9 Best Portable DAC Amp (Comparison & Reviews)

DAC is a simple and modern way to improve the quality of sound transmitted to headphones. You can enjoy Hi-Res sound on any smartphone. The portable DACs are made as an adapter to your smartphone: USB-C or USB-Lightning (for iPhone). There is a special digital signal converter chip inside and a small amplifier for headphones.

Here we have reviewed 9 best portable DAC Amp for you to choose from.

This item has the best customers feedback:

Our Top Pick
iFi Hip-dac Portable DAC

iFi Hip-dac Portable DAC

Smartly dressed in petrol blue with a touch of copper, the go-anywhere hip-dac is designed to slip discretely into a pocket and offers an extensive hi-res specification.

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The list of the other greatest small greenhouses with a comparison of the main characteristics:

ItemDimensionsInputsOutputs
iFi Hip-dac Portable DAC

iFi Hip-dac Portable DAC

4.02 x 2.76 x 0.55 inchesSB 3.0 type ’A’
High-Speed Asynchronous USB 2.0
balanced 4.4mm, single-ended S-Balanced 3.5mm
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FiiO Q1 Mark II

FiiO Q1 Mark II

3.9 x 0.47 x 2.32 inches3.5 mm 

75mW(PO/32Ω)
>220mW(BAL/32Ω)

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EPOS Sennheiser GSX 1000

EPOS Sennheiser GSX 1000

5.63 x 5.47 x 2.76 inchesmicrophone, linear, Jack 3.5mm, mini USBJack 3.5mmSee Best Price
FiiO Q5S

FiiO Q5S

6.69 x 4.53 x 2.36 inches3.5mm port (shared line/coaxial/optical in)2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mmSee Best Price
XDUOO XD-05

XDUOO XD-05

6.75 x 4.7 x 2.1 inchesUSB A, 3.5mm (coaxial, optical, AUX)6.5mmSee Best Price
CREATIVE Sound BlasterX G5

CREATIVE Sound BlasterX G5

6.18 x 1.72 x 5.83 incheslinear, mini USB, jack 3.5mm3.5mmSee Best Price
Apogee GROOVE

Apogee GROOVE

3.74 x 1.18 x 0.63 inchesUSB 2.0 3.5mm stereo jackSee Best Price
ONKYO Portable Headphone Amplifier DAC

ONKYO Portable Headphone Amplifier DAC

0.87 x 2.52 x 4.41 inches

96 kHz/24-bit

3.5mmSee Best Price
iFi Zen DAC

iFi Zen DAC

10.9 x 6.1 x 2.3 inchesUSB3.0 B Socket

audio RCA (UnBAL), 2.1V fixed, 1V / 3.3V max. (variable)

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iFi Hip-dac Portable DAC

iFi Hip-dac Portable DACThis device is to receive a digital signal from phones and PC via a universal USB serial bus. It processes it properly, amplifies, and injects the resulting sound into your headphones.

Design and kit

It comes with a blue USB cable to connect to your PC and power adapter. There are also two black short connection cables for transferring data from a digital signal source to the device. You can also recharge it from PowerBank.

The shape of the Hip DAC is rectangular with smooth rounded sides, the material is aluminum. The color is metallic blue-green in a matte finish. In the center, there is a black iFI logo.

On the front panel of this device, there are two silver name buttons. PowerMatch handles the gain and XBass for the bass increase. When on, white LEDs illuminate them. In the middle, there is round volume control. It is in bronze style. Next are two headphone outputs: 4.4mm balanced and 3.5mm normal/symmetrical.

On the back panel, there is a USB type-A input for connection to a PC or smartphone. To work with Apple products you will need a Lightning Audio cable. Here, just to the right, there is room for a USB Type-C connector. It handles charging the device. Beneath that there is a LED indicator that tells us how much battery you are charging:iFi Hip-dac Portable DAC 2

  • White: > 75%
  • Green: > 25%
  • Red: > 10%
  • Red flashes: ≤ 10%

If there is no light, then there is no electricity or the device is off/fully charged.

The battery capacity is 2200 mA/h and can last from 10 to 12 hours. Charging time takes approximately 3.5 hours.

Sound

Hip DAC sound can be defined as well-balanced, smooth. It has no obvious peaks and failures, excessive aggression, and distortion. The device is fascinating with its charming musicality.

