Amplifiers with built in DAC – a complete list

Digital input on amplifier

Digital Audio

Those of us with existing hi-fi systems might be looking to add a DAC (digital to analogue converter) so that we can consume this content.  However, adding another box to your hi-fi rack is not always what you want; to cater for this market, hi-fi manufacturers now provide integrated amplifiers with built in DAC.  Alternatively you may be looking for a computer based audio system like the so-called Mac & DAC approach; with this you can hook up your computer (typically via USB) directly to your hi-fi.

Digital audio is more important now than ever before.  Not only do we have CDs there is also streaming services like Spotify and Tidal, internet radio, Bluetooth, Airplay, computers and Youtube.  There are more disparate sources of music online than ever before and people are consuming it in so many different ways: earphones, portable bluetooth speakers, TVs, computers and of course hi-fi.

Recently I was looking to do exactly that myself: I had a home cinema setup with receiver, plus a stereo amplifier that drove the front two speakers.  This gave me good performance for both surround sound and stereo.  I wanted to build on this by adding a high quality DAC without adding yet another box to my TV cabinet (already filled with AV Receiver, Stereo Amplifier, Blu-Ray Player, Xbox, Sky Box).

Integrated Amplifiers with built in DAC

So here is the Dynamic Headroom list of amplifiers that have a DAC on the inside.  This will be an evolving list as new products are added all the time.

Arcam SR250 – £2500

The Arcam SR250 amplifier is strictly high-end only due to the price tag but also provides more connectivity options compared with most of the other units on this page.  This is far more than a mere amplifier with built in DAC.  It is a chunky integrated amplifier that is designed to be the centre of a high-end 2 channel home entertainment system.

As well as the usual digital inputs (in this case 2x Toslink optical inputs, 4x coax RCA inputs, 1x USB input) it also comes with 7x HDMI inputs plus an ethernet port that allows to also act as a streamer.  There is also 3x HDMI outputs, built in Spotify Connect, internet radio, FM/DAB radio and Dirac Live room correction.  There is a Zone 2 output, analogue outputs and a subwoofer output.  This is more than just an integrated amplifier with built in DAC.

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

Don’t be confused by the HDMI inputs: this is not a surround sound amplifier.  What Arcam have done is effectively take an AV Receiver, strip out all but 2 channels and use the extra space to do the best they can with those channels.  You get a lot of features for your money here which begins to make the price tag look better value.

The power amplifier section outputs a healthy 90W into 8 ohms and makes use of Arcam’s Class G topology.  This is a serious bit of kit that delivers a meaty and powerful sound.  At this kind of price point you have a lot to choose from in terms of speakers; nevertheless, here are some speakers that are a good match to give you an idea:

  • Kef R700 floor standing speakers – 
  • Monitor Audio Gold 200 floor standing speakers – £2300
  • PMC Twenty 23 floor standing speakers – £2200

 

Cambridge Audio CXA60 – £579

Cambridge Audio are a well respected British hi-fi manufacturer who have for many years focused on the affordable end of the market.  In the UK they are sold exclusively through Richer Sounds.  Here we have the CXA60 an integrated amplifier with built in digital to analogue converter.  The CX series comprises of a number of amplifiers, streamers and CD transports which form part of Cambridge Audio’s higher end models.

Integrated amplifier with built in DAC

The CXA60 has 2x toslink optical inputs and 1x Coax input – no USB here.  Also available are 4x analogue unbalanced inputs, 1 subwoofer output and a pre-out allowing you to hook up a better power amplifier at a later date.  Power output is 60W into 8 ohms.  My recommended speakers for the CXA60 are:

  • Q Acoustics 3050 floor standing speakers –
  • Dynaudio Emit M20 stand mount speakers – 

 

Cyrus 6 DAC – £1145

This is Cyrus’ entry level integrated amplifier with a built in DAC which is dressed in the usual half-width shoe box sized case that the majority of their products come in.  Cyrus have managed to pack a lot of features into the 6 DAC such a small box: there are 2x Toslink optical input, 2x Coax RCA inputs and 1 USB inputs.  Additionally there are 6x analogue unbalanced inputs, 1 analogue output and a single pair of speaker connections (using the slightly odd BFA connection favoured by Cyrus).

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

One of the benefits of this product is how it can be upgraded: the Cyrus 6 can be sent back to the factory to become a Cyrus 8, then the DAC chip can be upgraded to Qx level and the external powers supply (Cyrus PSX-R) can be added too.  The Cyrus 6 DAC outputs 50W into 8 ohms.

