You may not realize it, but most of us use at least one digital to analog converter (more commonly called DAC) every day. The DAC, which is found on several computers, smartphones, and tablets, is the key to unlocking digital audio. It translates vast volumes of digital data into analog signals producing high-quality audio. Most modern devices require a DAC to convert audio to an analog signal. It acts as a digital sound source before outputting into devices like CD or Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, digital TV boxes, or portable music players.
Many devices have faulty DAC circuits that do not perform well for actual recording. So, updating your DAC can be the easiest way to improve audio and experience clear and immersive sounds.
What is a DAC? What Does It Do?
The daily noises are transmitted as soundwaves, which move through the air in a continually altering analog signal to our ears.
Analog recordings were stored on shellac (and later, vinyl) discs and magnetic audio cassettes, but they didn’t offer high-quality sound after a certain time. Therefore, DAC was invented to enrich the sound quality by converting digital signals into analog ones. PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) is a digital music file type generated by measuring the amplitude of an analog music signal regularly.
A binary number (composed of 1s and 0s) represents the amplitude value, and this number is commonly described as a bit of depth. The sample rate is the pace at which measurement intervals are taken.
A sample is collected 44,100 times per second when recording a typical CD. The measurement of each sample is calculated with an accuracy of 16 bits and stored in a 16-digit binary format.
In contrast, you use 24 bits and 192,000 samples per second when recording at high resolution.
Digital audio files are stored in many depths, sampling rates, compression schemes, and encodings, but the DAC’s job is to recognize them all; and faithfully interpret them from binary to analog format.
Why Do I Need a Separate DAC?
Although DAC is found in virtually every piece of digital gear, not all DACs are created equal. To begin with, they may not be able to handle all file data speeds.
Faulty converters can generate unwanted noise during playback resulting in additional disturbances caused by faulty electronics. The exact timing of a digital audio stream is essential for optimal performance, and if not implemented accurately, the performance is affected by poor digital clock technology.
When digital signals travel around the circuit board, jitter problems can arise, which are especially troublesome when the signal transmits among several devices. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of the asynchronous DAC, which takes over timing duties from audio devices. The digital watches used in Hi-Fi DACs are more authentic than the watches used in traditional PCs, as the conversion process is usually accurate.
What Are DSD and PCM?
DSD (Direct Stream Digital) was developed in the late 1990s and early 2000s as an alternative to Super Audio CDs (SACDs) for PCM, a standard supported by Sony and Phillips.
It is a far more specific format than PCM, with only a bit of depth, but sampling rates are much higher – typically, DSD128 is at 5.6 MHz, and DSD64 is at 2.8 MHz.
Debate continues over whether the encoding scheme is superior. If you strongly believe in DSD, check to see if the DAC supports it. Most models support it, but some still don’t.
What Type of DAC is Right For You?
DACs come in different shapes and sizes, with input options and capabilities. Therefore, when it comes to choosing the right DAC, it’s down to your usage and budget.
Compact USB DACs offer mobility and convenience at a decent cost. They range from USB sticks for laptop connections to USB-C cable DACs for phone connections. They usually draw power from your computer or phone, so there is no need for a separate power supply. They keep it to a minimum, with only a headphone jack and a line speaker output to connect to a high-powered speaker or hi-fi system.
If you like easy connectivity and don’t mind bringing your DAC with you, a desktop USB device would be a better choice. However, if you want to avoid the hassle of choosing the perfect DAC, then buy a Fosi Audio DAC. It is powerful, offers easy connectivity, and is affordable, unlike similar yet expensive ones.
Q4 Mini Stereo DAC
Fossi Audio was created with one simple goal: to build products that produce great sounds and overload your auditory senses. With PC-USB/optical inputs, coaxial, and RCA/3.5MM headphone outputs, the Fosi Audio Q4 is compatible with most home audio systems. The DAC has a built-in Hi-Fi headphone amplifier chip which can operate most 16 Ohm to 200 Ohm headphones; RCA output can be connected to an amplifier or high-powered speakers. It has an easy set-up and a true plug-and-play digital audio adapter with no specific software, app, or driver to install.
It uses 160mW RMS (32 ohms, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.01% THD) with bass and treble control as a preamp and volume controller for easy sound manipulation on all devices. There is a mini compact D/A converter, which streams at 24bit/192KHz HD with low jitter and output. It also offers circuit protection for the safety of your audio system. It also has a 5V USB power supply cable, optical cable, USB Type C cable, an 18-month guarantee, and a full metal cover to ensure high quality and reliability.
DACs play a significant role in creating high-quality digital audio. Traditional amplifiers cannot accurately calculate digital data, and speakers cannot play the audio clearly. Therefore, the digital signal has to be converted into an analog one to produce high-quality and rich audio experience. Without DAC, your digital audio library is nothing more than a vast collection of “0s and 1s” that is only useful in the digital realm.