Originally Posted by DaleG7907
..... So I was wondering if I need a DAC? I've noticed that my preamp doesn't have any digital inputs and outputs. ... Thanks.
As unhelpful as it is, the answer to the question - Do I need a DAC?
- is - Well, DO you need a DAC?
A DAC does one primary thing, and that is convert a list of numbers into analog voltages. Do you have any content or connections that feed numbers instead of Voltages? If so, then you need a DAC ... sort of.
You didn't tell us what your CD Player is, nor if it is actually a CD PLAYER. Most actual CD Player have DACs built into them. Most DVD/Blueray, have DACs built in, though become less common.
There are CD Transports, Cambridge comes to mind, that only have Digital Outputs, these depend on you having your own DAC to decode the material.
So, not knowing specifically what you have, it is difficult for us to say what you need.
Most Network Streaming Devices have DACs built in.
In short any device that plays digital content and also has RCA Line Out, has a DAC built in.
So, in this case, the question isn't - Do you need a DAC?
- rather the question is - Do you need a Better DAC?
- and likely you don't.
Here are some situation where a person might need a DAC -
1.) TV Audio fed to a Stereo System
- most TVs have by far an Digital Audio Out
of the Optical variety, though a few have Coaxial connections. To hear movies on a Stereo, the Digital Audio Out of the TV will be connected to a DAC, and the Analog Output of the DAC will feed the Analog RCA input of the Stereo. This works very well and is how most people with Stereos are watching and listening to TV and Movies.
2.) CD Transport
- that is a CD playing device that has only Digital Outs and therefore needs to be connected to an External DAC.
3.) CD Players
- your CD Player will have a DAC, but your Integrated Amp or Stand Alone DAC might be a better DAC, so, while you don't need to, you might choose to connect the Digital Out of the CD to the better DAC.
4.) DVD/BlueRay Players
- Though there are other situations, the most common is when using a BluRay to also serve as a Stereo CD Player. For Video, you use HDMI to your TV or AVR, and for Stereo Music, you connect the BluRay Optical/Coaxial Out to a DAC which will feed the Analog Inputs on your amp
5.) Network Players
- Network Players are like CD Players, they will most likely have an internal DAC, but you might have a better external DAC. Network Players like CD Player will by far most likely have Analog RCA Audio Out which will use the Internal DAC. But they are also very likely to have some from of Digital Out (optical/coaxial) that would allow you to feed an external DAC if you so desire.
6.) Computer -
Many computers have Optical and sometimes Coaxial, and most certainly USB-PC outputs. These are good for feeding the Audio Output of the computer to an external Stereo amp with a DAC.
Most DACs have Optical and Coaxial Inputs, but some have USB-PC which facilitate a direct connect to a computer.
Some Amps have a USB-Media input, which will not connect directly to a computer, but can be connected to a Thumb Drive, sometimes a Hard Drive, and in many cases to a Smart Device like a Smart Phone, Tablet, or Pad.
Bluetooth, which is less than ideal, can be used for Casual Listening. But for Serious listening, you want to use some type of direct connect method. Networking (wired or WiFi) is bit perfect with (for the most part) no distance limitations. A direct USB connect to an external Smart Device, will be Bit Perfect. Bluetooth tend to use compression, and tends to be limited in distance; typically 30 feet line-of-sight. However, Bluetooth is improving, and has been stretched to 100ft with low latency. Bluetooth can sound pretty good, but is best for casual listening.
So, do you have any of these situations that would require a DAC? If you do, then you need a DAC, and if you don't then you probably don't need a DAC.
As to how much you need to spend on a DAC, the field runs from $6 up to about $6000. You just need to determine where in that range you are.
I would suggest, if you are serious about DAC recommendations, you lay out all the equipment in your system with the rough cost of each item, and we will recommend DACs that are proportional to your system, or that are reasonable for any budget you state. While you can indeed get very basic but decent DACs in the $10 to $50, most quality DACs are going to be about $300 and up. But in that wider range, should you need a DAC, we can certainly find one that suits your needs and your budget.
Here is a quick cross-section of DACs -
And about 1,000 other choices.