What capabilities to look for in a DAC?

I’m shopping for a new amp and am assessing DACs. I’m not sure if I’ll go integrated in the amp or a separate box.

I’d like it to be reasonably future-proof. I’m not really sure where the tech is headed. Is MQA going to be increasingly important? DSD 64 or 256? Any others?

IMHO, MQA and DSD are moribund formats.

In addition to delta sigma type DACs, there is also the R2R variety to consider.

A DAC combined with any other device is not future proof.

No one can recommend what DAC to use as that is a completely subjective choice.


It depends what you listen to. Do you stream? For example, if you’re a Tidal subscriber, you could stream MQA Tidal ‘Masters’.
As an aside, I know MQA is gaining penetration in hardware manufacturers, but I’m not sure of it’s long-term viability. Personally, I’d be surprised to see MQA still around in five-years time.

Streaming DSD is impossible at the moment. Qobuz were promoting DSD streaming a few years ago , but it never transpired. Unless you have a DSD library, either from downloads or from ripping SACD’s, then I don’t think DSD has a mainstream future either. There is a larger DSD download market in the US, but here in the UK it’s virtually non- existent.

Which leaves PCM. That’s freely available via streaming and downloads, and I would suggest that any new DAC be at least 192KHz-capable.


Important point for all buyers. :+1:


TBH, DACs are not really future proof IMO. Technology improvements are ever being developed. It’s like a future proof AVR or computer. In two years, they are mostly outdated feature wise. Buy what has the features you want at the price point you’re looking at. A good quality DAC will stay in the game a good five years. At least that’s seems to be about the time frame where I change mine out. YMMV.

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I share that opinion with Slim and Martin.

I’m pretty happy with the Topping D70 I bought last year. I wanted an integrated power supply (instead of an outside-the-box brick or LPS) and balanced outputs. Relatively inexpensive. Remote control. DAC-only mode or DAC/preamp mode.

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That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m trying to assess. I’m looking at some amps where the more expensive version includes a DAC that handles MQA and DSD, while the cheaper version doesn’t. If those formats won’t matter, then there’s no need to talk myself into the more expensive one.

I do stream (with Tidal), but I also have a large library of lossless CDs and high-resolution downloads. None in DSD, as my current DAC can’t do those. And MQA is new to me with Tidal.

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I think that in general, if you buy a modern system, you’ll be happy for years to come. I’d also recommend something that sells in tens of thousands of units, so that manufacturing issues and quality control are adequate.

In general, the ins and outs of DACs and amps are both pretty well worked out. I doubt there will be significant technical change in the future that will affect sound quality.

You may want to consider the headphone amp/ output if it has one

I use a DAC as my primary hi fi component with Headphones, background music comes from it to a soundbar via 2 RCA

Some manufacturers design modules that can be updated when the inevitable “improvements” become mainstream. What comes to my mind are McIntosh preamps and integrated amps and NAD. I’m sure there are others.

Don’t give up on DSD. I use Roon to convert to DSD and prefer it. My DAC plays up to 1024 but DSD 64 sounds best from Roon in my system. I’m using an i5 to run Roon Core. Its possible with a faster processor higher DSD may sound better. Hi Rez from Tidal or Qobuz is great converted to DSD. My DAC doesn’t support MQA. Roon does some unfolding, I find it fatiguing after a while. Maybe its better with a DAC that finishes the unfolding.