I know it might sound like a strange idea but when you are gaming on a PC, you can actually tweak every last detail of your overall gaming experience. This involves the audio as well, and for those who are unaware, audio does play a huge part in how you are going to enjoy the gaming sessions. A bad audio experience leaves a lot to be desired and to be honest, this is not what I would suggest to anyone.
However, the good news is that if you already own a good pair of headphones, you can always buy the best DAC for gaming and pair them both.
DAC vs Amp
When it comes to choosing a DAC or an amp, things get confusing for a lot of people. Normally, these are coupled together but in certain situations, you can use them on their own, as well. In order to make things simpler for you, below is the main difference between them.
- DAC: DACs or digital to analogue converters are devices that are responsible for converting the digital signal to an analogue signal that our headphones or speakers need. So, when the computer sends the digital signal to the DAC, it converts it to analogue signal and sends it to the headphone. Normally, this conversion happens on the motherboard if you are using the built-in soundcard, but due to the circuitry being so close to each other, there are several factors that can deteriorate the quality.
- Amp: As the name suggests, amp or amplifiers are devices that powers up the signal that is coming out of the DAC. This means that the speakers or the headphones will become louder. When both are combined, you can get a better signal quality, however, they can still work without each other.
DAC vs Sound Card
Another thing that confuses a lot of people when it comes to buying a DAC or even an amp is when you add a soundcard into the equation. I know it sounds odd but there is a good amount of difference between both of these things.
As discussed before, a DAC is only responsible for converting the digital signal into an audio one, however, when you are relying on a DAC, you will get a good sound quality, but the signal will not be powered by any means.
As far as the sound card is concerned, it is basically a device that acts as both a soundcard and an amplifier, all combined into one. The performance is obviously is not as good when you compare it with a dedicated amp and DAC but it gets the job done and in most cases, it is better than built-in sound cards that are found on the motherboards.
How To Choose A DAC
Now that we have talked about some of the most common things that you should know about, the next process is to look at how you can choose a DAC. Again, this can be one arduous task because there are just so many factors involved. We are going to try to simplify the things for you. Therefore, let’s not waste time and have a look, shall we?
Do You Even Need It?
Not all headphones are created equal, and that is one of the more important things that you should be aware of. In most cases, you might not even need a DAC, in the first place. For starters, if you have headphones that are on the lower side when it comes to impedance, then you will not need to invest in a DAC. You can do just well without one and it will work just fine. However, if you are using high-end headphones that have a higher impedance as well, then it is best if you just go with a good DAC.
What is Your Budget
Another thing to look for is your own budget. I know, it sounds strange but DACs can be expensive and if you are looking for a good experience, you have to be sure that you know what you are doing. It is going to make your experience so much smoother and simpler, as well. That way, you won’t have a lot of issues coming in the way, either.
Just be sure about the budget you have and then choose the perfect DAC for you.
Are You Going to Add an Amplifier as Well?
Another thing that you should be keeping in mind whenever you are choosing a DAC is whether you are going to add an amplifier or not. The reason why I am saying this is because most of the times, these devices are paired together for the optimal experience but there are many situations and instances in which people use these devices on their own.
If you are going to go for the best possible experience, it is best if you consider this beforehand.
As someone who has been using audio products for a long, long time, one of the best companies that I like happens to be FiiO. The Chinese company is known for dishing out some of the best products available in the market, and the best part is that most of them are pretty affordable, so you do not have to worry much about anything going out of the way.
Today, we look at the FiiO K1, an extremely affordable DAC/Amp combo that actually has the plug and play nature, which is really great. You do not have to worry about arduous installation processes. Additionally, the build quality of this DAC is pretty good, as well, and it does look like you are getting your money’s worth. It is just really good in almost every single aspect.
For the downside, there is a small issue with the FiiO K1, as far as performance, the K1 is finicky, to say the least. For instance, it can work really, really well on some headphones and even improve the sound quality. While on some other headphones, it can actually lag behind, making the quality even worse.
Overall, the FiiO K1 is actually an affordable option that you can buy and see if it works for you. There are not a lot of ground breaking factors involved in the process, but given the price, you are actually free to go.
- The DAC is extremely easy to use.
- The build quality is great.
- It is really easy to carry around thanks to the small size.
- The performance is a hit and miss.
Schiit Fulla 2
When you are talking about good audio products, the one company that needs no introduction happens to be Schiit, they are among the finest companies that are making great audio products for years now.
Today, we are looking at the Schiit Fulla 2 and while the name does confuse a lot of people, the good news is that this is one of the finest DACs available in the market that are known for stellar performance.
With that out of the way, the great thing about Fulla 2 is that it is USB powered, this means that the support is pretty much endless and the DAC is pretty easy to use, as well. You have a good amount of connectivity options, so you do not have to worry about limited support, or no support at all.
The one big concern I had about the Fulla 2 was the performance as I was not sure how this is going to perform. Thankfully, the Schiit Fulla 2 is an excellent DAC/Amp combo and while it is not the highest end offering you are going to get, the performance is commendable, to say the least.
