When it comes to pure sonic ecstasy, R2R DACs are unrivaled. These converters from digital to analog captivate music lovers with their audio precision and depth. In this KGR post, we’ll look at the top class R2R DACs, which promise to push your listening experience to new heights.
Discovering R2R DACs is a voyage through the world of ultra-precise tech. To find the best solutions for you, here is the list of different brands, from renowned to new. We ensure to make you happy with your search for high-quality audio.
We analyze the good and poor characteristics of the top R2R DACs. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned music fan, this blog will help you choose the best one by learning more about these.
Best R2R DAC Summary
|Affordable High-end R2R DAC HIFIMAN EF400 Read More||See On Amazon|
|Best Value Denafrips Ares II Read More||See On Amazon|
|Best overall R2R Ladder DAC Musician DRACO Read More||See On Amazon|
|Best premium R2R DAC Musician Aquarius Read More||See On Amazon|
|Best Classic R2R DAC Musician Pegasus Read More||See On Amazon|
|Featured Pick DAC Gustard R26 Discrete R2R Read More||See On Amazon|
|Only R2R Dongle DAC Cayin RU6 USB-C DAC/Amp Dongle Read More||See On Amazon|
|Best R2R DAC Under $2000 Denafrips Pontus II Read More||See On Amazon|
Best R2R DAC Reviews
Affordable High-end R2R DAC
Power Consumption: 4.4w ~ Support Format: PCM (32 Bits at 768kHz) ~ Sampling Mode: Yes Both OS and NOS
+ Budget Friendly
+ Natural Sound Quality
+ USB-C Availability
+ Elegant Body Design
- Lacks DSD support
- No Analogue input
Do you find it frustrating to have a DAC with poor linearity and resolution, resulting in poor sound quality? I will show you the HIFIMAN EF400, the award winner from VGP Gold Technology (In 2022 Japan). The EF400 features a high-performance R-2R DAC chip designed and developed by HIFIMAN that delivers accurate and transparent sound with a wide dynamic range and low distortion.
If you are living in the world of Digital audio, the HIFIMAN EF400 R2R DAC can increase your audio lifestyle. Let’s have a look at the design; this HIFIMAN EF400 features superior external build quality, which may make you feel denser and more solid. What strikes you first is about the HIFIMAN EF400 R2R DAC is its premium construction. It Incorporates a decent brushed aluminum look, which will add an elegant and contemporary touch to your home audio setup and other HIFIMAN headphones, creating a visually cohesive setup. However, the brushed aluminum chassis does tend to attract fingerprints, which may require regular cleaning to maintain its polished appearance. The compact footprint has been installed to make placement more manageable and stable.
A powerful amplifier makes the EF400 a compelling successor to the popular EF6 model from 2012. The EF400 Interesting built-in Class AB DAC/amplifier can easily drive high-impedance headphones and other devices. It uses Himalayan r2r dac inside, which means you will get and it reproduces digital signals with less noise and distortion. This is because of the 16-bit resistor ladder network (Accurate DAC architecture) and has a wide dynamic range of 120dB, ensuring the sound generated will be pure from clipping or distortion.
The HIFIMAN EF400 features a diverse selection of inputs and outputs, including USB Type C and USB-B 110V, Line Out, and CANNON Balanced Output available on the backside panel, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of audio setups. There are Headphone Out,6.35mm and 3.5mm Single-ended,4.4mm Balanced, and XLR 4-Pin Balanced Output found on the front panel of the EF400 model. You will also find a 4-level Function Switch on the front panel for High and Low Gain NOS and OS. But this affordable R2R DAC does not feature Optical, analog input, and Bluetooth, so if these options are most preferable then don’t purchase this option.
How does the HIFIMAN EF400 stand out from the competition? In terms of sound quality, during testing EF400 in the lab, I heard a punchy and dynamic sound. The overall sound signature sounds pleasant, fluid, and accurate. Regarding Power Rating, the EF400 takes a much lower power consumption of 4.4W per channel balance output. For proper handling of audio, this EF400 uses four separate channels, and you will get excellent, fully balanced output with its buffer and active filters.
There is no support for the DSD audio format. As this HIFIMAN EF400 is in support with standard PCM music signal (Upto PCM768), which means it can easily convert digital audio signals with 192kHz and 24 bits bit depth. So due to the higher sample rate and bit, you will enjoy the high resolution of sound quality with this award-winning HIFIMAN EF400 DAC & Amplifier, and under the $400 range, it is worth it and best to use for any USB Powered Gaming Headphone, Desktop DAC/Amp solution, etc.
