7 Best DACs Under $500 Reviewed

(Best DACs Under $500) Meridian Director USB DAC
Our Top Pick

Musical technology is at crossroads in the meantime. This is because of the slow but steady shift from analog to the digital platform. Most old storage devices are incompatible with the new sound outputs and vice versa. This is why a digital-to-analog converter is by all means called for.

For a start, a digital-to-analog converter is simply a piece of equipment that can convert digital signals into analog signals. It enables you to stream music and content from digital storage devices to analog output devices.

We have sampled and are going to review the seven Best DACs Under $500. We are also going to examine those factors to consider while looking for the most suitable one. We hope this gives you the guidance you require to make the right purchasing decision.

List of Top DAC Under $500

PhotoBrandPrice
Meridian Director USB DACMeridian
AudioQuest - DragonFly USB DACAudioQuest
Sony PHA1A Portable Hi-Res DACSony
SMSL Sanskrit Analog Audio DecoderSMSL
Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 DACCreative
Nero-XD 200W HiFi DACOSD Audio
xDuoo TA-01 USB DACxDuoo

5 Best DACs Under $500 Reviewed In 2018

1.Meridian Director USB DAC

If your search for an appliance of this kind is driven by the need to draw music using the USB storage device, then this is the appliance to go for. It is designed for just that kind of a purpose. Moreover, it delivers superior quality audio from any digital device.

Meridian Director USB DAC
 View on Amazon

Meridian Resolution Enhancement Technologies: At the top of its features is the Meridian resolution enhancement technology. This comprises the awesome apodizing and upsampling. This technology, therefore, sees to it that the end result id robust, reliable, and of the right possible frequency. This eliminates any distortions that may compromise the final outcomes.

800 Series Components: Other than the resolution enhancement technologies stated above, the device has the ability to enhance the overall audio quality. It does so by use of these 800 Series components. These enhancements include removal of any distortions, noises, overtones, and stray sounds that are not part of the overall sound output.

Great Add-on: Other than streaming content from digital-to-analog appliances, this device can also act as an add-on. It may be attached to other devices in a network. This way, it communicates well and shares information with such devices. This leads to greater convenience and outcomes that are ordinarily out of reach of soo devices.

Advantage
  • Works well with several input devices such as cables, USB, and optical devices
  • Enhances the sound output and performances of analog hi-fi systems
  • Performs much better than most other appliances of its kind
  • Generates pretty quality audio sounds
  • Upgrades most other musical components and appliances
Disadvantage
  • Costs more than most other devices
  • Quite complicated to comprehend
  • May pose certain compatibility issues

Summary: Well, you have no option but to acquire this device to leverage the superior audio quality and the ability to accept inputs from various devices. You definitely want higher returns on the amount of money you invest, don’t you?


2.AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC

Are you constantly on the move? Would you wish to enjoy your favorite audio tunes while on the go? Did I hear you answer yes? This indeed could be the device you have been searching for all along. It is portable ye reliable enough to perform well under such circumstances as you are about to see.

AudioQuest - DragonFly USB DAC
 View on Amazon

2.1-volt Output: This device exudes 2.1 volts of power output. By reason of the existence of this feature, the device is compatible with a range of like-minded electronics. These include headphones, audio jacks, speakers, and woofers. It can also work well with both low and high-efficiency devices for your utmost convenience.

2-Port Adapter: Unlike most other adapters, this one has two rather than just one adapter. As such, it has the ability to multitask i.e. perform more than one chore at a time. It is as such great for those circumstances that call for several devices to be employed and utilized at a time.

Bit-perfect Digital Volume Control: With this control mechanism, you will be able to vary the signal-to-noise ratio, dynamic contrasts, and fidelity of the sounds the device exudes. This way, you will be able to derive the best ever sound outputs and quality. This will also spare your ears from any possible damages as a result of excessively loud sounds.

Advantage
  • Small and compact enough to travel around with
  • Plugs into your USB port as well
  • Unaffected by the computer’s compromised audio circuitry
  • Delivers cleaner and beautiful sounds
  • Works well with a vast array of audio systems
Disadvantage
  • Requires several types of equipment to operate
  • Lacks a number of vital features
  • Returns less value for money

Summary: You just cannot resist the ability of the device to plug into your USB port and its two adapters. This is not to mention its ability to perform well in remote locales. Grab it for the sake of enhancing your next journey or trip!


3.Sony PHA1A Portable Hi-Res DAC

For a device of this kind to be used in extremely remote areas, it has to be equally portable and easy to handle. Moreover, it has to be perfectly suited for such environments as well. These are the needs that this particular appliance is designed and manufactured to meet.

Sony PHA1A Portable Hi-Res DAC
 View on Amazon

High-quality Amplification Circuits: All factors considered, this device yields outstanding performance and reliable signals. This is made possible by the high-quality amplification circuit. It gives rise to minimal distortions, higher slew rates, and low noise. These in turn yield sounds of impeccable quality which are great to listen to.

