The task of conversion from digital to analogue often now falls to your amplifier or a streaming device — the standalone DAC is receding from the foreground of hi-fi once again.
But here’s a handy portable DAC which has been around a few years and has recently gained an extended lifespan thanks to its ability to identify and play MQA files. There is great hope in some areas of the industry for this compression system, originally developed by Meridian (the Explorer2 is hand-made in Cambridge, UK) but now licensed by the separate MQA Inc, which claims to reduce high-resolution audio files to a level which can be reliably streamed or delivered at lower data rates,with the further significant benefit of authenticating the files as being genuinely MQA.
All of which is most promising, if still premature — MQA files are available, but not yet in wild profusion, and rarely with non-MQA versions to compare against. So we’re awarding the Explorer2 for its other abilities — first-class performance from a USB input to its two outputs, which are separately optimised for line-level and headphone sound accordingly, able to resolve up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM, though not DSD, fans of that format should note. With noise levels for 24-bit audio down at 108.9dBA, and that probably includes something from our test rig, this is an impressive DAC, especially for portable use where it will deliver great results for laptop music fans on the road. 
RRP is currently $449.95. Our full review can read read here!
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