10 Best Desktop DAC/Amps – Great for PC and MAC [2022]

The Burson Audio Conductor 3X DAC/Amp. (From bursonaudio.com)
The Burson Audio Conductor 3X DAC/Amp. (From bursonaudio.com)

Upgrade your listening experience with our list of the best desktop DAC/Amp combos for your PC and Mac this 2022.

Beyond headphones and a source, a decent desktop DAC/Amp combo may be all you need for high-quality personal listening at home or work. It’s a jack-of-all-trades that, in a perfect world, has every possible input you desire and can deftly balance driving super-efficient IEMs and power-hungry full-sized headphones.

Sure, you can buy separate components, but a good desktop DAC/Amp combo simplifies things and eliminates the need for unsightly interconnected cables. If desktop space is at a premium, a smaller-sized DAC/Amp combo can help solve lots of issues.

However, specifications are important when considering what desktop DAC/Amp will be right for you. And, unfortunately, they are inherently complicated devices and all the technical terms come into full effect when reading their specs. Reading about frequencies, wattage, and impedance can quickly become overwhelming.

That’s why we’re here to help ease that burden by giving you the best proven and tested desktop DAC/Amps you can choose this 2022! 

Important Features of a Desktop DAC/Amp

To choose the right desktop DAC/Amp, you have to decide what features 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 our recommendations of some of the best desktop DAC/Amp options and a quick reference guide to compare the most important features. Comparing the specifications is a key part of making the right choice.

Best Desktop DAC/Amp Comparison Chart

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
Bricasti M3H Editor's Choice BUYDual AD195524-Bit384 kHzDSD 64N2YBYYYN
SPL Phonitor XE 2021 Editor's Choice BUYAK449032-Bit768 kHzDSD 256N1YBYYYN
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Strong Runner Up BUYESS9038 x232-Bit768 kHzDSD 512N5YCYYNY
JDS Labs The Element II Best Budget BUYAKM449332-Bit384 kHzDSD 512N1.3NBNNNN
Audio GD R-28 Most Powerful BUYR2R32-Bit384 kHzDSD 512N[email protected]YBYYNN
McIntosh MHA150 Dream Choice BUYESS Sabre32-Bit384 kHzDSD 256N1NBYYNN
Topping DX7 Pro Most Flexible BUYES9038PRO32-Bit768 kHzDSD 1024N1.7YBYYYY
Chord DAVE TOTL Choice BUYFPGA32-Bit768 kHzDSD 512N1.4YB24YN
iFi Pro iDSD Oldie But A Goodie BUYPCM1793 x432-Bit768 kHzDSD 1024Y[email protected]Y3 BNYYY
DCS Bartok New Contender BUYFPGA24-Bit384 kHzDSD 128Y1.4YBYYYN

10 Best Desktop DAC/Amp Combos for 2022

Here are our picks for the best desktop DAC/Amp combos for 2022:

Bricasti M3H

Editor’s Choice
The Bricasti M3H. (From: Bricasti.com)
The Bricasti M3H. (From: Bricasti.com)

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 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.

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 power) comprise all the controls. Needless to say, the M3H makes a bold statement.

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.

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

Where to buy

SPL Phonitor XE

2021 Editor’s Choice
The SPL Phonitor XE DAC/Amp. (From: SPL.Audio)
The SPL Phonitor XE DAC/Amp. (From: SPL.Audio)

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 real visual knockout. Those two large glowing VU meters and gorgeous knob and switch layout are really attractive. The XE is the TOTL model in the decade-old, 4-model, Phonitor lineup.

The Phonitor is another no-hold-barred DAC/Amp option. Only lacking Bluetooth, the sheer number of features (like user-adjustable crossfeed), and inputs/outputs is impressive. There are balanced and single-ended headphone outputs on both the front and the back, selectable via a switch.

There are two switches inconveniently located on the bottom of the Phonitor to change the level of the headphone outputs and to change the input sensitivity of the analog RCA inputs.

The Phonitor’s sound is slightly warm, with excellent headroom and dynamics. Music reproduction is full and powerful. This is a large machine, both in size and sound.