If you are talking about the downsides, the only issue I have with this is the fact that the build quality somewhat looks dubious. However, in my overall testing with this otherwise excellent DAC/amp, I can assure you that you are not going to have any issues coming in the way.
Overall, the Schiit Fulla 2 is a great DAC if you are looking for something small, portable, and most importantly, affordable as well. It delivers on all fronts, and does not go too heavy on the pockets, either.
- Setting it up is extremely simple.
- USB powered allows for an easier usability.
- You get a good amount of connectivity options.
- The solid quality is pretty impressive, to say the least.
- The build quality leaves something to be desired for.
When you are looking at all the amazing DAC/amp combos available in the market or even standalone devices, the good news is that you are going to be introduced to some of the finest devices available.
However, you often find yourself confused because you are not sure what you want to get and what you should be avoiding. That being said, the option that we are looking today is the TEAC HA-P50SE.
What is so great about this? Well, the great thing about this DAC/amp combination is that it is one of the most portable options available in the market. It can easily fit in your pocket, or your backpack with ease.
Additionally, another great thing about this DAC is that if you are looking for a good sound quality, you are going to get great sound that is not just good when it comes to the sound but also very balanced, giving a very rich and balanced experience. The overall design language of this DAC/amp is pretty sleek looking and can easily hold up its style and substance.
If you are looking for the downsides, I couldn’t find a lot of issues with this amazing option. Granted, if you are comparing it with a higher end option that is available in the market, you will begin to see the discrepancies, but for the price you are paying, the DAC is actually great and the best part is that you will not have to worry much about anything else.
Overall, the great thing about TEAC HA-P50SE is one of the best DAC/Amp combos available in the market. Granted, it is not the best DAC/amp available on the market the performance is nothing short of amazing and you will have a great experience regardless.
- The sound is balanced and dynamic.
- The DAC is easy to carry around.
- The overall design language is pretty great, as well.
- I couldn’t think of anything.
Meridian Audio Explorer2
Meridian Audio is just one of those companies that are known for delivering excellent products over the years. Granted, these companies are overlooked because of the more famous companies available in the market. However, the good news is that whenever you are looking for a good DAC/amp combo, things can easily go your way, too.
With that out of the way, the option we are looking at is the Meridian Audio Explorer2, it is one of the best portable DACs available in the market, and the best part is that it is pretty affordable, as well. However, that is not the only redeeming factor about this DAC.
What else is good? You are getting support for 24-bit and 192 kHz compatibility, the DAC also supports MQA, and using it is one of the easiest things you can do. If you are looking for something that offers a very clean and refined sound, then this DAC is definitely something that you should be going for.
As far as the downsides are concerned, the only thing that I would mention here is that the overall sound quality is not balanced; so it might sound different to different people. You might dislike it, or like it, based on your preferences.
In conclusion, the one thing that I can say for sure about the Meridian Audio Explorer2 is that it is a pretty great DAC that is not just small, but it also delivers exceptional performance for what you are paying. The sound might be a hit or miss for different people but overall, it does cover most of the bases with ease.
- 24 bit and 192 kHz compatibility is great to have.
- The DAC comes with MQA support.
- It is extremely easy to use.
- The sound that comes out of it is clear, clean, as well as solid.
- The sound profile is not for everyone.
Music Fidelity V90DAC
The last DAC on the list is from a company called Musical Fidelity, another great company known for making some great products. What is so special about this DAC?
Well, it is on the affordable side, and the best thing is that you do not have to worry about a lot of issues that might come in the way, either. However, is it good enough to be on this list and why you should be buying it? That is what we are going to find out in this review.
Kicking things off with the performance, if you are looking for a DAC that will make your pair of headphones have more detail to them, then this is the one that you should be investing in. The sound that comes out of this DAC is pretty detailed and you will love all sorts of music if you opt for this.
The mid-range frequencies on this DAC are just as impressive; they are not just smooth but also very fluid, and I can assure you that it can work wonderfully. Another great thing is that you are getting a lot of great features that make this DAC an ideal choice for a lot of people, and last but not the least, you are getting an excellent build quality.
So, what is there to dislike? Well, the DAC takes some time to warm up, and the bass is not as tight as some would expect. If you are okay with these basic downsides, then you are in for a great experience.
If you are looking for an all-rounder and an overall excellent DAC, the good news is that the Musical Fidelity V90DAC is one of the finest options available. It does not cost a lot, it is built wonderfully, and the best part is that it does not deliver a mediocre performance, either.
- Excellent performance.
- The sound is detailed.
- The middle frequencies are smooth and full of fluidity.
- You get a lot of amazing features.
- The build quality is solid.
- Bass is not as tight.
- DAC takes some time to warm up.
Choosing a good DAC can be a difficult process. There are a lot of small and large factors that play their part and more often than not, making the decision can be tricky, as well. Therefore, in this article, we tried to simplify things as much as possible and see if it could help you choose the best possible option for your use.