Best DAC Amp Combo in 2022 (For Every Budget) – Ultimate Guide

Looking for a dac/amp combo that will completely transform your listening experience? This article will provide you with the eleven best dac/amp combos in different budgets.

The dac/amp combo industry is riddled with jargon. the many difficult terms and technical aspects can help someone new to dac/amps.

Reading: Headphone dac and amp combo

so deciding which dac/amp is the best can be very difficult. however, don’t worry, because in this article, I’ll simplify all the technical jargon and put it into simple words that novice audio enthusiasts can understand.

A good dac/amplifier is the cornerstone of an audio setup. it is the main component on which complete audio configurations are built; therefore, it must be good regardless of budget.

Are you excited to learn about the best dac/amp combos? without further ado, let’s go directly to the article.

The following is a look at all of the amazing dac/amp combos I’ll be reviewing in this article. eager to know more about them, right?

*for more information on the dac/amp combos below, click the “jump to review” button to go to our detailed review of that dac/amp.

design and build quality

the devil idsd ifi has a unique design. instead of opting for the square design, the manufacturer has opted for rounded sides.

This is a good decision because it gives the dac/amp a more sophisticated look, which better fits the theme and price of the ifi idsd diablo.

the ifi idsd diablo is only available in a bright red color. albeit a bit too much for my liking, I still have to give it to ifi for not going with the boring black or silver color scheme.

The black rubber texture on the volume wheel is nice to hold and its black color also contrasts with the red color scheme.

Departing from the design for a second, you’d be hard pressed to know that the idsd diablo ifi is only 166m long, 72mm wide and 25mm thick. it’s amazing how small the manufacturer has managed to pack down this dac/amp.

I am very pleased that the quirky design and small size have no effect on the build quality of the ifi idsd diablo.

it is built like a tank with solid materials around it. The case is made from cnc-milled aluminum, while all the knobs and buttons are also carved from metal for a consistent feel.

input and output

the devil idsd ifi has only the basic input and output ports to cover the daily connectivity needs of users.

This simple approach may be frowned upon by some people, especially since this product is priced so high, but it is done this way to reduce complexity.

You’ll find a textured volume wheel on the front of this dac/amp, which feels really nice to hold. due to its analog nature, turning the knob is also very satisfying. the volume knob doubles as the power button.

To the right of the volume knob is the mode toggle switch with 3 different presets. This toggle switch adjusts the power output of the dac/amp, and when more power is needed, users can simply flip this switch high to drive the most demanding high-impedance headphones.

Finally, there is a 4.4mm balanced headphone output and a 6.35mm or 1/4-inch output. switching to the back of the dam amp, you will find the usb input and the spdif (coax/optical input) on the dac.

Also present on the back of the idsd diablo ifi is a 4.4mm balanced output port and a 5v usb power port.


features are not a strong point of the ifi idsd diablo. this is a simple dac/amp made with the old formula of function over form.

ifi idsd diablo is a dac/amplifier with a lot of emphasis on the best sound quality. Not much thought was given to extras like features when designing this dac/amp.

therefore the only notable features of this dac/amp are more related to improved functionality. I mean the mode change switch on the front of the device.

The mode switch is very useful and depending on the headphone power requirements you can quickly adjust your dac/amp to meet the headphone power requirements.

There are three positions you can choose from: low, medium and high. Low mode is for low-impedance headphones that don’t require a lot of power to run. we’re talking about 32 ohm to 100 ohm headphones.

the medium setting is for headphones that are relatively difficult to handle. headphones with an impedance of 100 ohms to 250 ohms fall into this range.

high mode is specially designed for headphones that require a lot of power. think of headphones with an impedance of more than 500 ohms. the high setting on these headphones will work just fine.


the sound of the ifi idsd diablo will blow your mind whether you’re coming from a low end dac/amp or even a cheaper ifi dac/amp because the sound quality you’ll find here is a cut above the rest.

the ifi idsd diablo focuses on improving the sound by refining and cleaning it up. as a result, the sound output here is very precise and clear. through this dac/amplifier, you will start to hear the subtle nuances in the sound that you might not have been able to pick up before.

the ifi idsd diablo does all of that while maintaining a balanced, neutral sound signature. The high-fidelity sound produced by the IDSD Diablo IFI is only possible because it comes with an industry-renowned Burr-Brown chip inside.

As for the technical specifications, this dac/amp supports all types of hi-res files. it can play 32bit/786khz pcm files without worry. it also has support for dsd 512 and mqa playback. you can enjoy playing these files on the audio device of your choice because the ifi idsd diablo has enough power to drive all kinds of headphones, speakers, or other audio equipment.

design and build quality

the design of the rme adi-2 pro is little aspirational. it’s a rectangular box containing some buttons and switches.

some people prefer this clean and simple design because it makes it much easier to integrate the dac/amp into different setups. however, if I am paying such a high amount, I don’t want my dac/amp to look like any other dac/amp available on the market.

While the design of this dac/amp may be generic, its build quality is spectacular. The entire body of this dac/amp is made from a single piece of milled aluminum.

The aluminum used to build this dac/amp is of a very high quality. It has a refined, smooth texture, giving the dac/amp a premium feel in the hand.

The buttons on this dac/amp are also carved from high-quality materials that mimic the aluminum used for the body of the dac/amp.

Despite being a professional dac/amplifier, the size of the rme-adi 2 pro is quite compact for what it is. you can certainly use it on your desktop without it connecting with other devices on the desktop.

input and output

the rme adi-2 pro comes with multiple inputs and outputs. the connectivity offered by this dac/amp through its input and output ports is simply outstanding.

