What Is A DAC?
A Digital-to-Analog Converter, commonly known as a DAC, is a device that converts digital information into sound through a playback device. While this may seem complicated, it’s actually a quite simple process we encounter on a daily basis. Most modern technology that we use throughout the day contains an internal DAC. Whether it be a smartphone, powered Bluetooth speaker, or computer, any device we use to listen to music has a built-in converter that turns digital ones and zeros into sound we can hear.
While built-in DACs are customary in most technology, they aren’t made from high-quality components, and hence result in lackluster sound. That’s why we recommend upgrading any listening setup with an external DAC, whether it be a portable headphone amp and DAC combination or a standalone DAC. Either way, your ears will thank you!
Why Everyone Needs A DAC
Much like you would choose a premium pair of bookshelf speakers for your two channel system, selecting a high-quality external DAC will greatly improve your sound and overall listening experience. As music enthusiasts, using a proper DAC should come as second-nature.
The difference using a quality converter makes is like an out-of-body experience. Once you’ve heard what recorded music can sound like when played through premium components, you won’t be able to turn back to your old ways of listening. An external DAC holds the power to transform your music and create a depth that low-budget internal DACs can’t, making this one of the first essential upgrades to any music system.
How A DAC Will Improve Your Sound
Making the switch from using your device’s internal DAC to an external one will have noticeable effects instantaneously. From the moment you connect a high-quality DAC to your system, you’ll recognize a huge improvement in your sound. DACs are most well-known for creating clarity and depth in music. By adding a DAC to your listening setup, you’ll be able to experience the beauty that is clear audio, transforming your favorite tracks into works of art.
Despite making your music sound better, one of the key improvements a DAC will make may be less obvious at first. A high-quality DAC will help you achieve a cleaner sonic background, improving the overall soundstage of your listening setup and creating a wider, deeper listening scape. In turn, this will allow you to hear finer musical details in vocals and instruments, as well as add a natural separation between elements within the soundstage.
If you’re a fan of live recordings, classical music or tracks with complex musical layers, using a quality external DAC will give them life unlike anything you could imagine from a built-in converter. Creating space in music is essential for letting individual elements shine, especially for tracks with complex instrumentation. This is why we always recommend investing in a high-quality DAC to improve your headphone or speaker sound, regardless of the genres you listen to.
Choosing The Perfect DAC
There’s an incredible variety of external DACs available, which makes the pairing process quite fun. Regardless of your experience level, you’ll have a plethora to choose from, ranging from entry-level to high-end. The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting your DAC is how this upgrade will elevate your sonic experience; quality may come at a price, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. There are many affordable, high-quality DAC options available in various forms.
The first decision you’ll have to make is what type of DAC you need for your setup. There are three main types of DACs: standalone DACs, portable DACs, and DAC/headphone amplifier combinations.
Standalone DACs: This type of Digital-to-Analog Converter is typically a simple box with inputs and outputs that you add to your existing signal chain. If you decide to purchase a standalone DAC, keep in mind that you may also need an external amplifier to boost the converted sound to your playback device.
Portable DACs: This type of DAC is designed to use with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and any other portable listening device. Portable DACs almost always include a built-in headphone amplifier, which means you can use this as the segue from your smartphone to your headphones. While it might seem excessive to carry another device alongside your cell-phone, this is actually an ideal solution to devices lacking a 3.5mm connection. With a portable DAC, you can comfortably travel with your favorite high-end headphones and the latest iPhone, or simply boost your laptop sound on-the-go.
DAC/Headphone Amplifier Combinations: This pairing is most often used for desktops or dedicated listening spaces in the home. This type of DAC provides a transition from your digital input device to your analog output, whether that be a set of bookshelf speakers or a pair of headphones. DACs with built-in headphone amplifiers often feature a physical volume control allowing you to adjust what level of volume is fed into your headphones.
Adding a DAC to your listening setup is the simplest way to improve your headphone or speaker sound. We recommend using a quality DAC to get the most enjoyment out of our products!