Asynchronous USB 2.0 Clock: In its interior is an asynchronous USB 2.0 clock. The role of this clock is to support the conversion of digital signals to analog sounds. It is pretty accurate in doing so as it eliminates any downtimes, errors, and other distortions. This leads to sounds of higher quality on the whole.

2-position Side-mounted Gain Switch: To further enhance the overall quality of your music, this device comes along with the gain switch. It has two positions and is mounted at the sides. It plays the role of altering and determining the desired impedances. This brings along the benefit of great sound output that is unprecedented with other appliances.

Advantage
  • Simpler to carry around by reason of being very light
  • Enclosed by aluminum for great performance
  • Longer battery life of around 6 hours
  • Shielded from most other dangers and possibilities of damages
  • Not prone to dangers and impacts from external sources at all
Disadvantage
  • Accommodates fewer equipment
  • Brings along fewer uses and benefits
  • Backed by less comprehensive warranty

Summary: Why else would you wish to forfeit the benefit of longer battery life? This is by far the most significant trait if you intend to use the device in a remote location. Its accurate conversion of digital-to-analog signals is also a bonus you might want to leverage.


4.SMSL Sanskrit Analog Audio Decoder

Do you intend to discharge sounds to external powerful speakers? Are you also looking for a bulky device which you may mount on a permanently fixed position? You may have to consider this appliance. As you are about to see, it fits both bills too well by reason of its possession of all the relevant features.

SMSL Sanskrit Analog Audio Decoder
 View on Amazon

High Sampling Rate: Compared to most other devices of its kind, this one has a higher bandwidth. This stems from its possession of a high sampling rate of 32 kHz-192 kHz. For this reason, it can produce higher sound quality besides accommodating several devices at a time. This brings along the benefit of maximum convenience to you.

Low Power Consumption: Also setting it apart from the others is its lower power consumption of just about 3.1W. This notwithstanding, its output is better than those of most devices of its kinds. You will not have to break your bank to be able to maintain and operate it at all.

Legible Standby Power Consumption: Most devices of this kind consume a significant amount of electrical energy even when not in use. This is not the case with this particular device. Its standby power consumption is way too negligible. It consumes a paltry 0.8W. This shall also go a long way in reducing your utility bills and keep your operational expenses to the absolute minimum.

Advantage
  • Can connect to headphones, speakers, and amplifier
  • Receives signals via optical, coaxial cable, and USB data transmission systems
  • Works well with ordinary televisions, smart televisions, and smartphones
  • Handles both the synchronous and asynchronous transmissions
  • Compatible with the Windows, Linux, iOS, and MacOS operating systems
Disadvantage
  • Moderately bulky
  • Cumbersome to move around
  • Has a nondescript appearance

Summary: By reason of being able to work well with both the synchronous and asynchronous transmissions, this is your device of choice indeed. Its ability to run on the Windows, Linux, iOS, and MacOS makes it all the more outstanding!


5.Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 DAC

Powerful musical instruments require an equally robust and powerful digital-to-analog converter. This is to keep pace with the high data transmission rate and sound outputs needed. With the ability to generate the needed hi-resolution power output, this device is great for such circumstances. The mini-review that follows examines it in greater details.

Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 DAC
 View on Amazon

Industry-leading Audio Processing: Of all the devices in consideration, none beats this device in processing the various sounds. This stems from its possession of the latest audio processing and enhancement technology. As such, it yields greatly improved gaming, music audio, and movies that are unequaled by others. Give it a topmost priority in such circumstances.

Scout 2.0 Radar: Next in line of its key features is the scout radar version 2.0. This basically keeps an accurate track of your opponents in a gaming session. It, therefore, bolsters your chances of winning whichever contest you are engaged in. What’s more? It also works well on smartphones screens!

Aurora Reactive Lighting System: Throughout the converter is a series of lighting systems. They basically highlight the major effects and tasks in progress. The lighting system utilizes the red, green, and blue color system to do this. They are also customizable to let you track progress better. This leads to greater gaming experience on the whole.

Advantage
  • Yields higher accuracy and sound clarity than most converters
  • Amplifies sound over and above merely converting
  • Suffers less to ultra-low distortion and jitters
  • Delivers high-resolution audio than most other converters
  • Astonishingly pristine and easier to comprehend
Disadvantage
  • Incompatible with certain devices
  • Gives rise to low power output
  • Not so reputable brand

Summary: Its diminished vulnerability to ultra-low distortion and jitters as well as the production of high-resolution audio are two benefits you want to leverage at all cost. You definitely would want to acquire this converter by hook or crook.


6.Nero-XD 200W HiFi DAC

A typical household comprises several pieces of musical instruments and devices. These devices have varying configurations which require unique connections and approaches. A universal digital-to-analog converter like this one is by all means called for under such circumstances. As you shall see shortly, it works well with just about every other configuration out there.

