10 Best Desktop DAC/Amps – Great for PC and MAC [2023]

The best headphones deserve the best source.
The best headphones deserve the best source.

Here’s a rundown of the best desktop DAC/amp combos designed just right for your PC and Mac.

Integrated DAC/amp desktop combos are preferred by many audiophiles (especially beginners) for various reasons. They’re cheaper, more organized, and offer a better channel balance in the sound output.

That said, cutting through the noise and picking a suitable desktop DAC/amp unit that checks all your boxes can be overwhelming. Besides navigating technical spec terms like frequency and wattage, core features like connectivity, format support, and your budget must be considered.

It’s clear: you must choose a DAC/amp combo unit that meets your specific needs. To ease your dilemma, we’ve ranked and listed the top 10 desktop DAC/amp combos (both moderately priced and costlier options included) on the market today. Let’s begin!

Important Features of a Desktop DAC/Amp

To choose the right desktop DAC/amp, you must decide what features (of the ones listed below) are most important to you:

  • Format support: DSD, MQA, and/or high bit-rate and sample rate?
  • Variety of digital and analog inputs?
  • Power to drive a wide range of headphones?
  • Sound quality?
  • Bluetooth?
  • Price and value?
  • All of the above?

We’re here to help with suggestions of some of the top desktop DAC/amp options and a quick reference guide reviewing their key features.

Scroll to the right to see the full table

Desktop DAC/Amp ComboBuyChipsetPCM Max Bit RatePCM Max Sample RateDSDMQAOutput Power (W @ 32 Ohms)Balanced OutputUSB Input TypeTOSLINK InputCoaxial InputAES InputBluetooth Input
Naim Uniti Atom HEEditor's ChoiceBUYBurr-Brown (TI) PCM-1791A32-Bit384 kHzDSD 256N[email protected]YBYYNY
Bricasti M3HLast Year’s Editor's Choice BUYdual AD195524-Bit384 kHzDSD 64N2YBYYYN
Hifiman EF400R2-R WonderBUYHimalaya R2R DAC24-Bit768 kHzNN4.4NB,CNNNN
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Grand TourerMost PowerfulBUYESS9038 x232-Bit768 kHzDSD512N8YBYYNY
Topping DX3 Pro+Best BudgetBUYESS9038Q2M32-Bit768 kHzDSD512N1.8NBYYNY
McIntosh MHA150Dream ChoiceBUYESS Sabre32-Bit384 kHzDSD 256N1NBYYNN
FiiO K9 Pro ESSMost FlexibleBUYESS9038 x332-Bit384 kHzDSD 256Y2.1YCYYNY
Chord DAVETOTL Choice BUYFPGA32-Bit768 kHzDSD 512N1.4YB24YN
SPL Phonitor XEOldie But A GoodieBUYAK449032-Bit768 kHzDSD 256N1YBYYYN
iFi Pro iDSD Signature Studio StandardBUYPCM1793 x432-Bit768 kHzDSD 1024Y[email protected]Y3 BNYYY

10 Best Desktop DAC/Amp Combos for 2023

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition

Editor’s Choice
Close look at the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition (From: Amazon)
Close look at the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/384
  • DSD: 256
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1500

Are you sick of the unruly pile of separate components on your desk or listening stand? The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition will make you a believer in the existence of a supreme all-in-one device.

Sure, at more than USD $3000, it’s very expensive. But perhaps, if you consider the individual prices of all the components it replaces in your current high-end headphone audio chain, things may not seem quite so unreasonable.

The most distinctive design element of the Atom HE is the HUGE volume knob centered on the top of the device. The outer ring rotates while LEDs located around the knob’s perimeter light up to show the current volume level.

Moreover, the remote control uses the ZigBee protocol for wireless communication and has all the additional functionality missing from the sparse front panel controls. Additional functionality, including Chromecast, TIDAL, Qobuz, and local UPnP server access, is provided using the Naim app.

The internal DAC in the Atom Headphone Edition uses the same Texas Instruments Burr-Brown chipset as the original speaker amplifier version Uniti Atom to handle digital decoding and supports up to 24-bit/384kHz, DSD 128.

However, it does not support MQA, nor will it function as a USB DAC for a computer. Bluetooth supports basic SBC and AAC codecs and aptX HD but not LDAC.

The Atom HE sounds like what a top-tier product should be. Natural, clear, and dynamic. It’s not how it plays the music; it is the music it plays. The unrivaled build quality and design are combined with neutral and transparent sound.

