Of course, we're ready for the audiophile community to rise up in arms about the statement you'll read next, but it's true that neither an intermediate enthusiast nor a serious one with ~$70,000 in gear at home were able to reliably tell apart any of the four devices once we properly set up a blind test with accurate volume-matching. We actually enjoyed them all as great audio experiences.
Using world-class headphones, a $2 Realtek integrated audio codec could not be reliably distinguished from the $2000 Benchmark DAC2 HGC in a four-device round-up. Again, all four devices sounded great. The same might not apply to full-sized speakers; we can't say, since we didn't test them. But as far as some of the best headphones in the world go, we stand by these test results.
- Benchmark Media DAC2 HGC
- JDSLabs O2+ODAC
- Asus Xonar Essence STX
- Realtek ALC889