Accessories Ratings

the Best external DAC for smartphone

Tell, what is external DAC and why your smartphone will sparkle in a new way.

The majority of readers are thinking: why bother to cling to the smartphone some additional device when you can buy a good pair of headphones? Really – what are the benefits of an external DAC? Let's deal with this question and look at the best devices that will help your phone to sound much better.

Every music file in phone memory represented by the digital code, that is in the form of zeros and ones. So you could hear it in the headphones or speaker, it must be converted from digital form into analog. This work assumes the DAC (digital-to-analog Converter).

In every smartphone, tablet and laptop has a built-in DAC. But the problem is that the native Converter, as a rule, weak. Audiophile gadgets with good acoustics interesting only to a narrow audience, so the manufacturers are betting on more popular features – the camera, autonomy, performance, juicy picture. If you think that your smartphone is playing well, believe me, it is not so.

If you have an external DAC, the audio signal is decoded not a built-in Converter, and external, which is way more powerful, so the melody sounds more diverse, and in it you can discern the details, which previously did not pay attention. In other words, with external DAC music of any genre is more defined, and bass is rich, that is, approaching the form in which it was created by the musician. Of course, the headphones play a role, but if the built-in Converter quality does not Shine, and from the headphones will be of little avail.

Is, portable DAC can tremendously affect your listening experience of music from a mobile device. As for the facilities such as external converters, there are models that have the wireless function.

Well, have we convinced you? Then let's look at the best bargains that you can buy in 2020.

iFi xDSD

Price: 28 900 rubles

The quality of audio conversion iFi xDSD and his closest rival Chord Mojo going on in the vicinity, but for several reasons first in our collection is xDSD.

This is a portable DAC and amp in one bottle. It looks very stylish. The ribbed body is made from metal with a glossy finish. Complete with xDSD the buyer receives a velvet pouch-pouch, a few strips of textile Velcro to attach the device to the rear panel of the smartphone, and a set of adapters for connection to various audio sources.

Are two connection options – wired and wireless. Bluetooth uses the aptX compression format for streaming audio without any loss in quality. Universal USB Type-A will be useful to connect to various sound sources, from smartphones to media players.

With xDSD you will discover music formats advanced level. Unlike Mojo, xDSD can handle MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) – Studio-quality format used by the service Tidal Masters. The device is able to play as DSD and PCM audio without converting to another format with the inevitable losses.

The device gives the feeling of complete control over the sound. This is facilitated by the analog wheel volume control and the various modes of listening: Listen to optimized mid-frequency, simulation of the performance of 3D Matrix and a mild bass boost.

Has и более дешевый вариант – усилитель для наушников iFi xCAN, он предлагает по большей части те же самые характеристики, но лишен USB.

Many users in xDSD attracted by the possibility of experiments with sound. If you are one of those who prefer the simpler approach, note the popular Chord Mojo. This model will lead you towards the perfect sound for the minimum number of steps.


  • Futuristic design.
  • Analog volume control.
  • Built-in battery.


  • The controls need to get used to.
  • More complicated to use than a Chord Mojo.

Chord Mojo

Price: 35 000 rubles

Chord Mojo – the device is quite large, because inside it is own battery. This feature can be attributed simultaneously to the pluses and the minuses. In operation, the amplifier does not drain the smartphone, but if you don't follow its charge, you can go without music in the most unexpected moment.

However, autonomy for a device of this kind is very reasonable – 8-10 hours. Charging takes about 5 hours. Other features include two headphone outputs and key illumination volume, which informs about the quality of the playing file.

My stuffing Mojo uses the full. Compared to the built-in sound system iPhone, the amplifier produces clearer sound. If no Mojo in the track is dominated by high and low frequencies, the connection of the amplifier medium are very evident, the melody immediately becomes more diverse and more complex.

Chord Mojo cannot be attributed to compact accessories, and maybe it's not the most convenient option for trips: because there are only a wired connection, you will have to figure out how to expand the smartphone and power on the pockets so that the wire is not prevented from moving.


  • a Powerful boost.
  • Simple controllers.
  • Has встроенный аккумулятор.


  • Before you need to charge.
  • A large and rather bulky.
  • No Bluetooth.

