WHAT IS A DAC AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?

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by Rob Follis

12th January, 2018

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WHAT IS A DAC AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?

Vinyl Revival aside, everything is available in "Digital" these days from Apple Music, Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal and Hi-Res downloads, but something needs to magically transform the digital ‘bits’ into music you can hear.

Which is why a DAC, which stands for 'Digital Audio Converter,' has become a critical part of any audio system. The conversion from Digital Audio to Analog Audio in the DAC is what makes the music, and the quality of the DAC will dramatically affect the sound.


Chord Electronics MOJO Portable Headphone Amplifier/DAC

Some DACs are built-in to products such as phones, tablets, and wireless speakers. Others are integrated into products like Blu-ray players or Hi-Fi amplifiers. But the very best are stand-alone components.

A typical Hi-Fi system today consists of either a Mac or PC with music storage and playback software or a network streaming device feeding digital audio to a DAC via a USB cable, which then feeds converted analog audio to an amplifier and in turn, drives the speakers. Voila Music!


Chord Electronics DAVE DAC (Regarded by many as one of the finest DACs available)

Entry-level DACs can cost less than $100, while high-end ones can command a price tag of over $50,000.


MSB Select DAC II (US $90,000+)

For more information on DACs head over to the Digital Audio forum on StereoNET, or visit our friends over at Tivoli HiFi and check out their extensive range.

Further reading: Whacky naming conventions aside, UK's Chord Electronics produce some of the most advanced DACs. Check out the Qutest DAC here.

Posted in: Sound
Tags: dac 

Rob Follis's avatar

Written by:

Rob Follis

Rob Follis has been writing about tech on and off for over 40 years, is a designer, photographer, information omnivore, gadget-head, Hi-Fi afficionado, owner of far far too many things and sadly an unsuccessful app developer. A born & bred Londoner now happily living in Melbourne. Email Rob.

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