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What Exactly is a DAC?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Looking into some fancy new headphones and saw a lot of stuff about AMP's and DAC's, and not too sure exactly what a DAC offers. Obviously I'm new to all this, and money is an issue but currently I'm just planning and will work that out when I get there. Just to give a reference, let's say I'm getting the Sennheiser Momentums and/or HD 598 for now, and I plan to use them with my iPad for the most part, and my computer some too, and I will mainly use pandora and other streaming services for the music itself (not paying for music and avoiding pirating, got a few just for when i have no internet). What should I get to go with this? right now from a quick search I've found the FiiO E07K or possibly the E10, but I can't tell what adapters or other devices may be needed. And I can't tell if the E10 is portable or not, which is a strong preference, as Most of my use will be at school (this won't be too fun to lug around but i can make it work if it's worth it)

Really though, How much better does it sound using a DAC? I have no room to put an audio card in my computer thanks to my ghetto graphics card (replacement coolers ain't cheap and fans broke so 2 case fans are strapped to the bezel, surprisingly good temps really and it's a GTX470), so will this stuff even make enough of a difference without one?
Edited by jonnyp11 - 3/19/13 at 8:30pm
post #2 of 8

An iPod is a DAC, your PC is a DAC, if all you want to do is amplify what's already coming out of the hardware via analog (headphone connection), then you won't need a DAC.  E11 comes to mind.  If you will be using digital out on your PC or any other source that has digital out, then a DAC would be necessary to convert to Analog to hear on standard phones.  (Digital to Analog Converter).  Hope that helps a little bit.

post #3 of 8

DAC = Digital to Analog Converter.... its a device that converts digital bit-stream to analog AC wave signal.  In regards to HF its a device that receives a digital bit stream from COAX, Toslink, USB, WiFi or Bluetooth and converts it to analog RCA, 1/8 TRS or balanced output.


The DAC you chose will depend on the kind of output input signal your source is capable of and the kind of output you are looking for.


Some DAC units have headphone amps built in, so this many times alleviates the need for a dedicated amp "component" after the DAC.  So these units have COAX, Toslink, USB input and usually a choice of outputs, with a headphone out being one of them.

Edited by kramer5150 - 3/20/13 at 8:44am
post #4 of 8

Well, this is a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital-to-analog_converter

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
So basically i have no need for the DAC, if i want an amp, then a FiiO E6 will be all I need?
post #6 of 8
Originally Posted by jonnyp11 View Post

So basically i have no need for the DAC, if i want an amp, then a FiiO E6 will be all I need?

Yes and no... technically NO you will not "need" a DAC to produce sound.  However, given the (generally) horrid sound quality of most OEM PC sound cards, particularly used with low-Z cans... theres a strong chance a DAC/AMP combo will improve the sound.  Apple laptops and iPads generally have serviceable headphone/line outputs.  Not all together offensive, but nothing to get excited over either.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
So would something like the E07K help either much or a noticeable amount, enough to justify the price
post #8 of 8

I've been researching DAC and they exite me


I understand what they do but What do you look for specification wise?


You guys use words like Ohms and etc but I have no idea what all this means


What do you look for in a headphone amp or do you just test it out just like in a headphone world?

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