Best DAC under $100 – Review & Buyer’s Guide

Well, playing digital music without a DAC is pretty impossible even to think. A DAC converts the digital binary signals to analog audio signals and sends them to speakers or other audio outputs. The better a DAC is, the better conversion you get which means a better sound quality.

As an audiophile, I always thrive on getting the best audio gear. This time I went ahead to do something interesting. I tried finding some of the best DACs under $100. Yes, I kept my budget limited to see the options available for people who don’t want to spend too much yet want quality.

Best in performance

 best overall

best in budget

AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC (Preamp, Headphone Amp)

Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS USB DAC Amp

FiiO D3 (D03K) DAC

Let me tell you, I was surprised to see the quality of some of them. And if you want to find out more, I recommend going through the whole thing because I am pretty sure you will be surprised too.


Top-rated DACs under $100 

Before I tried these DACs, I did extensive research on each of them to know their worth. So, what you get here is my experience as well as the user experience of others. This will surely help you evaluate each of the DACs I have listed here.

1. SMSL M100 USB DAC AK4452 DSD512

Starting strong with this DAC from SMSL. If you want some significant quality improvement in your sound, then this is the thing you are looking for. And within this price, you can't do better considering the sound quality.

Coming to the sound aspect, I loved the experience. I used an optical cable to connect the DAC, which gave me amazing sound quality right off the bat. It brings out a sound that is crystal clear without any distortion at all.

Now, considering the price, you get a great deal from this DAC once you get through that initial bump of drivers.




  • Input options: USB/Optical/Coaxial
  • Output options: RCA
  • Compatibility: Windows/Mac/Linux
  • Dimensions: 2.17 x 3.66 x 2.17 inches
  • Weight: 12.6 ounces 


  • The sound quality you get from this DAC is top-notch
  • It comes with low distortion for a cleaner sound
  • The built quality is quite good, nothing to worry about there
  • It’s value for money DAC you can get for starting out
  • This is beginner friendly DAC with easy operation 


  • Installing the drivers on windows can be a troublesome task
  • The USB connections on this one are outdated 

2. HiFiMeDIY Sabre USB DAC

Compact, lightweight, simple, that’s how I would describe this DAC. While it doesn’t let you connect a thousand devices, it does the job for one device far better than anything else. So, if you want to improve the sound quality and need it for just a single output, this is your thing.

I can’t get over the sound quality this DAC puts out there for you. It’s so balanced and detailed that you can hear all the intricacies in the audio. On top of that, the soundstage opens up so nicely that you will get an immersive experience of listening to music.

While it looks fragile, it doesn’t seem to be lacking durability. This can go on for years without even sweating at all. So, there is simply nothing to complain about here.




  • Input options: USB
  • Output options: 3.5mm jack
  • Compatibility: Windows/Mac/Linux/Android/IOS
  • Dimensions: 4.17 x 2.68 x 0.79 inches
  • Weight: 3.53 ounces


  • The DAC is very simple in operation with fewer complications
  • It’s compact and lightweight so that you can carry it anywhere
  • It brings out the best possible sound quality you can imagine
  • The DAC can last for a long time
  • It’s compatible with almost any device 


  • It doesn’t have the most hi-fi looks
  • You get only one input and one output option

3. EarStudio ES100 MK2-24bit Portable

While the previous one I discussed lacked the looks, this one has got it better than anyone. It looks modern, clean, and has a stylish finish to it. The compactness of this adds up to the aesthetics.

Let me tell you; it does not only look great on this; it's the features and sound quality that make it a great choice. You get wireless connectivity with Bluetooth, which makes it already a better option than many DACs. And with the app, you get excellent control over the DAC in many aspects.

As for the sound quality, you get the best here. The details are top-notch on this one, so you get to hear those instruments and the vocals properly.

