I am new to the forums and new to the world of "good" headphones. I recently bought a pair of Grado SR60i's and love them. They sound awesome when connected to my HiFi system, but I want to get the best possible sound from my laptop. I have a 2nd generation MacBook Air, and all of the music I care about is ripped in Apple Lossless (the other stuff is 256 AAC). The internal sound card on this machine is okay, but I want to extract the best possible sound that I can. I was looking at the Creative xFi USB sound card, which can be bought for about $70. Is that worth the money? Also, what function does a DAC serve? Does my computer not already convert the digital signal to analog when it plays it into the headphones? Will the creative system amplify the sound?
Thanks so much for the help!!!
PS - I do have a limited budget, so I can't splurge on real expensive stuff!
A DAC is a Digital to Analog Converter.
You can’t play digital audio without converting them to analog.
The onboard audio of a PC consist of a DAC and a headphone amp.
As you are on a MAC, the headphone out doubles as a (mini) Toslink out.
If you do have an amp with Toslink in, connect the 2.
As Toslink is a digital out now you are using the DAC of the amp.
This gives you an idea what the difference between the on-board audio and an outboard DAC (+ the amp) might do for sound quality.
Internal DACs in just about every main stream laptop PMP is pretty crummy. External DACs by any price range, will be better. As with the external DAC, most of the add-on sound cards will be better than onboard audio. If you wouldn't mind going with an external solution, I'm sure you could probably find a NuForce uDAC first generation for about $70 or less in the for sale section of the forum.