The musical picture is drawn in a comfortable, neutral manner. It comes with an accent mainly on the mid and low-frequency registers. Here more attention is paid to large elements of the composition.

The device has a good tonal balance. Thanks to these arranged accents, the whole material is supplied massively and deeply. It has excellent dynamics, a good rhythmic basis, and decent transmission of the emotional part.

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FiiO Q1 Mark II

FiiO Q1 Mark IIThis model has a rectangular shape and is of metal. It looks quite premium. The main control unit is the volume control. When you turn it, you hear a click and the volume is turned on.

The LED indicator shows it. There are also: 3.5 mm headphone jack + 2.5 mm headphone balance jack covered with round gold inserts and 3.5 mm line input/output.

On the backside is a micro-USB connector for connecting the device. There are also switches for gain mode (Low – High) and bass gain (On-Off).

The characteristics of the device for its price is very good: DAC – AK4452 (Asahi Kasei Microdevice). For signal, amplification is responsible chip OPA926.

For filtration of low frequencies at the line, the input is responsible for OPA1662. The device has a built-in battery capacity of 1800mAh. It also has the ability to work in amplifier mode for up to 20 hours and up to 10 hours in DAC/amplifier mode.

When connecting the device to a computer (Windows), you must install the driver from the manufacturer’s website. Interestingly, the device itself determines the type of connection (computer/smartphone). So, when connected to the computer, the device charges the battery and stops charging it, feeding only through USB cable.

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EPOS Sennheiser GSX 1000

EPOS Sennheiser GSX 1000GSX 1000 is an ingenious work of engineering thought. The main purpose of the device is to improve the sound of headphones during games, which they perfectly cope with. But the amplifier is as good inside as it is outside.

It has a high-strength package, and if handled correctly, it will last for over ten years. The designers made the equipment using filtered, block aluminum.

Inside the device has many microsystems and boards. They are connected to a single mechanism. Each detail is competently immersed in a special shockproof shell. Under mechanical load or fall, all parts will remain intact.

Design

The device has a touch panel in integrated LEDs and an aluminum ring for volume control. All this guarantees simple and easy operation, which does not need extra drivers. The feature is able to save many configurations and apply them as you need. All this allows you not to get distracted from the gameplay for a minute.

Thanks to the amplifier you can fully immerse yourself in the gaming process. Perfectly clear sound is the main advantage of this device. It is achieved through special DAC chips. There is no need to install extra software to achieve a stable, uninterrupted operation. Everything you need is standard.

Besides, the amplifier allows you to control both the incoming and outgoing audio streams. At the bottom of the panel, there are USB ports and regulators for any channel. This allows you to customize the sounds in different applications and games.

FunctionalityEPOS Sennheiser GSX 1000 2

The device also has wide functionality and easy EQ settings, several levels of reverberation. Due to this, the atmosphere of the game is very intense, bright, everyone will immerse himself in the gameplay, enjoying the game.

The audio amplifier and headphones are two main puzzles of the same mechanism. The sound in the headphones, created by the Sennheiser GSX 1000 is beautiful and powerful. This effect is achieved by smoothing out peak emissions. It makes listening more enjoyable.

When using the gadget, you can use the built-in processing and modes designed for a particular category. For example, the “Story” mode will perfectly add the attractiveness of sound effects when watching movies and TV series. Wishing to listen to music better in neutral mode, it makes the sound of a melody clearer.

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FiiO Q5S

FiiO Q5SThis device is a very heavy metal bar. Ergonomically, it differs from the audio player only by the absence of a screen.

Instead of it, on the front panel, there is a plate with the company logo, two high cuts, and metal texture. Under it, there is a special backlight, which serves to show the work of the device. Otherwise, the player is in front of you.

Design

There is a notched wheel on the top right. It is combined with a switch, mechanical. But the switch is turned on by rotation, not by pressing the regulator normally. Due to this, there is no play at all.

The rotation has enough force to avoid accidental pressure. Also on the right, there is a special recess in the housing for more comfortable change.

On the right end, right under the regulator, there is an input selection button and 4 small LEDs for USB, Linear, Optical, and Coaxial respectively. When charging, they show the charge level. There is even an automatic shut down after 10 minutes.

There are 3 playback control buttons on the left side of the unit opposite the regulator. The upper surface has a linear output and input. Input comes with optical and coaxial. The lower end of the device is dedicated to the headphone and micro-USB outputs.