The main thing that catches the eye is the led screen on the front, which has very sharp images. To the left of the screen, you’ll find the Treble and Bass knobs.

Meanwhile, to the right of the screen is the volume knob. the volume knob has a led chapter ring around it, which glows different colors depending on the dac/amp’s current use case.

Options on the front of the dac/amp include the four dedicated toggle buttons for volume, I/O, EQ and settings. these four buttons are shortcut buttons for the respective options on the screen.

Lastly, on the front of this dac/amp, you get a 4.4mm balanced headphone output and a 6.35mm balanced headphone output.

Moving to the back of the dac/amp, this is where the main party is. users can choose between usb input, optical input, s/pdif, aes-3, and a proprietary port for digital inputs. A splitter cable comes in this dac/amp box, plugs into this proprietary port and adds additional connectivity.

You get a pair of 3-pin xlr ports and two trs connectors for the analog inputs. In addition to all these ports, there is also a DC power port on the back of this dac/amp.


the rme adi-2 pro has an industry leading consortium of features that make using this dac/amp combo better than others available on the market.

while a front mounted led display is available on many dac/amps, the rme adi-2 pro takes it to a new level. the screen offered here has sharp images and is packed with many useful options.

so unlike other dac/amps, the rme adi-2 pro’s led display isn’t just for stat-filling, it’s also highly functional. It has important functions like input selection, filter selection, etc.

The display is excellent, but the most significant feature of this dac/amp combo has to be the ability to apply different EQs and change the treble and bass frequencies on the fly. To adjust the treble and bass, there are separate knobs that provide fine-tuning control to users.


although the rme adi-2 pro offers many sound customization options, most of the time you won’t need to use them. the sound quality of this dac/amplifier is simply amazing.

You can get a raw, unadulterated experience here. without adding any coloration to the sound, this dac/amp brings out its crispness and richness. cleans the audio signal and amplifies it very well.

This results in maximum clarity, a feature you’ll get with this dac/amp. It’s hard to explain the sound quality of this dac/amp because it’s so simple and clean yet so intricate and crisp.

For people looking for video playback specs, this dac/amp supports files up to 786khz. it also has support for dsd 256 playback. a pretty standard set of specs for any good dac/amp. however, there is no official mqa playback support here, which is somewhat disappointing if you use a lot of tidal.

being a high end dac/amp powerhouse shouldn’t be a cause for concern either. As a result, the rme adi-2 pro can drive any planar or dynamic magnetic headphone quite easily.

design and build quality

the cambridge audio cxa81 is a big and heavy dac/amplifier; there is no escape from that. however, this necessary weight is needed to fit top of the line components to this dac/amp.

Cambridge Audio has played it safe with the design of this dac/amplifier. they have used the generic silver color, which blends well with any setting and looks good in any environment.

Since this dac/amp is around $1500, I would have liked to see something extra. A bit of cutting edge design wouldn’t have gone amiss to make this dac/amp stand out from the rest of the pack.

While the company may have paid little attention to making the product look beautiful, they certainly haven’t skimped on build quality.

The build quality of this dac/amp is simply excellent. The entire outer casing of the dac/amp is made from high grade aluminum, giving it a premium feel.

also the whole dac/amp is put together very well. the case is refined with no sharp edges, showing high quality.

input and output

The Cambridge Audio CXA81 has many I/O ports, making it stand out on the connectivity front. you’ll find contemporary solutions and more traditional ports on this dac/amp.

Starting from the front, this dac/amp comes with a 3.5mm output port, to the left of which is the volume knob

The complexities of this dac/amplifier are endless. it has multiple buttons, some of which control very specific specialized tasks. you may not get any use out of them, but they are certainly nice to have.

Moving to the back of the dac/amp, you’ll find a plethora of ports needed for seamless connectivity.

From left to right, ports include a pair of optical toslink input, coaxial s/p dif input, usb type b input, and bluetooth. These are all the analog and digital inputs available on this dac/amp.

Being a preamplifier, the Cambridge Audio CXA81 has dedicated ports for speakers and a subwoofer. On top of that, this dac/amplifier also comes with binding posts that allow you to route power to the speakers on the cambridge audio cxa81.

To provide all of these options, this dac/amp uses an AC power interface and the power port is located on the far left of the dac/amp.


the features of the cambridge audio cxa81 mainly focused on improving the sound and power handling capabilities of this dac/amplifier.

The first important feature I’d like to point out is support for bluetooth connectivity. bluetooth connectivity makes everything so convenient.

Nowadays, almost all devices such as mobile phones, laptops, audio players, etc. can be paired instantly via bluetooth connection, making this dac/amplifier an ideal choice. however, that’s it for the features of this dac/amp.

sound quality

The sound quality makes the extremely high price of the Cambridge Audio CXA81 easy to swallow.

This dac/amplifier comes with top of the line audio hardware. has the ess know se9010k2m dac. This dac supports playback of 32bit/384khz audio files with up to 256 data streams.

Technical details aside, this results in the Cambridge Audio CXA81 having punchy, detailed audio. detail is the name of the game here because this dac/amp can produce details and highlights that you might not have heard otherwise.

This dac/amp doesn’t shy away from keeping the sound as neutral as possible. so if you’re not using an audiophile headphone with this dac/amp, you’re in for a bad time.

cambridge audio cxa81 also excels in terms of power handling. this dac/amplifier can easily support all kinds of headphones.

you can use basic 32 ohm headphones like the shp9500 or the $5000 sennheiser hd 820 with this dac/amp without any problem.

however, you’ll feel the most drastic improvement in sound quality with high-end audiophile headphones.

