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Typically, when you think of gaming, you picture a high-quality setup with crazy computer, keyboard and mouse and gaming chair. While most might not consider audio at first, most gamers want the best audio as well.
Today we’re here to explore some of the best DAC AMP setups for gaming as well as some budget options as well. As you’ll see, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to make your gaming setup great.
Why Do You Need a Gaming DAC AMP?
In order to reach the next level of gaming, you need the highest quality audio you can get. A DAC AMP, like the Fosi Audio Q4, will convert a digital audio signal to analog. And, boost your audio signal with the AMP portion.
This not only helps drive higher power headphones, like the V-Moda headphones, but will help to seek out those hidden sounds you don’t typically hear. This means that footsteps, quieter sounds, or musical notes you haven’t heard before will be heard now. A gaming DAC will help bring out hidden tones to brighten your experience.
What You Need in a Gaming DAC
What things should you look for when considering a gaming DAC AMP?
Well, firstly a gaming DAC typically will have a microphone out port. While not all DACs on this list have a microphone port, we do recommend (if you don’t have another microphone source), then consider a DAC with a microphone input.
Another quality to consider is the volume, treble, bass and other audio adjustments. You can adjust all of these settings within an Equalizer, but some DAC’s will have these settings directly on the device. This can help tremendously with on-the-fly adjustments as well as tuning to specific music or games.
Next, is the power and bitrate. So, you should have enough power (ohms, Ω) and bitrate (KHz) to power your specific pair of headphones. You can use this headphone power calculator to figure out your specific needs. While this isn’t an exact science (you can have plus or minus your needs), it is important to consider so you aren’t drastically under-powering your new headphones.
Finally, you should consider the aesthetics and design of your new gaming DAC AMP. While this might not be important to some, a lot of gamers take great pride in what their gaming desk setups look like. In turn, this can be with colors, styles or RGB components. This shouldn’t be an entire deal-breaker, but it should definitely be on the table!
What is the Difference Between a Gaming DAC and Sound Card?
There are many technical differences between gaming DAC’s and sound cards. But, for our purposes, a DAC is basically an external sound card.
Sound cards help disrupt any intrusive frequencies or bad power delivery to clean-up audio signals. As they advance and update, they typically use digital programs to adjust audio per the user’s needs.
DAC’s have a similar function except sound cards are found within PC’s, whereas DAC AMP’s are found outside.
Best Gaming DAC AMP’s
Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 PCI-e Gaming Sound Card
First up is one of our top contenders, the Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 PCI-e Gaming Sound Card. Now, you’re probably thinking, this isn’t a gaming DAC? Well, truthfully it is, it just goes inside your PC and attaches via a PCI-e lane.
While this might not be the solution for some, it might be the best for others. We have used the Creative Sound BlasterX sound cards in our gaming PC’s for a long time now. And, they’re incredible.
They add an enormous amount of features, options and sound quality to your system, upgrading your stock motherboard audio. Features include; Dolby Digital DTS, discrete 5.1 surround sound, Creative’s Sound Suite and command software, RGB lighting and their own Xamp headphone amp technology. Creative even claims you can power up to 600Ω headphones.
Finally, you get a DAC that delivers up to 32-bit / 384 kHz playback and a 122dB DNR. With ultra-low distortion and jitter. The Sound BlasterX AE-5 is more than capable enough for pretty much any game you play and we’ve been happy with it for years.
Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res Gaming DAC, External Headphone AMP
Next up is another option from Creative, however this is their external DAC. This is the Sound BlasterX G6 Gaming DAC with AMP.
This is an external DAC AMP and has similar features to the AE-5 card. For features, you have virtual 7.1 surround sound, Dolby Digital decoding, Sound Blaster studio, a discrete headphone amp, and a microphone input jack. As we mentioned before, having a microphone jack really separates a standard DAC from a gaming one.
In addition, high-fidelity audio is standard here with 600 ohm headphones capable of being driven. Finally, it has 130dB DNR, 32-bit / 384 kHz sampling and a multi-bit modulator with mismatch shaping technology.
You also have a few external buttons for individualized control including; vlume, SBX, gain L / R, and a footsteps analyzer.
EPOS | Sennheiser GSX 1000 Gaming Audio Amp / External Sound Card
Next on the list is the Sennheiser GSX 1000 Gaming Audio AMP. Firstly, this DAC is in combination of EPOS and Sennheiser, two great audio companies.
They add variability and uniqueness to the gaming audio segment. You’ll notice the top-mounted touch buttons that can control a variety of functions via the DAC. These include up to 4 customized sound settings and one-touch switch between headphones and speakers, volume, 7.1 surround sound and other modes.