EarStudio ES100 MK2



  • Input options: USB/ Bluetooth
  • Output options: 3.5mm /2.5mm
  • Compatibility: Windows/Mac/Android/IOS
  • Dimensions: 1 x 2 x 0.5 inches
  • Weight: 0.704 ounces


  • The wireless connectivity makes it very convenient to use with devices
  • You get excellent sound quality from the DAC
  • There are a lot of customization options in the app
  • It’s super compact and lightweight hence great for portability
  • It’s worth every penny you pay for it as it’s compatible with lots of devices 


  • The wireless functionality doesn’t run well after months of usage
  • It doesn’t run smoothly for a long time so that durability can be a question here

4. AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 Plug-in USB DAC- Best in performance

Here you are probably looking at the absolute best DAC you can find out there. Whether it's portability, functionality, quality, durability, or affordability, this one has it all. The only thing you can complain about on this one is that you can't connect multiple audio outputs.

Even if you can't connect multiple sources, this is worth buying for sure. I am saying this because it's not just a DAC; you can use it as a headphone amplifier as well. So, you can guess how great of sound quality this can bring out.

It doesn’t have any wire; it’s just like a USB dongle or a pen drive. So, you can even fit this in your pocket, and you are all good to go. As for the quality and materials, it's just as premium as any high-end DAC out there.

AudioQuest DragonFly



  • Input options: USB
  • Output options: 3.5mm
  • Compatibility: Windows/Mac/Android/IOS
  • Dimensions: 2.36 x 0.79 x 1.18 inches
  • Weight: 3.5 ounces


  • This DAC is very lightweight and compact even to carry in your pocket
  • It doesn't have any USB wire to connect and works as a dongle
  • The sound quality you get using this one is hard to beat
  • It serves multiple purposes like headphone amp and preamp as well
  • The build quality is pretty impressive, even with the compact size 


  • It doesn't have an option for multiple audio outputs
  • This one can feel a bit expensive with the limited features and functionalities 

5. FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

When it comes to quality audio gear FiiO is a popular name to popup. They bring out some amazing audio-supportive equipment, and this one is no different than that. It provides you with a DAC and a headphone amplifier, so you get 2 in 1.

You can hardly complain about anything on this one. It gives you the best possible sound quality you can ask from a DAC or an amp. Once the break-in hours on this one are done, you will get the warmest sounds with crisp details.

What I loved a lot about this was the volume level. It’s just perfect for bringing up the volume at a decent level where your ears don’t bleed, but you get to hear everything loud.




  • Input options: USB
  • Output options: 3.5mm/ coaxial
  • Compatibility: Windows/Mac/Android/IOS
  • Dimensions: 0.83 x 1.93 x 3.11 inches
  • Weight: 2.72 ounces 


  • You get excellent sound quality coming from this DAC
  • The volume level from this one is just perfect
  • It comes with a quality build that is sure to last
  • You can use this as a DAC and as a headphone amp
  • It gives you value for money 


  • It may not be able to power very high-end headphones

6. Micca OriGen G2 High-Resolution USB DAC

Need to get the benefits of a DAC on multiple devices? Well, this one has got you covered with that necessity. You can connect two devices as inputs and two devices as outputs on this one.

Aside from that incredible feature, you get quality as well. This one gives you a great sound improvement that is evident after connecting it for the first time. The sound separation is on point, and you get to hear every detail from every frequency.

The best part for me was that I never needed to install anything on my computer to use it. As soon as I plugged the DAC, I could use it without downloading or installing any driver at all. Now, that’s something very rare to see in the DAC section.

Micca OriGen G2 High Resolution USB DAC



  • Input options: USB/ optical
  • Output options: 3.5mm/ 6.3mm
  • Compatibility: Windows/Mac/Android/IOS
  • Dimensions: 4.6 x 2 x 1.9 inches
  • Weight: 6 ounces


  • The ability to connect multiple devices at a time is impressive.
  • It brings great sound quality out of your devices
  • You can plug and play using this DAC, no need to download or install drivers
  • The build quality is top-notch on the DAC
  • All the components used in the DAC are of the highest quality 


  • It can be a bit bulky so you can’t carry it
  • It’s a little heavier than other DACs you see out there 

7. FiiO D3 (D03K) Digital to Analog Audio Converter- Best in budget

Well, if you are not into anything fancy and looking for just a basic DAC that does the job, then this is the perfect thing for you. It can give you the best possible results you can expect from an affordable DAC. And the price is just too good to be true.