Overall, the sound quality of the cambridge audio cxa81 is fantastic. This dac/amp provides users with clear and detailed sound. If money is not an issue and you have a high-end pair of headphones, then you can’t go wrong with the Cambridge Audio CXA81.

design and build quality

The liquid gold monolith certainly looks like a monolithic product as it has the company’s trademark design language.

The monolithic liquid gold is pretty compact for a high end dac/amp. Don’t get me wrong, this dac/amp isn’t quite a portable powerhouse yet, but it’s a very manageable size and won’t take up much desk space.

An interesting element I like about the design is the dual vents on the top of the dac/amp. they cool down the liquid gold monolith because it can get very hot due to its high-end hardware.

When it comes to build quality, no corners have been spared. The housing of this dac/amp is made of very high quality aluminum.

case finish is matte to glossy; All things considered, it gives the dac/amp a premium feel.

The liquid gold monolith not only feels premium, but it’s also built in that way. the body of this dac/amp has no flex whatsoever, and the whole unit is solid and durable.

even the knobs and switches are made of metal and have a premium feel.

entries and exits

the liquid gold monolith has just the right number of ports. all the ports here are the ones you will use frequently. however, some notable connectivity options are missing from this dac/amp.

Starting from the front, it has a gray volume dial. in addition to the volume dial, a button is used to select the input source, between digital and analog. another button allows users to toggle between each digital or analog source to select one.

plus you get a gain button, which is used to toggle between high, medium or low gain. lastly, the power button is to the right of the dac/amp.

As for the outputs, this dac/amp has a 4-pin balanced xlr output and a 6.25mm unbalanced output.

Going back to the back of the dac/amp, you’ll find multiple digital and analog inputs. users can choose between coaxial, usb type b and optical input for the digital inputs.

on the other hand, the analog outputs include unbalanced rca inputs and a pair of 3-pin xlr inputs. In addition to the input ports, there is also an auto power off button.

using this will automatically turn off the dac/amp when not in use, saving power and extending the life of the monolith liquid gold x.


There are not many features built into the liquid gold monolith. this is purely a dac/amplifier for audio enthusiasts who don’t care about features and instead want a sublime audio experience.

however, being subjective at the $1000 price point, this is a shortcoming of this dac/amp. I think the company should have at least added bluetooth connectivity for users looking to pair this wireless dac/amp with their mobile phones.

I see many people not buying this dac/amp due to its lack of features which is a deal breaker especially since monolith is charging such a high price.


sound is where the liquid gold monolith really shines. this dac/amplifier offers sublime sound quality and can really make your listening experience special.

See also: [Ultimate Guide] How to Test and Assess the Sound Quality of Headphones – Headphonesty

At the core of this device is the akm ak4493eq dac. this is a very high end dac found mostly in very capable audio devices.

the akm ak4493eq supports pcm inputs up to 768khz. the amp on the liquid gold monolith is also amazing. however, the specs are only a small part of the equation and the main deciding factor is real-world performance.

when paired with a headphone like the sennheiser hd 800, dac/amp brings out the best in headphones. With this dac/amp, everything sounds sharper and more detailed.

It also seems that the dac/amp has made the headphones produce more complex sounds, which were not present before. this clearly shows that monolithic liquid gold can handle headphones well.

This dac/amp adds a bit of warmth to the sound without sacrificing clarity or accuracy.

When it comes to headset pairing, you can safely use Monolithic Liquid Gold with most headsets. can drive all top level headphones with very high impedance ratings.

Overall, the Liquid Gold Monolith is a phenomenal sounding dac/amp. if all you’re looking for is a high-fidelity audio experience and you can sacrifice a few features, then monolithic liquid gold should be for you.

design and build quality

the design of the hifiman ef400 is simple. for their first aio offering, they wanted the device to have a low-key, understated look.

the hifiman ef400 is more compact than i thought. Despite having very high-end components, the company has managed to keep the dimensions of this dac/amp low. It measures just 246mm long and is 228mm wide and 61mm thick.

The boxy design of this dac/amp is reminiscent of the other dac/amps, and the matte black color is pretty generic too. however, the front of the dac/amp is finished in a silver tone to break the symmetry of the black.

the two-tone finish looks decent at best. however, most of you won’t care what your dac/amp looks like, so the most important thing is to check its build quality.

I am pleased to report that the build quality of the hifiman ef400 is spectacular. this dac/amplifier is manufactured with great precision and uses some of the best materials.

The dac/amp casing is made from thick, cnc-milled aluminium. Not only that, all the knobs and switches are also made from the same material, giving the hifiman ef400 a premium feel.

The entire dac/amp is bolted on very solidly and there is no rattling or flexing noise.

Overall, the hifiman ef400 is certainly very well built, but there is one small detail I would like to point out. the black text on the dac/amp is not readable on the silver background. this is a small drawback of this dac/amp.

input and output

hifiman was confident in the in/out department and did not take any unwanted risks. As a result, this dac/amp has all the essential basic connectivity.

The first thing you’ll immediately notice are the knobs on the front. Surely, they can’t both be volume knobs, right?

The left knob is the volume knob, while the right side knob acts as a 4-level function switch. Through this knob, users can choose between high gain number, high gain number, low gain number and low gain number.

There are also LED indicators in addition to this knob to let you know what mode you are in. Between the two knobs are the 3.5mm headphone output, 6.35mm output, 4.4mm balanced output, and a 4-pin balanced XLR output. .

on the back of the device, your options are relatively straightforward here. you can choose between usb type b and usb type c for the digital inputs.

