Best Recording Signal A-D & D-A Converters in 2020



Schiit Modi 2 USB Digital/Analog Converter (Aluminum Top - Silver Anodized) Review:


Don't ignore the reviews that say "no cables" - its not that there are no audio cables included, there are literally zero cables included - you cannot use it until you order a USB-A male to USB-B male (commonly called a printer cable). I totally understand not including RCA cables, since most folks buying this will have their own already and have various preferences for length and cable quality, but not including the critical power and data cable that the unit cannot be used without and only comes in one type seems like a strange omission, especially because these cables only cost a dollar or two. Minus one star for that, but otherwise this is the best bang for your buck DAC on the market in my eyes.



RME AD Converter (ADI2DAC) Review:


You cannot feed the RME ADI-2 DAC bad quality sounds or it'll produce bad quality sounds. It's not one of these devices that auto-corregates an unmastered sound. It has to be tweaked with VSTfx plugins (not VSTi - which are not the virtual sound effect plugins but the virtual instrument plugins) and/or you may tweak it using the EQ built into the unit. Personally, I leave it at a flat response of 0.0 B, 0.0 T (bass and treble respectively)...which is what mastering should be done at anyway and at the mix stage beforehand.

Due to its low-noise properites, I run a 1/8" to 1/4"-Y unbalanced stereo cables from the IEM port of this DAC into my RME Babyface Pro, which runs back into the digital domain on the same computer, and the sound is good - no clock jitters - everything runs on the internal clock of the computer's CPU. Remember if using USB with the DAC to make sure the USB port that you plug in into is grounded, or else you'll get a nasty ground loop noise that would have to be rectified with USB ground noise cancellor --or-- else it'll be recorded into your final masters - no plugin would remove that noise without compromising some quality of the final mastered sound.



Truetone C35 Converter for One Spot Power Supply Review:


This connects the 2.1mm center pin DC jack (BOSS pedal style) to a 3.5mm audio like connector (old MXR, old EHX, ProCo Rat).

I ordered some of these off of a popular online auction site, but they sent the wrong size and I had to wait forever to boot, plus their return policy means I have to pay more to send it back - not worth the hassle. These fit and thanks to fast Amazon shipping, can be at your door in a day or two.

If you love old vintage pedals as much as I do, then you are going to want to pick up a couple of these just in case you snag a new pedal [NPD - means new pedal day, and it's a great event].



Schiit Modi 2 Uber Digital Analog Converter (Black) Review:


I bought this DAC for an old laptop that I refurbished and turned into a digital audio source for my living room listening station. The output from the laptops headphone jack was horrendously noisy, especially when run through my amp to high impedance headphones. I have the Schiit Modi 2 (non Uber) as part of my desktop audio setup on my office PC so I already knew that this DAC would deliver clean sound. It seems like Schiit was trying to get rid of these older models when they came out with the new Modi 3, however the Modi 2 Uber delivers just as clean sound quality and has a better power supply than the Modi 3. Prior to the Modi 3, the Modi 2 Uber was going for $150, so when I saw this item going for 69 dollars as a "closeout" I jumped at the opportunity to grab one. Hooked up to my computer via USB this device completely solves the issue of the noise audio and delivers beautiful clean sound. If you want to get the most out of it (i.e. higher bitrates) you need to install the windows drivers available on Schiit's website. Even at full price this is a great DAC for the money, however at this price it's an absolute steal.



AutoWT Digital Coaxial Toslink Adapter with Optical Cable, 3.5mm Audio Cable and USB Power Cable Review:


So my rating is based more on the customer service than the actual product itself.
I ordered this for my new Samsung 6300 series Smart TV which doesn't have RCA or headphone out, so I could still use my headphones on the treadmill. All the necessary cables were provided, and the install was easy. I got it to work just fine with the TV, but unfortunately when I used netflix or amazon instant video, the sound just stopped entirely. I tried looking into audio settings, etc. and tried converting to PCM (as was suggested by support) but nothing seemed to help, so it didn't work for what I needed it for.
But... the customer service was great. They emailed me when I ordered, and responded to emails promptly. They tried to help find a solution and when it was clear it likely wouldn't work, offered a refund on the product which was handled with no effort on my part. So thanks to their customer service, I upgraded vote from probably a 3-star to a 5-star... :)



CLOSEOUT FiiO D3 Digital to Analog Audio Converter - 192kHz24bit Optical and Coaxial DACNO BOX GOOD CONDITION Review:


I bought this for a slightly more unusual use -- as an external "soundcard" essentially. I use the digital outputs from my computers (optical from one, coaxial from the other so I can just switch between them with the flip of a switch) to use this as an external DAC. From here it connects to my headphone amp (a CMoy with an AD8620 -- a simply amazing sounding DAC even if it's a tad power hungry that makes it sound far better than a CMoy) directly. As a DAC it just sounds absolutely amazing. It has better clarity and quality than any I've used up to now, including some external "soundcard" type DACs like the Alien DAC. There is a bit more of a noise floor than some of them, but I still have to turn the volume dial up so far that if it were playing music I'd be bursting my eardrums to really notice it. This gives me all of the benefits of an "external DAC" with more universal compatibility (since it works with far more than just my computers) and a surprisingly amazing sound. Far better than I ever expected really. I've even ordered a USB soundcard for my netbook which has an optical output and which matches the D3's frequency and depth range (so I can use 96/24 if I so choose) because I like this so much I want it on there. I'm going to have to get another of these as a backup I think. I don't ever want to go back, even if this thing tears up...

I have tested this with my TVs too out of curiosity. The first thing that I noticed is that my TVs do not have the option to decode the audio. They just do a straight digital passthrough. One reviewer said it doesn't work with over-the-air, but this is just because so many use encoding methods (probably DTS I guess.) It definitely does work with anything that supports using a PCM output and with TVs like these any device that uses PCM on their digital interface will just be passed through still as PCM. For instance, my Roku player uses an HDMI cable and is set to stereo output. The TV just passes it directly and the Roku at least sounds great when connected to the Fiio D3. I've also tested using the optical output of my PS2 console and so far haven't found anything where it didn't just work great. I tried to find games with good music and I've discovered that a few (most notably PSX ports like the Megaman X collection) don't really sound great, but a few are just wonderful this way (just for instance, the Persona games.) The game Rez never suited me that well, but I believe that people who love it should absolutely try it this way.

Fiio does not recommend using the OPAMP to directly drive headphones. As a preamp it sounds fine, but it would probably be a bit weak for things like headphones. I haven't really tested that since it definitely couldn't compete with my CMoy and the OPAMP on it. I have heard of people replacing the TI LMV358 OPAMP on there with others such as the Analog Devices AD8656 with positive results (though you obviously have to be very good with a soldering iron for this and can, of course, count on utterly voiding the warranty in doing so.) The AD8656 at least can drive headphones directly, so with a proper setup this could even act as a headphone amp in addition to acting as a DAC. I probably won't be doing this any time soon, but if the AD8656 sounds even remotely like the AD8620 I might consider it someday (in the meantime I obviously can't review what it might sound like.)