Is low cost DAC worth it?

Been learning a lot from you fine folks... thanks!

I am driving Boston Acoustic Lynnfield 975 speakers with a Willsenton R8 amp (recent purchase to try it out) and streaming over wifi through Apple Airport Express. It sounds pretty good but I find myself wondering if adding a low cost DAC would improve the sound any?

Maybe something like the Cambridge DacMagic 100 or 200M?

My hearing is not that great anymore, so I don’t think it makes sense to jump on a DAC costing thousands, but I understand the Airport Express is a decent DAC, so not sure if a low cost one would make any difference?



Thank you all for great information.   I did confirm tonight the Airport Express is limited to 16 bit, 44.1kHz stereo, which isn't bad, but like a couple of you, I'm thinking "old technology" so I'm going to start out with a Schiit DAC.    

I'm also very intrigued by the JDS Atom+............thinking about using it in my garage system, but it doesn't have an optical input, which I understand is needed to bypass the DAC in the AE.    

I'll report back once I have had a Schiit DAC to compare.

Another vote for Schiit in the price range you specified. It will definitely outperform the AirPort Express. 

You have to pay a restocking fee if you return the Shiits

I like the Fiio headphone amps they have the latest chip set with pre-outs

Rather than focusing on the architecture of a dac I just listen to see if sounds good to me or not. I have found some inexpensive dac’s that do sound very good. My ifi Zen Dac Signature (original version) sounds really nice through both balanced and single ended configurations. I purchased it used along with a Zen Can Signature HD6XX headphone amplifier. I paid around $400US for both, which included the X power supplies, the 4.4 mm to 4.4 mm balanced cable and two headphone cables (se and balanced) for my HD6XX. It’s a very nice pairing with the HD6XX headphone.

The Zen Dac Signature also works very nicely with several other headphone amp’s that I have. I have not heard the Zen Dac V2 or Signature V2 but have read positive reviews in regard to them.

I also recommend the original Schiit Modius AKM 4493 which I also own. Another dac that punches well above its weight. I have not heard the later Modius E, but have read some good reviews on it. It’s also priced under $300US.


I bought my son a Schiit Modi Multibit in December 2021 and I was astonished at how great it was. It had lots of drive and life- I would characterize the sound as exuberant. It was far better than any of my older dacs. $300!