Audiolab M-DAC Nano

Price: 13 rubles 020

Is not attracted to Chord Mojo? Then here is a miniature M-DAC Nano. Let his size does not bother you – for the technical part looks fine.

Is not only a quality Converter but also a Bluetooth receiver that will turn your wired headphones into wireless and provide unrestricted freedom of movement. It's simple: set up a Bluetooth pairing between your smartphone and M-DAC Nano, and then connected to the recent wired headphones and enjoy excellent sound. A standard range of 10 meters allows you to move through the house or the gymnasium without the need to carry a smartphone in your pocket.

The main body of the device provides 64-step the volume wheel. The F key activates the enhanced playback with sampling rates of 32bit / 384 kHz, which leads to dramatic changes in the sound. There are no other settings, but you can always adjust the sound programmatically using the music player.

При использовании в обычном режиме батарейки хватает примерно на 8 часов работы, но при повышенной дискретизации расход энергии возрастает и тогда можно рассчитывать не более чем на 6 часов воспроизведения. Naushniki при этом будут работать с мощностью до 7,5 МВт / 300 Ом.

As in 2020 to go with a wired headphones are uncomfortable and unfashionable, M-DAC Nano may become an alternative to expensive wireless headphones, or even a flagship smartphone with a good sound.


  • Is easy to use.
  • Suitable for headphones with high impedance.
  • Has Bluetooth 4.2 с учетом кодеков aptX, aptX Low Latency и AAC.


  • At the maximum load autonomy only 6 hours.
  • The settings are limited compared to other models.

RHA Dacamp L1

Price: 29 990 rubles

While Chord Mojo wins due to more compact housing, Dacamp gives smartphone users on iOS for more convenient connectivity in the form of USB input. The difference in size for the most part unimportant: Dacamp slightly longer than the Mojo, and a little heavier.

a Huge margin at the signal level allows the device to work even with expensive high quality headphones. The controls are represented in the form of "krutilki", which greatly simplifies the setup of the sound. Settings not as many as in the software equalizer, but with the available tools, you can make any style of music sound the way you want.

Maybe it's not the cheapest portable amp, but it has a unique feature is the ability to charge from RHA Dacamp L1 other devices. Built-in battery capacity is 4000 mAh, this will be enough for emergency phone recharging on the road.


  • The support for iOS via USB.
  • The autonomy of 10 hours.
  • Simple and intuitive.


  • A limited number of settings.

The Audioquest Dragonfly Red/Black

Price: 7 990 rubles

Audioquest released the original Dragonfly USB DAC even back in 2012, however, the time requirements of the device to the power supply allowed to use it only with desktop computers. With modern microcontrollers, the device consumes about 25 mAh and can successfully eat from any smartphone, including from iPhone via the Lightning port.

The main feature Audioquest Dragonfly lies in the size. The device dimensions does not differ from a normal USB stick, and therefore easily fits in your pocket along with the smartphone.

The color of the device – not just a design decision, but the pointer to the technical specifications. Red Dragonfly refers to the premium class. It is a better quality Converter, output power is 2.1 V unlike the 1.2 V version in black. This means that the Audioquest Dragonfly Red – a better choice for high impedance headphones.

With my headphones connected directly to iPhone, music comfortable to listen to about half of maximum volume. Using Dragonfly Red level can be lowered until about the quarter and Dragonfly Black oddly enough the volume has to be set in just one space. This means that control sound in the latter case is not at all – if we add one step, the music is too loud, if you reduce – off at all.

However, both versions of the device very accurately distinguish low frequencies without sacrificing clarity average. For example, Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" without the DAC doesn't sound as detailed and diverse as him.

Is it worth it to pay more for the version of Red depends on how you find it difficult to adjust the volume in your headphones. As for sound quality, in good overhead headphones you will notice more changes than cheap gags.

The Dragonfly neither Red nor Black can't match with the coolness Chord Mojo, however, the budget price and compact form factor make them a very attractive proposition.


  • Very compact.
  • Is powered by a smartphone.


  • there is No detailed settings.
  • Potential problems with volume control.