The back of the device has a large plastic insert with texture under the skin. There is a special application for controlling the device. Or you can do it with other Fiio players.

FiiO Q5s comes with a new proprietary AM3E amplifier module. It is on a balanced circuit and has excellent sound characteristics. It features both a standard 3.5mm mini-jack output and a 4.4mm b 2.5mm balanced output.FiiO Q5S 2

This device has an operating time of about 9 hours. To save battery power, it has an automatic shutdown system for long periods of downtime. The unit comes with a wide range of accessories and connection cables of different standards.

Sound

The sound of the device turned out to be quite smooth, detailed, dense, and full-balanced. There is a good balance of detail, emotion, and musicality.

A good balance of emotionality, fullness, and technicality allows the device to convey the nuances of the recording. Tembras of instruments, sound extraction, complex batches of instruments. Everything is very good.

The device turned out to be good, even if it is not perfect. But the many uses, the good autonomy, and the stylish appearance will surely find their admirers.

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XDUOO XD-05

XDUOO XD-05The xDuoo XD-05 has a built-in battery, so you can use it as a stationary or portable device. This feature will come in handy for users who want to enjoy quality sound even on the road.

In this case, you can attach the DAC to your smartphone using the special rubber rings that come with it. There you will also find all the cables needed to connect to your laptop or mobile device.

This device has a full set of interfaces for connecting audio sources. There are optics, coaxial connectors, USB with support for mobile devices, and line input.

Inside it has the most actual for today’s electronic filling. It allows processing practically any type of digital format.

The xDuoo XD-05 has a high-quality operational amplifier and the digital-to-analog converter (AK4490). It is on Texas Instruments BUF634 chip. You can connect headphones or an active audio system to this device and enjoy quality sound.

xDuoo XD-05 practically does not bring its own color to the sound, so it plays back any music equally well. But if you want a more emotional presentation, you can choose from four built-in filters. You can switch between them using the button on the side panel.

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CREATIVE Sound BlasterX G5

CREATIVE Sound BlasterX G5Creative Sound BlasterX G5 is in a spectacular case. The ideal place for it is a flat surface next to the sound source.

In section, the body is a hexagon. A black metal plate covers the front side. The center has the “BlasterX” logo of the series. At the time of connection, this area is illuminated in red.

On the case, there are recesses for fixing the stand.

In the center of the front side of the Creative Sound BlasterX G5 fixed scroll wheel with circular backlight. This button handles adjusting the volume and switching to silent mode.

Inputs and Outputs

There are two 3.5mm audio connectors at the edges of the case. They are connected to two pairs of headphones and a separate microphone. On the opposite side are 3.5 audio input (linear or optical) and 3.5 audio output (linear or optical).

Next to the full-size USB to connect external devices, it is useful if the number of free ports is limited, though it can also charge the smartphone. To connect to a PC is an available micro USB connector. On one of the side sides of the buttons to control the built-in sound capabilities. This button activates “Scout Mode”, profile switches “SBX”, the button to switch the gain level.CREATIVE Sound BlasterX G5 2

The bottom side of the Creative Sound BlasterX G5 is fully covered with a soft seal that provides a stable position on a flat surface.

Software downloads are to maximize potential. Utility BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro offers a wide range of settings. Selected settings are in three presets. There is a preset set of profiles for popular games and different genres.

The “Acoustic Engine” tab is for manual settings of surround sound, bass, and voice sound. Selected settings can be checked on three demo movies.

“Equalizer” has both a set of settings and manual control. “Scout Mode” gives an advantage in shooters by practicing the noise of enemies in battle. “VoiceFX” changes the voice on the fly, will like fans of online games, interlocutors will hear the already changed voice.

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Apogee GROOVE

Apogee GROOVEApogee GROOVE USB is a compact external digital-to-analog converter. It features studio-quality sound as well as the ability to be used as a headphone amplifier.

It is fully compatible with Windows and macOS computers and notebooks. Using this kind of device will help to take the sound of your favorite songs to the next level.

This allows you to listen to music in professional headphones. The potential of them can not be unlocked by using the usual output on a personal computer.

Features

The model comes with a 32-bit ESS Sabre chip. It is capable of playing audio material in quality up to 24 bits/192 kHz. The DAC also has the smallest level of input distortion and a wide dynamic range due to the Quad Sum circuit.

