Emotiva XDA-1

This upstart brand undercuts its competitors by shipping hi-fi components factory direct. Its short, 17-inch-wide DAC looks much more expensive than it is, and its six inputs are impressive. We found that it improved the music only minimally, though – and our Led Zeppelin test tracks took an almost edgy, overly bright tone. But the device is a bargain and has its enthusiasts. There's a 30-day tryout if you want to hear for yourself. [$200; emotiva.com]