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DAC buying guide

How to choose a digital-to-analog converter for home or portable audio

It has never been easier to discover new music, fire up a favorite song, or unearth a forgotten gem. That’s all good. But how do you get the best sound when you listen to Spotify, Apple Music, and other digital music on your phone or laptop?

Digital music files vary in quality, but they all have one thing in common. You can't listen to them in their digital form. That's where a digital-to-analog converter, or "DAC," comes in.

What is a DAC

What is a DAC?

A DAC transforms digital bits — those icy, functional 1s and 0s — into sweet music. It is a necessary, important, and often overlooked part of the audio chain. There's a tiny DAC inside your phone, and another one in your computer's sound card. However, not all digital-to-analog converters are created equal.

How is an external DAC better?

“An outboard DAC bypasses the inferior audio decoding of your phone and computer,” answered Crutchfield Advisor Charles Anderson. “It can deliver music with more precision.”

Charles is the head of our Personal Audio expert group, so he’s well-versed in the world of headphones, headphone amps, and DACs. Earlier this year, he led a training class for our Advisors, where he showed off the benefits of a high-quality DAC.

“An external DAC creates a stronger audio foundation for the rest of your equipment,” he said. Add in a solid amp and a pair of nice speakers or headphones, and you're in for a treat.

Charles teaching class

Charles recently put together an internal training to better school our Advisors on DACs and high-resolution music.

Which is the best DAC for you?

There are several different styles of DACs available. Some are ideal for driving your headphones. Others are only used with your home stereo. And many work well with both.

“At my training, I ran demos to show the home stereo benefits of adding a DAC,” said Charles. “listening through the larger speakers, the Advisors could really pick out the extra musical detail and better sense of place.”

But most of our DAC customers these days use them for listening through headphones. Charles pointed out that you get a tremendous amount of bang for your buck with a headphone setup. Simply adding a DAC and a good headphone amp can go a long way.

How are DACs similar and different to headphone amps? Read my headphone amp buying guide to find out.

Portable USB DACs

Dragonfly Cobalt with phone

The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt can connect to your laptop computer or phone (with the included USB-C adapter) for super-premium sound while you’re on the go.

A portable USB DAC primarily serves as a compact headphone amplifier for your computer. You can also use it to connect your computer to a stereo system.

Some models draw their power from your computer's USB port — no extra power supply is needed. Models that have built-in batteries are great for use with a phone or portable music player.

Shop our selection of portable USB DACs

Our best-selling DACs: the AudioQuest DragonFly series

By far, our most popular DACs are the AudioQuest DragonFly models. AudioQuest put the USB DAC category on the map with these ultra-portable devices. And there are now three models to choose from -- the DragonFly Black v1.5, DragonFly Red, and the new top-of-the-line DragonFly Cobalt.

These DACs are the roughly the size of a thumb drive, and plug into your phone or computer to deliver high-quality sound. All three have a built-in headphone amp for driving high-performance headphones. Each features a stereo 3.5mm mini audio output jack for connecting a set of headphones or a stereo mini-to-RCA cable.

The main difference is the audio circuitry inside of each. And the sound is dialed in a bit more as you step up through the models. You’ll find one version or another on many of our desks here at Crutchfield.

“The DragonFly Red is hard to beat for portability,” said Charles. “I use it with my work laptop, then unplug it and listen on the go with my iPhone and an Apple® Lightning® adapter.”

So when AudioQuest released the Cobalt, it caused a major stir around here. We tested and compared all three, and discussed it on this video:

Desktop USB DACs

Desktop USB DACs also connect to your computer through USB. Unlike portable DACs, some desktop models need AC power to operate. They feature line-level audio outputs for connecting powered speakers or an amplifier. You can also connect an external CD player or network streaming device to a desktop DAC. Many offer a headphone output for private listening.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus in a headphone setup

The Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus is a desktop stereo DAC/headphone amp that can drive high-performance headphones like the Denon AH-9200 bamboo headphones.

