We always need quality. Even if we don’t want to spend more, quality is our foremost concern.
Then, let me ask you one question? Have you ever used a USB DAC?
I know you already have. That’s why you are here to find out the best USB DAC under 200 and apparently, buy the same. Recently, we have also shared best headphones for watching movies.
Best DAC Under $200 of 2021
- 1 Best DAC Under $200 of 2021
- 1.1 What is DAC?
- 1.2 How to Find the Best DAC for You?
- 1.3 #1. Fix Your Budget
- 1.4 #2. Review Your Resources
- 1.5 #3. Know Your Needs
- 1.6 #4. Make a List of Products with the Features You Want
- 1.7 Read and Watch Reviews
- 1.8 Audioengine D1 24-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter
- 1.9 #2. NuForce uDAC3 Mobile USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier
- 1.10 #3. AudioQuest – DragonFly V1.2 USB DAC
- 1.11 #4. Creative Sound Blaster E5
- 1.12 #5. JDSLabs ODAC
- 1.13 #6. Fiio E10K
- 1.14 #7. Meridian Explorer
- 1.15 Have You Picked the Best USB DAC under 200 Dollars?
Let me take some time to explain what a DAC is. If you already know, feel free to skip this section and explore the list. Recently, we have also shared best audiophile computer speakers.
What is DAC?
A DAC is the short form of Digital to Analog Converter. It is as simple as that. Many audio perfectionists use a DAC to get desired soothing sound quality.
Can you hear music from the computer without a DAC? Obviously, the answer is yes. You can hear music or any voice from computer making use of the analogue output from the soundcard.
But what makes DAC stands out from the rest is its superior sound quality. A speaker attached to sound card can’t compete with another connected to a digital to analogue converter. You can refer to this guide for information more about DAC.
How to Find the Best DAC for You?
Nowadays, taking a purchase decision is not easy. You really have to think harder because multiple choices are there to confuse you. The issue is the same with DAC also.
#1. Fix Your Budget
The foremost thing you should do before buying any product is to set your budget. I don’t mean to set a clear- cut number like $153. But, a budget limitation beyond which you can’t spend.
For example, here I am going to share about the best USB DAC under 200. Similarly, you can aim at buying the best DAC under 50 or 100. (You can find DAC under $50 and $100 here in this post).
And, use your senses while fixing the budget. You can’t buy a DAC with $5, and you can buy five good DAC with $1000. So, don’t let your common sense for its journey.
#2. Review Your Resources
I don’t mean a formal review like many you see on YouTube. But you have to know about your existing resources to end up in the right purchasing decision.
For example, you want a DAC for your laptop. How can you use a wired DAC with it on the go?
So a short review of your existing devices won’t hurt you in any way. Instead, it will help you to find the right product.
#3. Know Your Needs
You can read this point as a subsidiary of the last one. And, reviewing your existing resources can help you finding your needs.
For example, if you need a DAC for your laptop, it’s easy to rule out the wired items from your list. Similarly, you can list out the features you want on your DAC and hence, it will become easier to reach a decision.
It’s worthy to look into the section of Amp/DAC if you want for your headphone because Amp/DAC can do wonders when used with a headphone.
#4. Make a List of Products with the Features You Want
After going through all the three stages I have mentioned above, it’s better to make a list of products. Don’t make a random list that never helps you in any way.
Instead, write one with the products offering features you crave for and, don’t forget to have an eye on their cost. If it’s costlier than your budget, remove that particular item from your list.
Read and Watch Reviews
When you reach this step, you must have a shortlist on your hand with at least 3-4 items. I know how you feel now. You feel like a confused mother who gets the chance to select only one child to accompany her ;).
You know every single product on your list is worthy. But you are just in idle to take action. Here’s when you should unleash the power of online reviews (mainly comparison reviews like the one you are reading right now.)
And, you can refer to YouTube videos as well. Video reviews help you to learn how you can operate or work with a product.
I hope you now know how to select the best DAC under your budget.
Are you ready to jump into the core of this post? Here, we go with the list.
Audioengine D1 24-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter
Here’s the best DAC that will not break your bank. Audioengine is very famous for producing DAC with quality at an affordable cost.
The design language of this DAC is somewhat unique but not the best one; I would say. The whole device is embedded in a metal case with a rubber front and rear plate. You can find a 3.5 mm headphone jack, a power button and a volume knob on the front. On the back, they feature an RCA output, S/PDIF input and a USB port.
The power button is illuminated so that you can locate it even in darkness with its white light.
The sound quality of Audioengine D1 is the best-in-class with an output of 24 bit/ 96 kHz audio.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a Mac or PC. And, a built-in amplifier is included to enhance the sound via headphones.
You can’t play headphones and another output simultaneously with this DAC. For example, when you connect your speaker and headphones at the same time, you can hear the sound only through the headphones.
Barring this, I don’t think you will find a reason not to buy this excellent device.
#2. NuForce uDAC3 Mobile USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier
What can be done if you want a DAC amp under 100? You know we are talking about DAC under $200 here. But don’t you know that 100 is under 200? 😉
If you are looking for a DAC+ amp, NuForce uDAC3 is a bang for the buck.
