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Would a budget DAC significantly improve my signal chain?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi there,

My current setup includes using a 3.5mmm to RCA connector to connect my headphone-out of my laptop to my NAD3020.

I was wondering if a sub-100$ DAC would be beneficial in this situation.

post #2 of 7

Depending on the quality of the laptop's output (for most laptops, it's poor relative to what else is available these days, though not particularly poor compared to what was available in the past, devices other than DACs)...

 

the difference would be great enough that many here would consider the difference significant.  I'd caution that audio forums tend to be full of hyperbole.

 

 

Try running the iPod Classic through the NAD 3020 and home setup to compare, hopefully being careful to match the output levels from the laptop and iPod closely.  If you're sure the laptop sounds worse, then you can clearly get an upgrade (under $100 is no problem for a competent DAC).

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks.

I did what you said, comparing the iPod's hp-out with the laptop's (since I don't have a female-female converter to connect my iPod's line out with the 3.5mm... ), and while the mids on the laptop seem a bit more recessed and the seperation slightly weaker, the difference wasn't drastic. I may consider an upgrade further down the line, but for now I get to save a bit of money! biggrin.gif

post #4 of 7

Computers (laptops) come with low cost DACs, so yea, adding an external DAC should improve audio quality.

 

DACs sold on eBay 7 Inernet

Dac Destoryer, USB-DAC, $50-$60, eBay

Muse DA20 ,USB/coaxial DAC, $56, eBay

SMSL SD-793, internet, $78

SMSL SD-1955, USB-optical-coaxial DAC, $100 eBay

post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by plumcakk View Post

Thanks.

I did what you said, comparing the iPod's hp-out with the laptop's (since I don't have a female-female converter to connect my iPod's line out with the 3.5mm... ), and while the mids on the laptop seem a bit more recessed and the seperation slightly weaker, the difference wasn't drastic. I may consider an upgrade further down the line, but for now I get to save a bit of money! biggrin.gif

 

Just making sure I understood you, but you were testing headphones directly from the iPod and laptop?

 

That would be testing the ability to drive headphones as well as do the digital-to-analog conversion.  Often times, effects and problems from the digital-to-analog conversion are smaller than those from driving the headphones; this wouldn't at all be a fair test of the laptop's D/A compared to what something else might do in that regard.

 

In other words, expect differences no larger than what you actually heard.

 

That could still be worth an upgrade; again, it's up to you.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

No, I was amping the headphone-out from the two respective sources. Sorry about the confusion. But yeah, if I did that the difference would be even greater, wouldn't it.

 

I might consider a low cost DAC just to see what the difference would be, but I'm afraid that cheaping out on the DAC would be a waste of money. But if any of those DACs listed above are decent, then I guess I shouldn't be afraid!

 

Thanks for all the info.

post #7 of 7

I've been using my laptop audio for a while, and honestly the difference was too much once I used a DAC.

However, you also need to take into account your headphone.

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