A word about DAC headphones in general
In short, DAC stands for Digital-to-Analog Converter. Basically, these devices allow you to convert digital audio into analog audio information (which is to be transferred to headphones). If you don’t have experience with DAC units, all you need to know is that these little contraptions allow you to boost the quality and strength of audio signal information coming from your headphones.
We’re going to talk about the Best DAC Under $100, the so-called “budget” DAC units. Of course, this range is quite broad, but we’ve handpicked only the best for your leisure. Enjoy!
10 Best DAC Under $100 reviews
10Syba SD-DAC63094 USB 2.0 DAC and Headphone Amp
Let’s begin with Syba’s SD-DAC63094. Basically, this is the most affordable “budget” DAC in our review, but it’s not to be underestimated. Namely, it’s forte is affordability, but it also comes outfitted with a set of very nice features, including a convenient equalizer.
Now, the EQ switch governs the bass boost, treble boost, and Direct options, allowing you to customize your music experience. Syba’s DAC headphone amp supports the PCM format, ranging from 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz.
Anyhow, this is one of the cheapest DAC units you will be able to find, so you shouldn’t expect too much. Generally, it’s good for the money, but it won’t last you forever. All in all, it holds quite a value for the price.
- Very affordable;
- Supports PCM format ranging from 44,1 kHz to 96 kHz;
- AC3 Dolby Digital Output;
- Sold equalizer – bass & treble boost;
- Mediocre quality, at best;
9Xtrempro X1 USB DAC Headphone amplifiers
Next on our list of the best DAC headphone amps is the combo of Xtrempro’s X1 USB DAC amps. Basically, they’re quite affordable, but that’s not all. In essence, USB DAC headphone amps are extremely compact and easy to carry around while still being able to pack quite a punch.
The X1 USB DAC headphone amp supports various music file formats up to 192 kHz range, which is considerably stronger when compared to most budget headphone DAC amps. Now, these amps are designed with direct-coupled circuitry, and they draw their power directly from the exquisite ESS Sabre™ DAC chip. In short, this combo is very powerful and decently affordable.
- Superb features;
- The exquisite ESS Sabre DAC chip;
- Very powerful, capable of supporting music files up to 192 kHz;
- Decently affordable;
- Compact and easy to carry around;
- Variable outputs;
- Minor flaw, easy to misplace due to extremely small design;
See more: Best Headphone Amplifiers
8Tendak Digital to Analog Converter Portable DAC Headphone Amplifier
DAC converts digital coaxial/optical signals to two-channel L/R headphone audio output.
Tendak’s portable DAC headphone amp offers a cheap way to improve your music enjoyment. Generally, this DAC converts digital coaxial/optical signals to two-channel L/R headphone audio output, and you can select the signal form with the “Select” button.
Furthermore, this DAC headphone amp is portable and easy to carry around, and it’s quite lightweight. It supports various sample rates, from 32 kHz to 192 kHz. One of the best things about Tendak’s DAC headphone amp is that it’s compatible with Apple TV/CD/DVD and Blu-ray players.
Wrapping it up, this is phenomenal, easy to use, easy to carry DAC headphone amp that offers quite a lot while demanding very little.
- Quite affordable;
- Outfitted with great features;
- Very easy to use and carry around;
- Supports various sample rates (32 kHz – 192 kHz)
- Flimsy construction is the only flaw of Tendak’s DAC headphone amp;
7FiiO K1 Portable Headphone Amplifier and USB DAC
We’re going to mention FiiO quite a lot in this review, so let’s open the streak with their K1 portable USB DAC. Namely, this is one of the most affordable FiiO DAC units, mainly due to the fact that it’s also the one with the simplest design.
Generally, this DAC headphone unit features the Micro USB audio input and two 3.5mm headphone output ports. Furthermore, the drive ability of K1 DAC ranges from 16 to 100 Ohms. There’s also a drawback – the sample rate of USB decoding can reach up to the maximum of 96 kHz which is not as powerful as other FiiO DAC units.
Anyhow, the overall value of Fiio’s K1 portable DAC headphone amp is quite high due to its simplified method of operation and a set of magnificent features.
- Micro USB Audio input;
- Dual 3.5mm headphone ports;
- Drive ability up to 100 Ohms;
- Very easy to use;
- Inferior sample rate;
6FiiO Q1 Portable USB DAC Amplifier
Now, if you liked FiiO’s K1, you will love their Q1 portable USB DAC amp. Basically, this is an improved version of its predecessor, capable of amplifying the audio output of PC and mobile devices. Furthermore, the DAC and amplification functions are completely separate, allowing for an enhanced field of usage.