Though the packaging is not so classy, you will find the device to be elegant and minimalistic. It comes in three colour variants (red, black and silver). The link I will be giving here is for the red one. But I like the silver version the most.
On the front, you can see a power LED, a volume knob and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. While on the back, RCA output, coaxial output and USB input are located.
Like the earlier one in this list, NuForce uDAC3 too is a 24 bits/ 96 kHz DAC with an impedance range from 16- 300 Ohms.
Do you think this DAC is a big one? Not at all! It’s very handy that you can carry around.
#3. AudioQuest – DragonFly V1.2 USB DAC
If portability is your prime concern, you can’t find anything better than AudioQuest DragonFly V1.2 USB DAC.
Being the best USB DAC under $150, portability is the biggest plus I would say. If you have a look at the rating of this device on Amazon, you will find how popular this one is.
You can use this DAC for powering up audio for a basic earphone to high- quality headphones as well.
The design language of this device resembles a thumb drive. That’s why the portability became the biggest feature.
However, the packaging is somewhat bulky that you will wonder the need for such a bigger one for a smaller device.
Obviously, this DAC is a 24 bits/ 96 kHz one. The differences in sound quality can be easily noticed based on the quality of the sound file itself.
It’s actually an upgraded version of DragonFly 1.0 which was a super hit among audio enthusiasts.
Oops! I forgot to say that the product is not only a DAC, but it is also capable of work as an amplifier.
I recommend not hearing the music of mediocre quality because you can easily detect it as this device from DragonFly does justice to your file’s sound quality.
#4. Creative Sound Blaster E5
The brand Creative needs no introduction among audio enthusiasts. Their speakers and home theatre systems are so popular. But as you know already, I am here to tell something about their Sound Blaster E5 DAC.
If your aim is to get an all-in-one DAC under 200 bucks, you can’t go beyond E5. Why because this one is the last word when it comes to feature rich and best USB DAC under 200.
Let me list out some of the features of Creative Sound Blaster E5.
- Twin Headphone-out Jack
- Micro-USB port
- Twin Headphone-out Jack
- Big Volume Knob
- USB Host
- Bluetooth support
- NFC Pairing Chip
- Gain switch
- Optical Line in
- SBX button
- Optical Line Out
As you can clearly see, this is the one that offers a hell lot of features for an affordable price of about $200.
The signal to noise ratio is 120 dB, offering an audiophile level of quality.
The design is compact with a rubberized base and matte finish. On the front, you can quickly notice two 3.5 mm earphone jack with a volume knob in the middle. On the back, a line/ mic optical in, an optical out, a USB host and a micro- USB port are situated. Unlike other items in this list, you will find some buttons on the right side of this device including power/ Bluetooth button, SBX button and a gain controller.
You can charge this device from a PC or MAC or with an external USB power cable.
#5. JDSLabs ODAC
JDSLabs ODAC (stands for Objective Digital Analog Converter) proved that you don’t need a $1000 DAC to hear great sound.
Once in a while, we see some products taking charge over the other products despite being cheaper. JDSLabs ODAC can be included in this category.
Actually, ODAC is not the brainchild of JDSLabs. The technology was developed by a little- known fellow called NwAvGuy (we don’t know whether this is his real name or not).
Even though ODAC does not offer too much of features like the Creative DAC does, you can go with this one without being hesitant.
ODAC is portable that you will not have any issue in putting it in your pocket. But I can’t say this one to be extremely portable like DragonFly V1.2.
Similar to most of the USB DAC featured here, ODAC also delivers sound with 24 bits/ 96 kHz.
Not to mess up with, this best USB DAC under $200 has two ports, one for USB input and other for 3.5 mm audio output.
#6. Fiio E10K
Maybe this company, Fiio is new to you. But the earlier version of the best budget USB DAC was a hit. It was Fiio E10.
Many of the audio enthusiasts like me were in shock when they announced that E10 would be no more. It was one of the best DAC under $150. Most probably, the best one at that time.
They have changed the design and build entirely different from the older brother, E10. I liked the design with a textured layer on the top and the front.
The front features an On/ Off button, a bass boost lever, an audio out of 3.5 mm and a volume knob. On the back, you will get a USB port, coaxial out, a gain controller and a line out.
It is capable of delivering sound with 24 bits/ 96 kHz quality. The pure bliss is, you don’t need any driver to make it support any modern OS be it Windows, MAC or Linux.
#7. Meridian Explorer
It is one of the best DAC under $200 with an average rating of over 4.5 on Amazon.com. If you have not heard about Meridian brand, then let me tell you that it is one of the premium brand known for it’s excellent audio devices.
Using Meridian Explorer is very simple. It’s based on plug n play, just plug this device into the USB port of your laptop and you are good to go.
If you are looking for a light weight & portable USB DAC which supports high resolution audio, then you should go with this one.
Have You Picked the Best USB DAC under 200 Dollars?
I have given you the best choices to pick from. This article took hours to come up with a solid list of reliable products.
You already got a compact guide to the selection of best DAC. Do you think a DAC is unnecessary for you? Not at all. Everyone needs one if he/ she regularly listen to music (especially if they encounter a background hiss (noise) problem).
Follow the guide I gave you at the beginning of this post and choose one of the DAC from here. Then, you are ready to go. Have a nice day.