Tag: Digital

Do I Need a DAC? When and How to Choose a DAC

A common question that arises among music lovers looking to improve the sound quality of their set-up is the question of whether a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC, for short) is necessary and at what point a DAC becomes a useful component of either a speaker system or headphone rig. Before addressing the question of the necessity of a DAC, it is important to understand precisely what DACs are designed to do.

Function

The essential function of a DAC is to convert the digital signals that computers or portable players use to store music into an analog current that can be used by headphone transducers or speakers to create physical sound. As a matter of pure functionality, no player that stores music digitally can interact with analog components without some type of on-board DAC. Of course, to keep the overall price of machines and devices capable of digital music storage down, many manufacturers equip devices such as mp3 players, laptops, and desktops with sub-par DAC systems. These systems generally do only enough to convert binary into a current and do not stress distortion reduction and general sound quality leaving the music without dimension or depth.

Do I Need a DAC? When to Get a DAC?

The statement I am about to make may surprise some and completely offend others: no one ever needs a DAC. A dedicated DAC should be the final step in achieving the finest audio quality for your stereo system or headphone rig. No amount of specialization, flashy specs,

NuForce Signature Gold; No amount of gold or diamonds will save a poor source

or carefully selected DAC components will improve the sound quality of a poor source. Painfully compressed digital audio files such as MP3 and internet radio streams will always leave out the nuances serious listeners crave. Before a DAC should ever come into consideration, it is of greater priority that the audio file is of the best quality available and of the lowest compression.

Even before considering new headphones or speaker components, until the music files have achieved the highest possible level of quality it is premature to begin considering external DACs or amplifier DAC combinations.

Choosing a DAC

Assuming you have all your lossless files in line, decent set of headphones or speakers, and (in necessary cases) an amplifier, a DAC is something to consider as final step in improving you system. Like adding the finishing touches to a carefully crafted work of art, adding a

FiiO-E17, described as having a "neutral" signature

DAC to you system should feel like polishing an already impressive composition. An effective way to select a suitable DAC is to test one with the music it will be used to play. Because DACs feed decoded information to other systems within the unit that eventually travel to the listening device in an analog form, all DACs will have a unique sound signature. The sound signature is basically the amount of coloration, or sound imposed on the analog signal not inherent to the mix or engineering. While the most neutral reproduction is the most desirable, some individuals may find that DACs with “warmer” coloration are more suited to their tastes. At this point in the process, it is just a mater of selecting a DAC with a sound signature that suits your individual tastes and that most heightens your musical enjoyment.

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Roland Pro Audio Gear – Coming Soon to Sonic Electronix!

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Roland is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary and Sonic Electronix couldn’t be happier for them! To help celebrate, we will soon be carrying a comprehensive line of Roland, Boss and Cakewalk pro audio gear. Roland was founded by Mr. Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka, Japan in April of 1972. Today, Roland has factories in the U.S., Italy, Japan and Taiwan. For any out there who might have just recently emerged from under a rock, Roland is one of the most ubiquitous and reputable names in professional audio equipment. From instruments like synthesizers, electronic drum sets and dance/DJ gear to amplifiers, guitar pedals and recording products, Roland will no doubt continue to expand its catalog throughout the professional audio world.

Where It All Began

Roland’s first product was the Roland Rhythm 77 (TR-77), a drum machine housed in a flat wooden case that had a stand for holding scorebooks. It was designed for rhythm accompaniment to organs, pianos, synths and such. It was one of a trio of drum machines (TR-33 & TR-55) with slightly different features between them. In 2011, Roland has unveiled products such as the BC-2 Combo Drive guitar pedal, a complete DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) known as Sonar X1, and the globally unique SPD-SX sampling pad among several others. Truly, each of these products could warrant a blog of their own, and maybe we’ll see one or some of those here someday as Sonic Electronix continues to grow.

Where It’s Going

We at Sonic Electronix are clearly taking our expansion into the professional audio realm very seriously with the addition of the Roland product line. We’re tirelessly working to get these products up and available on our site so that you can take advantage of Sonic’s great deals and integrate the Roland name into your life. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Life is what you make it.” With nary a shred of doubt, I think just about anyone reading this would agree that music can make life pretty spectacular. Between your enthusiasm for music and the legendary quality of the Roland name, the possibilities are infinite. Keep your eyes and ears open for more news on this topic, as we will soon be shouting it from the rooftops… and blogging about it from our cubicles, of course.

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Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) 101

What is MIDI?

For starters, for anyone who isn’t yet “in the know,” MIDI is NOT music.

I know, I know; shocking, right? It is not a digital audio codec like MP3, AAC, FLAC, etc. No actual sound ever passes through MIDI cables, either. There are .mid files, yes, but they’re made up of data that when run through the proper software, one can indeed hear music and/or musical sounds. In fact, anyone who’s ever played Rock Band or Guitar Hero has a bit of experience with MIDI, whether they realize it or not. Let me simplify a bit and say that MIDI is a digital communications language.

What is it used for?

MIDI is a set of instructions that one uses to tell instruments and software what to do. The acronym “MIDI,” stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.” However, MIDI can also be used to control lighting equipment and even animatronics and robotics. As you can most likely guess after reading that, MIDI can do far more than simply tell instruments what notes to play when. Through MIDI, users can turn volume up or down, open filter controls and pan around the stereo spectrum among many other things. Like most any other sync protocol, MIDI is transmitted through a Master/Slave relationship. Master devices ONLY transmit data. Slave devices ONLY receive it. What are some examples of said devices, you ask?

Why is it important? Who uses MIDI?

Master devices are essentially tangible things: keyboards/synthesizers like the Akai Pro LPK25, electronic drum pads and DJ software controllers like the ION Discover DJ (ICUE3) as well as the various buttons, sliders and knobs on the devices themselves. DJs and musicians alike use devices like that to control software on their computers, manipulating the music (like more traditional DJs do when they “scratch” records) and thus achieving their own unique sound. Slave devices can be tangible too, like in the case of daisy chaining keyboards together, but they can also be plug-ins and software instruments like Logic’s EXS24.

What are software instruments and plug-ins? Well, that’s a whole other blog right there (maybe you’ll see that one sometime in the near future!) Anyway, through a little customization, users can assign software functions to knobs to control things like flangers, echoes, etc. so they can affect the music with a vast variety of special effects. Actually, if you’re thinking about getting into DJing, now would be a great time since we’re currently offering 15% off all DJ controllers, and a lot of them come packaged with reputable software like Traktor LE, Serato or Ableton Live to get you started.

In conclusion, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little introduction to MIDI, and I encourage anyone reading this to ask any questions you might have. Believe it or not, we’re all actual people here at Sonic Electronix, and we do pay attention to what our customers and fans have to say. Thanks for reading!

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