements for headphones than others.

For example, the RE-400 is good regarding portability because it is just about the same size of a paperback book. On the other hand, the UE 900 sounds great on its own but is not very portable since it’s quite large.

What Type of Inputs Do You Need?

This is another important criteria to ensure you get the best portable DAC/amp combo possible. You need to understand how the various inputs on the amp and DAC buttons work.

Different headphones and portable devices will require different types of inputs to connect to them. Fortunately, most portable amp and portable DAC combos do include a decent amount of inputs (7 or 8). However, there are some where only 2 or 3 channels can be used for headphones.

How Much Does it Cost?

Price is definitely one of the major deciding factors when choosing a portable DAC/amp combo. However, there are a few things to consider when looking at price.

For example, a separate portable DAC/amp combo is going to cost a lot more than a portable device with the same set of features (i.e., portability and inputs). On the other hand, if you don’t need as many channels as others, then you will likely get more coverage for your headphones at a lower price.

5 Best Portable DAC/Amp Combo on the Market

Last update on 2022-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. FiiO Q1 Mark II Native DSD DAC & Amplifier for PC/MobilePhone

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FiiO Q1 Mark II Native DSD DAC & Amplifier for PC/MobilePhone
  • AUDIO QUALITY: Being equipped with the XMOS platform allows the Q1 Mark II to support decoding of more formats with outstanding performance – it is...
  • TECHNOLOGY: The Q1 Mark II employs a clever ADC volume adjustment mechanism – by accurately reconstructing the ADC curve, problems such as volume...
  • DESIGN: The fully metal exterior is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also effectively protects the Q1 Mark II's innards from electromagnetic...
  • VOLUME KNOB: The volume knob employs a unique obconical design, which allows us to maximize the knob's diameter to make it easier to rotate while...
  • SWITCHES: The Q1 Mark II features a switch for adjusting gain as well as another switch to fine-tune bass levels. Change the amount of gain depending...

Last update on 2022-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The FiiO Q1 Mark II was one of the first decent portable DAC/amp combos on the market. It was also one of the first to introduce DSD playback to a portable amp and DAC combo.

Pros:

  • The Q1 Mark II is incredibly small (about the size of a pack of cigarettes). It is powered by a regular microUSB cable (there are no batteries required).
  • It has plenty of power to drive most headphones with no issues at all. Once paired with an excellent DAC, the sound quality reached its full potential.
  • The sound quality is pretty good for such a tiny device.

Cons:

  • The Q1 Mark II is quite expensive considering the potential of similar audiophile grade DAC/amp combos on the market.

2. EarStudio ES100 MK2-24bit Portable High-Resolution Bluetooth Receiver/USB DAC/Headphone Amp with LDAC, aptX HD, aptX, AAC (3.5mm Unbalanced & 2.5mm Balanced Output)

Last update on 2022-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What really makes the EarStudio ES100 so great is its connectivity to high resolution Bluetooth devices. It also has an excellent amplifier with a built-in DAC.

Pros:

  • It has high resolution (24bit/192kHz) Bluetooth technology to allow you to stream high quality music. The sound quality is excellent.
  • There are many inputs including an auxiliary input for non-Bluetooth devices. You can also stream music directly to it from your computer or phone, too.
  • Another major benefit of the unit is that it can be used with a computer, mobile phone, and portable device (such as a tablet)

Cons:

  • It is quite expensive (though the sound quality does justify the price).

3. Monolith 124460 Portable Headphone Amplifier and Dac – Black with THX AAA Technology, Analog Input, Slim Design, Dirac Sensaround

Monolith 124460 Portable Headphone Amplifier and Dac - Black with THX AAA Technology, Analog Input,...
  • The world's most linear amplifier technology. The THX achromatic audio amplifier (THX aiaa) ensures the ultimate no-compromise Headphone audio...
  • Akm 4493 DAC detailed sound. Exceptional musicality. The AKM AK4493 is akm's new flagship 32-bit stereo Premium DAC. It supports PCM inputs up to...
  • Dirac sensaround expand your headspace. Music is usually mixed with loudspeakers in mind, Not headphones. As a result, Headphone listening is often...
  • Versatile inputs digital or analog - We've got you covered. This amplifier features a USB and a 3.5mm Optical input, as well as an analog 3.5mm stereo...
  • Dynamic range control: Use the DRC functionality to set the shelving Filters. The DRC starts with low-pass and high-pass Filters to split the low and...

Last update on 2022-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Monolith 124460 is one of the more popular portable DAC/amp combos on the market. The sound quality is great, making it an excellent choice for those looking to get the best audio experience out of their headphones.