As for the analog inputs, you get a pair of 3-pin balanced xlr inputs. there is also a single pair of rca outputs that connect to speakers.

Lastly, the AC power port is separate from the right side of the dac/amp, which has a dedicated power switch.


the hifiman ef400 focuses primarily on providing the best sound quality; therefore, it contains no embellishments. the priority of this dac/amp is the best sound, which the hifiman ef400 achieves with flying colours.

the functions of the hifiman ef400 focus more on sound. the 4-level function switch is a nice addition because it allows users to quickly toggle between different gain levels of the dac/amp on the fly.

On top of that, there are no featured features, which is disappointing because the dac/amp price is so high and cheaper devices offer more features.

sound quality

so far the hifiman ef400 is shaping up to be an excellent dac/amplifier, and the only thing left to discuss is sound quality.

hifiman has made big claims in the sound segment, so does this dac/amp live up to all of them?

hifiman not only lives up to those claims, he exceeds them. the hifiman ef400 has an r2r dac, which offers extremely natural and warm audio.

As a result, this device has a very smooth and detailed sound signature. I want to emphasize the soft part. this dac/amplifier rounds out the raw edges of the sound to maintain smoothness without sacrificing the sound’s natural tonality.

Audio enthusiasts and hobbyists alike will find the hifiman ef400’s appealing sound very pleasing.

The other area this dac/amp excels at is power handling. the amp, along with the r2r dac, is also pretty fantastic.

the hifiman ef400 can easily drive all high-end headphones. even the hifiman susvara, hifiman’s flagship headphone that costs over $6000, can be driven by the hifiman ef400 dac/amp.

Overall, the hifiman ef400 punches well above its weight. the sound of the hifiman ef400 is simply sublime, and its power handling delivery is amazing too. So if you’re looking for your first high-end dac/amp that can do it all, then you can’t go wrong with the hifiman ef400.

quality of construction and design

fiio k9 pro ess is a reasonably sized dac/amplifier that can happily live on your desk. It measures just 200 x 224.5mm and is 72mm thick; therefore, you can slide it under a monitor riser.

The housing of this dac/amp is made from cnc machined aluminium, giving it a very sturdy and solid feel. The aluminum used in making this dac/amp case is also quite thick, and touching the case produces a thick, dull sound.

fiio opted for a square design, which looks pretty good but is crisp to the touch. Priced under $1000, you shouldn’t buy a dac/amp with sharp edges, so it’s an oversight on your part.

aluminum is finished in a smooth matte black. although the quality of the case is excellent, the company has skimped on the buttons. the volume dial on this dac/amp is quite loose and therefore doesn’t show any feel when turning it. there are also no clicks that allow users to fine-tune the volume.

Text on the dac/amp around the ports and buttons blends into the matte black finish and is not visible in direct light. only at certain angles can you see the text, which can get quite annoying.

input and output

Fortunately, this k9 fiio process makes up for the lack of build quality in the intake section. the fiio k9 pro ess comes with all the ports you want in a modern dac/amp.

On the front of the dac/amp, to the right of the volume dial, you get a 4.4mm balanced output and a 6.35mm port. under the small round cap there is also a 4-pin xlr output.

You will find some ports and switches to the left of the volume dial. it has an output switch, a gain switch, an input button, and a power button from right to left.

Since the fiio k9 pro ess is both a preamp and a dac, you can select how you want this dac/amp to act via the output switch. gain switch allows users to switch between high, mid, and low presets.

moving on, the input button allows you to toggle between the different drive modes this dac/amp supports. there are five led indicators on the top right of the dac/amp, which illuminate depending on the selected input. in the last position is the power button, and you know what it’s used for, so let’s switch to the back of the dac/amp.

On the back panel, you’ll find a plethora of ports, but the most interesting is the power switch, which lets you choose between 110-115v AC output or 220-230v output.

Next to the power switch is the digital input section. the fiio supports bluetooth, coaxial, usb type c and an optical input.

later you will find all the analog inputs on the dac/amp. these include 4.4mm line input, rca line inputs, rca line outputs, and balanced xlr outputs.

A usb type c port on the right side of the dac/amp provides easy connectivity to mobile and portable devices. overall the connectivity of this dac/amp is excellent to say the least.


fiio k9 pro ess has a very impressive feature. The two most notable features provided with this dac/amp greatly enhance the user experience.

The first is bluetooth connectivity, which allows users to connect this wireless dac/amp to their mobile phones and bluetooth speakers. this is useful when you just want to listen to a couple of songs to brighten your mood before moving on to any other task for the day.

technically speaking, the bluetooth connection of this dac/amp is also very stable. during my use, I did not encounter a single signal drop. furthermore, the latency when using bluetooth is also quite minimal, resulting in a slight but bearable lag.

The second most interesting feature this dac/amp has is its compatibility with the fiio control app. This mobile app allows users to adjust the settings of this dac/amp on the go.

With the app, you can add different equalizers to the dac/amp, apply various filters, adjust its input settings, etc. the dac/amp on a bluetooth connection.

sound quality

Enough about the talk. let’s move on to the main reason you want to buy the fiio k9 pro ess, which is its sound profile.

fiio k9 pro ess has top-notch specs. It comes with a dual es9038pro dac on board. this results in the fiio k9 pro ess being compatible with dsd256 with pcm 32bit/384khz audio playback.

for amplification, the fiio k9 pro ess has a thx788+ amplifier. the thx788+ offers very clean power and gels with a high quality dac. the dac/amp is also compatible with mqa.