You can use this DAC on so many devices solely because of the connectivity this one provides. It has got a digital coaxial port as well as an optical port. You can connect both simultaneously with multiple devices and switch between them easily using the slider on the DAC.

Once you connect this one, get ready to experience some dramatic changes on the audio of your devices. This works well with televisions, Blu-ray players, consoles, and anything using a coaxial or optical port. And for the price, this is just something out of a dream.

FiiO D3 (D03K) DAC



  • Input options: coaxial/ optical
  • Output options: 3.5mm/ RCA
  • Compatibility: Anything with coaxial, optical support
  • Dimensions: 2.44 x 0.83 x 1.93 inches
  • Weight: 1.76 ounces


  • This is the most value you can get from an affordable DAC
  • There are options to connect and use multiple devices on this one
  • You get great improvement on the sound quality using this DAC
  • It’s super easy to install and use
  • The durability and build material are top-notch in this 


  • It’s not the most modern or full of feature DAC
  • It doesn’t have a USB connectivity 

8. M.S.L SD-793II Optical Coaxial DAC

Here is another basic functioning DAC that will satisfy your need for sure. It elevates the existing sound quality by a lot, no matter which device you are using. As for the connectivity, there is nothing to worry about that.

You can use this DAC for your tv and monitors with ease. It even has a headphone amplifier which is quite rare to find in these basic DAC models. Along with that, you get multiple input and output ports to connect multiple devices at a time.

Coming to the build quality, it's a heavy-duty build that comes with an aluminum shell. Even the knob on the DAC is made of solid aluminum, so you get quality throughout the DAC.


  • Input options: coaxial/ optical
  • Output options: 3.5mm/6.5mm/ RCA
  • Compatibility: TV, DVD, LCD, CD, MD
  • Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.7 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces


  • The sound improvement on your device is drastic with this one
  • It’s very easy to set up and use
  • The build quality and material of this DAC are top notches.
  • You can connect to multiple devices with this DAC
  • It comes with a built-in headphone amplifier which is pretty rare 


  • It doesn’t have any USB input options
  • You can’t use this with your laptop or computer, or smartphone 

9. FiiO A1 Silver Portable Headphone Amp A1

Go all modern with this sleek and stylish-looking compact headphone amp that fits in your pocket. While it looks small, it doesn’t lack the power to boost your audio at all. You get the perfect combination of power and portability with this thing.

First of all, the sound quality is so good that I was sold right away. It’s a great thing to have with you when you are outside and want to enjoy some music from your phone with your headphone. You will never miss your home audio system quality when you have this in your pocket.

You can use this one on your computer, laptop, and smartphone in the connectivity options. So, you get used out of it from several of your devices. And with the built-in eq modes, you can switch between the sound quality according to your usage anytime.


  • Input options: Aux/3.5mm
  • Output options: 3.5mm
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, IOS
  • Dimensions: 0.37 x 1.57 x 1.65 inches
  • Weight: 0.71 ounces


  • It comes with sleek and stylish looks that are pretty modern
  • You get excellent sound quality out of the amp
  • It’s compatible with all kinds of modern devices
  • The amp is compact and lightweight that fits in your pocket
  • You can expect excellent durability from the aluminum chassis 


  • It creates an annoying buzzing sound at times
  • It runs on a rechargeable battery, so you have to maintain that

10. Signstek HiFi USB to Coaxial S/PDIF Converter

If you want to be satisfied with your purchase, then this is the DAC you should go for. There is no way that you won’t be happy with the results you get from this DAC. It comes with the basic functionalities of a DAC with USB connectivity included.

