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What is a DAC and why do I need/want one?

Want better sound quality from your phone/laptop/tablet/MP3 player? You need a dedicated DAC. 

What is a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter)?

All data/media on your phone/computer/tablet is stored in a digital format (comprised of 0s and 1s). This includes all of your audio files (FLAC, mp3, AIFF, etc), and streaming audio (TIDAL, Qobuz, Spotify, etc).

A DAC takes the digital data and converts it to analog. This conversion has to happen for us to hear and see what the data represents. In this article, I will focus on audio DACs.

I’ve never used a DAC before, so why should I get one now?

You may not have realized it, but you’ve used a DAC every time you have played music through your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. All of these devices have built-in DACs. 

Everybody needs an audio DAC because otherwise, you would not hear anything from your phone, computer, or tablet. 

Now the question becomes, why do I want a different DAC from the one already inside my phone, computer, or tablet?

The DAC inside your phone/computer/tablet is designed to be as cost-effective as possible because the manufacturers of these products sell them by the millions. Hence the performance of these devices is not the main goal. Even though these built-in DACs have become quite good in the past few years they still will not stand up to a dedicated DAC.

As an example let’s say you have an SUV and a sports car. The SUV works great for driving to work and getting groceries. However, you would only use your sports car for racing. The sports car will have a special engine, suspension, brakes, etc. A similar comparison can be made between a built-in DAC and a dedicated one. If you want the best performance you buy the product specifically designed for that task.

If you are a music lover and looking to improve your listening experience you will want a dedicated DAC.  

How does a DAC fit into my current setup?

The most common ways to interface to a DAC are via USB and S/PDIF. A USB DAC can be connected to your phone, laptop, computer, or tablet. You may not realize it but phones and tablets have USB ports that can be used with the proper adapter. A DAC can be connected to your existing receiver, pre-amplifier, amplifier, powered speakers, or headphones.

If you want very high-performance in a compact size, look no further than our PecanPi® USB/SPDIF. Not only is it a quality HiFi USB DAC, but it also has a built-in headphone amplifier, which means headphones can be plugged into it (adapter required).

The PecanPi® USB/SPDIF will bypass the DAC inside your PC, laptop, tablet, or phone. You’ll immediately experience greater sound quality and clarity, with instruments and vocals standing out from each other to occupy their own distinct space.

The PecanPi® USB/SPDIF will play all of your audio files including high-resolutions ones up to 24-bit / 192kHz.

Find out what you have been missing.

04/19/2022 – Update

The PecanPi® USB/SPDIF has been discontinued as the same functionality can be achieved with the PecanPi® Streamer Rev 3.0. with addition USB to S/PDIF converter.

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