If you’re not a fan of stats like me, then all of this translates to a device that can deliver crisp, clean, clear audio.

However, fiio has added his touch. the soundstage when using the fiio k9 pro ess is much wider, resulting in an open and airy sound.

This is great for gaming because it results in the following:

  • less listening fatigue due to no loud sounds
  • more precise directional audio

These two features are very important for gamers. therefore, the fiio k9 pro ess is an ideal choice if you want to take your gaming headset to the next level.

design and build quality

the xduoo xd05 bal has a discreet and simple design. the square shape and matte silver color of this dac/amp is dull and nondescript.

While it’s not for everyone, the simple and clean design of this dac/amp makes it easy to blend into any setting. this is great if you want to use it as an all-in-one dac/amp for all your audio needs.

The only thing I find particularly odd in a good way about this dac/amp is its small size. Given the specs and hardware, I was expecting the xduoo xd05 bal to be a medium to large sized dac/amp, but to my surprise, it turned out quite compact.

The xduoo xd05 bal measures just 130mm long, 75mm wide and is 23mm thick. the numbers speak for themselves and you can see how small and compact this dac/amp is.

Although not exactly a portable dac/amp, you can take the xduoo xd05 bal with you when you go to a friend’s house or to an event

For this purpose, the build quality of the xduoo xd05 bal is fantastic. The housing of this dac/amp is made of aluminum. It has no sharp edges or rough textures, giving it a premium feel.

This dac/amp is quite robust and will survive the test of time thanks to its excellent construction.

I have no complaints in the build quality segment, and this dac/amp has really impressed me in this regard.

input and output

all good dac/amps need a solid input and output set to make it easy for users to connect the dac/amp to different sources and devices. xduoo has understood this need, which is shown in the port selection of this dac/amp.

the xduoo xd05 bal has all the input and output ports users would like to have in a modern dac/amp combo.

On the front of the xduoo xd05 bal, you’ll find a balanced 4.4mm output flanked by a 6.35mm or 1/4-inch output. To the left of these two ports is the oled display that shows various information about the dac/amp.

underneath the oled screen, you will find 3 different switches. the first adjusts the gain between high and low settings. the middle switch is used to toggle between the different boost levels, while the bottom switch acts as the power button.

Shifting our attention to the back, you’ll find all the input ports on this dac/amp. include coaxial/optical input, auxiliary, usb and a mini-xlr aes port.

Last but not least, you also get the 5v dc usb port and a power toggle switch. the power switch allows users to choose between usb and battery.

however, this is not the end of ports; you’ll also find them on the sides of this dac/amp. On the side, you get an OLED screen, which shows streaming information in real time (source, sample rates, and the mode in use).

In addition to the oled screen, there are three buttons (input, filter and bluetooth). allow users to change the input source, apply different filters, and connect the xduoo xd05 bal via bluetooth, respectively.


The xduoo xd05 bal has many features that users will find very beneficial. For starters, this dac/amp comes with not one, but two OLED screens configured to display different information.

this makes interfacing with the dac/amp very easy. all dac/amp information is available on these two screens; therefore, users can use that information to quickly configure settings or change presets. adds a new layer of convenience, which I’m sure many users will appreciate.

On top of that, another key feature of the xduoo xd05 bal is its bluetooth support. while other dac/amps do this, this one does it better than others. however, the difference is nothing amazing.

I would be glad to know that this dac/amp can also be battery operated. Although the battery only lasts 4 hours on a single charge, it is more than enough to listen to music on the go with the xduoo xd05 bal.

then we come to a lot of geek features this dac/amp has, that audio enthusiasts will appreciate. comes with a dedicated filter button, which is quite useful.

The included separate toggle switches for gain and bass boost are quite beneficial. especially the bass boost switch because a lot of users like to have a high bass for some songs, and this dac/amp that has the ability to adjust the bass boost on the fly is very useful.

sound quality

the xduoo xd05 bal has an impressive dac and amp under the hood, resulting in nice sound production.

This dac/amp is all about the fundamentals. it does not add any additional flair to the sound or alter the frequency. delivers a clean, neutral sound that accurately represents the sound signature of the headphones.

the amplifier, however, pronounces the sound of the headphones. the power handling capability of the xduoo xd05 bal is pretty good too.

This dac/amp can drive most headphones relatively well. however, don’t expect it to work with power-hungry magnetic planar headphones.

Overall, the xduoo xd05 bal is an excellent midrange dac/amp that can serve you well. pair this dac/amp with good dynamic headphones and you will have an amazing audio experience.

quality of construction and design

the ex5 topping is very well built. the body of the dac/amp is made of aluminum and has a nice weight to it. the feeling of quality becomes quite evident when you hold it in your hand.

The smooth matte finish is highly refined with a smooth texture. this dac/amp is solid and can survive occasional wear and tear with no problem. the edges of the ex5 topping are rounded, which makes it easier to hold.

the topping ex5 is a compact dac/amp. It measures just 174 x 138mm and is 45mm thick. the size of this device compared to the specs, as you will see later, is quite large.

input and output

the topping ex5 has decent connectivity that gets the job done. While nothing fancy, the I/O on this product is more than capable for most people.

on the front of this dac/amp you will find a 4 pin xlr connector and a 6.35mm or alternatively a 1/4 inch connector on the right. in the middle is a large lcd screen with all the crucial information about the dac/amp.

To the left of this large screen, you’ll find the volume knob. I know what you may be wondering: where are the switches and buttons on the ex5 topping? well, they’re perfectly integrated into the volume wheel, doubling as the power button and input selector.