Power Consumption: ≤20W ~ Support Format: DSD1024 and DSD64-DoP and PCM: 48, 88.2,96, 176.4, 192KHz ~ Analog Output: RCA at 2.0Vrms,625 Ω,XLR at 4.0Vrms,1250 Ω ~ Sampling Mode: Yes: NOS and OS
+ Good sound quality
+ Worth it
+ PCM1536 and DSD1024
- No I²S input available
- Consume High Power
Next up, we dive into the sonic world of the Denafrips Ares II, a DAC that has great value. Let’s delve into its design, features, and performance. First of all, design and build quality. The Denafrips Ares II immediately impresses with its robust and long-lasting aluminum enclosure, achieving long-term durability. As it sits on three elevated points, vibrations will be significantly reduced.
Right on the front panel of Denafrips Ares II, you’ve got a bunch of well-placed controls to make sound adjustments with more ease. There’s a standby button, two nifty select buttons (for select inputs), some small LEDs to show you what’s going on, a phase switch, an oversampling button switch, and a mute and mode button. Its smart layout makes it easy to make sound adjustments.
Now, let’s flip this beauty around and take a peek at the back panel – and guess what? The Denafrips Ares II comes through with some impressive connectivity options. It boasts a central IEC Main socket and a plethora of input options, including USB Audio class 2 input, HDMI, TOSLINK, OPTICAL INPUT, two AES/EBU inputs, and SPDIF input on both BNC and RCA connectors. With all these different inputs, you can bet that the Denafrips Ares II will play nicely with a whole bunch of audio sources. For audio output, the Denafrips Ares II provides both single-ended and balanced options, with a balanced analog output on XLR connectors. Use them based on your preferences and gear.
Under the Hood: Inside the Denafrips Ares II, used a twin power supply with an O-type transformer and a bank of capacitors, all working in harmony to deliver a stable power supply. While testing Denafrips Ares II in the Lab, I got Smooth and Easy Musicality With Enhanced resolution. The lows were tight and deep, and the Rhythm was also impressive. I felt Natural relaxed and musical notes, and my final comments are, with this Denafrips Ares II you can produce Royal stereo image projecting instruments.
You can get this Denafrips Ares II R2R Dac under $1000, and as compared to the Musician Pegasus DAC, this one provides a wider sound quality. You can connect Denafrips Ares II with your Smartphone, laptop (USB to Dac), or PC by using SPDIF, TOSLINK, USB, and I²S (depending upon the output your source has). If you own a gaming console like Xbox Series X, DVD, or CD player, then these devices can easily connect with Denafrips Ares II using their digital sound outputs. So overall, the Denafrips Ares II is the best R2R DAC under $1000 range.
Best overall R2R Ladder DAC
DSD: All Input support: DSD64-DoP, DSD1024 (USB only) ~ PCM: All Input support: 24 bits/44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192KHz, USB and I2S input: 1536kHz
+ Wider sound quality
+ Good Resolution
+ Good Value
- No USB-C
- Quiet Heavy then other DACS
If you have budget issues to purchase Denafrips Ares II, but need similar performance or even better, then the Musician Draco R2R option is go for that. In Lab, when I tried out the Musician DRACO DAC, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance this entry-level DAC had to offer. The Musician DRACO boasts a simple yet elegant design concept that sets it apart from the traditional R2R DACs in this price range. Its aluminum metal chassis adds a touch of class, and the front aluminum faceplate gives it a premium feel that’s a welcome addition to your audio system.
Its ability to support a wide range of digital inputs makes the Musician DRACO stand out in the R2R DACs category, including Optical, USB, I²S, AES Balance, and Coaxial. The DRACO offers a well-rounded set of connectivity options, including one set of XLR balanced outputs and one set of RCA outputs. Not only that, DRACO comes with the inclusion of an ARM High-Performance chip for Processing audio data efficiently and smoothly. The DRACO DAC is equipped with an R2R DAC array on each channel and a large transformer (o-core transformer) inside, which translates into an enhanced audio output quality with just 5.6W power consumption.
In terms of audio quality, the Musician DRACO truly shines. With the addition of digital filters, DRACO can provide increased dynamic contrast. During the test, I observed that DRACO sounds richer, natural, and awesome with increased sound quality when the NOS button is turned On for oversampling. My recommendation is don’t use DRACO when oversampling is turned off.