“At home, I use the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus desktop amp with my computer and headphones,” said Charles. “It may not be as portable as my DragonFly Red, but it has two Wolfson DACs inside, so it sounds even more spacious with better imaging. Plus I can also use it in my home stereo setup.”  

Shop our selection of desktop USB DACs

Wireless DACs

Audioengine D2 Wireless DAC

The Audioengine D2 uses a transmitter and receiver combo to wirelessly send audio up to 100 feet away.

Wireless DACs broadcast digital content to an audio system in another location. Some connect to your computer and use a transmitter system. It sends the digital information to a separate wireless connected to your stereo or amplifier through RCA cables.

More often these days, wireless DACs use Bluetooth® for transmission from a smartphone or tablet. Some have extended wireless range, so you can move around more freely with your phone.  

Shop our selection of wireless DACs

Headphone Amp/DACs

Arche with headphones

The Focal Arche headphone amp/DAC includes a customized sound setting for each of Focal’s top-shelf headphones, like the closed-back Stellia model.

To get the most out of your headphones, consider a DAC that has a built-in amplifier that's designed to drive them. High-quality sound processing and robust power will bring new life to your 'phones. 

Some headphone amps also can be used as a very capable digital preamp. These are ideal if you're using your DAC to connect to your home stereo system as well as to headphones. 

Shop our selection of headphone amp/DACs

DACs for iPhone®, iPad®, or Android™ phone

AudioQuest DragonFly Black connected to an iPhone and headphones

The AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 connects to your iPhone via an Apple Lightning adapter (sold separately) and offers a serious sonic boost.

For many of us, our main music source is our phone. We have several DACs that will work with Apple devices or Android phones. Your phone may require a special Apple Lightning adapter, USB-C adapter, or micro-USB adapter.

Shop our selection of iPhone DACs

Component Hi-fi DACs

Cambridge CXN(v2) in a stack of digital gear

The Cambridge CXN (v2) component DAC is network audio streamer with built-in Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth. It can even be used as a preamplifier in a digital sound system.

Component Hi-Fi DACs are designed to connect to your full-fledged home audio system. You'll find large power supplies and advanced circuitry in theses DACs. They are ideal for two-channel stereo systems. 

Component DACs offer the widest range of connection options. And there are "jack-of-all-trade" models in this categories that have a built-in CD player, Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. Some connect to your home network, so you can stream directly from music services and sources.  

Shop our selection of Component Hi-fi DACs

Important points for getting the most from your DAC

Adding an external DAC can make a substantial improvement to the sound of your digital music. Sometimes. “You may not always hear a night-and-day difference,” warns Charles. “But I use the analogy of spraying Windex on a smudgy window. You can still see through the window beforehand. But everything gets a little cleaner and clearer after.”

Charles system

Charles uses the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus as part of his home stereo setup (and with headphones).

Your sound quality ultimately depends on other factors as well. Here are four important ones to consider:  

1.  How good are your music sources?

Digital music comes in variety of different formats and quality levels. The amount of detail a DAC can resolve or pull from a recording depends on how much is there to begin with. 

Make no mistake: whatever audio you play should get a sonic boost. That includes music downloads, streaming services, and even YouTube™ videos. Just make sure you're using the highest resolution available. This can be as simple as changing the streaming settings in Spotify.

The most discerning listeners often choose high-resolution music or lossless streaming services like Amazon Music HD, Tidal or Qobuz. These large digital files retain more audio information than compressed MP3s. 

“With quality gear, stepping up in resolution can give you that extra 5 percent that really makes your music sound more lifelike,” said Charles. “The sound is more dynamic with better texture. And there can be a big difference in the bass — more focused and punchy. Vocals stand out more, too. Really, you get a more three-dimensional sound.”

2. What kind of system will your DAC connect to?

The quality of your system’s audio components has an impact on the improvements you’ll hear with an outboard DAC.  Be sure to use capable speakers and well-made headphones to get the most out of your system. You wouldn't want to use a $2,000 component DAC with a mid-fi home theater receiver. Likewise, if you have a rack of equipment with high-end amps, an entry-level DAC won't cut it. 