Where to buy

Bricasti M3H

Last Year’s Editor’s Choice
Close look at the Bricasti M3H (From: Bricasti)
Close look at the Bricasti M3H (From: Bricasti)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 24/384
  • DSD: 64
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 2000

The Bricasti M3H is the combo version of the M3 DAC, which incorporates a powerful, balanced headphone amplifier. It is also available with an optional built-in streamer. This (sort of) all-in-one flexibility is a welcome addition when desktop real estate is at a premium.

Unfortunately, you must make your upgrade decisions at the time of purchase and can not add on later.

The M3H employs two independent linear power supplies, a Delta-Sigma DAC for PCM processing and a proprietary modulator for DSD playback.

Headphones may be connected via a 6.35mm single-ended jack or a single four-pin balanced XLR socket.

The M3H makes a bold visual statement, but not one that all consumers will appreciate.

Looking more like a studio component than a modern desktop device, the M3H’s heavy-duty and minimalist design approach to high-end audio may be polarizing. A simple red LED display flanks a large silver knob in the center, while six buttons (plus the power button) comprise all the controls.

The M3H has a dynamic, full-bodied sound that, when powered with the 2W headphone amplifier, is sufficient to drive most headphones. It effortlessly flexes its muscles, grabs ahold of the music, and powers it out to your ears.

However, the 24-bit, 384kHz, and DSD64 support may seem a little under-specced for a device of this level, and some may long for Bluetooth support.

Where to buy

HiFiMan EF400

R2R Wonder
Close look at the HiFiMan EF400 (From: Amazon)
Close look at the HiFiMan EF400 (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 24/768
  • DSD: N
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 4400

The HiFiMan EF400 sports a retro-inspired design and build quality with a sturdy aluminum front plate adorned with two large knobs and four different headphone connections – both singled-ended and balanced. It weighs in at a hefty seven pounds.

Overall the EF400 offers the unique sonic flair of an R2R DAC, marrying clarity with a high-power amplifier.

With 4.4 watts of output power on tap, the EF400 will power any headphones in your collection. The sonic profile is quite neutral, with no artificial inflation of bass frequencies, which will please purists but may leave some bassheads wishing for a boost switch.

Internally, the DAC, power, and amplifier boards are discrete and isolated. The interior components are exemplary, with a toroidal transformer and high-quality capacitors.

The Himalaya ladder resistor DAC has a selectable oversampling (OS) filter with two gain levels. But, format processing is limited to PCM, with no advertised DSD or MQA support. The lack of display also means there’s no sampling rate indication.

Plus, the back panel is a bit more sparse than the front, with only a USB-A input and no optical or coaxial connections. The power switch is also located on the back, which isn’t particularly convenient for the user.

Where to buy

Also Good

Audio GD R-28

Close look at the Audio GD R-28 (From: Audiophonics)
Close look at the Audio GD R-28 (From: Audiophonics)

The Audio-GD R28 (version 2022) combines the magic of a discrete R2R DAC with the power of a massive 8W balanced class-A headphone amplifier. The DAC features advanced high-speed ladder correction with FPGA FIFO buffering and re-clocking. Under the hood, high-end components include WIMA and NOVER caps, DALE and Vishay resistors, and KOA transistors.

Volume is relay-controlled with three gain levels. The Audio-GD R28 is a monster device that is capable of impressive delicacy and precision, although there can be some unwanted noise when used with sensitive IEMs.

Priced about half of what comparable high-end DAC/amp units cost, the R28 brings a unique combination of an R2R DAC and an insanely powerful amplifier within the reach of most dedicated audiophiles.

Although, those who want to drive sensitive IEMs may need to look for a unit with a less powerful output.

Burson Conductor 3X Grand Tourer

Most Powerful
Close look at the Burson Conductor 3X Grand Tourer (From: Amazon)
Close look at the Burson Conductor 3X Grand Tourer (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 512
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 8000

The Burson Conductor 3X Grand Tourer is part of Burson’s flagship line sporting the company’s newest V6 discrete opamps, which are heralded as high-current and high-voltage upgrade options featuring natural-sounding harmonics.

The Conductor 3X GT is exceptionally feature-rich. It is packaged in an attractive aluminum case with active cooling that is very efficient at dissipating the heat created by its powerful Class A amplification.

Some would say 10 watts (@16Ohms) and 8 watts (@32Ohms) is absolute overkill for a headphone amplifier, but in the land of the best of the best, isn’t it better to have too much than too little output power?

With only two gain levels, sensitive IEMs may have audible hiss regardless of the volume setting. As with the previous non-GT model, setting the OLED level to high brightness increases this background noise.

This may be the price of all that power.

All in all, the Conductor 3X GT is a detailed and transparent DAC/amplifier that boasts very high power but forgoes streamer functionality. However, the DAC is top-notch, and the 3X GT produces a natural, life-like, and engaging sound signature.