The DRACO offers ARM High-Performance chips for efficient and high-performing and fulfills all R2R promises. If we compare Draco with Denafrips ARES II, this one is outstanding in performance. So overall, the Musician DRACO is the best R2R DAC under $1000 range, all for from high-end amplifiers to powered speakers.
Best premium R2R DAC
Power Consumption: ≤20W ~ Format: DSD: DSD64-DoP - DSD1024 PCM: 24bits / 192KHz ~ Sampling Mode: Both NOS and OS
+ Bunch of inputs
+ Good functionality
+ PCM and DSD
- No USB-C input
- Too much pricy
We took the next test on Musician Aquarius R2R DAC, and I must say, it has left a lasting impression. You can get this mid-range decoder under $3000, but the thing that matters most is price value, and the question is, is this Aquarius DAC Predecessor worth it? The Aquarius R2R DAC is Predecessor, and this model comes with a more sleek dual crystal oscillator designed body, and you will feel oversized metal plates on all sides that feel premium. With a truly balanced DAC configuration, this Aquarius Dac ensures a faithful audio signal with originality and minimized distortion.
On the Musician Aquarius front panel design, several buttons can be found to use for better control over various aspects of your audio experience. There are input selectors, phase invert, and power ON/OFF buttons that are straightforward and intuitive. It includes a NOS (no oversampling) option for purists who like to hear their music unadulterated. You will also find mute, and mode buttons offer further customization options. Underneath the hood, the Aquarius DAC is powered by an ALTERA chip, which serves as the main control unit for lavish sound quality. Each channel is equipped with a high-speed FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) to enhance the computational capabilities of Dac further.
There is a wide choice of inputs and outputs provided by the Aquarius DAC input, including optical, coaxial, USB, and dual I2S, AES balanced options to connect your digital audio sources seamlessly. For output, it supports XLR balanced and RCA connections as well. How well does Musician Aquarius manage sound quality? While testing Aquarius Dac, the audio quality from my headset is jitterless and stable. In general, Aquarius' DAC is progressing as from different sampling rates, it accurately restores audio signals and gives results with increased stability, low digital noise, and small linear error with low background noise. Compared to Pegasus, this Aquarius converter features a ladder of resistors rather than two on Pegasus for Bold, Engaging, and Dynamic audio performance. So, if you want to enjoy Hifi Standard sound quality, then Musician Aquarius is the best R2R Decoder under $3000 range.
Best Classic R2R DAC
Consumption of Power: ≤20W ~ Format: DSD: DSD64-DoP - DSD1024 PCM: 24 bits - 192KHz - 1536kHz
+ Punch quality
+ Detailed Mids
+ Zero Grains
+ Natural tonality
+ Resolving and dynamic
- Treble Not Up to Par
We’ve got another R2R DAC option on the block, and it goes by the name of Musician Pegasus. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill DAC; it’s a real game-changer, packed with features that’ll blow the minds of even the most hardcore audiophiles and music enthusiasts out there. The Musician Pegasus offers a multitude of digital input options, coaxial, RCA (2.2Vrms), Optical fiber, USB, AES/EBU, and I2S via HDMI LVDS for maintaining compatibility with your entire audio ecosystem.
Compared to Denafrips Ares II and Musician DRACO, you will also find Direct Stream Digital and Pulse Code Modulation audio support in this Musician Pegasus. You can experience the power of a DSD with ease due to its extreme support for All inputs DSD64-DoP, while DSD1024 is exclusively available via the USB input. A PCM can give you a sense of its power. You can experience the power of a PCM, and every PCM enthusiast found the support of 24-bit audio at sampling rates of 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96,176.4 and 192kHz with a staggering 1536kHz options for inputs (USB and I2S) for delivering audio with pristine clarity and precision.
Don’t worry about driver installations anymore. With the Musician Pegasus, Mac, and Linux users can plug and play effortlessly and enjoy seamless audio without audio driver installation. By using the latest FPGA technology, the Pegasus maintains the original quality and, catches the little details of audio, and sets your tracks apart so that the latest English songs can be enjoyed with detailed and maintained waves. You can find Analog output and XLR (3.55Vrms) on the back panel of Pegasus.
The Pegasus isn’t just a high-performing Dac; it’s also a real looker! It’s got this sleek metal body that not only looks cool but is tough as nails, so it’ll last a long time. The front plate is about 1.5 centimeters thick and feels premium. With Three feet, Pegasus sticks around and stays solid for a good while.