The sound style of Cyrus is typically a touch on the bright side with a focus on detail and precision.  You should be careful not to connect them to speakers that will accentuate this type of sound.  Recommended speakers for Cyrus 6 DAC are:

  • Q Acoustics Concept 40 floor standing speakers –
  • Dali Opticon 5 floor standing speakers – 

Cyrus 8 DAC (mark 2) – £1600

Here we have the bigger brother to the Cyrus 6 DAC, the Cyrus 8.  It comes in the same case and to all extents and purposes looks identical.  The Cyrus 8 DAC is an amplifier with built in DAC and has the same specification as its sibling apart from the volume output which rises to 70W into 8 ohms.  With the extra power also comes better sound quality too – it isn’t just about going louder.

Integrated amplifier with DAC

As with the Cyrus 6 DAC I would recommend you partner this amplifier with speakers from manufacturers such as Q Acoustics, Dali or Dynaudio.

 

Leema Elements – £1499

The Leema Elements range of products is similarly sized to Cyrus.  The Leema offers a few extra inputs and an altogether different sort of sound.  Whereas the Cyrus tends to be detailed, bright and enthusiastic, the Leema is warmer, smoother and easier on the ears.  Read my full review of the Leema Elements.

The best speakers to go with the Leema Elements are:

  • PMC Twenty 21 stand mount speakers – £999
  • PMC Twenty 22 stand mount speakers – £1899
  • Monitor Audio Silver 8 floor standing speakers – £1299

 

Marantz HD-AMP1 – £650

This is a stylish looking compact amplifier from Marantz which packs quite a lot of features into such a small box.  Priced at, the HD-AMP1 packs a Sabre ES9010KM2 DAC inside which is capable of 24-bit / 192kHz operation.  There are 2x Toslink optical inputs, 1x coax RCA input, 1x USB input plus 2 analogue unbalanced RCA inputs.  Also round the back is a subwoofer output and a single pair of speaker binding posts.

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

The amplifier puts out 35W into 8 ohms and provides a typically “warm” Marantz sound; don’t let that figure put you off because those numbers can be misleading.  This is a gorgeous little amplifier that can form the heart of a modern, sophisticated yet compact hi-fi system.  Recommended speakers for Marantz HD-AMP1:

  • Tannoy XT6 stand mount speakers – 
  • Tannoy XT6F floor standing speakers – 

Marantz PM-6006 – £280

This particular Marantz integrated has always been a big seller as it combines features and quality with an attractive price point.  Marantz tend to update their budget amplifiers every year; the past few revisions have all had a DAC inside the amplifier.

The PM-6006 uses a CS4398 DAC (the same as it’s bigger brother the PM-7005) and provides 2x Toslink optical inputs and 1x Coax RCA inputs.  On the analogue side there are 4x analogue inputs, 1 recording output and 2 pairs of speaker binding posts.

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

The PM-6006 puts out 45W into 8 ohms so is good enough to drive any speakers around the same price point.  The best speakers for the Marantz PM-6006 are:

  • Tannoy Eclipse 3 floor standing speakers – 
  • Monitor Audio Bronze 2 stand mount speakers – 
  • Q Acoustics 3020 stand mount speakers –

 

Marantz PM-7005 – £430

Another handsome amplifier from Marantz here.  The PM-7005 is a full size integrated amplifier which has been updated with a DAC providing a small number of digital inputs.  The PM-7005 uses a CS4398 DAC and provides 1x Toslink optical input, 1x Coax RCA input and 1 USB input.  Also included are 4x unbalanced analogue inputs, a moving magnet phono input, 1x unbalanced audio out (for recording) and a single pair of speaker binding posts.

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

This is a capable amplifier which provides 60W into 8 ohms so is more than capable of driving most speakers.  The sound of the Marantz can be categorised as being on the warmer side of neutral so could happily be matched to brighter, forward sounding speakers.  My recommended speakers to match the Marantz PM-7005 would be:

  • Tannoy XT6 stand mount speakers –
  • Monitor Audio Bronze 5 floor standing speakers –

 

Monitor Audio Airstream A100 – £399

Usually known for their hi-fi speakers, Monitor Audio here produced a compact stylish amplifier with built in DAC.  The AirStream A100 uses Class A/B amplification, unlike most compact amplifiers that use Class D.  Only a single digital input is provided: 1x Toslink optical.  Also provided is a single analogue input and a pre-out so you could hook up a power amplifier.  The AirStream A100 also has Airplay so that you can stream wirelessly from an iOS device.