The quick-switch between headphones and speakers is a greatly appreciated feature. For those who actively listen to both 2.1 gaming speakers as well as headphones, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about!
Along with features there is also; EQ settings, plug and play setup, spatial awareness, microphone control and sidetone (adjustment of your own voice in your headset).
ASTRO Gaming MixAMP Pro TR with Dolby Audio
Next is a brand that is very popular among PC and console gamers alike, ASTRO. The ASTRO Gaming MixAmp Pro TR is designed to be used for PS4, PC or Mac.
It is tuned using ASTRO Audio V2, and ASTRO Command Center software. They made sure that this DAC delivers pro quality audio while still maintaining a sense of customizability. You have enhanced control over not only your sound, but your microphone voice as well.
Typically ASTRO pairs this AMP with an A40 TR headset. But, you can use pretty much any headset you want as well. They use Dolby audio drivers along with a customizable stream output so you can control what your audience hears, chat and game levels.
This is truly a gaming DAC AMP designed with streamers, YouTubers and content creators in mind.
SteelSeries GameDAC Hi-Res Gaming DAC and AMP
The SteelSeries GameDAC is a Hi-Res gaming DAC and AMP for PS4 and PC. It is built for gaming and can transofmr any PS4 or PC into a high-performance audio system. They bypass low fidelity audio and use a high-quality DAC for perfect delivery.
They use the ESS Sabre DAC and AMP for 121 dB of dynamic range and -115 dB THD+N. SteelSeries also ensures 96 kHz / 24-bit audio with no down-sampling. Additionally, you can use basically any pair of gaming headphones to enhance your gaming experience.
Finally, it has 360-degrees of precision audio with V2.0 surround sound.
FiiO K3 Type-C USB DAC Headphone AMP
The FiiO K3 is a USB-C DAC and headphone AMP. Why is this important? Because, a lot of devices are moving towards USB-C so having that already integrated in your gear makes things a lot easier when upgrading.
FiiO is a well-known brand in audio and the features of this DAC definitely show it. They support up to 384 kHz / 32-bit audio and discrete high-performance headphone driving. It also supports lineout with either single-ended or balanced coaxial and optical outputs.
On the exterior, FiiO includes a dedicated volume nob, bass switch and gain switch. In addition, there are balance and headphone toggles.
Gaming DAC AMP’s Under $50
Creative Sound Blaster G3 USB-C External Gaming DAC and AMP
Starting off our budget options is the Creative Sound Blaster G3. This is a USB-C external gaming DAC and AMP that can be used with PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Creative includes GameVoice Mix (audio balance for game/chat), microphone and volume control, and plug-and-play design. It is 100% driverless so that you don’t have to worry about using any software. In addition, it is simple enough to work straight out of the box (perfect for gamers who don’t want any setup).
There is adjustable volume on the side, with a mixing switch as well. And, microphone, headphone and optical output lines. Finally, you can use Creative’s on-the-fly Sound Blaster Command app (for iOS and Android) to adjust any settings that aren’t built-in.
The G3 is one of the best and easiest upgrades you can make to your gaming setup.
EPOS | Sennheiser GSX 300 Gaming Dac / External Sound Card
Next up is the Sennheiser GSX 300 Gaming DAC and external sound card. This is easily one of the best values on the list because Sennheiser is 100% one of the top brands in audio right now. They teamed up with EPOS to provide you with their gaming suite.
This gaming suite includes 7.1 surround sound and other integrated features to provide you with the best experience possible. In addition, they include a contemporary technical look that provides a minimalist that should fit into many gaming setups.
Finally, the amplifier should upgrade any gaming audio by bypassing your motherboard’s onboard audio.
Fosi Audio Q4 Gaming DAC & Headphone Amplifier
But, there is a bass, treble and volume adjustment knob on the front. With USB, optical and coaxial inputs. In addition, they provide 160mW RMS(32 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 KHz, 0.01% THD). And, 24-bit / 192 KHz low-jitter audio. Additionally it comes with a 5V USB power supply cable, optical cable, USB type-B cable and 18-month warranty.
While this gaming DAC doesn’t have the best specs on paper, it does however provide an exceptional value. As we mentioned in our full review, this is 100% going to not only upgrade your audio instantly, but introduce you to the world of high-end audio.
So, as you can see, finding the Best Gaming DAC AMP doesn’t have to be hard. You can also find perfect choices that won’t break the bank (under $50).
Whether you go for one of the top-of-the-line, or a budget option, just know that your headphone quality will not be the same after. There is a huge amount of clarity and openness in audio quality when using a proper audio setup.