Review: 7 Best DACs Spring 2022 – Connoisseurs of natural sound

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Digital-to-analog converters are perhaps the fastest growing segment of audio equipment today. So, against the backdrop of a generational change of these devices, it can really charge in the eyes. Today we have collected for you the “cream” of new products in the field of DACs – and formed a visual selection in order of increasing cost.

Welcome to the world of modern digital sound.

7. iFi Audio ZEN DAC Signature V2

7. iFi Audio ZEN DAC Signature V2

Options – 32/384 | Signal-to-noise ratio – 117 dB | SOI – 0.11% | Weight – 0.505 kg

The widely acclaimed entry-level iFi Audio ZEN DAC Signature has been upgraded to version V2 with a 16-core XMOS chip. The device uses a proprietary True Native DAC circuit, is equipped with a precision clock and works with signals up to chic 32/384. Excellent performance characteristics coexist with a very impressive sound – you can’t even believe that a baby weighing half a kilo can give out such a sound.

Perfect for: Diligent hosts


6. Teac UD-505-X


6. Teac UD-505-X

Options – 32/768 | Signal-to-noise ratio – 110 dB | SOI – 0.02% | Weight – 4.1 kg

The Teac UD-505-X combines a digital-to-analog converter and a quality headphone amplifier in one package. The model uses state-of-the-art ESS Technology ES9038 Q2M chips in a symmetrical configuration (one for each channel), achieves the highest signal reception rates (up to 32/768) and has a record low level of distortion. The sound of the device is very coherent and clear.

Summary: Legendary brand, great DAC


5. Matrix Audio X-SABER 3

5. Matrix Audio X-SABER 3

Options – 32/768 | Signal-to-noise ratio – 134 dB | SOI – n/a | Weight – 3.4 kg

The Matrix Audio X-SABER has been radically redesigned in version 3 with MQA support, a new chassis, and full streamer functionality via Gigabit Ethernet or 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi. There is also Roon Ready certification, as well as built-in Tidal and Spotify clients. The stock Crystek CCHD-950 clock generator can be disabled and an external device enabled. The chip is chosen proven, ES9038PRO – and the sound of Matrix Audio X-SABRE pleasantly amazes with its muscles and drive.

Summary: Example of excellent engineering


4.Ayre QX-8 Base


4. Ayre QX-8 Base

Options – 24/384 | Signal-to-noise ratio – n/a | SOI – n/a | Weight – 4.1 kg

Another DAC combined with a streamer is the Ayre QX-8 Base. Of course, all the company’s favorite technologies are involved – a balanced zero-feedback output stage, an Ayres digital filter that suppresses jitter, and an AyreLock linear power supply. The ESS ES9038Q2M chip is responsible for the conversion, and much more expensive competitors can envy the liveliness of the sound of the device.

Perfect for: Those constructing a high-end system


3 Soulnote D-2

3. Soulnote D-2

Options – 32/768 | Signal-to-noise ratio – 110 dB | THD – 0.008% | Weight – 17 kg

Japan’s high-end DAC, the Soulnote D-2, operates in the widest band from 2 to 120,000 Hz and has a measly 0.008% THD. Four ESS Technology ES9038PRO chips work under the hood, and the mass of the device reaches a solid 17 kg. From the very first chords, the Soulnote D-2 sound impresses with its accuracy and resolution – there are simply no questions about the adequacy of the price tag.

Summary: Modern high-end DAC


2. Aqua Acoustic Formula DACxHD


2. Aqua Acoustic Formula DACxHD

Options – 24/768 | Signal-to-noise ratio – n/a | SOI – n/a | Weight – 9 kg

The top of the line Aqua Acoustic Formula DACxHD DAC uses Optologic DAC’s proprietary conversion technology – four discrete R2R matrices and FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) with galvanic isolation on optocouplers and additional magnetic isolation are involved. There is no digital filtering – as a result, in terms of transparency and openness, it is difficult to put even a twice as expensive device next to Aqua Acoustic Formula DACxHD.

Perfect for: Connoisseurs of natural sound


1. Kalista The DreamPlay DAC

1. Kalista The DreamPlay DAC

Options – 32/384 | Signal-to-noise ratio – n/a | SOI – n/a | Weight – 30 kg

The high-end Kalista The DreamPlay DAC is housed in the company’s traditional methacrylate case and rests on an aluminum chassis. The system is built on a dual principle – you can choose to work through the dual chip AK4395, or switch to AK4493. The Elektra external power supply provides twelve individual circuits. The sound of Kalista The DreamPlay DAC clearly shows what is brilliant and gloss.

Perfect for: Fans of the absolute best

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