Something that has kept people interested in headphones always confused.
DAC, what's that?
Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) is the device that converts the digital data to audio signals. Everything we actually hear around us is in analog, a format that our ears can conceive.
Since ages, tapes and films used analog formats to carry audio and video. With an attempt to reduce huge size of analog data and increase the efficiency of quality, came in digital formats. Advancement in computing technology started making every data in the form of 0s and 1s. This binary data is definitely not understandable to us humans. That's where a DAC plays it's part. This binary digital data is converted into analog data which is then converted to sound by a headphone or speaker.
Now that we undersatnd what a DAC is, the question that comes to mind is that does every device that can play audio have a DAC. Yes, they do. From your mobile phone to laptop to your iPod.
Let's jump to a question everyone has on their audiophile journey. What is the difference between a mobile DAC and the one in a Digital Audio Player?
In one word, extreme difference. Your phone is made with a purpose of Calling, Camera, Recorder, Internet and many more functions. In such a scenario, there is no dedicated DAC for playing audio. So there is definitely a compromise on the audio part. Where as Audio Players have a dedicated DAC to themselves. This converter chip focuses only on decoding your music.
The most important area where a DAC plays its role is when it transcripts High Resolution Audio. Our everyday mp3 files play at around 128 or 320 kbps. Audio when originally recorded is at 44.1 kHz and 16 bits which values to around 9000 kbps. See the difference. Files in formats like WAV, FLAC and other high fidelity formats having data encoded at this rate. So you get to hear Audio as naturally as it was when recorded. That is the perpetual reason a DAC is used for.
So now that we've established that your phone isn't sufficient to play quality audio, let's get convinced on which DAC and what along with it should you be using.
DACs available today also vary with quality. Some even use more than one chip to convert audio. The benefit of a DAC is that it just converts your audio and you can take your output into a speaker or a headphone. Well, definitely you need an Amplifier to be used with a DAC. You may use a high impedance headphone made with better technology. For the audio to be at a level audible to your ears, an amplifier is must.
There are DACs and Amps available individually that can be paired to each other. The option with lesser hassles is to get a DAC and an Amp built into one.
Exceptional examples of DACs that truly play your music to the purest are the Schiit Yggdrasil, Schiit Bifrost, Schiit Modi multibit and Musical Fidelity's V90.
To make things simpler and harmonious, audio companies started making DACs with Amps built in. Just plug in your music source using USB or optical. Plug in your headphone on the other side to get the best of your music.
The best DACAmps available today are Audeze Deckard, Oppo HA2SE, Schiit Jotunheim, RHA DACAMP L1, Chord Mojo, Schiit Fulla and Sony PHA-3.
Enhance your musical experience with a DAC that elevates your music to as it should be heard. To learn more about which DAC to pick, do call our Headphone Gurus.