Where to buy

Topping DX3 Pro+

Best Budget
Close look at the Topping DX3 Pro+ (From: Amazon)
Close look at the Topping DX3 Pro+ (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 512
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1800

The Topping DX3 Pro+ is the latest iteration of the affordable end of Topping’s DAC/amp product line. The plus version adds a new ESS DAC chip and Bluetooth 5.0, making the Pro+ highly feature-rich for its moderate price point.

The aluminum chassis is available in black or silver, and the large orange and white front display is distinctively Topping – a welcome design for some but not all.

The single knob does dual duty: it controls volume and can be used to navigate the menus. At the same time, an included remote allows direct access to the menu options.

The technical specs are top-notch, supporting 32-bit/768 kHz, MQA 512 decoding via USB, and 24-bit/96 kHz in Bluetooth mode. However, in line with its modest price, balanced connections are not available, and there is only a single 3.5mm headphone output.

The sound quality of the DX3 Pro+ is very clean but somewhat less dynamic than the higher-priced options on this list. The DX3 Pro+ is neutral and flat, and with 1.8 watts on tap, this do-it-all little device will sufficiently power most headphones and IEMs on a budget.

Where to buy

McIntosh MHA150

Dream Choice
Close look at the McIntosh MHA150 (From: Amazon)
Close look at the McIntosh MHA150 (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/384
  • DSD: 256
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1000

A continuing favorite among audiophiles, the McIntosh MHA150 is the successor to the critically-acclaimed but now-discontinued MHA100. This version of the McIntosh MHA comes with a new 2nd generation DAC that provides support for DSD and DXD files.

McIntosh is well known in audiophile circles and has produced audio devices for about seven decades. They have a reputation for building great gear, albeit with rather lofty price tags.

The iconic dual blue VU meters dominate the front panel and are paired with vintage-styled silver knobs and green glowing font; the discrete display centered at the bottom is your only clue that this is a modern device.

Sporting only a single-ended 6.35mm headphone output, it is user-selectable between two gain settings. Unique features include an HXD crossfeed option, trim settings for pairing with lower or higher-voltage analog signals, a 5-stage selectable bass boost, stereo/mono switching, and a left/right balance adjustment. These settings are individually saveable for five nameable profiles.

The MHA150’s audio performance is exemplary by today’s standards, despite appearing like a design from decades gone by, and with power output limited to 1 WPC, including no support for the highest quality file formats or Bluetooth. It provides an authoritative, transparent, and clear presentation to delight even the most discerning audiophile.

Where to buy

FiiO K9 Pro ESS

Most Flexible
Close look at the FiiO K9 Pro ESS (From: Amazon)
Close look at the FiiO K9 Pro ESS (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/384
  • DSD: 256
  • MQA: Y
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 2100

The FiiO K9 Pro ESS is the company’s flagship desktop DAC/amp that bears a strong design resemblance to their portable DAC/amps and DAPs.

It’s a black aluminum monolith with a large illuminated volume knob front and center, flanked by indicator lights, switches, and headphone jacks. It looks and feels like a premium, no-nonsense device lying flat on your desk or supported vertically by the included stand.

There are digital (USB, coax, and optical) and analog (RCA and XLR) connections on the back, while the balanced (4.4mm and XLR) and 6.35mm SE headphone connections are on the front panel.

The internal componentry and layout are high-quality and well-designed, resulting in outstanding sonic performance.

The K9 Pro ESS is a remarkably resolving and clean-sounding device, balancing a high-power 2.1-watt output from the THX AAA-788+ chipset carrying a very low output impedance. Even the most efficient IEMs will have a silent background when paired with the K9 Pro ESS.

Compared to some of the higher-end options, the K9 Pro ESS can fall slightly behind on soundstage and dynamics, but its sub-USD $1000 price is hard to beat.

Where to buy

Also Good

Topping DX7 Pro

Close look at the Topping DX7 Pro (From: Amazon)
Close look at the Topping DX7 Pro (From: Amazon)

The Topping DX7 Pro is part of the Chinese manufacturer’s affordable lineup of products. Excelling in features and measured performance, Topping offers incredible bang for the buck for cost-conscious audiophiles.

The DX7 Pro features Bluetooth, dual opamp output, adjustable gain and filters, and three headphone outputs (6.35mm, 4-pin XLR, and 4.4mm), yet takes up minimal desktop real estate.

However, the DX7 Pro is fairly lightweight, so it may move around when plugging and unplugging headphones and cables.

