Connecting a DAC to an Android Device (How to)

What is a DAC?

A DAC, or digital-to-analog converter, is a device that converts digital audio signals into an analog output that can be sent to headphones or speakers. The purpose of a DAC is to improve audio quality by converting the digital signal to analog, which reduces jitter, distortion, and noise that can occur during the digital to analog conversion process.

Most modern digital devices like smartphones, computers, and portable media players have built-in DACs. However, the DACs in these devices are often low quality and can degrade and limit audio performance. Using an external dedicated DAC bypasses the internal DAC and provides much higher quality audio conversion. External DACs utilize superior components and circuitry designed specifically for pristine audio conversion. This results in lower noise, distortion, and jitter along with improved dynamic range and clarity.

By extracting the untouched digital audio signal and handling conversion in a high quality external DAC, the analog signal suffers less degradation leading to substantial improvements in audio fidelity and quality. External DACs are essential for audio professionals, audiophiles, and anyone seeking the best possible sound from their digital audio sources.

Do You Need a DAC for Your Android Phone?

Most modern Android phones come with a built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter) to convert digital audio signals into analog sound that can be output to headphones and speakers. The quality of built-in phone DACs can vary widely between different device models and manufacturers.

The DAC is one component that impacts audio quality and volume from your smartphone. Phone makers often focus more on aspects like the display, camera, and battery life during development. This means they may include a lower-cost DAC chip to save on expenses. As a result, built-in phone DACs are sometimes basic implementations with lower audio performance.

Using an external USB or wireless Bluetooth DAC with your Android device can provide noticeable improvements to sound quality over the built-in DAC. Advanced DAC chips found in external models utilize higher-end components and designs to achieve benefits like:

  • Increased audio resolution and sampling rate for richer, more nuanced sound.
  • Lower noise and distortion across the frequency range.
  • Wider dynamic range and audio volume output.
  • Improved stereo separation and audio imaging.
  • More driving power to effectively run high-impedance audiophile headphones.

If you listen to high-res lossless music files, use expensive audiophile headphones, or care about having the cleanest and best possible audio from your Android device, then adding an external DAC can be worth the investment. The improved audio performance will be most noticeable when listening with wired headphones versus Bluetooth.

Choosing an Android DAC

When selecting a DAC for your Android device, there are a few key factors to consider:

Wired vs. Wireless

The first decision is whether you want a wired or wireless DAC. Wired DACs connect directly to your phone’s USB-C or micro USB port, while wireless DACs connect via Bluetooth. Wired DACs offer slightly better audio quality as there’s no wireless compression, but wireless DACs provide more flexibility and freedom.

Audio Quality

Pay attention to specifications like bitrate and sample rate support. A higher bit depth (e.g. 32-bit vs 16-bit) and sample rate (192kHz vs 48kHz) allows for better audio quality and resolves more detail. However, your specific headphones and audio files must be high resolution to benefit.

Headphone Amplification

Many external DACs also function as headphone amplifiers, boosting volume and driving power beyond your phone’s built-in amp. Check the headphone impedance support to make sure the DAC can properly drive your headphones.

Formats Supported

Ensure the DAC supports key audio formats like FLAC, ALAC, DSD, etc. if you want to play high-res files. Some only support more compressed formats like MP3.

Other Features

Consider other bonus features like customizable EQ, digital filters, balanced output, MQA decoding, or a built-in battery for portable use. Look for a DAC aligned with your usage needs.

DAC Compatibility with Android Phones

Many Android phones include built-in DACs (digital-to-analog converters), but some models have higher-quality DACs than others that can provide improved audio performance when using headphones. According to SoundGuys (, some Android models known for excellent built-in DAC support include:

  • LG V and G series phones – These feature Quad DAC technology for enhanced audio.
  • Samsung Galaxy S and Note series – Select models have AKG-tuned DACs.
  • Asus Zenfone 6 and ROG Phone 2 – Include ESS Sabre DACs.
  • OnePlus 7 Pro and 8 Pro – Feature improved DACs over previous models.

In terms of external USB DAC manufacturers with excellent Android support, some top options include Audioquest, Chord, iFi audio, and FiiO. These brands consistently release Android-compatible DACs and provide driver support for optimal performance.

Regardless of the built-in DAC, Android’s USB audio allows using external DACs to bypass the internal DAC and provide audiophile-level quality. With the right external DAC, you can achieve outstanding audio from any Android phone.

Connecting a Wired DAC

To connect a wired USB DAC to your Android device, you will need a USB OTG adapter cable. Most modern Android phones support USB OTG which allows you to connect USB accessories directly. Here are the steps to connect a wired USB DAC:

1. First, check if your Android phone supports USB OTG. You can do this by downloading a free OTG checker app from the Play Store. If your phone supports OTG, you will see a confirmation when you run the app.

2. You need a USB OTG adapter cable that has a USB-C or micro USB connector on one end to plug into your phone, and a full-sized USB-A port on the other end. Something like this:

3. Plug the OTG adapter cable into your phone first, then plug your wired USB DAC into the USB-A port end of the adapter cable. Make sure the DAC is powered on if it requires external power.