3. How’s your computer comfort level?

Getting the best performance from a DAC connected to a computer can take a little bit of extra work. You may get music to play by simply plugging in the DAC. But, some additional changes to your computer’s audio settings may be necessary to get the best sound. Some DACs also require downloading and installing a USB driver to operate.

Manufacturers typically include instructions. But, a basic knowledge of computer operation will increase your odds of success. We can help with any questions as well. Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

Check out our guide to high fidelity computer audio, as well as AudioQuest's Computer Audio Setup Guide to get started.

4. Don’t forget the cables

The quality of the cable you use with your DAC can have a sonic impact. Upgrading from the cables included in the box usually pays off in better sound quality. Check out our USB cables for your computer, and our optical digital and coaxial digital cables for your CD or network music player. 

You'll also want to be sure you have the right analog cable to connect your DAC to your stereo. Check out our selections of stereo miniXLR, and RCA patch cables.

Get DAC advice from our specialists

At home with Charles

Charles designed his enviable home system to squeeze every musical detail from his high-res collection — and he loves to help others with their audio setup.

How do you choose the best headphone/amp/DAC combination? Or figure out which DAC will fit in best with your current home stereo setup? Talk to one of our personal audio experts, like Charles.

  • John Telakis from Bonney Lake, Wa. 983

    Posted on 2/27/2021

    I have a portable battery operated CD player which does a great job on my fine CDs. I have used an amp with it which actually improves the sound. Is there such a DAC Amp combo that are made for such an appliance? To now I've onlyread where a dac is used with a home system computer and such. Please reply or if I don't hear from you I can assume the reply is negative...thanks!

  • Joe from MATTHEWS

    Posted on 11/30/2020

    I run my audio sources through a 482i sonic maximizer and into an old Philips 7871 receiver. This setup works perfectly for my record player, phone, and laptop connections. However, I haven't been able to find a DAC to hook my TV's optical audio to the system. I tried bypassing the sonic maximizer, and using it, and both setups result in a clicking sound that I can't quite place. It sounds a bit like static but it's different. Looking for a DAC that might help solve this. Thanks.

  • Karl K. from Quebec City

    Posted on 6/14/2020

    With regards to using a desktop DAC I believe it's important to inform customers opting for a USB-powered unit based on perceived value that their computer's PSU has to be relatively powerful (over 600 watts) in order to send enough juice to the USB ports. This has a nothing short of spectacular impact on sound quality, and I mean really spectacular, as in day and night. Assuming of course that the buyer has a good quality self-powered headphone amp that can swing the volts. Also, when using a USB-powered DAC one must make sure to disable onboard sound in BIOS settings. Failing to do so will cause the audio signal to be routed through the computer's own very basic DSP system and as a result the external DAC will receive a degraded signal and regardless of what heaphone amp is being used, the SQ will just be godawful horrible. Switching off on-board audio will allow the signal to bypass the audio circuit and be sent directly to USB then straight out to the external DAC.

  • Vik dsouza from New york

    Posted on 5/21/2020

    Great info... You guys are good

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 5/21/2020

    Thanks, Vik!
  • Bob from Brecksville

    Posted on 9/5/2019

    I did not see any mention of the McIntosh DAC in your article. My C47 is 100 times superior to the Peachtree I used to use.

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    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/3/2017

    You're right David. You certainly want to think about these nuances while choosing a DAC. While this article is meant to serve as an introduction to the category, I think you'll find the specs you mentioned on most of our product pages. Our Advisors can also help you sort through all the details and find something that will work for you.

    You can reach them by phone at 1-888-955-6000.

