If you're still searching for a last-minute gift to buy the music lover in your life, then you're in luck as you still have time to order one of the best portable DACs to arrive before Christmas. These incredibly useful devices make a massive difference to the way music sounds, which is why audiophiles will love them.
A DAC (short for digital to analog converter) takes the digital audio information from a phone, tablet or laptop and translates it into the analog sound you hear when you press play. There's a DAC built into all of these tech products, so you don't strictly need a separate one to listen to music. However, many audiophiles like to invest in a separate one because not all DACs are created equal.
For example, the DAC chip in your phone isn't going to deliver the crisp, clear and rich sounds the dedicated portable DACs in our list below can. But if you're considering buying a portable DAC for someone this Christmas, where do you begin?
In our portable DAC gift guide below, we've included a selection of the best dedicated DAC devices, all compact enough to use on the go. We've also added a few suggestions for accessories to keep any new portable DAC safe or upgrade your audio experience even more.
If you're looking for more of the best present suggestions ahead of the big day, then read our guides to the best Christmas sales in the US and Boxing Day sales in the UK. They're both packed with more great holiday and Christmas gift ideas.
The best portable DAC gifts
The cheap as chips option
The iFi Uno is our top affordable portable DAC choice. It delivers a robust sound that's ideal for anyone who may not have used a portable DAC before and wants to see (or hear) what they've been missing out on. Audio tech company iFi has also packed some excellent specs into this small, solid and compact design – especially considering it's the cheapest DAC on this list with a sub $100/£100 price tag.
If you're looking for an equally affordable alternative, check out the EarMen Eagle.
Best for portability
Mid-range price, tiny package
One of the smallest portable DACs in our gift guide, the HELM Audio Bolt brings you a great audio performance that during our testing we found deals particularly well with hi-res content, delivering impressive levels of detail and a punchy audio performance. It also has an incredibly portable design that will happily slip into any pocket. The HELM Audio Bolt is our mid-range recommendation and although it's not quite as cheap as the iFi Uno, it's still excellent value.
Also consider the Astell & Kern AK USB-C Dual DAC
Best for desktops
Portable and practical
The Audioquest Dragonfly portable DAC isn't as exciting or as elegant as other options in this gift guide – you'd be forgiven for thinking it's just a USB stick. But its design makes it incredibly portable and it can work to deliver clear, impressive sound with desktop devices and iPhones (although you will need an Apple Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter). It also doesn't need charging, making it one of the most travel-friendly and practical options. Look out for different colors, as specs differ too.
If you're looking for another affordable desktop DAC, take a look at the iFi Zen DAC V2.
Best for small pockets
Small and perfectly formed
The iFi Go Blu is a stylish device with a metallic finish, but at only 54 x 34 x 13mm and 26g it's one of our top pocket-sized choices and incredibly practical for use on the go. It's also versatile, offering wired and wireless connectivity. Once connected, it delivers stunning wide-open audio, a solid and robust soundstage and lavish detail retrieval. The iFi Go Blu really packs a performance punch, especially considering its minuscule size.
If you're looking for a similarly-priced and specced alternative, we highly recommend the Fiio BTR7.
Best stylish option
Another iFi recommendation, but for good reason. The iFi hip-dac 3 is one of the newest DACs on this list and it looks stunning. This is thanks to a sleek, robust aluminum design, but the audio on offer here is also impressive. The highest of hi-res audio files can be happily dealt with, and in our testing we commented that the detail, neutrality and clarity is truly stunning. The iFi hip-dac 3 is also packed with high-end features and, unlike many rivals, boasts two USB-C ports.
Best high-end option
Expensive but worth it
The top pick in our best portable DACs guide, the Chord Mojo 2 is hard to beat. It's the most expensive option, but it'll suit almost all audiophiles with its phenomenal sound, which we described as eloquent, engaging and endlessly listenable in our review. It's packed with the best specs, plenty of input options and you can use two pairs of headphones. It's pricey, but almost perfect – it's not just not as portable as its dinkier rivals.