Where to buy

Burson Audio Conductor 3x

Strong Runner-Up
The Burson Audio Conductor 3X DAC/Amp. (From: BursonAudio.com)
The Burson Audio Conductor 3X DAC/Amp. (From: BursonAudio.com)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 512
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 5000

The Burson Audio Conductor 3x is part of Burson’s flagship line, which means it is designed to perform at the highest quality standards. Burson is a household name in DIY circles, as their discrete op-amps are heralded as high current and high voltage upgrade options featuring natural-sounding harmonics. The Conductor 3x sports their newest V6 opamps.

The Conductor 3x is extremely feature-rich and is packaged in an attractive and modest aluminum case. If desktop space is at a premium, it can even be stood on end and the display rotates to match the new orientation. Neat!

The heatsink-finned aluminum case is touted as being far more efficient at heat dissipation, however, the Conductor 3x does tend to run on the warm side. Vertical orientation helps.

The Conductor 3x is a detailed and transparent DAC, with excellent frequency response, soundstage, imaging, and depth. 5 watts is plenty of power and additional headroom for almost any headphone. This all produces a natural, life-like, and engaging sound signature with both headphones and IEMs. Note that highly sensitive IEMs may have slight audible hiss when paired with the Conductor 3x.

Where to buy

JDS Labs Element II

Best Budget
The JDS Labs Element II DAC/Amp. (From: JDSLabs.com)
The JDS Labs Element II DAC/Amp. (From: JDSLabs.com)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/384
  • DSD: 512
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1300

The JDS Labs Element II is one of the leaner (and more affordable) options on our ‘Best Of’ list. Its design (in both aesthetics and sound) is to embrace the beauty of simplicity. Physically it’s a small black box with an unusually large knob on top (illuminated by your choice of color).

The Element II is a bit light weight for easily plugging and unplugging cables and headphones and can travel unless restrained.

JDS Labs got started by producing the Objective (O2) amplifier, and this dedication to uncolored sound has lived on in the Element II. It has a black background, with no unwanted noise. While not quite so neutral as the O2 amp, the Element II has a slightly more dynamic and full sound signature. This is a good compromise for a more enjoyable listening experience.

The Element II is a bargain when compared to much of the rest of our list, and it will find many fans with it’s no-nonsense and easy-to-use nature. The standout (err…) ‘element’ here is the amplifier circuit, while the DAC is a competent performer, if not quite on the same level as other high-end options.

Where to buy

Also Good:

Yulong Canary II

The Yulong Canary II. (From: Shenzhenaudio.com)
The Yulong Canary II. (From: Shenzhenaudio.com)

The Yulong Canary II is also well worth a look for those hunting for a great budget device. Appearing slightly more upscale than the JDS offering, the Canary II is a minimalist’s dream, containing a 1W class-a amplifier and ESS 9038Q2M DAC housed in an attractive red, black, or silver aluminum case.

Aside from that, the Canary II’s ESS DAC supports 32-bit, 768kHz, and DSD512, while the AKM4493 chipset in the Element II only supports bit rates up to 384kHz. Neither support MQA. Also, the 1.3W amplifier in the Element is more powerful than the Canary’s 1W amp, however, the Canary does have USB, Toslink, and coaxial inputs as compared to the single USB input on the Element.

Canary II’s backside also bristles with connection options (it can be used as a preamplifier as well), while the front face has only a 6.35mm SE headphone jack, volume control, and input selector switch.

Audio GD R-28

Most Powerful
The Audio-GD R28. (From: Audio-GD.com)
The Audio-GD R28. (From: Audio-GD.com)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/384
  • DSD: 512
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 8000

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 which makes the R28 suitable for anything from difficult-to-drive full-sized headphones to more-sensitive IEMs. The sound can be customized via such presets as smooth, accurate, and vinyl sound characteristics. This is a monster device that is capable of impressive delicacy and precision, although users report some unwanted noise when used with ultra-sensitive IEMs.

The front panel features both a balanced 4-pin XLR and locking 6.35mm SE jacks. On the other hand, the back panel is fully adorned with four digital inputs (including I2S via HDMI) and three analog outputs. No MQA nor Bluetooth support may leave out some potential customers looking for a more flexible device, though.