Integrated amplifier with built in DAC

The amplifier outputs 50W into 8 ohms and has a nice easy going kind of sound.  I use one of these in a second system hooked up to some Q Acoustics Concept 20.  That system is really nice to listen to even though it costs a fraction of my main setup.  My recommended speakers for the Monitor Audio AirStream A100 are:

  • Q Acoustics 3020 stand mount speakers –
  • Q Acoustics Concept 20 stand mount speakers – 
  • Monitor Audio Bronze 2 –

 

NAD D3020 – £450

The D3020 is a stylish and compact little amplifier with built in DAC from NAD which packs a lot of features into a small box.  This is a Class D amplifier as is common for something so small.  Digital connections come in the shape of 1x Toslink optical, 1x Coax RCA and 1x USB.  The NAD D3020 also has a single analogue input, subwoofer output a pair speaker binding posts.  It outputs 30W into 8 ohms – but don’t let this fool you.  NAD are experts at providing power to demanding speakers and this little amplifier can punch well above it’s weight.

Integrated amplifier with DAC

The D3020 has a warm, groovy and smooth kind of sound.  It doesn’t pick out every last bit of detail in music but on the flip side makes poorer quality sources (such as MP3) sound good.  It doesn’t quite have the clout of a more powerful amplifier.  However is still capable of filling a small to medium sized room with ease.  The best speakers for the NAD D3020 are:

  • Q Acoustics 3020 stand mount speakers –
  • Q Acoustics Concept 20 stand mount speakers – 
  • Monitor Audio Bronze 2 –

 

NAD D7050 – £799

The NAD D7050 is essentially the bigger brother to the N3020 (above).  The design is very similar but is slightly larger here.  Inside, the D7050 uses a different type of amplification as this is an all digital amplifier as opposed to the Class D of the D3020.  Again this is an amplifier with built in DAC.

This little box of tricks as 2x Toslink optical inputs, 2x Coax RCA inputs and 1x USB input.  Also round the back is a single analogue output, 1 pair of speaker terminals and an ethernet port.  The D7050 has support for Apple Airplay, Bluetooth apt-X, UPnP streaming and Spotify Connect.

Integrated Amplifiers with built in DAC

So it packs a lot of features into a small box but how does it sound?  As a digital amplifier the sound is a times a bit lifeless and less entertaining than traditional designs.  It does however present a very neutral type of sound which means it is relatively easy to match with speakers.  This is only a small amplifier though so you should look for easy to drive speakers.  Therefore my recommended speakers for the NAD D7050 are:

  • Dali Opticon 2 stand mount speaker – 
  • Monitor Audio Silver 6 floor standing speakers – £999

 

Pioneer A-70DA – £1200

Here we have Pioneer pulling out all the stops to provide a state of the art integrated amplifier with built in DAC to appeal to audiophiles or indeed anyone with the budget.  Internally the A-70DA has a fully balanced preamplifier section which helps to drive better sound quality.  In terms of digital connections, it has 1x Toslink optical input, 1x Coax RCA input and 1x USB input.  It also has 4x analogue unbalanced inputs, 1x balanced XLR input and a phono stage that is compatible with both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges.

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

Sound wise the Pioneer would be classified as being on the brighter side of neutral.  It favours detail and openness in its approach.  The A-70DA provides 65W into 8 ohms so has a good amount of power on tap.  This would be well mated to speakers that are neutral or lean towards the warmer side of presentation.  Therefore, the best speakers for the Pioneer A-70DA are:

  • Dynaudio Emit M30 floor standing speakers – £1200
  • Q Acoustics Concept 40 floor standing speakers – 

 

Pioneer A-50DA – £700

The Pioneer A-50DA is the smaller sibling of the A-70DA and as such has a similar feature set.  This also has 3 digital inputs and 4x analogue inputs.  Unlike the A-70DA it has no unbalanced input and does contain a fully balanced preamplifier section so you can expect a slightly less sophisticated sound.  The phono stage will also only work with moving magnet turntable cartridges.

