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What is an Audio DAC?

PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2009 7:56 pm
by NekoAudio
See also: D100 Frequently Asked Questions

What is an audio DAC (digital to analog converter)?
An audio DAC converts the digital data on a music CD into the electrical signal used by speakers. Audio DACs are found in receivers and processors, as well as home-theater-in-a-box products.

An audio DAC will not play back Dolby Digital or DTS soundtracks from a DVD or Blu-ray disc.

Why would I want to buy an audio DAC?
Like most products, audio DACs can be of poor quality or of high quality. Your typical receiver or processor contains a low quality audio DAC because they are cheaper. With a high quality audio DAC, your music will be clearer and sound more realistic.

How does an audio DAC create clearer, more accurate music?
You will hear things you could not hear before, vocals and instruments will sound more life-like, and individual notes will no longer blur together. The bass will be quicker and tighter, and the treble will not sound harsh to your ears.

A high quality audio DAC accomplishes this by having:
  1. greater dynamic range for both quiet and loud sounds
  2. better control so the music does not smear
  3. less distortion to correctly reproduce each note
  4. high channel separation so the left and right channels do not mix together

How do I install an audio DAC?
An audio DAC is placed between your CD/DVD player and your receiver, processor, or pre-amplifier. You will need three cables: a digital audio interconnect and a pair of analog audio interconnects.
ImageThe digital audio output from your CD/DVD player is connected to the digital audio input of the audio DAC. Depending on the type of connection you wish to use, you will either need a S/PDIF coaxial cable or a TOSLink optical cable. Some audio DACs can also accept digital audio from a computer using a USB cable. USB cables are available in different types; make sure to purchase the correct type.

ImageThe analog audio output from the audio DAC is connected to the analog audio input of your receiver, processor, or pre-amplifier. Depending on the type of connections on the audio DAC and your receiver, processor, or pre-amplifier, you will either need RCA cables, XLR cables, or XLR female to RCA male cables.