  • David Dunn from Somers CT

    Posted on 5/3/2017

    With all this talk about DAC's I don't see any mention of actual analog audio output quality . You know, old school considerations like signal to noise ratio, total harmonic distortion, frequency response, dynamic range. And the article attempts to convince us that there is audible 'magic' obtainable from external DAC's without knowing what the internal DAC's qualities are. For all anyone knows, lacking audio specs for comparison, you might actually be downgrading the sound with your add-on. Bits ARE bits. If you want to argue that point you have to come up with some actual data (pun intended) that shows some kind of digital decode errors and then prove that the new device solves the problem.

  • Commenter image

    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/10/2017

    Hi Angel, I've passed your inquiry on to our advisor team. They'll reach out to you with a recommendation shortly.

  • Angel from New York City

    Posted on 4/7/2017

    Hello, I have a vintage Pioneer VSX-9500S receiver connected to two Klipsch tower speakers. Music source is my Samsung cellphone via Insignia Bluetooth adapter connected to the receiver. Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/5/2017

    Hi John, yes a DAC is what you'll need to feed an analog signal into your Rotel. Depending on what outputs your sources have, hopefully we can take care of everything with a single DAC. I'm going to pass along your info to one of our advisors, who will be in touch with a recommendation.

  • John from San Diego

    Posted on 4/4/2017

    Looks like my receiver will only send analog audio to "zone 2".... and I have multiple digital inputs like DirectTV and spotify/smartphone which don't work with my "zone 2" amplifier (Rotel). Playing CDs does work. Wondering if I need a DAC or a DAC for each digital input to solve the problem?

  • Buddy Stewart from Panama City

    Posted on 2/4/2017

    I agree, outboard DAC is the way to go. For my desktop I use a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, I run an uncompressed digital output (SPDIF) via digital coax to the DAC Magic. From there it's to my NAD C326BEE amp which feeds a pair of Paradigm Mini Monitors and a Polk PWS10 Powered Sub. Connect it all with some Kimber speaker cables and it sounds so much better than all in one big box system you hang off of a 1/8" analog port. I consume a lot of music sitting at my desk via this setup, so I wanted good sound.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/6/2016

    Ryan, without knowing more about the equipment that your sound engineer is using it's hard to say what you'll need. I recommend you give our Pro Audio Advisors a call; they'll be able to help you choose the right equipment.

  • Ryan from Torrance

    Posted on 9/5/2016

    If I wanted to have my digital songs mixed by an engineer that has an analogue board, do I need to get a DAC so that the digital files can be sent to the analogue board and then mixed? Thanks!! Ryan.

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    Kramer Crane from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/30/2016

    Hi Gevorg, you'll certainly see an improvement in performance by using a quality pair of headphones like the Sennheiser HD 598s. Your phone has enough amplification power to drive those since they are designed to be very efficient.

    I would start with upgrading your headphones as the first step. You'll also want to make sure you're listening to high-quality, uncompressed content. If you're playing music from an app like Spotify or Pandora, maximize the streaming settings. That will give you a boost in performance as well.

    An external DAC can help with your phone, but those first two upgrades will yield better results in performance. I'd hold off on a DAC until you've tackled those two areas.

  • Gevorg from Gyumri

    Posted on 6/29/2016

    Hi Dave. I'm new to music so maybe my questions seem stupid but I'm a little confused and need your help to figure it out. I'm listening music on my phone (Samsung Galaxy Alpha) via cheap headphones and the sound is really bad. I did a long research on the web and found a good headphone that best fits my needs (Sennheiser HD598) but I'm not sure will it sound wihout a DAC at all? If so how will it sound? Do I need a DAC to get possible best quality sound? Or does my phone support any DAC? I want a DAC with battery in it to save my phone's. Please help me with your advice. Buy or not to buy a DAC? If so what do you recommend? Thank you and sorry for my English.

