Best DACs for your Mac iMore 2022
Apple recently announced that its entire collection of Apple Music tracks will be in Lossless Audio format. Lossless Audio is a file format that compresses audio without losing any data. You need a pair of wired headphones to hear Lossless Audio as it currently will not work over Bluetooth. Taking it a step further, if you want to listen to Hi-Resolution Lossless Audio, you need to have a digital to analog converter (DAC). Mac users who want to take full advantage of Hi-Resolution Lossless tracks will want to purchase a DAC. Let's explore the best DACs for your Mac.
- Plug and play DAC: Fosi Audio Q4
- Desktop design: DROP + Grace Design Standard DAC Balanced
- DAC on a budget: FX AUDIO USB DAC Headphone Amplifier
- Versatile DAC: FiiO Q1 Mark II Native DSD DAC & Amplifier
- USB powered: Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC
- Digital and aluminum: Fosi Audio K3 HiFi Headphone Amplifier DAC Converter
Plug and play DAC: Fosi Audio Q4Staff Pick
The Fosi Audio Q4 is a plug-and-play device, no installation required on your Mac. The Fosi features a full-metal housing with bass, treble, and volume adjustments. Note you will need a USB-C adaptor if your Mac does not have USB-A ports.
Desktop design: DROP + Grace Design Standard DAC Balanced
The Grace DAC is a desktop DAC that features the AKM AK4452 digital-to-analog conversion chip, previously found in larger and more expensive equipment. The Grace DAC has a clean look, with only one dial on the front.
DAC on a budget: FX AUDIO USB DAC Headphone Amplifier
Not only is this DAC inexpensive, but it can also be used away from the desktop if you want to take it with you. It can be powered via USB or DC, so that makes the FX AUDIO DAC versatile.
Versatile DAC: FiiO Q1 Mark II Native DSD DAC & Amplifier
The FiiO Q1 features a unique design with an oblong volume control that will allow you to use this DAC in tight spaces. The Q1 automatically detects the connected device, so you don't have to manually change settings and controls. As a bonus, the Q1 is MiFi certified, so it will also work seamlessly with your iOS devices.
USB powered: Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC
The Audioengine D1 is a plug-and-play DAC that features a headphone amp for premium audio. This DAC is USB powered, so no separate power supply needed, making this DAC portable if you want to take it on the go.
Digital and aluminum: Fosi Audio K3 HiFi Headphone Amplifier DAC Converter
The Fosi Audio K3 features a unique digital display and an all-aluminum body. Great for modern Macs, it contains a USB Type-C input.
What is a digital to analog converter (DAC)?
A digital to analog converter (DAC) is a device that takes a digital signal and converts it to an analog one. You may have heard a lot of talk about DACs recently. Soon, Apple will stream all 75 million of its Apple Music tracks in Apple Lossless Audio. This means that Apple will compress the song to sound precisely as the artist originally intended, without losing any data. Sounds great, doesn't it? The only problem is that you can't listen to Lossless tracks over Bluetooth. This eliminates Beats, AirPods, or any Bluetooth headphones.
So how do you listen to Apple Lossless Audio? Put simply; you will need a pair of wired headphones. For the best sound quality possible, Apple will stream in Hi-Resolution Lossless Audio. This is where you will need a DAC, in addition to wired headphones. Connect the DAC to your Mac, and then connect your wired headphones to the DAC.
Even if you don't want to use a DAC to listen to Apple Lossless Audio, it can still improve your audio experience with a Mac. It will remove unwanted noise and distortion from any audio tracks.
The best DAC for the Mac?
The Fosi Audio Q4 is our choice for the best DAC for the Mac. It has a full metal housing and separate bass, treble, and volume adjustments. It's plug-and-play, so no complicated installation is necessary. It also has a headphone amp chip built-in, as well as being relatively inexpensive.
The FiiO Q1 is another great DAC to pick. It contains a full metal body and unique oblong volume control. It's also MiFi certified, so it can do double duty, and you can use it with your iOS devices as well as your Mac.
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