Here is a comparison between the Musician Pegasus and the Denafrips Ares II DAC. After testing them in the lab, I judged that the sound coming from Ares II sounds 10 percent wider. But Denafrips Ares II still does not win as it provides less resolving quality, less transparency, and does not dig as deep in bass quality. So my recommendation is Pegasus is a considerable upgrade to Ares II as it has the capability to deliver a better bass line, kick and produce rich, vibrant color of sound. To get more sound visuals, I will recommend you to use the oversampling mode found on Pegasus.
Featured Pick DAC
Power Consumption: <30W ~ DSD64-DSD1024 And PCM Support ~ Frequency Response: 20 -20kHz ~ Sampling
+ Low noise
+ Balanced output stage
+ Supports high-resolution audio formats
- On Expensive Side
Now I will show you the Gustard R26, which looks much more expensive and it is. This one you can get Under $1700, but according to our test, it sounds more fantastic for this price. If we talk about sturdiness, Gustard R26 features a Black aluminum anodized chassis body design, which is an industry-level material that increases the lifespan of Dac. Its Sandblasted aluminum alloy case is coated with Silver and Black color, giving you color choice before purchase.
On the front panel of the Gustard R26 body, the company has installed helpful buttons and functions, like the Reset button (Turn On/Off), crisp OLED display Display Screen providing you details about the ongoing audio settings and input/output status. Its premium look is Volume Dial, which you can toggle between volume controls for various inputs. The menu can be accessed by pressing and holding the central button. Are you Lazy? Ok! Stay on your Sofa and use the Remote Control from the sofa to control Gustard R26.
The Gustard R26 supports a wide range of digital audio formats, including PCM up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD up to DSD512. Due to this extensive compatibility, every high-resolution audio file can be easily enjoyed without quality loss. This R26 by Gustard incorporates a high-precision clock system, which works to minimize jitter for cleaner audio production.
I found a bunch of inputs on their Gustard R26 panel, including Optical, Coaxial, IIS-H, USB, AES, Clock, and Power supply inputs. There are two options, which include XLR output and RCA Output. I used the Gustard R26 by connecting it with the Laptop via USB cable. I paired my Sennheiser HD600 headphones to DAC and played sound from the Spotify library. The sound quality was pretty good and crisper and wider, and I sensed every nuance of sound. It senses a neutral sound signature.
Only R2R Dongle DAC
Format: DSD256 and PCM: 384kHz ~ Sampling Mode: OS and Non-OS
+ Portable option
+ Impressive Audio Filtering
+ Lowest Power Draw
- No format support
- Low quality audio
- Extra pricey Dongle Dac
People who are 2023 love portability, Here comes Cayin RU6, which is the best R2R Dongle DAC popular among audiophiles. The DAC itself features a discrete 24-bit R-2R resistor ladder, and for good audio quality (not best), it supports PCM audio up to 384kHz and DSD64/128/256. But under the $300 range of price, it lacks audio format support, which results in low audio quality. The price is 90 percent similar to the HIFIMAN EF400, which is a realDAC, not a dongle DAC. The Cayin RU6 Dongle is quite expensive when you can get a real R2R Dac for $300 instead of just a dongle.
A portable, lightweight, and compact USB-C Dongle R2R DAC and headphone amplifier, the Cayin RU6 provides impressive noise filtering, is portable, lightweight and features impressive noise filtering capabilities. Two headphone outputs, 4.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced, and the built-in volume control comprise the outputs.
I am only reviewing the Cayin RU6 due to its portability, as many audiphones are finding compact, high-quality portable DACs in the market. If you are from one, then Cayin RU6 suits your needs. Personally, I was not too fond of the sound quality, which was low in clarity and detail. But still, you can expect a warm and engaging sound signature from this Cayin RU6 after some sound settings.
Best R2R DAC Under $2000
Power Consumption: ≤20W ~ Format: DSD: DSD64 and DSD1024 > PCM: 24 bits / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192KHz (Overall input) and 1536kH for I²S and USB ~ Input: 1st Coax Via RCA, 2nd Coax via BNC 75 Ω,TOSLink, Two AES/EBU, USB B,I²S via HDMI LVDS
+ Solid build quality
+ Good sound resolution
+ Wide frequency range
+ Zero-noise conversion
- Expensive option
- Power supply can be a bit bulky
Now, here is Denafrips Pontus II, an American hi-fi newcomer which is popular for its R-2R topology in DAC design. But not pocket-friendly. It comes in a heavy and attractive case in a silver and black option. The front panel includes a bunch of buttons, including a power button, input + and -, Phase, OS/Nose, Mute, and Mode; there are small LED indicators available. On the back side panel, there are XLR, SPDIF, USB, optical and I²S DSD1024, PCM1536 Support) via HDMI options usable as demanded. Have you noticed? Compared with Denafrips Ares II, the design is much similar. You will also find balanced XLR and RCA outputs there.
