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Digital-to-Analog Converters

Contemporary DACs bring 1s and 0s surprisingly close to the smoothness of analog sound.
Digital-to-Analog Converters

How to shop for digital to analog converters

Digital to analog converters — DACs — take digital audio signals and convert them into an analog signal that your amp can send as smooth, clear music and soundtrack audio to your speakers or headphones. A lot of audio components have built-in DACs. But some people hear a noticeable improvement in sound when they run their digital sources through an outboard DAC.

You can find standalone DACs for all kinds of sound system situations, from high-end, audiophile-grade sound systems to listening on your smartphone with headphones.

Component DACs

If you’ve got a high-performance analog stereo system and want to add network streaming and/or play high-res audio files from a computer or another external device or drive, a component DAC makes a great choice. Even if your amp, receiver, or set of powered speakers has a built-in DAC, you might find you prefer the sound of an external DAC.

Desktop USB DACs

Most desktop DACs connect via USB and are designed to improve your computer’s audio. Most models also feature a built-in headphone amplifier that can make your favorite pair of ‘phones perform its best.

Portable USB DACs

Portable headphone DACs also connect to your computer, smartphone, tablet, or other compatible device via USB. They provide high-res digital-to-analog conversion as well as clean power for your headphones, so you can get crystal-clear sound even when you’re on the go.

Wirelss DACs

Connect a Wireless DAC to your sound system and use its built-in Bluetooth for wireless streaming from compatible devices. Many models double as headphone amps, and some even have built-in storage and Wi-Fi for wireless transfer of music files, from mp3s to high-res formats.