Besides the mqa tag and topping x shenzhenaudio branding, there isn’t much on the front of the dac/amp, so let’s move on to the back.

You will find all input ports on the back of this device. digital inputs include coaxial, usb type b, and an optical input. Meanwhile, the analog inputs on this dac include rca outputs and dual xlr ports.

In addition to that, you’ll also find a bluetooth antenna on the right side of all input ports, which is later replaced by an AC power socket.


the topping ex5 has some features, but not as much as other dac/amps in this price range. this is the only segment where you are letting yourself down with the ex5 topping. however, the couple of notable features it does have are executed fantastically.

See also: 8 Best Headphones With Mic – Headphonesty

the implementation of the lcd screen on the front is quite well done. the orange font on the screen is very legible when you are away from the dac/amp. the screen is also interactive, and users can scroll through the different menus on the screen via the volume button.

Users can change the input, configure the different presets and even alter the settings of the ex5 topping using this screen. the only negative is that the screen isn’t the easiest to navigate, but for functionality it gets full marks.

The other main feature of this dac/amp is its bluetooth connectivity. the bluetooth connection works quite well with minimal delay. honestly most dac/amps have gotten pretty good with their bluetooth connectivity so its pretty hard to find a quality dac/amp these days that has a terrible bluetooth connection.

With this dac/amp, I experienced no hiccups, nor did the bluetooth signal drop due to my heavy use.

sound quality

other aspects can also help make a great dac/amp. the main selling point of any dac/amp is its sound quality, and i’m happy to report that the ex5 topping works quite well.

At the heart of the EX5 topping is a dual ES90038Q2M DAC. this high quality dac fits some of the best dressing products. Naturally, the sound quality of this dac is quite amazing.

topping has also made sure to use high quality hardware. the amplification from the ex5 topping is very good and, truth be told, it’s pretty comparable to more high-end dac/amps on this list.

however, for the price, the ex5 topping offers a very clean and crisp sound. gives the sound a warm texture, which translates into a better listening experience.

this dac/amplifier pairs well with dynamic midrange headphones like the sennheiser hd 598. it makes those headphones come to life; however, don’t expect to power 600 ohm headphones like the beyerdynamic dt 880 very well.

You will use the topping on some high impedance headphones, but it won’t use its full potential, so it’s better to use a more advanced dac/amp for those headphones.

if you are interested in technical specifications, this dac/amp works with dsd512 and pcm768khz. it is also compatible with mqa and has an output per channel of 1300 mw.

all this translates into a fairly dynamic dac/amp for use with dynamic headphones with an impedance of 32-250 ohms.

design and build quality

you’ll be amazed at the size of the khadas tone2 pro. it comes in the size of a credit card, well not literally, but you get the picture. it is quite remarkable to have a dac/amp so small that it weighs less than 100 grams.

however, despite being lightweight, the build quality of this dac/amp is excellent. the khadas tone2 pro case is made of aluminum and has a dense feel in the hand.

the strength and rigidity of the khadas tone2 pro are second to none. the design of the khadas tone2 pro is also quite intriguing.

unlike traditional amps/dacs, the khadas tone2 pro has a modern design with precise cutouts and crisp lines. It’s not your run-of-the-mill boxy dac/amp that looks like an old VCR.

the khadas tone2 pro is also available in bright and flashy colors of red and baby blue; however, if you don’t like them, a black version is also available. overall the khadas tone2 pro has a distinct and unique design which is saying a lot because this is a statement rarely used for a dac/amp.

input and output

If you’re concerned that this dac/amp is too small to provide meaningful connectivity, don’t worry. the khadas tone2 pro comes with a very healthy input port selection.

On the top of the device, you’ll find a volume knob. this volume knob is the main control center of the dac/amp; with a push, you can activate the secondary functionality of the volume knob.

This volume knob is used for many things. allows you to change the input selection, filter type, gain, and mode it uses. you can also play/pause and skip tracks using this volume knob.

This is a clever use of design. however, using the volume knob efficiently for all of these tasks will take time, a minor downside that users will have to put up with.

khadas tone2 pro’s main outputs are located on the right side of the device. include a 3.5mm output and a balanced 4.4mm output.

On the back of the device, you will find the input ports that the khadas tone2 pro comes with. include USB-C, coaxial, and balanced RCA outputs.

granted, these ports are nothing extraordinary. however, users will find that these ports are sufficient for normal use, such as connecting to PC speakers or laptops. Plus, the USB-C port is an important addition to a mini-dac/portable amp combo like this because it makes power delivery so much easier.


the khadas tone2 pro doesn’t have many features, which is to be expected. Not only is this dac/amp reasonably priced when it comes to dac/amp combos, but it’s also quite small, which limits the function you can fit it into.

Because of the small size, the manufacturer has favored more substance over feature focus. Most of the effort has been put into making this dac/amp sound as good as possible with the smallest possible footprint. so let’s move on to the sound section and see how it compares there.


At the heart of the Khadas Tone2 Pro is the ESS 9028Q2M chip, a new, high-quality DAC. without delving into the specs, the dac in this khadas tone2 pro produces a clean, neutral sound without any added softness or tonality.

This gives the khadas tone2 pro an edge over the other devices in the sub $300 price range because there aren’t many dacs/amps that can deliver the same clean and precise sound as the khadas tone2 pro.

however, the amplifier used in this device is not the best. works fine for medium impedance headphones, but cannot power headphones with an impedance of more than 200 ohms.

so stick with low impedance headphones if you want to use the khadas tone2 pro and don’t venture into the planar magnetic category with this dac/amp.