This Denafrips Pontus II goes the extra mile by offering a fully balanced design. What does that mean? Well, it basically ensures that your music signal stays pure and noise-free. Further, it contains top-quality capacitors, resistors, and an amplification unit inside.
Among the audio formats supported by Denafrips Pontus II are proprietary 24 BIT R2R + 6 BIT DSD Architecture (32 steps FIR Filters) and SD DSD64-DoP On All Input for the highest quality. After testing Pontus II in the lab, I will suggest this for digital music listening over analog with clean and accurate production.
Quick Buying Tips
While purchasing the excellent R2R DAC, this guide will help you to improve your music experience.
Understanding R2R Technology
Resistor-to-Resistor Digital-to-Analog Converters utilize a unique method of turning digital data into music and sounds that you can enjoy via speakers or headphones. They turn digital data into crisp, natural-sounding audio with minimum distortion using a revolutionary resistor-based architecture. Before purchasing an R2R DAC, it is critical to understand the technology behind it and its function in producing high-quality music.
It is important to set a proper budget before purchasing your R2R DAC. The cost of these digital-to-analog converters could differ greatly and some are high. By specifying your cost boundaries ahead of time, you can easily browse through the various options. Always ensure you strike a balance between your financial restraints and your need for high-quality audio.
When buying for an R2R DAC, remember that the most crucial aspect is how it makes your music sound. Choose one that authentically reproduces all of your song’s intricacies. Read reviews and choose a trusted company known for producing high-quality audio gear to ensure you’re getting the best for your money.
Sample Rates and Bit Depths
When evaluating a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter), make sure it is compatible with a wide range of sample rates and bit depths. This ensures smooth interoperability with various audio formats, which is critical for achieving the highest playback quality, especially when dealing with high-resolution audio files.
While choosing the R2R DAC, always ensure the DAC you choose is built to last. Examine the materials carefully and the workmanship. It shouldn’t be of bad construction. Its high-quality components and strong construction assure a long lifespan.
User Interface and Upgradability
It is necessary to conduct an extensive research and study on the usability of the user interface, whether it’s useful or not. A well-designed, easy user interface provides users with a wonderful experience by making it easier to customize audio settings for optimal functioning. While selecting R2R DAC, check out whether the DAC can be upgraded. Some versions enable component upgrades, ensuring that your investment stays relevant as technology advances.
Size and Form Factor
The physical dimensions and design of the DAC should be compatible with your system. Measure your available area and select a device that compliments the aesthetics of your audio system.
Audition if Possible
When feasible, test the R2R DAC with your favorite audio equipment. Hearing the difference in sound quality for yourself so Informed decisions can be made easily.
Consider any additional accessories, such as cables, power supply, or mounting hardware. These factors can have an impact on your total setup and budget, so plan appropriately.
IN A Nutshell
We have shown you some of the top class R2R DACs, and we hope you are trained and have a much better idea about which R2R DAC is better and can make excellent decisions. Choosing the correct DAC is essential as no one needs to compromise on sound quality and especially audiophiles, as with the right option, you can enjoy audio quality with detailed and crisp notes.
The right R2R DAC is one that fits your needs and preferences, and some audiophiles need good audio format support LIKE PCM, DSD etc and have a reasonable budget to invest in DAC. Some budget-minded audio lovers only go with specific features only. Do check what you need before qualifying for purchase, as some R2R DACs may be bigger in size, quite expensive, require more intricate circuitry and calibration, may lack advanced features, or may generate more heat. So whatever your needs are, ensure DAC compatibility and capabilities before picking up.
Quick Recommendations: Our list contains the most inexpensive option, called Cayin RU6 Dongle DAC, which costs under $300 only but only suggests those who demand a portable option. The HIFIMAN EF400, Musician Draco R2R, and Denafrips Ares II are budget options and provide all digital features any audiophile wants under the $1000 range. For more advanced features, Musician Pegasus and Gustard R26 Discrete are mid-range options under the $2000 range and provide advanced audio managing functions. To go on the more expensive side, Denafrips Pontus II and Musician Aquarius R2R DACs are for you.
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