Integrated amplifiers with a built in DAC

Again the sound of the Pionner can be classed as being bright – in order to avoid too much in your face treble you would want to pair it with some warmer sounding speakers.  My recommendation for speakers to go with the Pioneer A-50DA are:

  • Q Acoustics Concept 40 floor standing speakers –
  • Dali Opticon 5 floor standing speakers – 

 

Yamaha A-S701 – £399

I love the styling of Yamaha’s amplifiers right now; they have a nice retro feel that oozes cool.  Anyway, here is another integrated amplifier with built in DAC: the Yamaha A-S701.  This comes in black or silver (silver is best in my opinion).  Digital inputs are catered for with a single Toslink optical and a single Coax RCA.  There are also 5x analogue inputs, 1 moving magnet phono stage and a pair of speaker binding posts.  A well specified amplifier for the price.

Integrated amplifiers with built in DAC

The A-S701 outputs 100W into 8 ohms so is plenty loud enough and will easily drive the vast majority of speakers.  The recommended speakers for the Yamaha A-S701 are:

  • Dali Zensor 3 stand mount speaker –
  • Q Acoustics 3050 floor standing speaker –

 

Summary
Integrated Amplifiers with built in DAC
Article Name
Integrated Amplifiers with built in DAC
Description
Digital audio is more important now than ever before. This is an investigation into integrated amplifiers which have a built in digital to analogue converter.

5 Replies to “Amplifiers with built in DAC – a complete list

  1. Rob,

    This article along with your article on bright speakers are exactly the information I am looking for. I am about to buy my first quality amplifier and speakers to be run off of a computer, and like you, unfortunately, I too have tinnitus.

    My listening room is about 12 feet by 24 feet. The walls are bare and the floor is bare ceramic tile. I won’t be playing the music at much volume as I live in an apartment. I mostly listen to alternative rock.

    I have been doing a lot of research and am familiar with some of the amp/speaker combinations you have recommended. I am currently on summer vacation in my hometown of Seattle, and even though it is headquarters to such corporate giants as Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, there is no good place to go to hear any of the combinations of amps and speakers recommended, let alone to mix and match. Therefore, my purchases will have to be virtually sight unseen.

    I am most concerned for a system that is warm sounding and so gentle on my tinnitus.

    I have been reading a lot of reviews from What Hi-Fi, and see that both the Cambridge CXA60 amp and DynAudio Emit M20s that you recommend are considered best in their price ranges. However, I am worried that this combination may not have a warm enough sound. I also like the CXA60 because it has a pre-out which I could use for a dedicated headphone amp at some time in the future perhaps.

    I have been told that Marantz and Denon amps are best for a warm sound, and that Bowers and Wilkins 685 S2s and Focal Chorus 807V are warm speakers.

    It looks to me like a Marantz PM7005 might power Dynaudio M10s or M20s or B&W 685 S2s, but that a Mafrantz PM6006 might be underpowered.

    Could you please give me a few different recommendations for amp (with dac) / speakers combinations in the price range of 1000 to 1500 dollars or so best suited for someone fairly severe tinnitus?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Daniel!
      You are on the right lines with Marantz and Denon. You may also want to look at Arcam (though I am not sure on their availability in North America). I have found Cambridge Audio to be a little on the brighter side, their products usually have a more “engaging” sound rather than a “relaxing” listen – which it sounds like you need.
      You might want to check out the Marantz PM7005, comes with digital inputs and can be had for around the £500 mark. If you can get Arcam then maybe look at the Solo Music – it has digital inputs, including HDMI so you can connect up to your TV. The Solo Music is more expensive but there are some UK retailers doing package deals which include speakers – maybe you will find something similar in the US.
      With regard to speakers, also take a look at Dali or Q Acoustics (again sorry my knowledge is UK focused). As you are in an apartment you likely will want bookshelf speakers (they generally produce less bass and so won’t annoy neighbours) – if so make sure you get some good stands too.
      Finally it might be worth putting down a rug over your tiles, hang curtains or put some canvases on the wall – this well help to make the room less bright and absorb some reflections.
      Good luck!
      Rob

  2. Rega have an integrated dac and amp. I foud this article interesting because I already have a standalone Dacmagic 100 DAC which now seems to be integrated into the CXA60. While looking at a new Rega Amp I was also offered a new separate Rega DAC both £600. Is there a tech reason why manufacturers seem slow to integrate?

  3. Hi Rob,
    Yamaha also have a higher end amp + DAC in the A-S801 (£699), which looks like a much better (and higher specced) version of the A-S701 – It would be good to hear your thoughts on that – especially the speaker pairing – I was considering this amp along with the Pioneer as an upgrade route from my existing A-S500 + outboard irDAC with B&W CM5’s.

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