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

Where to buy

Also Good:

Schiit Jotunheim 3 – Multibit

The Schiit Audio Jotunheim. (From: Schiit.com)
The Schiit Audio Jotunheim. (From: Schiit.com)

If gobs of amplifier power is what you are after, but you’d prefer to avoid a R2R DAC, the Jotunheim 3 – Multibit from American company Schiit may be exactly what you are looking for. “Designed and built in California” has become Schiit’s motto, and they claim that the Jotunheim “…is the only modular, affordable balanced headphone amp available today.”

Featuring a fully discrete, truly balanced 6W headphone amplifier, the Jotunheim offers three add-on modules: Schiit’s own multibit DAC, a ES9028 DAC, or even a MM Phono input for the vinyl lovers.

The R2R DAC in the R-28 supports 32-bit, 384kHz, and DSD512, while the chipset in the Jotunheim 3 only supports 24-bit, 192kHz, and no DSD or MQA. The Jotunheim 3 has slightly less power on hand (6W vs ~8W) and does not have any inputs other than USB.

McIntosh MHA150

Dream Choice
The McIntosh MHA150. (From: Mcintoshlabs.com)
The McIntosh MHA150. (From: Mcintoshlabs.com)
  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/384
  • DSD: 256
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1000

The MHA150 is the successor to the critically-acclaimed but now discontinued MHA100, 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 components for about 7 decades. They have a reputation for building great gear, albeit with rather lofty price tags.

Iconic dual blue VU meters dominate the front panel, paired with vintage-styled silver knobs and green glowing font. Your only clue that this is a modern device is the discrete display centered at the bottom. The MHA150 is indisputably McIntosh and fits right in with their lineup.

Sporting only a single-ended 6.35mm headphone output, it is user-selectable between two gain settings. Unique features include a 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 5 nameable profiles.

Despite appearing like a design from decades gone by, the MHA150’s performance is exemplary by today’s standards, providing an authoritative, transparent, and clear presentation to delight even the most discerning audiophile.

Where to buy

Also Good:

Questyle CMA Twelve

The Questyle CMA-12 DAC/Amp. (From: Questyle.com)
The Questyle CMA-12 DAC/Amp. (From: Questyle.com)

The no-nonsense looks of the Questyle CMA Twelve are definitely influenced by the Chinese manufacturer’s history of manufacturing professional gear. The Twelve is milled out of a solid 1 cm thick block of aluminum to reduce resonance and to help dissipate all the heat produced by 4 groups of current-mode amplifiers working in pure Class-A amplification mode.

The Twelve is impressively solid with an array of tiny indicator LEDs (rather than a display screen). The tactile switches and weighted volume knob are a pleasure to use and are another throwback to pro-level gear.

The venerable 4490 DAC chip is known for its neutral and realistic tonality and helps make the sound signature of the Twelve cohesive and controlled, yet powerful and engaging.

Both the CMA Twelve and MHA150 support 32-bit, 384kHz, and DSD256. The CMA Twelve edges out the MHA150 with balanced headphone support and an AES input.

Topping DX7 Pro

Most Flexible
The Topping DX7 Pro DAC/Amp. (From: Amazon.com)
The Topping DX7 Pro DAC/Amp. (From: Amazon.com)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 32/768
  • DSD: 1024
  • MQA: N
  • Bluetooth Input: Y
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1700

The Topping DX7 Pro is part of the Chinese manufacturer’s affordable lineup of products that are generating a lot of buzz as of late. Excelling in features and measured performance, they offer 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 very little desktop real estate.

The DX7 Pro is fairly light weight, 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. Compared to some of the heavy hitters on this list, the DX7 sound is tighter and faster but lacks a bit of the competition’s body, punch, and power.

Where to buy

Chord Dave

TOTL Choice
The Chord Electronics Dave DAC/Amp. (From: Chordelectronics.com)
The Chord Electronics Dave DAC/Amp. (From: Chordelectronics.com)

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.

The unique case is also quite heavy, which Chord touts as crucial for minimizing vibrations and shielding the switching power supply, both of which yield 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, low power DAC chip.

The Dave is Chord’s no-hold-barred, TOTL device, and sports tons of digital inputs, however, it is quite simple to use with only a few options in settings.

With all that processing power and Chord magic under the hood, the pay off is with outstanding sonic performance. The Dave is an uncolored virtuoso that puts the music first. Imaging is precise, tonalities are natural sounding, and the music shines with outstanding depth and clarity.