Nero-XD 200W HiFi DAC
 View on Amazon

Efficient Class D Technology: The device makes good use of the highly efficient class D amplifier technology. This technology is more energy efficient than most ones in use today. This mainly stems from the fact that it generates less heat energy than the other technologies in use. You shall, therefore, spend less to settle utility bills.

Higher Amplifier Rating: Further to the above benefits is the fact that this amplifier is compact yet extremely powerful. It has a rating 50W by 2. It doubles up as a good source of sound to the bookshelf and tower speakers. For this reason, you will yield the desired ends without having to dig deeper in your pocket.

Built-in 4.1 Bluetooth Receiver: Lastly, it does have a built-in version 4.1 Bluetooth receiver. This lets it send and receive data and tracks from other like-minded devices. It does so by synchronizing the device with your laptop and smartphones. It has a longer range of 65 feet. This further improves your overall convenience.

Advantage
  • Confers to you the benefit high-quality sound output
  • Suffers from zero distortions and low noise levels
  • Interfaces and works well with a vast array of other sound systems
  • Fits the cabinets and shelves easily due to its compact size
  • Comes along with a remote control for simplified use
Disadvantage
  • Takes up more space notwithstanding its compact size
  • Uses more electrical energy
  • Has fewer uses and applicability

Summary: Given its ability to fit well in shelves and cabinets, you may count on it to grant you the convenience you badly need. Moreover, its ability to synchronize and work well with other devices of its kind makes it a ‘must have’.


7.xDuoo TA-01 USB DAC

Discos and other forms of public entertainment require extremely powerful speakers. This is due to the high number of sound absorbers. It is also informed by the numerous obstacles that the sound has to confront. An equally powerful converter is by all means necessary. Try your hand on this one.

xDuoo TA-01 USB DAC
 View on Amazon

Built-in Over-voltage/Over-current Protection: In the course of generating such power, the possibilities of higher voltage or current arising are not remote. Being hazardous, they have to be contained and mitigated. This is where the protections of these kinds come in handy. They see to it that the set limits are not exceeded for maximum safety.

Built-in Mute Circuit: Other than the voltage and current, there is also the need to regulate the volume of sound. This is to keep it to optimal levels and guarantee the highest ever quality. This is where this built-in mute circuit comes in handy. It filters out excess noise and blocks any other unwanted sounds.

Aluminum-shielded Case: Its interior contents and circuits are shielded from external interferences and noise. This is by use of this Aluminum-shielded case. In light of this, the device lasts longer than most of its competitors. It is also less compromised by the mentioned external factors. You may count on it to be of good use to you in the long run.

Advantage
  • Interfaces and works well with various kinds of headphones
  • Produces soft sounds of optimal speeds
  • Has a high-precision correspondence level clock
  • Diminishes the jitters to undetectable levels
  • Gives off first-class sound performances
Disadvantage
  • Quite weighty (weighs 2.14 pounds/1 kg)
  • Cannot mount anywhere
  • Does not accommodate batteries

Summary: Why would you even think of not leveraging the benefits first-class sound performance? And won’t you also want a device that can match and work well with different headphones? Find this device wherever you might find it soonest possible!

How To Choose The Right DAC?


Electrical Power Consumption: 
As you may well have noted, these devices consume some electrical energy to operate. However, their electrical consumption levels differ from one device to another. This translates to differences in utility costs. Given that you would not want to spend too much, it is in your best interest to find one that has the least electrical power consumption level.

Sound Output Levels: Just like electrical power, the qualities of sound that these devices generate also differ markedly. To receive the output you so desire, you definitely want to consider this as well. If you plan to utilize it outdoors, find one that has the highest sound output levels. The opposite should be the case for indoor or home use.

Ports and Interfaces: Ports and interfaces are parts of the devices that enable them to communicate and share content with other like-minded devices. The best converter under this consideration should be one that can communicate and share contents with as many like-minded devices as possible. This can only happen if I have as many ports and possible.

Available Mounting Space: They also take up physical spaces to mount in times of use and store when not in use. Factor this into consideration as well. Generally speaking, you want a converter that is smaller in size and can fit just about anywhere. You also want one that will blend well with your other electronics.

Location of Use: Not all converters can be used in remote locations. Quite a number are only suited for indoor use whereas several others can do well both indoors and outdoors. You should, therefore, determine where exactly you would wish to utilize your converter. A small, light, and portable one would be the best one.

Desired Frequency of Use: ‘How often do you intend to use the converter?’ These converters have varying degrees of thickness, durability, and lifespan. They also feature varying material construction. To be on the safe side, you want one that is extremely tough and durable. This is to minimize damages and guarantee long-term reliability.

The Final Words (Summary)

Well, our expensive review and buying guide above is surely insightful. It has indeed granted you the guidance you need to get started well.

Indeed, the best DAC under 500 dollars, we have reviewed above are great and unique in their own rights. They are likely to yield you the satisfaction you require in gadgets of this kind.

That is why we now ask you to go a step further and purchase at least one of them. Do not waste too much time or hesitate to take this bold step. The benefits are too great to be postponed or pushed forward.

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