It uses four DACs per channel. Constant Current Drive technology contributes to a detailed and intelligible timbre. It gently smoothes out any non-linearities. This device can correctly handle a variety of load resistances from 30 to 600 ohms. The largest output power will be 225mW/channel and 40mW/channel respectively.

The front panel has a 3-segment color display. It shows the volume level and activity status of the device. There is one output on the 1/8” Jack TRS connector for headphones or audio output to the speaker system. There is a Micro USB-B port for switching with the computer, which you can use for power supply.

Apogee GROOVE USB is a high quality portable digital-to-analog converter. You can use it to play music in professional formats. It is able to work correctly with both audio files and streaming services. For example, Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, and others.

Unbelievably compact size and no external power supply is required for mobility. The sturdy aluminum case protects the inside of the device. It comes with a protective case and Micro USB-B to USB-A cable.

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ONKYO Portable Headphone Amplifier DAC

ONKYO Portable Headphone Amplifier DAC DAC-HA200 amplifier with DAC function is like studio equipment in miniature. At the same time, the “horns” perform the logical function of protecting the volume control.

It also switches from accidental use in a pocket or bag. The aluminum case gives the device durability. In the box with the DAC-HA200, there is a cable for connecting to a computer and a charging wire.

With the iPhone, DAC will have to be connected by your smartphone cable. Also for very portable use, there are two elastic rubber bands.

The number of inputs, especially for a portable device, is amazing. In addition to two USB (full-size USB A and micro USB), there is also an optical one combined with a linear one. There is also a gain switch.

For smartphones with iOS, it is possible to install a special program HF Player. It allows you to configure a high-precision equalizer.

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iFi Zen DAC

iFi Zen DACThis device is small, weighs about a kilogram, very pleasant to look at and feel. The front panel is of milled aluminum. The volume knob has edges that are not visible at first sight.

It also has a very pleasant, smooth ride with little effort. Beneath it, there is a color indicator that tells you which format the device comes in – PCM, MQA, or DSD.

On the left side, there are 2 buttons. The PowerMatch button will be very useful for owners of headphone collections. Thanks to this button, the power is changed at the headphone output.

This allows you to connect headphones with resistance from 12 to 300 ohms to the jack 6.3 mm and up to 600 ohms to the jack 4.4 Pentaconn.

Inputs and Outputs

There is a standard set of inputs/outputs on the rear part. This is a 2 RCA, USB 3.0-B input, external low noise power supply socket which can be purchased separately. But, the device can operate without it, it has enough power via the USB bus. RCA and USB 3.0 A-B cables are also included.

On the left, there is an unregulated Pentaconn balanced output and a variable/fixed switch. In fixed mode, the DAC mutes the volume control, respectively. The signal circuitry is cleared of excess link. It should be beneficial for possible interference. In variable mode, the volume control turns on accordingly. Depending on the input format, the indicator under the volume knob changes color by:

  • violet – in case of MQA flow
  • green in case of PCM 44/48/88/96 kHz
  • yellow for PCM 176/192/353/384 kHz
  • blue in case of DSD 64/128
  • blue for DSD 256/512

This little device is able to reproduce all the major popular formats that exist today. This is a very interesting solution for showing the formats in color.

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FAQ for portable DAC Amp buyers:

Does DAC really make a difference?

If you don’t use a DAC you won’t hear anything at all. DACS can sound different from each other but maybe in ways that you won’t perceive. Some DACS sound brighter or warmer but these can be tonal characteristics rather than having anything to do with quality. Some DACS work better at certain sample rates than at others.

What does a DAC do for headphones?

A DAC simply converts a digital signal into an analog one so that your headphones can then create sound. Much like headphone amplifiers, standalone DACs came about as a response to poor audio quality at the consumer level.

Is a DAC better than a sound card?

A DAC is definitely the better solution if your primary concern is improving sound quality. A sound card is convenient as it does not need space on your desk, but it does need space in your case.

Is a DAC worth it for gaming?

Generally, for just gaming, the built-in audio is good enough. If you are an audiophile or doing audio work a DAC is a great idea.

Are sound cards still relevant?

Simply put, sound cards are not as versatile. They were never versatile, to begin with. However, back then, the needs were not as widespread. If you are talking about internal sound cards that most people want to go with, they can only be used once they are plugged into the PCI-express slot on your motherboard.

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