4. Your phone should recognize the USB DAC automatically without needing to install drivers. Open your music app and you should be able to select the USB DAC as the audio output device.

That’s it! With the USB OTG adapter you can now connect any wired USB DAC to your Android phone. Just make sure your phone supports OTG before buying the adapter cable.

Connecting a Wireless DAC

Pairing a wireless DAC to your Android device using Bluetooth is straightforward.

First, enable Bluetooth on your Android device and put your wireless DAC into pairing mode, often by holding down a button on the device. Consult your DAC’s manual for specific pairing instructions.

Your Android device will then detect the wireless DAC as an available Bluetooth device. Simply select it to initiate pairing. You may need to confirm pairing on both devices.

Once paired, your Android device will automatically connect to the wireless DAC whenever Bluetooth is enabled on both devices and they are within range. Some DACs will connect automatically when powered on.

To minimize latency when streaming audio over Bluetooth, use aptX or aptX HD codecs if supported by both devices. You can check and modify the audio codec used within your Android Bluetooth settings.

Also try to position your Android device and wireless DAC closer together and limit obstructions between them. Bluetooth range is typically up to 30 feet but walls and other objects can interfere with the signal.

Some wireless DAC models feature even lower latency transmission technologies like LDAC. If available, enable these modes for optimal real-time audio streaming.

DAC Driver and App Setup

After connecting your external DAC to your Android device either via USB or wireless, you may need to install the proper drivers for the DAC to function. Check the manufacturer’s website for details on any required drivers. Some drivers may install automatically while others may require manually downloading and installing through your device settings.

Many premium external DACs like the ones from Chord and iFi come with companion apps that allow you to control the DAC’s settings and modes directly from your Android device. Be sure to install the manufacturer’s app for your device. The Chord Hugo2 Go for example comes with the Hugo2 Go app that lets you customize the sound.

For your audio player app, USB Audio Player PRO is a top choice recommended for use with external DACs. The app has specific features for bypassing Android system audio and routing audio directly to the external DAC. You can also adjust bit rates and sampling with the app.

Other players like Neutron, UAPP and HibyMusic also work well for bit-perfect audio output to external DACs. Try a few different apps to see which one provides the best control and sound quality with your particular DAC.

DAC Audio Settings on Android

After connecting your external DAC to your Android device, there are some audio settings you may need to adjust to optimize sound quality and performance:

Go to Settings > Sound and check that your music player app is set to use the external DAC rather than the built-in headphone jack. You may need to set the app to “Don’t use Bluetooth” if you have a wireless DAC. Make sure any audio enhancement features like Dolby Atmos are disabled, as these will be bypassed when using the external DAC.

In Developer Options, disable “Automatic audio resampling” and enable “HD Audio” for high-resolution playback up to 24-bit/192kHz (source: These allow the external DAC to play back audio at its native sampling rate.

You can also try tweaking the Android AudioFlinger buffer sizes like Fast Mixer, Normal Mixer, and Offload for optimal audio performance (source: Lower buffer sizes reduce latency but may cause glitches.

Finally, use a high-quality music app like UAPP or Neutron that can send bit-perfect audio to your external DAC without any unnecessary sample rate conversion or audio processing.

DAC Troubleshooting

Using an external DAC with your Android phone can sometimes run into connection issues. Here are some common problems and solutions for troubleshooting:

DAC not detected – Make sure the DAC is plugged into your phone properly via USB-C or microUSB. Check that you have a compatible OTG adapter if needed. Try different cables and ports. Restart your phone. Double check DAC and phone compatibility.

No sound output – Ensure volume on DAC and phone are turned up. Check audio apps and system settings to confirm DAC is selected as audio output. Try using a different music app. Restart phone and DAC.

Crackling or distorted sound – This could indicate a compatibility issue or faulty cable. Try different USB cables, ports, and OTG adapters. Make sure no system sounds are interfering. Check sample rates and bit depths in app and system settings.

Apps crashing – Update apps and phone software. Disconnect DAC and reconnect. Force stop the app and clear app cache. Try a different music app. Factory reset DAC.

If you’ve tried the basic troubleshooting steps and your DAC still does not work properly with your Android device, you may need to contact the manufacturer for further support. Some incompatibility issues can only be fixed with firmware updates.

The Benefits of Adding a DAC

Adding an external DAC to your Android device can provide several benefits over relying on the built-in DAC. The main improvements come in audio quality, functionality, and overall listening enjoyment.

In terms of audio quality, an external DAC will usually provide lower noise, less distortion, greater dynamic range, and improved stereo imaging compared to a phone’s internal DAC (1). This leads to your music sounding clearer, more detailed, and more true to the source. An external DAC bypasses the electrical interference inside your phone, giving you purer analog audio output.

You also gain more functionality by adding a DAC. Many external DACs have an amplifier built in, providing more power to drive high-impedance headphones. DACs may also offer Bluetooth connectivity, different gain settings, bass boosts, and other useful features not found on your phone alone.

Overall, adding a quality external DAC enhances your listening experience. You’ll hear parts of your favorite tracks you never noticed before. Everything sounds more lifelike, intimate, and musical. It’s an inexpensive way to transform the audio from your Android device and appreciate your whole library anew (2).


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