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/26/2016

    Hi, Pelle. That Peachtree stuff really does sound nice, doesn't it? Like you said, there are quite a few devices for streaming audio to a system like yours, all with widely varying features. The Sonos CONNECT and Bluesound Node 2 are two popular models that could take advantage of your iDecco's DAC. Honestly, I haven't kept up with all the wireless options as closely as I should, so I've taken the liberty of sending your question to our advisors for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Pelle Anderson from New York

    Posted on 4/22/2016

    Hi Dave! A couple of years back I bought a Peachtree Audio iDecco from you. I am very happy with the internal D/A-converter, and I usually connect an old iPod to the dock. However, having migrated to Samsung, I would like to have a wireless option; to stream my music, controlled by my Samsung phone or Mac computer, to the iDecco in order to use it's D/A-converter. So, a wireless receiver that can bring the digital signal into the amp. I know there are several small gadgets that can do this, which one would you recommend? Best, Pelle

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/27/2016

    Hi Eric. The way you have your system connected now relies on the sound card and headphone amplifier inside your iMac to send music to your Onkyo (which lacks a built-in DAC of its own, by the way). While that's an adequate way to get sound to your receiver, it's far from optimal. Your iMac has a USB port or two, right? My (strong) recommendation is to connect an external DAC with USB input (which is most of them) to one of those ports on your computer, and let it handle decoding your music instead. The difference in sound quality can be quite astounding! Check with our Advisors, and they'd be happy to recommend one for you.

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/27/2016

    Chuck, I'm not really familiar with the Roku 3, but I'm assuming you connect its HDMI out to your TV, then use your TV's analog audio out to your Adcom. If you used your TV's optical output instead to send a linear PCM audio stream to a DAC like the Audioengine D1, that could work. I'd bet money that the D1 would run sonic circles around the TV's internal DAC.

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/27/2016

    Hi, Eduardo. Interesting question. I suppose there are some unknown variables here, such as the quality of your connecting cables and the Pioneer's built-in DAC, but my money would be on going through the Audioengine first, then analog audio out to your receiver. As long as I had all the cables on hand, I'd be inclined to try it both ways and see which I liked better.

  • Eric from Boston

    Posted on 2/27/2016

    Hi Dave. In my office, I have a modest Onkyo TX-8555 receiver driving a sub-woofer and a pair of Mission bookshelf speakers. As sources, I play CDs through a dedicated player and also have a turntable for vinyl. However, I find myself playing digital music files on my iMac more and more, very often from streaming services such as Amazon Prime Music. The iMac is connected to the receiver from the iMac's headphone jack to the receiver's CBL/SAT input. Is this the best way to do it and, my real question, would an external DAC improve the sound quality or is the receiver taking care of that? Many thanks for guiding me through this quagmire!

  • Chuck Miller from Buffalo NY

    Posted on 2/27/2016

    Hello. Will a DAC improve sound quality when primary listening is using a Roku 3 for Pandora and Netflix? Roku connected to Panasonic plasma, connected to 25 year old Adcom amp; connected to B&W speakers.

  • Eduardo from Syracuse, NY

    Posted on 2/26/2016

    Hi Dave. I have an audioengine D1 and a Rocketfish bluetooth receiver. The bluetooth receiver has an optical output. What would be better: connecting the Rocketfish directly to my Pioneer Elite VSX21 through an optical input? or connecting the bluetooth receiver to the DAC and then to the Pioneer via analog/coaxial input. I play mostly FLAC files. Thank you!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/4/2016

    Martin, I'm not certain how much the Asus costs where you are, but it looks pretty pricy to me (maybe too pricey for what it is?). Looking at the gear you are using, and the fact that you might be able to obtain Cambridge Audio products, I would highly recommend the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100. I've heard this DAC in several relatively high-end systems, and it sounds pretty amazing. Plus, it's not too expensive for what you get. It doesn't decode DSD audio files, but if that's not a deal breaker, I highly recommend it.