Pros:

  • The design of the amp is quite attractive and slim which should fit easily in your bag. It should also be lightweight enough not to feel bulky or heavy.
  • There are a wide variety of inputs available so you can connect to almost any device or headphone out there.
  • The sound quality is excellent for the price.

Cons:

  • It is quite expensive considering it has no real disadvantages.

4. Topping Headphone Amplifier Decoder Topping NX4 DSD XMOS-XU208 DAC ES9038Q2M Chip Portable Headphone Amplifier Decoder (Black)

Linsoul Topping NX4 DSD Portable DAC with ES9038Q2M Chip, Longlasting Battery (Black)
  • 【HiFi DAC】TOPPING NX4 DSD adopts the ES9038Q2M chip. It can reach 20-100kHz frequency response range which is more than CD sound quality. The...
  • 【Aluminum Case&Easy to Use】The NX4 DSD is made with a full aluminum shell. It’s anti-scratching and long-lasting. Moreover, it comes with rubber...
  • 【Long-lasting Battery】Built-in 2400mAh large capacity battery, it provides 28 hours of playback for headphone amp and 7.5 hours of playback when...
  • 【Wide Compatibility】NX4 is compatible with various digital devices. It is an excellent pairing for laptops and smart phones. It’s equipped with...
  • 【Excellent Balanced Performance】With a selected output low resistance as 0.4ohm and selectable 0dB and 8.8dB gain, NX4 DSD can well handles...

Last update on 2022-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Topping NX4 is a great sounding portable DAC/amp combo. It has a pretty solid design and a good amount of power to drive most headphones.

Pros:

  • It comes with many inputs that will allow for connecting to almost any device or headphone around.
  • It looks very similar to the FiiO Q1 Mark II which is obviously a plus. The size should make it easy for anyone to carry around in their bag.
  • The sound quality is excellent for the price. The sound quality was noticeably improved from the Topping NX1 which was also quite good for its price range.

Cons:

  • It is pretty expensive considering there aren’t many other portable DAC/amp combos on the market.

5. XDUOO XD-05 Plus Headphone Amplifier AK4493EQ 32bit/384kHZ DSD256 DAC Portable Headphone Amplifier Black

No products found.

The XDUOO XD-05 is another great sounding portable DAC/amp combo. However, unlike the other choices on this list, it is designed to be used with your phone.

Pros:

  • This is a great looking device that will fit easily into your pocket or bag. Unlike most portable DACs and amp combos, the XD-05 only has one input (a 3.5mm jack for your phone).
  • The design is pretty stylish which should make it easy for almost anyone to carry around in their bag. It has a good amount of power for most headphones.
  • There are a wide variety of inputs available on the amplifier section which should allow you to connect to more devices and headphones than most portable DAC/amp combos.

Cons:

  • The integrated amp is quite picky when it comes to headphones that it doesn’t like.

Conclusion:

Portable DAC/amp combos are one of the best ways to get the most comfortable and highest quality audio playback from your headphones. They allow you to avoid lugging around an extra device when traveling.

Whether you are searching for a great looking portable amp to connect to your smartphones, a DAC/amp combo for your headphones, or a pair of headphones with a portability option, we have selected the top 5 portable DAC/amp combos on the market in 2022.

FAQ:

Q: How to choose a DAC for home or portable audio?

A: Compatibility: When buying a DAC it’s important to ensure that the model you choose features connections compatible with your specific input and output devices. Sound adjustments. : Everybody has a different expectation from the DAC they buy. … Size and portability: In this context,DACs are categorized as either portable or desktop devices. …

Q: Is a DAC and AMP worth it?

A: Your DAC is an extremely important stop on the good train audiophile. A headphone amp is a relatively low-powered amplifier that raises the low-voltage audio signal from a source device (be it a turntable, PC, or smartphone) to a sufficient level such that it can be converted (or transduced) into sound waves by the speakers inside your headphones.

Q: What is the difference between DAC, sound card and AMP?

A: Quality of the electronic parts like Capacitors,Transistors and the D/A Chip itself,which has a strong impact to audio quality (like Jitter and other interferences) Layout of the electronic circut in terms of signal processing and interferences Features like sampling rate,error correction,DSP etc. Connectivity like USB,XLR,Bluetooth etc.

Q: Do you need a DAC with a headphone amp?

A: No. Do not buy a DAC for Bluetooth headphones, as they will already have a DAC chip inside to handle converting the digital signal to an analog one to send to the headphone’s drivers. A second DAC would be redundant. I have a Project turntable, a 40 year old Pioneer integrated amp and 50 year old KLH speakers.