When it comes to gaming, we all mostly focus on the visual aspect of it. However, the full experience involves good audio quality as well.
And just like with graphics, you need a good piece of hardware for this to be possible.
This is where DAC devices come into play. Short for “digital to analog converter,” these devices convert digital information about sound to an analog signal, thus providing you with better sound quality.
In some way, they’re similar to audio interfaces, or sound cards, but are usually accommodated to work with headsets and bring better audio quality, both with the sounds from the game and with different music.
DAC vs AMP
Aside from DAC devices, we can also find the so-called AMP devices, which are basically like simple amplifiers for computer headphones or speakers.
Like we already explained, any DAC converts the digital information from your computer to an analog signal, which then goes through the drivers of your headphones or speakers.
And then we have AMP devices, which just amplify the signal and make it louder or more “present.” You can either use a DAC or DAC and an AMP device together in a chain.
This way, you’ll achieve the full effect and get a completely different experience in gaming.
We also have audio interfaces or sound card. Some may confuse them with DAC devices, but sound cards feature both analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog signal conversion, as well as a preamp and sound processing sections.
They are used by those who record music at home or in a studio.
Things to Look for In a DAC
Of course, this investment is not always that cheap. Sure, it won’t be that much since you already paid a significant sum to have a nice gaming configuration.
But at the same time, they can seem more or less expensive considering that they’re basically simple audio processing devices.
Nonetheless, there are still DAC devices that are worth the price as they offer better audio quality in the end.
So one of the first things to think about is your budget limit. And the prices vary, going anywhere from 15 or 20 USD and even up to 200 or more USD.
Of course, these price differences come with some significant differences in features, audio quality, and even build quality and materials.
However, in almost all of the cases, you won’t need to worry about the materials and build quality as they’re usually made pretty well these days. And, after all, it’s not like you’re going to do any physical or mechanical damages to a DAC while gaming.
It’s supposed to just sit there on your desk and serve as a simple converting device.
The sound quality, however, is something that will change depending on the model that you’re using. As you already know by now, DAC converts digital information to an analog signal.
This means that the unimaginably lines of 1s and 0s need to be “translated” into audio information that will then go through the speakers and right into your ears in the form of vibrations.
For this purpose, we need to think of two factors – bit depth and sample rate.
The sample rate refers to the rate of “capture” of the original signal, while sample size or bit depth presents the number of bits that are implemented for each sample.
The sample rate is presented in kHz and goes anywhere from 44.1 to 192 kHz in modern audio converting devices. Meanwhile, the bit depth is usually 24 or 32 bits with modern devices.
In the end, you’ll also need to think of the connectivity and other features. Firstly, look whether the DAC you laid your eyes on features the type of connection that’s supported by your computer.
At the same time, you’ll also need to look at whether the device has a standard line out or RCA connectors and how it can work with your speakers or headphones.
In some cases, you’ll also have a DAC device that works with both gaming PCs and gaming consoles.
Best DAC For Gaming Review Guide
In the following section, we will focus on some of the specific products we believe fit the best DAC for gaming category. Let’s dive into it!
Sound BlasterX G6: Best DAC For Gaming
Those who are into gaming might already know a thing or two about the digital entertainment company Creative.
With an inventory of some very well-thought-of products designed especially for gaming, it’s only obvious to find something like a DAC.
For this list, we’re looking into their amazing Sound BlasterX G6 that’s been gaining a lot of attention from gamers in the past years.
It takes no more than just one glance to figure out that this is a high-end product for those who seek for the best gaming experience out there.
To put it simply, the looks and the design complement the performance and features of this fine piece. Firstly, we need to point out that Sound BlasterX G6 is intended for consoles and standard gaming PCs. As for consoles, it supports connectivity with PlayStation 4, X-Box One, and Nintendo Switch.
We also have top-notch audio processing technology that supports 7.1 surround sound and Dolby digital. This also makes it a very viable option for those who are looking to enhance other entertainment forms, including movies or any other multimedia experience.
It comes with an amazing bit rate of 32 bits and up to 384 kHz sample rate. You don’t find this particular formation even with some professional sound cards these days.
But it’s more than just a simple DAC. On it, we can also find the so-called “Scout Mode” that can help you enhance your gaming experience with in-game audio cues.
It also comes with a discrete headphone amp and a bi-amp, meaning that it processes low and high frequencies separately, resulting in a full sound.
To be fully honest, you just can’t go wrong with Sound BlasterX G6 since it provides an unmatched experience, even compared to some more expensive DACs these days.
- Great deal for the price
- Bi-amp design for ultimate sound qualities
- 32-bit depth and up to 384 kHz sample rate
- Supports connectivity with Play Station 4, Nintendo Switch, X-Box One, and standard gaming PCs
- Might be a little expensive for some users
Chord Mojo: Best High-End AMP/DAC Combo
Chord Electronics is one of the most respected brands in the world of hi-fi stuff and multimedia entertainment.
Gamers of all ages and skill levels are usually familiar with some of their stuff, most notably Mojo DAC, which comes with some surprisingly great qualities and features that you won’t find on any other similar device.
However, at the same time, this is accompanied by a pretty big price tag, so it won’t exactly be for everyone’s tastes.
Nonetheless, this one comes as an example of an ultimate DAC for an ultimate gaming experience. This compact and portable device comes with a somewhat unusual design and an abundance of great features.
