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newbie question about hdmi and audio

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
First post, finally got some half decent headphones and excited to be getting into some good sounding music! . all this talk about DACs has me baffled. I am trying to get my audio files to play through my NAD 320 amp and it only has rca connects. Only way to get a laptop or phone hooked up is via HDMI to TV and then TV rca to amp. In this situation what's doing the DAC?. Is it the TV, or the laptop. Also would the TV or laptop be amplifying the sound or am I bypassing its amp?
post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by kozzie View Post

First post, finally got some half decent headphones and excited to be getting into some good sounding music! . all this talk about DACs has me baffled. I am trying to get my audio files to play through my NAD 320 amp and it only has rca connects. Only way to get a laptop or phone hooked up is via HDMI to TV and then TV rca to amp. In this situation what's doing the DAC?. Is it the TV, or the laptop. Also would the TV or laptop be amplifying the sound or am I bypassing its amp?

 

Don't you have a USB port on your laptop? You'd typically connect the laptop to a DAC via USB and then DAC to amp via RCA. DAC means Digital To Analogue Converter - it converts the digital data output by your laptop into an audio signal.

 

You might not need an external DAC though: if your laptop has a line out, you could just use a 3.5mm jack to 2x RCA lead to connect directly to your amp (the laptop will have a built-in DAC, although possibly not a very good one).

 

Either way, I don't think you need to be going through your TV!

post #3 of 6

Incidentally, I didn't mean to say you shouldn't be doing it like that - just that your setup sounds a bit odd! To answer your original question though, connecting laptop and TV via HDMI means you are transmitting digital data to the TV so it's the DAC in the TV that converts to audio output. Neither the TV nor the laptop would be doing any amplification.


Edited by WraithApe - 6/17/14 at 6:11am
post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by kozzie View Post

First post, finally got some half decent headphones and excited to be getting into some good sounding music! . all this talk about DACs has me baffled. I am trying to get my audio files to play through my NAD 320 amp and it only has rca connects. Only way to get a laptop or phone hooked up is via HDMI to TV and then TV rca to amp. In this situation what's doing the DAC?. Is it the TV, or the laptop. Also would the TV or laptop be amplifying the sound or am I bypassing its amp?
 

Set-up in that fashion the TV is doing the digital to analogue conversion, but I wouldn't do it that way, and neither would I use HDMI to begin with, unless I'm using an HT receiver and also need that for video (movies and concerts).

 

The only way to get digital audio out of the HDMI and into anything that can decode it is to use an HT receiver, or a TV. Those are the only things that really benefit from having a combined output for both audio and video, and sadly HT receivers that have an analog line output tend to be the pricier ones, and you'd still be using a huge box to get the job done. Even if you use the TV first, the problem is it might not have another kind of digital output, as newer TVs use HDMI with a return channel (so you can hook up a cable box directly to it, then by default you use the TV's decoder and speakers, then if you're viewing anything with surround sound, you can easily rout it to the receiver, instead of hooking it up to the receiver and you need that running all the time). Now, even if the TV does have analog outputs with RCA sockets, the problem there is now you have to have the TV running to get any sound out, which is a whole host of inconveniences on its own.

 

Easiest way to listen to music off your laptop is to use USB audio instead. There are too many options to mention as nearly any DACs that come out now have USB inputs, plus RCA outputs that can feed the signal to the NAD320. 

post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by kozzie View Post

First post, finally got some half decent headphones and excited to be getting into some good sounding music! . all this talk about DACs has me baffled. I am trying to get my audio files to play through my NAD 320 amp and it only has rca connects. Only way to get a laptop or phone hooked up is via HDMI to TV and then TV rca to amp. In this situation what's doing the DAC?. Is it the TV, or the laptop. Also would the TV or laptop be amplifying the sound or am I bypassing its amp?

 

Get a Schiit Modi (optical or USB) DAC, hook it up between the laptop and the NAD, you will have nice sound.

There are also the Hifimediy USB DACs.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
OK thanks everyone, from what I can tell the laptop only has a headphone out. (And I was trying to avoid double amplifying the sound). sounds like a DAC would be the most direct and best quality way to utilise my amp.
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