The DX7 is very clean and precise-sounding. The balanced mode offers improved dynamics and spaciousness over the single-ended output. And although the DX7 sounds tighter and faster (compared to some heavy hitters on this list), it lacks a bit of the competition’s body, punch, and power.

Chord DAVE

TOTL Choice
Close look at the Chord DAVE (From: ChordElectronics)
Close look at the Chord DAVE (From: ChordElectronics)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 512
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1400

The Chord Electronics DAVE (Digital to Analogue Veritas in Extremis) is unmistakably a Chord product. Appreciate it or not, the DAVE looks like nothing else in audio, resembling a porthole from Captain Nemo’s submarine (the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) as much as anything else.

Clearly, it’s something special, but not all consumers will appreciate the quirky design language.

The unique case is quite heavy, which Chord touts as crucial for minimizing vibrations and shielding the switching power supply, thus yielding significant improvements in sound quality.

As this is a Chord product, not only is the external design distinct, but the internals of the DAVE are based upon Chord’s own Spartan 6-Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) chipset rather than a standard, off-the-shelf DAC chip.

The DAVE is Chord’s no-holds-barred TOTL device and sports many digital inputs. However, there are limited settings options and no Bluetooth or MQA support, which some will expect for the rather exorbitant price tag.

With all that processing power and Chord magic under the hood, the payoff is outstanding sonic performance. And that’s because the DAVE is an uncolored virtuoso that puts music first. Imaging is precise, tonalities are natural-sounding, and the music shines with outstanding depth and clarity.

Where to buy

SPL Phonitor XE

Oldie But A Goodie
Close look at the SPL Phonitor XE (From: Amazon)
Close look at the SPL Phonitor XE (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 256
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1000

The SPL Phonitor XE is available in traditional black and silver colors, but the red model is the actual visual knockout. Those two glowing round VU meters, plus the knob and switch layout, are stunning. The XE is the TOTL model in the decade-old, Phonitor lineup.

Although lacking Bluetooth, the sheer number of features like user-adjustable crossfeed and a variety of inputs/outputs are imposing. Understandably, some users may find it all overwhelming.

There are balanced and single-ended headphone outputs on both the front and the back, which isn’t always a convenient location for users.

The Phonitor XE’s sound is slightly warm, with excellent headroom and dynamics. Capable of full and powerful music reproduction, the Phonitor XE is a large machine, both in size and sound.

Where to buy

Also Good

RME Audio ADI-2 DAC

Close look at the RME Audio ADI-2 DAC (From: Amazon)
Close look at the RME Audio ADI-2 DAC (From: Amazon)

The RME Audio ADI-2 DAC certainly stands out from the crowd with its distinctive color display featuring a real-time spectrum analyzer. The ADI-2 boasts an EQ, and loudness circuit and can even record DSD audio. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have as many digital inputs as some competition offers.

The ADI-2 is incredibly precise and clear, portraying music naturally and realistically. It features separate outputs for ultra-sensitive IEMs and an ‘Extreme Power’ mode for difficult-to-drive full-sized headphones.

The ADI-2 also features an impressively robust set of options and supports 32-bit/768kHz, DSD512 decoding. Keep in mind, though, that while the ADI-2 is focused on its beautiful display, it sacrifices Bluetooth and MQA support.

iFi Pro iDSD Signature

Studio Standard
Close look at the iFi Pro iDSD Signature (From: Amazon)
Close look at the iFi Pro iDSD Signature (From: Amazon)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 1024
  • MQA: Y
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1500

The iFi Pro iDSD Signature is perhaps the most feature-rich device on our list. In addition to DAC duties, it adds (wired and wireless) network streaming and discrete circuits for both solid-state and tube amplification – using a pair of matched 5670 tubes. The flagship iPower Elite power supply is included with the Signature edition.

The tube circuit features negative feedback, adding smoothness to the sound (by slightly decreasing detail), which makes it quite distinct-sounding from the solid-state mode.

The Pro iDSD Signature also has a Tube+ setting, reducing overall loop gain and negative feedback to the minimum.

iFi traditionally uses Burr-Brown DAC chips, and the Pro iDSD pairs them with a Crysopeia FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chipset for audio up-scaling and filters.

Overall the Pro iDSD Signature is even and balanced-sounding. The tonality is clean and refined, with impressive detail and cohesion.

While not quite at the level of transparency and dynamics of some other TOTL DAC/amps, the sheer flexibility and plethora of features of the Pro iDSD Signature mean it must be considered when looking for the best-integrated desktop DAC/amp.

Where to buy

 

2 comments

  1. Are there no portable DAC/Amps that can work from a laptop, can compete with sound quality of an Ifi Zen Dac plus have enough power to drive planar headphones like my Hifiman HE400se? Not a single one?

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