  • Martin from Rosario

    Posted on 2/3/2016

    Hi! I have a Yamaha AS-500 Stereo Amp paired with Polk RTI's A7 in a bi wired setup. Currently I'm using a CD-changer and a turntable, but I wanted to play some music I have in high res files that I can't get in CDs or Vynil. I don't know much about DACs, I just landed here looking about how to play this files in a hifi system and all roads lead here. I've looked a bit online and I saw some Asus Xonar Essence One (that thing looks amazing and theoretically it's good) but I wanted some feedback from experts. I'm from Argentina so it's not likely that I get many brands here, I think I saw some stuff from Cambridge but not too much. I know I can get some of the Asus models tho, for some reason they get here. Is there any advice you can give me? I intend to use this with a USB cable for files and then RCA stereo to connect to my amp. Thanks in advance for the help!!!

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/30/2015

    John, The Sonos models you mentioned are all closed, self-contained units that have their own built-in DACs and amps. They do not need, nor can they use an external DAC. The sole exception in the Sonos product range would be the CONNECT. It, too, has a built-in DAC with line-level audio outputs. But unlike the others, the CONNECT also provides optical and coaxial digital audio (S/PDIF) outputs that can be connected to an outboard DAC for an audio upgrade.

    As far as using your Walkman as some kind of music server in a Sonos network (or even just plugging it into the aux input on the PLAY:5, the only Sonos piece with one), I can't really say. I'm not familiar with your 'ZX1's capabilities, and I'm uncertain how you would propose to stream music from it to your Sonos. You may want to give our advisors a call to discuss the details.

  • John from Lexington, VA

    Posted on 12/30/2015

    I am now putting together my ideas for wireless sound system in my apartment using the Sonos SUB, model 1, 3, and 5 units. What is the way in which to configure an external DAC with Sonos? We have a lot of our music stored already on the Sony Walkman NWZ-ZX1. If we use this as our music source do we, in effect, have our external DAC? Thank you.

  • Jacinthe from Ottawa

    Posted on 12/9/2015

    Hi, I have a Pro-Ject dock Box S IF connecting my iPhone, IPAD my tube preamp Melody 1688 II, streaming music. My speakers are ProAC Studio 140. I am looking at getting the most out of the digital streaming into my analog set-up by adding a DAC but I am uncertain to which to choose that will work well with the Melody?

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/4/2015

    Winver, Many subscribe to the "bit are bits" philosophy that would disallow the possibility of any audible differences in sound of the same music file played back from different players. But experience has shown me that every link in the playback system has the potential to affect sound quality. So yes, I do think the player will matter. But I expect that difference to be quite small compared to the differences in sound quality between various amp/DACs.

  • Winver from Manila

    Posted on 12/4/2015

    Hi Dave. While I've been using pretty nice sounding earphones for my smartphone such as the Vsonic GR07, Fischer Audio DBA-02, Ortofon e-Q7, I'm a complete newbie when it comes to using a DAC and AMP. One simple question. When using a DAC/AMP, does it matter which player I use, since the external DAC replaced the one embedded on my DAP/smartphone music player? Or does the sound change if I use a different DAP with the same DAC/AMP?

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    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/9/2015

    Hi Bob, The Cambridge 752BD has a pretty sweet audio section to begin with, so I'm not sure a DAC upgrade would gain you much ground sonically. If this were my setup, I'd be tempted to upgrade the patch cords with something like the AudioQuest Evergreen or Golden Gate RCA cables. I would also swap out the 752BD's power cable with AudioQuest's NRG-2. Either or both of these changes would, in my humble opinion, result in a noticeable improvement in sound quality.

  • Bob from Augusta

    Posted on 11/8/2015

    will a dac make a difference in my home audio video system,I have a cambridge azur 752bd player ,audio out to my vintage macintosh model 1900 thru rya connections ,then to my custom built altec model 19 speakers? I like my two channel set up, I just want to make sure I am getting the most out of the signal to the receiver.

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/31/2015

    Tom, we sent your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • Tom from joplin mo

    Posted on 8/28/2015

    I have a new 55" Samsung 7100 TV It has only the optical audio output and my 1977 Pioneer SX-1250 only has RCA inputs. SO I need a converter that is of better quality than the $15 ones on Amazon or a bit more at best buy. What do you offer that a real stereo system will be sounding rif=ght with the TV.

