Best Home Audio DACs For Audiophiles On A Budget! (2022)

In today’s digital audio world, you need a good digital to analog converter or DAC to get the best out of your home audio hi-fi setup. The DAC takes the digital audio signal produced by your source (most likely a laptop or streamer) and converts it to an analog audio signal that can be amplified by a power amp.

Component or Home Audio DACs usually have more robust circuitry and power supplies than Desktop and Portable DACs, often incorporating multiple DAC chips or Custom DAC sections. The extra juice they draw from the wall allows them to run this circuitry. These DACs are most suitable for sitting on a rack with the rest of your 2-ch equipment like amps, preamps, CD transports, streamers, etc.

We have over 20 years of experience evaluating and reviewing hi-fi components, and we listen to tons of gear, so you don’t have to!  Here are our picks for the Best Home Audio DACs For Audiophiles On A Budget! (2022)

Connection Guide for iFi ZEN One Signature

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Here’s our shortlist of the Best Home Audio DACs For Audiophiles On A Budget! (2022):


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The List:

Best Value Home Audio DAC: iFi ZEN One Signature ($349)

The iFi ZEN One Signature is a capable DAC for $349. It has a nice easygoing sound with good dynamics and a natural presentation. It could use a touch more focus, but it does an excellent job of bringing out the music’s essence and emotion. In addition, it has a remarkable array of connections and impressive wireless sound.

For: those looking for a cost-effective way to add digital connections (and MQA) to their 2-ch system

Key Features/Specs:

  • Burr-Brown “True Native” DAC chip
  • supported files: PCM and DXD up to 32-bit/384kHz; DSD up to DSD256; MQA384kHz
  • full decoding for MQA audio files
  • USB Type-B input for connecting PC and mobile devices
  • optical digital (Toslink) audio input
  • coaxial digital audio input/output
  • balanced 4.4mm output for connecting a compatible powered speaker or amp
  • stereo unbalanced RCA output
  • built-in Bluetooth 5.1supported codecs: aptX®, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, AAC and SBC

What we love:

  • Great Build Quality
  • Warm, Natural Sound
  • Extraordinary Bluetooth Performance

What to think about:

  • Could Use A Touch More Focus

Read Our Full Review

Buy: Amazon and Crutchfield


Best All-Around Budget Home Audio DAC: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M ($499)

For $500, it’s hard to beat the combination of sound quality and features offered by the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M. The 200M supports the highest bit rates ever decoded in a DacMagic DAC (32-bit/768kHz), handles DSD and MQA, plus has built-in aptX Bluetooth. Additionally, there are a ton of connections, including balanced XLR outputs and a powerful Class A/B headphone amp that will drive just about any headphones out there. Its sound is super detailed and natural, with an amazing depth for the price.

While the built-in headphone amp is top-notch, I recommend this product for those looking for a first standalone DAC or upgrading the DAC built into their existing gear. Many will be surprised at how much this compact box improves the sound of their system.

For: those looking for a first standalone component DAC with tons of connections

Key Features/Specs:

  • twin ESS Sabre ES9028Q2M 32-bit digital-to-analog converters in dual mono configuration
  • Full MQA decoding
  • 2 optical digital inputs
  • 2 coaxial digital inputs
  • 1 USB Type-B input (cable sold separately)
  • balanced stereo XLR outputs
  • unbalanced RCA stereo outputs
  • 1/4″ front panel headphone output
  • aptX Bluetooth streaming for CD-like sound

What we love:

  • Great Build Quality
  • Warm, Natural Sound
  • Excellent Bluetooth Connection

What to think about:

  • No Remote

Read Our Full Review

Buy: Amazon and Crutchfield


Best Sounding Pure Dac For Audiophiles On A Budget: DENAFRIPS ARES II R2R DAC ($850)

At the end of the day, the Denafrips ARES II R2R DAC is a solidly built machine that provides a warmer, romantic “tubey” perspective to music instead of the colder, more clinical “solid-state” perspective provided by many chip-based Delta-Sigma DACs. It’s a nice DAC for those who like a smoother top end with “rich” mids and bass. I highly recommend it for those who have systems that are otherwise on the hyper-detailed side.

For: those who want a good representation of what R2R DACs have to offer without spending a boatload of cash.

Key Features/Specs:

  • Proprietary R2R + DSD Architecture
  • True balanced 24BIT R2R + 6BIT DSD (32 steps FIR Filters)
  • Low Thermal Effect, High Precision Hand-Matched 0.01% Resistors      
  • FEMTO Crystal 45.1548MHz, 49.152Mhz     
  • Low Noise Power Supply
  • DSD1024, PCM1536 Supports On USB Input
  • Proprietary USB Audio Solution via STM32F446 Advanced AMR Based MCU
  • Licensed Thesycon USB Driver For Windows Platform
  • Driverless On Mac & Linux

What we love:

  • Great Build Quality
  • Natural, Engaging Sound
  • Excellent Price to Performance Ratio

What to think about:

  • LEDs Too Small
  • Operation Could Be More Intuitive

Read Our Full Review

Buy: Vinshine Audio


Looking for more info on buying a DAC? Check out our DAC Buyer’s Guide!


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