FiiO’s Q1 features a built-in battery that is easily rechargeable, and you can even use the Q1 while it’s charging up. Sadly, the supported formats remain the same – up to 96 kHz. Anyhow, this is the only flaw – Q1 is affordable and versatile, boasting a huge value for the cash.
- Separate DAC and Amp functions;
- Works on both PCs and mobile devices;
- Built-in rechargeable battery;
- Can be used while the battery is charging;
- Supports up to 96 kHz only;
See more: Best Tube Headphone Amplifiers
5Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS v2 USB DAC and Headphone Amp
Next in our list of the best DAC headphone amps is Cambridge Audio’s DacMagic XS v2. Basically, this is an affordable DAC unit that significantly improves the audio quality of your MP3, FLAC, and WAV files. Essentially, it can be used with PC or Mac computers with USB connection, but it’s primarily a headphone amp.
One of the best things about DacMagic is that it comes with a durable aluminum casing. Namely, this feature allows for superior durability of DacMagic when compared to similar DAC units. This DAC headphone amp is quite simple to use, and it can be carried around easily due to its small design.
- Durable aluminum casing;
- Significantly improves the audio quality;
- Works with PCs and Mac computers;
- Portable and easy to carry around;
- Slightly more expensive when compared to similar DAC units;
4FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier
Generally, FiiO’s E10K USB DAC and headphone amp is one of their finest DAC units. It comes supplied with a handy volume potentiometer that allows for extremely easy operation, and a special switchblade 3dB bass-boost circuit for optimum performance.
Furthermore, this DAC unit comes outfitted with a superior EQ software, allowing for a broad range of sound customization. The USB digital audio convert option is also available, but that’s not all. Namely, automatic support is provided to most OS systems without drivers, which is perfect for beginners.
- Volume potentiometer for simple operation;
- Switchblade bass-boost circuit;
- Superior EQ software;
- Fixed volume line level output;
- Max audio format – 96 kHz;
3Micca OriGen + High-Resolution USB DAC and Preamplifier
Basically, Micca’s OriGen is one of the best DAC units we’ve come across. In essence, this DAC headphone amp is a digital audio playback device that supports high-res PCM audio up to 192 kHZ. Furthermore, the Stereo line supports headphones up to 600 Ohms, which is really something.
One of the most unique things about Micca’s OriGen is the selectable digital input option. Namely, you can switch between USB and Optical S/PDIF, allowing for a more flexible and stable source connection.
- Advanced audio stream support – ASIO, WASAPI Push/Event modes;
- Selectable USB and Optical S/PDIF input modes;
- Supports up to 600 Ohms;
- Superior features altogether;
- Moderate affordability;
2FiiO E17K Alpen 2 Portable Headphone Amplifier USB DAC
We’ve stuck with FiiO so far, but we just can’t exclude one of their best DAC units now – the E17K, otherwise known as E17. Essentially, this is one of their more expensive models, but it still belongs to the “affordable” price range. In fact, FiiO E17K Alpen 2 portable headphone amp just might be the best DAC headphone amp in the price range.
In short, the E17 is a compact USB DAC headphone unit that comes outfitted with a magnificent SA9027 USB chip. You can use this DAC unit as a replacement for sound card for PCs that support up to 96 kHz as well.
The estimated frequency response ranges from 20 to 20000 kHz while the headphone impedance ranges from 16 to 150 Ohms. All in all, this is a relatively affordable DAC unit that comes supplied with cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art features. Needless to say, you can’t go wrong if you choose it.
- State-of-the-art features;
- Supports up to 192 kHz;
- Frequency response ranges from 20 to 20000 Hz;
- Headphone impedance from 16 to 150 Ohms;
- No major flaws whatsoever;
1Creative Sound Blaster E3 Portable USB DAC headphone amp
It’s only fitting to conclude our review with one of the best DAC under $100 out there, the Creative Sound’s Blaster E3 Portable DAC headphone amp. In short, this is a high-quality headphone amp that’s capable of boosting your headphones up to 600 Ohms and 112 decibels.
You can connect the Sound Blaster to smart phones, tablets, or PCs via USB, allowing for superior streaming quality. Furthermore, this is one of the few budget DAC units that comes outfitted with the Bluetooth and NFC feature.
- Decently affordable;
- Bluetooth feature;
- Easy connectivity and controls;
- Built-in microphone;
- Boosts headphone audio up to 600 Ohms and 112 decibels;
- Somewhat flimsy;
Essentially, you can find a good budget DAC headphone amp well under $50, or even $20. Now, the reason why we extended the range to $100 is that paying extra buck “means” better quality in this case. Namely, more expensive DAC units offer more options, but they’re also more beneficial. We hope that you found our review of the 10 Best DAC Under $100 to be helpful.