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/21/2015

    Ong, I guess the answer is yes and no. An add-on DAC could potentially improve the sound quality of an external digital audio source, such as a CD player or computer, connected to it and then plugged into one of the receiver's analog audio inputs. However, an outboard DAC will do nothing for any of the receiver's "internal" audio sources, such as Wi-Fi connected sources or surround sound sources, since the signal from those sources will always only be routed through the receiver's built-in DAC.

  • ONG KOK LEONG from Melaka Tengah

    Posted on 8/21/2015

    can a external high end dac improve the sound of a yamaha rxv 677 av receiver?

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/20/2015

    Sunny, As long as your active speakers have analog audio inputs, such as the Audioengine A2+ for example, I believe simply using your TV's internal DAC and RCA audio outputs to connect them would be the best way to go. No external DAC necessary.

    As for listening to music from your computer through your speakers, adding an external DAC, especially one capable of decoding high-resolution audio, will often result in noticeably better sound than the DAC built into most active speakers. So in this case, it might be worth adding one. It all depends on how good your speakers are, and whether or not you are a critical listener.

  • Sunny from Seoul

    Posted on 8/20/2015

    Hi I recently bought some active speakers with a built-in DAC (USB connection), but my tv only has RCA and optical audio outputs. Is it worth adding an external DAC to this setup, or will my TV's internal DAC work fine?

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/27/2015

    Henry, It is possible to play your TV's audio through your stereo receiver via its optical digital output by using an outboard DAC. However, most TVs output a combination of PCM audio and Dolby Digital (when using the TV's built-in tuner). A standard DAC designed to handle stereo PCM and DSD audio signals from conventional music sources can't process the Dolby Digital bitstream audio from your TV. The solution? A DAC such as the WyreStorm Express. It's designed to handle both PCM and bitstream audio, converting them to analog stereo sound for connection to your receiver.

  • Henry Britton Jr from Vancouver

    Posted on 7/26/2015

    I want to connect my LG HDTV (Smart, Web/OS) to my stereo receiver via TV's optical output to receiver's analog RCA input. Is this connection possible for better sound?? HELP

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/9/2015

    Brad, I'd doubt that adding the 151 would make any significant difference. And by the way, the iPod played through a good DAC makes an excellent music source, especially if you're playing CD-quality files from it.

  • Brad from Ontario Canada

    Posted on 6/8/2015

    I have a McIntosh system and use a Wadia 170I dock with my ipod (iknow it's wrong but is easy) would adding the Wadia 151 to the system make a substantial difference?

  • Commenter image

    Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/4/2015

    Dave, there are a lot of variables to consider here (especially the generational versions of your iPad and iPod), but if you are looking for a decent DAC to connect your Apple devices to your current sound system, you might want to check out the Arcam drDock.

    Jabo, since DACs decode digital audio music sources, you can't really use one with an analog FM radio broadcast. If you are streaming the station on the internet via your computer, a DAC with a USB input may be just the ticket to improve performance. As for DVDs, it depends. If you are playing music CDs on a DVD player, then a DAC connected to the player's optical or coaxial digital audio output would make a good choice. Otherwise, DACs designed to decode PCM or DSD audio files are not capable of decoding the Dolby Digital or DTS soundtracks contained on most movie DVDs. That's what the decoder in your receiver is for. Lots of options here; you may want to give our advisors a call to see which one is best for you.

  • David Drew from Crawley West Sussex uk

    Posted on 5/2/2015

    Hi i use my iPad and iPod classic some times with my Bose headphones but mostly through my main Hifi which is seventy watts rms per channel. I have two floor standing speakers twelve inch bass five inch mid range tree inch liquid cooled tweeters and a pair of Elax book shelf two way bi wired speakers. What would you recommend and how much do I need to spend approximately. Any advice would be greatly received. Great website by the way. Thanks Dave Drew.