You will receive a crisp, clean and neutral sound. will show the raw character of the headset without adding unnecessary fluff.

This experience is liked by many audio enthusiasts, and if you are like that, you will enjoy khadas tone2 pro.

design and build quality

the loxjie a30 follows a modern design language. Instead of being square in shape, the sides of the dac/amp are rounded to give it a more sophisticated look. The loxjie a30’s matte gray color is also a nice departure from the matte blacks we often see.

in terms of size, the loxjie a30 is a very compact dac/amp. It will easily sit on your desk while taking up minimal space. Regarding the dimensions, the loxjie a30 measures 151 x 170 mm with a thickness of 38 mm.

Although not expensive, this dac/amp has a very good build quality. The housing of the Loxjie A30 A30 is made from CNC milled aluminum which gives the dac/amp a robust and rigid feature.

This dac/amp can take a beating before it’s gone. the ports are also designed this way and come with gold-plated connectors to ensure durability.

input and output

the loxjie a30 has a good variety of entrees. While it’s nothing special, you’ll find all the common, frequently used ports available on this dac/amp.

the front of the dac/amp is dominated by a large lcd screen. the screen quality is just amazing, but we’ll talk about that later.

You have a 6.35mm output port on the right of the screen, and next to it is the volume knob. The volume dial controls the volume and can also be used as a controller for the LCD screen.

The good thing is that loxjie hasn’t made it confusing to use the volume dial. each control is well thought out and intuitive to use.

As for the back of the loxjie a30, you’ll find a plethora of ports. it has extra ports that you would normally find on a dedicated amp. you can choose between coaxial, optical, usb and bluetooth for the digital inputs. As for the analog inputs, they include a pair of single-ended RCA.

This dac/amp has a dedicated sw out port and speaker terminals. In addition to all of these ports, on the far right is a 24v dac/amp power port. this rounds up all the input and output ports on this dac/amp.


I didn’t expect the loxjie a30 to come with so many features for the price of $200. What’s more surprising is that all of these features are implemented with great finesse.

Starting with the screen, the quality of the screen is impeccable. The large font makes the LCD screen very readable and readable.

makes the screen visible in a dark room or in direct sunlight, which is not something you can say for even some of the more expensive amps/dacs.

The only minor complaint I have with the LCD screen is that the volume indicator is small and recessed into the corner of the screen.

The loxjie a30 also comes with a remote that allows users to control every aspect of the dac/amp. users can configure different settings, change inputs or set a profile; everything can be done via remote control.

remote control and bluetooth connection together make an excellent combination. allows users to route all audio to the dac/amp via any bluetooth device and simultaneously control audio playback via the remote.

This eliminates the need to physically interact with the dac/amp, as it can all be done from the comfort of your chair or couch.

the loxjie a30 dac/amp comes preconfigured with 7 different equalization presets. therefore, depending on the genre of music you are listening to, the dac/amp allows users to change the equalization quickly.

sound quality

the loxjie a30 sounds reasonably good for the price. for a price of less than $200, it offers a sound beyond expectations in this price range.

the loxjie a30 has a merus ma12070 amplifier, coupled to a high quality dac. this results in a dac/amp combination that delivers a clean sound without distortion.

The amp on this dac/amp is especially good. enhances the audio without adding unnecessary adjustments to the audio.

The power handling capacity of the loxjie a30 is also surprisingly great. the dac/amp supports a maximum output power of 40w. unlike other dac/amps, the power here is clean and free of interference.

This results in almost no background noise, a huge difference from other dacs/amps under $200, which are riddled with distortion and noise.

When it comes to headphone pairing, this dac/amp can easily power headphones with an impedance of 32 to 250 ohms. the amp does a good job with even the highest impedance headphones without issue.

In addition to headphones, this dac/amp also powers speakers well. The speaker terminals on the back of this dac/amp allow for easy connection, or users can also use bluetooth to connect to their speakers.

Overall, the sound quality of the loxjie a30 is simply outstanding for the price. I won’t compare it to more expensive dac/amps, but in the $200 price range, the loxjie a30 is hard to beat.

quality of construction and design

fosi audio q4 is a compact dac/amplifier. it is the size of a palm and not so thick. As a result, this dac/amplifier also has no significant weight and is light.

the build quality is nothing fancy. it’s what you’d expect from a budget dac/amp. The dac/amp is made from aluminum and will last the test of time.

however, the rough finish of the dac/amp casing reminds users that this is an inexpensive device. The unrefined finish of the Fosi Audio Q4 makes it difficult to hold in your hand, and the sharp edges make it uncomfortable to touch with your fingers.

also the design is too generic, exactly like all the other dac/amps you’ll find under $100. However, in general, the Fosi Q4 is quite solid and robust due to the fact that it is made of metal. thus, it gets a pass in the build quality segment.

input and output

the inputs of the fosi audio q4 are managed quite well. Despite being a cheap dac/amp, it provides excellent connectivity and has all the ports that most users buying this device will use.

This may not be the most versatile dac/amp in terms of connectivity, but it’s adequate for use with a computer with the occasional signal passing through speakers.

On the front, there’s the typical volume knob, but this dac/amp works differently than its competitors by including bass and treble knobs.

The volume knob is flanked by a single 3.5mm port. To the right of the 3.5mm port, you’ll find a toggle switch that allows users to change the input source on the fly.

on the back of the dac/amp, you have a type b optical, coaxial and usb. Lastly, a DC 5V port powers the device and makes it functional.


fosi audio q4, a cheap dac/amplifier, has no outstanding features. this is to be expected because most of the money has gone into making it sound good.

however, one design element that can be counted as a feature is the addition of a bass and treble boost knob on the front of the dac/amp.