If you want to splash the cash on a DAC this Christmas, also consider the high-end and high-quality iFi iDSD Diablo.
The best portable DAC accessory gifts
Best complete package
Defend your DAC
If you're buying one of the best portable DACs in this guide and have money to spare, consider a case to keep it safe. Check for specific cases designed for whichever DAC you choose, but if you've gone with the Chord Mojo 2 we highly recommend this simple and robust leather option. It covers the body, protecting against knocks and scratches, but it still looks stylish with the Mojo 2 branding on the outside.
An excellent additional gift if you're going for the Chord Mojo 2.
Best for purists
Unlock audio perfection
The iFi iEMatch Audio Optimizer may look simple, but this teeny tiny device can elevate your listening experience. Designed specially for headphones and IEMs, iFi claims that the iEMatch can reduce background noise, improve the dynamic range, and get rid of the excessive hiss you might hear from some music sources. You could pair it with a DAC too, but it could also work as a standalone accessory for audiophiles.
You could combine this with a pair of the best over-ear headphones.
Best for travel
Safe and sound
Audio tech brand iFi has dominated this guide, but for good reason. Not only does the company make great DACs, it sells this handy case to house them. The padded Traveller case, which has several different compartments, is built to keep audio devices safe on the move and is a great addition to any portable DAC gift – just check the dimensions are compatible.
This case is made by iFi, but should suit all of the best portable DACs you can buy.
More Holiday sales
- Amazon: 70% off Kindle, TVs, tablets & clothing
- Apple: AirPods, Apple Watch & iPads from $79
- Adidas: 40% off running shoes & clothing
- Beauty: 51% off makeup, skincare & hair tools
- Best Buy: $800 off TVs, laptops & headphones
- Cheap TVs: big-screen 4K TVs from $269.99
- Christmas: 40% off decor, pajamas & trees
- Dell: Inspiron and XPS laptops from $260
- DreamCloud: 40% off all mattresses
- Family pajamas: Christmas PJs from $12.99
- Gaming: console bundles from $289.99
- Lenovo: 76% off laptops, desktops & printers
- Lowe's: up to $800 off major appliances
- Nectar: mattress deals starting at $359
- Nordstrom: 40% off Nike, Levi's & UGGs
- Patagonia: pullovers starting at $64.99
- Samsung: $2,000 of TVs, phones and appliances
- Shopbop: 25% off sitewide with code Holiday
- Target: 40% off Christmas decor, TVs & toys
- Toys: Disney, Barbie & Lego from $14.99
- Walmart: cheap TVs, air fryers, PS5 & toys
More Christmas sales
- Amazon: up to 65% off tech and gifts
- Adidas: up to 60% off outlet clothing, shoes, apparel
- AO: up to 40% off vacuums, appliances, and tech
- Argos: up to 70% off toys, Christmas decor, and tech
- Boots: half-price gift sets, gift cards, and fragrances
- B&Q: cheap Christmas trees, lights, decor, wreaths
- Carphone Warehouse: 120GB data for £12 per month
- Currys: up to 40% off TVs, air fryers, laptops and more
- Cotswolds Outdoor: up to 50% off Patagonia, Rab, North Face
- Debenhams: up to 70% off home, fashion, gift sets
- Disney: up to 60% off Christmas jumpers, toys, decor
- Ebuyer: up to 40% off laptops, desktops, and components
- John Lewis: £300 off TVs, Apple, plus Christmas decor
- Jessops: up to £1,000 off Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Fujifilm
- O2: up to £600 off iPhone, Samsung and Google
- Samsung: up to £600 off TVs, phones and appliances
- Shark: up to £100 off best-selling vacuums
- Very: discounts on tech, appliances, furniture and beauty
- Vodafone: six months half-price SIMs from £11.50
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Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.