The looks and functionality of this DAC are pretty similar to the basic DAC you would use for tv, DVD, and CD. But this one has the USB input option so that you can connect this to your computer, laptop, and even your smartphone through OTG.

As for the sound quality, this one met all the expectations I held for it. It’s simply outstanding in improving the sound quality of your device. For the value, it brings out the amazing sound quality.


  • Input options: USB/ Optical/ Coaxial
  • Output options: 3.5mm/ RCA
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, IOS, tv, DVD, CD
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 1.18 x 2.8 inches
  • Weight: 7 ounces


  • It improves the audio quality of your device greatly
  • You can connect this to a lot of available devices
  • The built quality of this DAC is very sturdy and durable
  • It’s pretty small so that you can carry it around
  • There is nothing complicated about using this one 


  • It lacks some modern features you might want to have
  • It’s not that good looking with the basic design 

11. Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS Portable USB DAC – best overall

  1. Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS Portable USB DAC – best overall

If your goal is improving the sound quality, then this will fulfill that goal with ease. It may not come with a whole lot of connectivity options, but it does what it's supposed to do flawlessly. And that’s what matters at the end of the day.

Why am I praising it so much? First of all, it comes within a budget, so your expectations won’t be that much. However, the sound quality this one puts out there for you will surprise you because it’s worth double the price you pay for this little unit.

Sure, it’s small, but it’s sturdy and well built at the same time. And with the wide compatibility options, this one steals your heart. You will surely love the whole thing just after your first experience of listening to music using this.

Related: Audio interface vs DAC

Cambridge Audio DacMagic



  • Input options: Micro USB
  • Output options: 3.5mm
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, IOS
  • Dimensions: 2.1 x 1.2 x 0.3 inche
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces


  • It’s very compact and lightweight so that you can carry it anywhere
  • The sound improvement you get is far better than what you would expect
  • This DAC comes with some amazing power to boost the audio
  • You get a pretty sturdy build quality on this one
  • It’s compatible with a lot of different devices


  • This doesn’t have multiple connectivity options

Buyer’s guide for DAC under $100 

To buy a quality DAC, you can go in there and blindly choose one. You have to go through some considerations to find the best DAC for your personal use. Here are the factors you should be looking at when you are deciding on a DAC-

  • Type of DAC

There are typically 4 types of DAC you can find these days- standalone, portable, headphone amp + DACs, and wireless. Standalone DACs usually need AC power to run, whereas portable ones run on a battery.

As for the headphone amp ones, you can get an amplifier for your headphone along with the DAC functionality; lastly, the wireless ones usually have Bluetooth as input connectivity, so it's more convenient and easier to connect.

Now, which one you should choose depends on your personal preference. You can base your decision on something that you need. Or you can find options that are a combination of the different types to suit your needs.

  • Sound quality

Of course, you will need to consider this factor; it’s the purpose of buying a DAC, after all. Make sure to get a DAC that can elevate your existing sound quality. Most DACs nowadays can do that, so you should strive for better quality within your budget.

  • Connectivity options 

Now, here you have to base your decision depending on what you need. If you need a DAC for your laptop, computer, or smartphone, I suggest getting a USB DAC. Or you can go for a wireless DAC.

But if you want a DAC for solely your tv, DVD, or anything like that, then going for an optical or a coaxial input option is your best bet. They bring out the best improvement in those cases.

Final thoughts 

All in all, finding the best DAC will come down to your requirements. Because if a DAC doesn’t meet those, no matter how great the features and quality get, you won’t be satisfied.

Now, if you have something particular in mind, then I have got some suggestions for you.

Go for the Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS Portable USB DAC to get the best overall value from a DAC. But if you strive for the best performance, I would say AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5. And for the best budget, pick FiiO D3 (D03K) Digital to Analog Audio Converter should be your choice.

But in truth, none of them are ahead of anyone. All come with excellent quality and unique features. So, decide on one based on their unique features that suit your needs the most.

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