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What Is An External DAC And Why Do We Need It?

The issue of high-quality sound from a computer resulting from a separate sound card or an external DAC is a strange one. 

Of course, applying such procedures is no longer a necessity. 

In fact, almost no one thinks about such things anymore. Today, there is almost no game or music that you can not listen to and enjoy due to the lack of such hardware.

Sound hardware vs. graphic hardware

Your computer’s default sound card will be responsible for most tasks. However, if you want to run an AAA game at a high frame rate, then a powerful graphics card is a must. Naturally, the integrated graphics of your computer’s CPU can not meet this challenge.

However, there are still some people who have higher expectations of the sound output of their computer. When it comes down to it, you have two main choices: a separate sound card and an external DAC (digital to analog converter).

To get better quality sound, you need to minimize electrical interference. This is difficult at first, because the motherboard of a computer is the center of electrical currents. That’s why the sound card chip on your motherboard has a separate protective cover.

What is the meaning of DAC?

DAC stands for “Digital to Analog Converter”. A DAC receives digital audio and then converts it into audio signals. This signal is then transmitted to the amplifier and then to your speaker or headphones.

DAC is an essential component of any computer sound system. The motherboard’s own sound card, separate sound cards, smartphones, USB headphones and other digital devices are all equipped with a DAC. If there is no component called DAC in the path between the digital audio output and the user corners, then no sound will be heard.

Why do you need an external DAC?

External DAC

If you have a DAC now, then why not get one? First, the sound quality of an external DAC is typically better than the DAC on your motherboard or USB headphones. Naturally, this can also lead to better sound quality.

But we still have to go back to the main issue with our motherboard. All the electrical current that flows through your motherboard bed eventually leads to what musicians call “noise.” Noise is essentially an interference that ultimately reduces the quality of sound reproduction. If you have good headphones, or if you turn up the volume on regular headphones a bit, then you can most likely hear the sound of these interferences, which is similar to the noise.

Since you are dealing with electrical devices, some of these noises are naturally unavoidable. 

However, the more you reduce these interactions, the better listening experience you can have.

This is why some users use an external DAC. This device is further away from the electrical currents of your motherboard and therefore can improve the sound quality received. This is while the separate sound card, although a little bit away from the motherboard, is still inside your case anyway. For this reason, a separate sound card cannot provide better output than an external DAC.

Some users are so sensitive to electrical interference that they try to keep their DAC as far away from the computer as possible. In any case, for most users, placing the DAC next to or slightly above the computer case is sufficient.

External DAC is not a magic bullet for your voice problems. 

That’s why it’s best to have reasonable expectations of it. When it comes to games, an external DAC can deliver clearer sound. In some cases, localized sound can be improved. This way, you can more easily find the characters in the game who want to hide.

When it comes to music, then the scope of the topic can include the quality of the recording, the mastering of the sound by a sound engineer, the size of the file, and the quality of the sound played by your headphones.

An external DAC is usually connected to your computer via a USB port, and in addition to having a volume screw on the front, it also provides an audio jack for connecting headphones and speakers. Most DACs only have a 3.5mm jack. Others have a 6.3mm jack. Of course, you can always work with both of these ports by providing an adapter.

Another advantage of an external DAC is that it is portable. So if you spend most of your time on a desktop computer, but also want better sound quality on your laptop, then you can move your DAC between devices.

What should we expect from an external DAC?

External DAC

First of all, your DAC should have an internal amplifier so that it is both economical and does not take up too much space due to a separate amplifier. Most DACs also have an amplifier. Of course, you can also find high-end DACs on the market that require a separate amplifier.

You may have heard about the bit depth and sample rate of these devices. Most of these converters have bit depths of 24 to 32 and also their sampling rate varies from 96 to 768 kHz.

If you are looking for a converter that enhances your gaming and other listening experience, then the FiiO E10K might be right for you. Those who want a better device can also take a look at the Schiit Modi DAC. Of course, the latter requires the purchase of a separate amplifier. A company like Creative also produces external sound cards that are suitable for some users.

The last thing you need to consider is your personal use. If you want to improve the sound quality of a portable device, then a portable DAC might be right for you. Of course, if you do not have a quality headphone, then such devices (DAC or amplifier) ​​can not greatly increase the sound quality of your phone.

It is always a good idea to read reviews from critics and buyers before buying a product. This way you can find out what the product features.

Is the sound quality of your computer good?

Whether or not your computer’s current sound quality is good enough depends entirely on your judgment. Naturally, sound quality cannot be indicated by numbers. Eventually you will either feel better quality or vice versa.

If you are not satisfied with the overall quality of your motherboard sound card, or if you feel noise in the background during heavy processing, such as gaming, then it might be a good idea to use an external DAC.