Creative Sound Blaster E5

Price: 11 690 rubles

About Creative Labs heard every audiophile. Its sound card has created a furore in the late ' 90s in that period was almost the God of all lovers of quality sound. Since then, she has worked with many technologies, worked on the creation of unusual earbuds triple driver and 11.2.4-channel sound bar and looked for ways to manufacture inexpensive portable DAC.

The result of the last work was Creative Sound Blaster E5 – middling in a huge family of DACs Creative Sound, which offers a wireless option.

The presence of wireless communication in itself is a huge plus, but here it has some limitations: Bluetooth in this device is not able to transmit music in CD quality without the help of the advanced codecs, such as LDAC or aptX HD. Due to this feature music wirelessly sounds good, but no more. Of course, since conversion is digital to analog occurs in the external device, the result is not bad, but still not better than native Hi-Res.

However, if wireless convenience is more important for you than high quality audio, Blaster E5 is far not the worst choice, especially since its price is quite affordable.


  • Has NFC for Android.
  • Wirelessly.


  • A function of SBX has no noticeable effect.

Why you should purchase an external DAC?

Let's sum up and talk again about the benefits your smartphone or tablet to an external digital-to-analog Converter.

Because of technology a lot now and every player has his own characteristics, one and the same track on different devices will play different – quieter or louder, with a weak bass, but very pronounced high frequencies or Vice versa. In any case, what you hear from the speakers of your smartphone or laptop, far from the music that wrote the musician on Studio equipment.

Of course, over time you get accustomed to how to play smartphone, and most of the shortcomings cease to cut the ears. But for a real audiophile so the sound will be sheer torture, because of weak phonics ruthlessly destroys the nuances of the composition.

The main reason why the music is playing poorly on a smartphone or laptop – the imperfection of the built-in digital-to-analog Converter. However, the fact that the smartphone has its own DAC, does not prevent you to connect external.

This is done in two cases.

first, in order to obtain better audio, because the external Converter processes the signal, as a rule, much better internal.

Second to rock a good pair of headphones. Expensive high impedance headphones (high impedance, i.e. 100 Ohms) is required associated equipment of the same level. In this case, quality external DAC will help them to resound in full force.




  • And not easier then the phone to buy a DAC for example the same Highscreen Boost 3 and is much cheaper and easier!

    • Dmitry, иногда не проще. Ничего не могу сказать про Highscreen Boost 3, потому что рассматривать музофоны с такими характеристиками: Размер встроенной памяти: 16 Гб

      RAM size: 2GB

      A slot for expansion memory: Yes

      Form factor memory cards: microSD, microSDHC (up to 64GB) — it's ridiculous. One album, on average, in FLAC format weighs 0.5 GB. The very use ZTE Axon 7s with a built-in DAC AK 4490 + external Capos OPPO. Now, all phones that have and are listened to, one problem — this is a weak amplifier that is unable to thoroughly rock the ISO-dynamics (and not only) I contacted Sergey Snorry about his isodynamic, so he recommends Capos with the release of at least 1 watt per channel!

  • The author, had serious reservations on the article. First, I listened to the DAC iFi xDSD, and he did not make me much of an impression, at least my AUDEZE SINE (STANDARD CABLE) it didn't shake, well, God bless him. Secondly, why is it so scarce Your «range»? Where such DACs like the Chord HUGO 2, IFI audio Micro iDSD Black Label, Oppo HA-2SE, xDuoo XD05 Plus, AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt?

    • A remarkable jumble of DACs. In a row to put HUGO, Cobalt, and even Oppo c XD05 noticeably weaker in sound? It's either expensive or well enough. Actually I want to remind you about the existence of such a wonderful portable Raposa, Japanese ADL X1 by Furutech. In it and the sound level Chord Mojo and the price tag affordable. You can buy new for half the price from the official 400 Euro (29000 RUB)

      • А в исходной статье не винегрет?) Свалили в кучу и Chord Mojo, и AUDIOQUEST DRAGONFLY RED, и ещё кое-что малоизвестное. А понятие «дорого» как критерий, в статье также не обсуждалось, ибо статья озаглавлена «the Best external DAC for smartphone», а не «Недорогие (доступные по цене) внешние ЦАП для смартфона». И потом, высококачественный ЦАП — это всегда недёшево, остальное — компромисс, увы… А за ссылку спасибо.