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USB DAC - Do I need it? Will I benefit?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hello all,

I currently listen to music from my PC on my home theater via a mini jack plugged into the back of the sound card on my PC. That cable splits, with one continueing mini jack to the PC speakers, and the other is a mini jack that has RCA plugs on the other end, and I just run it to the Aux ports on my Denon 890 receiver. The sound card is whatever business came standard with my Dell PC that is about 5-6 years old.

Would I likely benefit from a USB DAC, such as the NuForce uDAC-2 that I was reading about on CNET (I'm not going to spend $500+ on one)?

Of course, I suppose this would require me to spend a weekend re-ripping my CD collection to a Lossless format like FLAC (never done this, but I suppose Winamp or WMP can rip to FLAC?), since all my songs are ripped as MP3s right now, and therefore would be my limiting factor.

I guess I could still get the audio to the receiver via the same method using the DAC (RCA from back of DAC to the Denon), unless there is a better way that I'm not understanding yet.

To use the DAC, it sounds like I just plug it into a USB port on the computer, then go into the settings and set it to use that device as the audio output, rather than my sound card?

Last question for now is a stupid and simple one, but important to me. With a USB DAC like this...how can I still get normal computer sound out of my desktop PC speakers? If I tell the computer to use the USB DAC instead of the sound card, then the PC's sound will be going to the receiver and to my home theater, and won't be going to my computer speakers. What am I missing here, so that I can have normal PC sound and music from those speakers all of the time except when I want to listed to my music through the home theater system? My one thought is to somehow split the cables coming out from the DAC, but, I can't think of Y cables that split into RCA and headphone mini like I'd need. The other thought was that I'd leave the PC speakers plugged into the sound card with the mini jack like they are now, and I'd have to mess with the PC sound settings each time I'd want to change the sound from PC speakers to the Home Theater...which I'd rather avoid having to do.

Thanks!
post #2 of 4
Consider a USB-to-S/PDIF converter, instead. This will let you connect to a digital input on your AVR and, therefore, (1) avoid re-digitization and (2) make your AVR's processing useful.
post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

Consider a USB-to-S/PDIF converter, instead. This will let you connect to a digital input on your AVR and, therefore, (1) avoid re-digitization and (2) make your AVR's processing useful.

Interesting, thanks. I'll look into this (I know nothing about them right now...not even what "S/PDIF" is). How would this allow me to avoid re-dgitization? Isn't a lossless file still going to sound better than a lossy, whether through DAC or S/PDIF?

Thanks
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

Consider a USB-to-S/PDIF converter, instead. This will let you connect to a digital input on your AVR and, therefore, (1) avoid re-digitization and (2) make your AVR's processing useful.

Also, the DAC I referenced has a Coax audio out. Wouldn't that be digital like the S/PDIF connection you are talking about?
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