First off, it can work not only with a PC, but also with Mac, iPhone, and Android phone devices. Whatever you’re doing, just plug in your headphones in there, and you’ll get an impeccable crystal clear sound.
What’s more, it’s also designed to work with computer speakers and even professional studio monitors. This comes with an astounding audio quality of 32 bits and a mind-blowing sample rate of 768 kHz.
However, somewhat of a downside here is that you’ll need expensive headphones or speakers to use its full potential.
Mojo DAC connected to other devices using its micro USB connection and can be charged through its special separate micro USB port.
While we’re at it, the device can work with its integral battery as well and can give up to 10 hours of performance when disconnected.
Mojo also comes with an optical Toslink, although it provides users with sound quality of 24 bits and 192 kHz audio resolution.
However, there’s even a 3.5 mm coaxial connector that has the same full audio resolution that you’d get with its USB connection.
- Aside from PCs, it can work with Android phones and iPhones, as well as Macs
- Pristine sound quality with 768 kHz and 32 bits audio resolution
- Also comes with coaxial and optical connections
- Doesn’t work with standard consoles
- It’s expensive and requires expensive speakers or headphones in order to use its full potential
FiiO D3 (D03K): Best Budget DAC For Gaming
But among so many expensive DACs, some may wonder – is there anything at a budget-friendly level that might help us get a better audio experience for gaming.
Well, there are some solutions, although you should be careful when picking a cheap DAC.
Luckily, we’ve found some cheaper but great examples, one of them being D3 by FiiO Electronics Technology.
The product in question is far from a professional-level piece like the Mojo or Sound BlasterX G6, but it still delivers quite a punch, especially for its price level.
Aside from a lower price, the main idea behind such a DAC was simplicity and practicality. It’s a pretty straightforward piece, yet it comes with some interesting traits that make it worth checking out.
The D3 is equipped with an integrated preamp, FiiO’s E9, that makes the sound just a bit more present. There are also options to connect it to a device that supports coaxial cables and even optical cables.
And aside from the standard 3.5 mm line output, we can also find left and right RCA outputs for regular speakers or hi-fi devices.
The downside here is that it only works with PCs if you’re looking for a gaming experience. The audio quality that it produces is decent, but far from a professional-level digital to analog converter.
While this may be a downside, you need to consider that FiiO D3 is very cheap, costing even below $30 in most of the cases.
So if you’re a PC gaming aficionado and need something to enhance your experience, and you still don’t feel like busting out a lot of money on anything, then D3 comes as a great choice.
- Very cheap and outperforms its price level
- Comes with additional connection options like coaxial and optical connections
- The sound quality might not be good for some users
Looking at DACs these days, it seems as if you can only choose between bigger and good or small and not so good devices.
However, you might be surprised when you look into some products like DragonFly Series by AudioQuest. If you’re a hi-fi and gaming enthusiast, there’s a high chance you’re familiar with AudioQuest and their great products.
DragonFly is as small as any standard USB dongle, yet it provides qualities that you won’t expect from such small and practical devices that could fit in your average wallet. Of course, this comes with a bigger price, but we’d say that these are more than worth it.
The main idea here was to have a compact and simple “plug and play” device for Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac devices.
In case you want to pair it with a phone, both an iOS or an Android one, you’ll need some additional adapters, but you can make it work. But its overall intention is not just for gaming, but other experiences as well.
However, it’s optimized to work with headphones, although you can also use it with speakers through its simple 3.5 mm connection. The audio quality is great for this price level, reaching up to 24 bits and 92 kHz.
It might not be as much as some would hope for, but you’ll get a very compact and great-sounding DAC that’s especially useful for those who prefer gaming laptops.
But as we already mentioned, it’s not exactly the cheapest piece on the market these days, so it’s mostly for the high-end users.
- Very compact and practical
- Can also work with Android and iOS phones with additional adapters
- Good sound quality
- It’s not that cheap
Lastly, we would like to take a closer look at yet another cheap device for those who are operating on a budget.
But despite not being that famous among gamers, Prozor is a brand that offers more than just decent quality at a fairly low price.
Their simple DAC manages to bring great audio resolution at 24 bits and up to 192 kHz sample rate. And if that’s not surprising for this extremely cheap price range, then we don’t know what is.
There’s one downside though, and it’s the fact that you can only connect it to other devices using a coaxial or an optical cable. This might feel like a bother to some users, but many consoles these days come with S/PDIF connectors and can work with such a DAC.
Other than that, we would mention that we have two types of audio outputs on it, one standard 3.5 mm connector for headphones and two separate left and right RCA-type connectors.
It’s powered using a 5-volt adapter, although it’s not included in the package.
At the end of the day, it’s a fairly useful and pretty cheap solution for anyone who’s looking to get a better sound for their gaming experience.
It’s even compatible with some 5.1 devices and even DVD or Blu-Ray players.
- Extremely cheap and outperforms its price level
- Works with standard modern consoles and other devices that support coaxial or optical cables
- It doesn’t feature a USB connection
As we already explained, it might not be easy to find the best DAC for your gaming preferences.
However, from all of the devices that we described above, we’d argue that Sound BlasterX G6 would be the best option.
Yes, Chord Mojo does bring the best audio quality, but that means that you also need expensive equipment for it, which is quite a burden for its already high price.
Besides, Sound BlasterX G6 also has some traits that are specially designed for gamers, so it would be our pick if we were to choose the best DAC for our needs.