Where to buy

iFi Pro iDSD

Oldie But Goodie
The iFi Pro iDSD DAC/Amp. (From ifi-audio.com)
The iFi Pro iDSD DAC/Amp. (From: IFI-Audio.com)

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 is perhaps the most feature-rich device on our list. In addition to DAC duties, it adds (wired and wireless) network streaming and both solid-state and tube amplification (using a pair of General Electronics 5670 tubes) discrete circuits. The tube circuit features negative feedback, adding smoothness to the sound (slightly decreasing detail) which makes it quite distinct sounding from the solid-state mode.

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 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 mean it must be considered when looking for the best-integrated desktop DAC/Amp.

Where to buy

Also Good:

RME Audio ADI-2 DAC

The RME Audio ADI-2 DAC/Amp. (From: RME-Audio.de)
The RME Audio ADI-2 DAC/Amp. (From: RME-Audio.de)

The RME Audio ADI-2 DAC certainly stands out from the crowd with its distinctive full-color display featuring a real-time spectrum analyzer. The ADI-2 is extremely feature-rich. It sports a 5 band EQ, loudness circuit, and can even be used to record DSD audio. All of this is accessed via the display. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite sport as many digital inputs, or Bluetooth, as some of the competition brings to the table.

The ADI-2 is incredibly precise and clear. Music is portrayed naturally and realistically. The ADI-2 features separate outputs for ultra-sensitive IEMs and an ‘Extreme Power’ mode for difficult-to-drive full-size headphones.

The ADI-2 and Pro iDSD are quite different beasts, but both feature an incredibly robust (if somewhat different) set of options and features. Both support 32-bit, 768kHz, with the iFi just taking the lead with DSD1024 support over DSD512 in the ADI-2. While the ADI-2 is focused on its beautiful display, the iFi adds tubes, an AES input, and Bluetooth support.

DCS Bartok

New Contender
The DCS Bartok. (From: DCSAudio.com)
The DCS Bartok. (From: DCSAudio.com)

Key features

  • Max Bit Rate/Sample Rate (Bit/kHz): 24/384
  • DSD: 128
  • MQA: Y
  • Bluetooth Input: N
  • Output Power ([email protected]): 1400

The DCS Bartok is an upsampling network DAC with an integrated headphone amplifier that supports high-quality streaming from TIDAL, Qobuz, Deezer, and internet radio via the dCS Mosaic Control app. It’s MQA certified, Roon Ready, and supports AirPlay, Spotify Connect, and UPnP with USB, AES, Dual AES, and S/PDIF digital audio inputs.

Sure, it costs near the price of a compact car, but when money is no object and you want a truly high-end desktop component that can do-it-all, the Bartok is almost unrivaled.

DCS calls their proprietary network of FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) the DCS RING DAC, and this design is shared in their near USD$100,000 Vivaldi stack.

The Barktok is further intended to integrate with external 44.1 and 48kHz dedicated Master Clocks, such as DCS’ Rossini or Vivaldi models.

The Barktok balances voltage and current requirements at different output loads and can transition from pure Class A to AB operation to properly power both high and low impedance headphones. This is the DAC/Amp combo for the truly discerning audiophile who is willing to pay for the most natural, detailed, and dynamic performance available.

Where to buy

Why Buy a DAC/Amp Combo for Desktop Usage?

An integrated DAC/Amp combo is meant to be the heart of a desktop headphone audio system. It offers several benefits over purchasing and combining separate components:

  • A combo DAC/Amp can be less expensive than purchasing each component separately.
  • Often a combo takes up less desktop space than multiple components.
  • You don’t need to buy special interconnects.
  • One remote can control all the features.
  • The overall look is cleaner and more organized.
  • The ‘synergy’ between the DAC and amplifier is designed and intended by the manufacturer.
  • It can typically work as a preamp for powered desktop speakers as well as headphones.

Why not use a portable DAC/Amp to replace a desktop DAC/Amp?

The main reasons for choosing a dedicated desktop DAC/Amp over a portable one are to do with power, features, and looks. While a portable DAC/Amp is most often smaller in size, the feature set is often limited in order to prioritize portability.

If you want the flexibility and power to drive any headphone, while ensuring the best digital to analog conversion and amplification, a good desktop DAC/Amp is unbeatable.

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