Top 6 Best DACs Under $500 for Audiophiles

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DACs, or digital-to-analog converters, are essential to any high-quality audio setup. But with so many options on the market, choosing the proper DAC for you can take time and effort.

In this blog post, we’ll examine some of the best DACs under 500 dollars to help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re in the market for a powerful desktop DAC or a portable option for on-the-go use, we have you covered.

Read more: Best DACs Under 200

S.M.S.L SU-9 MQA Full Decoder DAC

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The SMSL SU-9 MQA Full Decoder is perfect for anyone looking to get the most out of their audio equipment. With support for LDAC, APTX/HD, XBC, AAC, and the exquisite 24bit/192kHz UAT format, this DAC will surely provide you with a listening experience like no other.

Featuring a DAC with an ES9311 power chip explicitly designed for ESS DACs, the ES9038PRO’s performance is taken to its maximum potential. And with all digital inputs supporting DSD decoding, this product is perfect for audiophiles everywhere.

This powerful device has a shielded low-noise conditioner to improve sound quality and power efficiency. Plus, it offers wireless, wired, and XLR connectivity for added flexibility.


Brand: S.M.S.L | Input: USB, Optical, Coaxial, Bluetooth | Output: RCA, XLR | Size: 187.5x154x40MM(WxHxD) | Weight: 0.79kg


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The SMSL M500 MKII is a high-end DAC that supports LDAC 24bit/96kHz, APTX/HD, SBC, and AAC. It also boasts MQA Audio decoding capability. Its superior sound quality and advanced features make it perfect for music lovers seeking the ultimate audio experience.

This device incorporates the most recent Bluetooth chip from Qualcomm, capable of supporting LDAC 24bit/96kHz, APTX/HD, SBC, and AAC, allowing you to indulge in high-quality audio streaming over Bluetooth without any compromise.

The M500 MKII features a 1.9-inch TFT LCD display and a comprehensive remote control for simple operation. It includes a Bluetooth antenna, USB cable, power cable, and a user manual.


Brand: S.M.S.L | Input: USB, Optical, Coaxial, Bluetooth | Output: 6.35 Headphone Jack, RCA, XLR | Size: 85x88x197mm (WxHxD) | Weight: 0.9kg

AudioQuest – DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

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The AudioQuest DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier is an exceptional product that enhances detail, transparency, immediacy, richness, and tone in all music files. It is compatible with both Apple and Windows PCs and iOS and Android mobile devices.

This versatile DAC can be used with a broad range of devices. It also features a high output that can drive almost all headphones, making it an excellent choice for people who want to use it with headphones.

The 32-bit ESS 9016 DAC with a minimum-phase filter provides superior sound quality. This DAC can play files of all resolutions, from MP3s to high-res files. The asynchronous transfer maintains the timing of the digital signal, and its high output can drive most headphones, even the power-hungry ones.


Brand: AudioQuest | Connector type: USB Type A | Size: 62mm (l) x 19mm (w) x 12mm (h) | Compatible Devices: Headphone, Phones

Sabaj D5 110V Hi-Res Audio Digital to Analog Converter

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The Sabaj D5 Hi-Res Audio Digital to Analog Converter is the perfect way to experience authentic audiophile-quality sound. Featuring a top-of-the-line performance from the ES9038PRO D/A chip from ESS Technology, this converter delivers stunning 32bit/768kHz and DSD512 audio processing.

And with all inputs supporting DSD streaming, you can easily enjoy your favorite music in the highest quality possible. Plus, the built-in high-efficiency and low-vibration transformer provides plenty of power and low noise for optimal sound quality. 


Brand: SabajL | Input: USB, Optical, Coaxial, I2S | Output: Line (SE, XLR), Headphones (SE, XLR) | Size: 245x50x210mm (WxHxD) | Weight: 3kg

S.M.S.L AO200 Digital Power Amplifier

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The SMSL AO200 digital amplifier is a powerful tool that can enhance the sound quality of your music listening experience. Utilizing German Infineon’s new technology class D power amplifier chip, this amplifier delivers superior sound while also consuming less power overall.

With its Bluetooth 5.0 reception and color LCD display, the AO200 is easy to use and understand – ideal for audiophiles looking to optimize their music listening experience. This digital power amplifier uses NJRC’s cutting-edge electronic volume control chip from Japan, ensuring crystal-clear sound quality.

And with 300 watts of instantaneous power, it can tackle even the most demanding audio tasks. The balanced design minimizes distortion and ensures a smooth, true-to-life soundstage.


Brand: AOSHIDA | Input: XLR, RCA, USB, Bluetooth | Size: 187.5×40×154mm (WxHxD) | Weight: 0.96kg | Manufacturer: SMSL

EarStudio ES100 MK2-24bit Portable High-Resolution

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The EarStudio ES100 doesn’t just offer superior audio quality; it also excels in the area of connectivity. With its Bluetooth 5.0 technology, the device guarantees a range of up to 10 meters, allowing you to move around without the limitation of wires.

Moreover, it boasts a built-in, high-capacity battery that delivers approximately 14 hours of continuous playback, allowing you to enjoy your favorite tunes all day long. In terms of design, the ES100 is compact and lightweight, making it your perfect on-the-go companion.


Brand: EarStudio | Input: USB, Bluetooth | Bluetooth Range: 10 meter | Size: 1 x 2 x 0.5 inches (WxHxD) | Weight: 20g


dacs under 200 03

Why use a DAC?

A DAC can significantly improve your audio experience. Most devices that output sound, such as phones and laptops, have built-in DACs. However, these are typically of a lower quality. A separate, dedicated DAC can provide a much more straightforward, richer sound.

What is DSD and PCM?

DSD is a digital audio encoding scheme used for storing high-resolution audio. The acronym is Direct Stream Digital, and Sony and Philips developed this encoding scheme. DSD files are stored with a .dsf file extension. 

On the other hand, PCM, short for Pulse Code Modulation, is a technique employed to represent sampled analog signals digitally. PCM files are saved with a .wav file extension.

Should I Choose Wireless and USB Connected?

There are two types of DAC connection systems available on the market: one that you can connect using a USB cable to your headphones or phone and another that uses Bluetooth to connect devices. Choosing the proper DAC will depend on your device type and your preferences.

If you’re comfortable with USB connections, by all means, go for it. However, the optimal option is to use a wireless Bluetooth connection since it is portable, requires no hassle of wired connections, and is simple to connect. 

Decide based on what you require, what you enjoy, and how convenient it is.

Is a DAC under $500 sufficient for professional audio work?

While a DAC under $500 can provide a great listening experience, professional audio work might benefit from a higher-end model. It’s always best to research and choose a DAC that fits your specific needs and budget.

Can a DAC under $500 improve my audio experience?

Absolutely! A DAC in this price range should improve audio quality more than most built-in DACs.

20/01/2024 – Update
  • Fixed some errors and updated new table of content
  • Removed Monolith Desktop Headphone Amplifier and DAC (Oct 6 2023)
  • Removed Topping D50s DAC 2 ES9038Q2M (Jan 30 2023)
  • Added AudioQuest – DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier (08/03/2022)
5/5 - (4 votes)


Solomen is the founder of, and he is happiest when working with technology and able to help others. In his free time, he often listens to Baroque music, swims or runs. Feel free to contact him on social media!

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