These knobs allow users to quickly change the dynamics of their sound. the knobs also have click rotation, allowing users to adjust treble and bass in small increments.


the sound quality of fosi audio q4 is nothing spectacular, but it does well for the price. the dac used in fosi audio q4 is decent. provides clean audio reproduction whenever you use this dac/amp with low impedance headphones.

Being an inexpensive dac/amplifier, the Fosi Audio Q4 packs a respectable punch. It can easily drive entry-level audiophile headphones like the Sennheiser HD 598 and other 32-ohm headphones.

for those interested in exact power, this dac/amp can produce 100mw of power into 32 ohms.

although the sound quality of this dac/amp is nothing impressive like all cheap dac/amps, the one thing that particularly favors the fosi audio q4 is its lack of sound floor.

many lower end dac/amps tend to have a persistent background hiss, but I’m happy to report that this dac/amp doesn’t have that problem. there is some background noise, but it is not prominent when listening at medium or high volume.

iems, on the other hand, presents a different story. this will be great with iems and gaming headsets like the hyperx cloud series or the logitech g series.

The buyer’s guide is the section where I’ll go over the different technical terms and explain them to you.

This section will also look at some aspects of dac/amps that are common to most. evaluating these aspects and comparing them between the different dac/amps will allow us to choose the best dac/amp for our needs.

The main result of the buyer’s guide is to educate users on how to choose the best dac/amp combo for their needs, and this can only be done if you know the basics of how a dac/amp works.

Whenever possible I will reference some of the amps/dacs included in this article for the different sections of the buyer’s guide so you can better understand it.

With the basic introduction out of the way, let’s dive right into the buyer’s guide.

why the best may not be right for you?

Making a smart buying decision doesn’t mean buying the best dac/amp, i.e. the ifi idsd devil, and calling it a day. maybe the best dac/amp is not right for you.

Most of the time, people fall into the “better” trap. something that may technically be the best doesn’t mean it’s automatically the one you should get.

Let’s take the example of the rme adi-2 pro. the rme adi-2 pro is technically the best dac/amp combo, but its use is primarily in the pro audio space. someone who owns a mid-grade audiophile headphone or speaker may not even use 20% of this dac/amp.

so in that case buying the rme adi-2 pro will be more of a waste of money than a great purchase decision.

Therefore, it is important not to fall into the trap of the “best” product and choose the product that best suits your needs and requirements. this way you will end up with a dac/amp that you will enjoy using.

but how do you get the right dac/amp for your needs? well, I’m glad you asked because next, I’m going to tell you exactly how you can do that.

how do you know which dac/amp combination works best for you?

I’ll tell you a simple way to let you decide which dac/amp works best for you.

There are many different technical aspects related to dac/amp, but for now, you don’t need to know any of them. The procedure that I will tell you does not require prior knowledge.

The easiest way to decide which dac/amp works best for you without knowing the technicalities is to simply pay half the cost of your headphones and get the dac/amp combo for that price.

for example, if your headphones cost $300, then a $150-200 dac/amp combo will suffice. this is not a hard and fast rule and is prone to variations. many headphones may require a dac/amp combo which is more expensive than headphones.

Conversely, some headphones will work just fine with a lower priced dac/amp. however, you’ll do fine in most situations if you stay within half of the target price for the dac/amp combo.

Important consideration: set a budget and stick to it

Setting a budget shouldn’t be difficult now since, in the previous section, I already told you how to choose the best dac/amp combo for your needs.

This point mostly reinforces my earlier point about not falling into the “better” trap. once you have chosen a budget for your dac/amp, you will often be tempted to buy a much more expensive one. however, stay within your budget and get the best dac/amp combo you can.

combo dac/amp vs stack dac and amp: which is better?

dac/amp combos are becoming very popular due to their convenience. however, does that mean the traditional way of stacking a separate dac on a separate amp is any less superior?

Technically speaking, if you want to go all out with a dac/amp setup, buying a separate dac and amp is one way to go. this is because buying them separately allows more control over

See also: How to Connect Any Wireless Headphones to Any TV

Related Posts

Headphone wireless amazon

The 12 Best Wireless Headphones of 2023 | Tested by Travel Leisure

other wireless headphones we tested While we were impressed with many of the earbuds and on-ear headphones we tested, there were a few on our list that…

Amazon headphone extension cord

Best Audio Extension Cable – Which Are The Best Options?

a better audio extension cable is a common household extension cable that connects two or more audio devices in audio systems. increases cable length and reduces the…

Headphone recommendations 2021 reddit

Best 5 Reddit Headphones in 2022 – Lit Headphones

When it comes to the best headphones, we will always focus on their sound quality and comfort level while wearing them for many hours. here you can…

Headphone mic splitter amazon

Top 15 Best Pc Headphone Mic Splitter Reviews 2022 – BNB

Whenever you go shopping, do you find it difficult to choose the right item? sometimes making the right decision relies heavily on our natural instinct. When you…

Best headphone for nintendo switch

Top 7 Best Nintendo Switch Gaming Headsets To Buy 2022 Reviews

The Nintendo Switch is the ultimate portable gaming system. Not only that, but it also doubles as a great console at home on the TV. it’s the…

In ear headphone monitors

In-ear Monitors: The 7 Best Headsets to Hear Yourself On Stage | LANDR

Whenever you’re playing live on stage, you need some way to hear what you’re playing. many places use traditional monitor wedges, but there is another option. Reading:…