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.
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.
READ MORE +
The Roland R-05 field recorder has arrived at Sonic Electronix! This little darling packs a lot of great features in a small (read as “affordable”) package. It certainly defies those nasty old connotations behind the phrase, “You get what you pay for.” How would you like the ability to record audio at professional studio quality resolutions without the hassle of carting around a bunch of gear? The R-05 can record uncompressed WAV files at 24-bit/96kHz for just under an hour on the included 2 GB SD memory card.
Or, if you’d be satisfied with CD quality audio at 16-bit/44.1kHz, you can record up to 88 min. per GB: the length of several albums worth of material. You can even record both WAV and MP3 files, for quality and sharing purposes respectively, without the tedium of dumping the files onto your computer and converting them manually. Pretty convenient, eh?
What About The Musicians, Man?
|This unit is packed with some real handy features for musicians. The R-05 comes with Looping and Speed Change features that can help vocalists and guitarists to practice by looping or slowing down pieces of audio without altering the pitch. You could conversely speed up the audio 150% to quickly skim through a song in order to start jamming as soon as possible.For the more eager (read as “impatient”) of us out there who want to start playing immediately, the R-05 has a feature called Rehearsal Mode that will automatically set an optimum recording level – no need to spend lots of time messing with input levels. With this convenient feature, there’s no need to worry about overloading the input(s) and ending up with a remarkably high-resolution recording that’s sadly distorted beyond recognition.
Did You Fall Asleep In Class AGAIN?
READ MORE +
||While certainly no substitute for a good night’s sleep or for the highly respectable behaviors of actually staying awake and paying attention in class, the R-05 can serve as a real handy backup study aid for students. Simply set the recording quality to 128 kbps MP3 (lectures don’t necessarily need to be recorded at astounding, crystal-clear quality, you know), and hit record. Backups like that can definitely be life savers, especially if you’re not too good at taking notes.After you’re done studying, feel free to give your left brain a rest, load up some tunes onto the memory card and rock out for the next 30+ hours or so. The R-05 has quite the extensive battery life – perfect for you insomniacs out there! Hey, if KISS could rock and roll all night, why shouldn’t you? Make sure to check out our handy list of optional accessories when you pick up your R-05!
By Chelsey P. – Sonic Electronix Writer
Looking for a new in-dash car audio receiver without all those extras? The JVC KD-R200 is perfect for you. It features a simple design that will get the job done in any situation. This particular head unit has a white dot-matrix display with customizable illumination depending on what menu you are in. Although this unit does not have built-in Bluetooth or Satellite radio capabilities, it still allows you to play CD and CD-RW’s along with MP3 and WMA files. And don’t think you will miss out on excellent sound either. The powerful internal MOSFET amplifier keeps your music sounding clean even with the volume turned all the way up. In addition to the amplifier, the KD-R200 has a 3-Band iEQ equalizer to tune your music, a low-pass filter and subwoofer control and a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter.
Wait, you say? You do want a CD Receiver with the works? Well, the JVC KD-R300 is a great way to kick off your new system. It has variable color illumination, which allows you to choose from over 30,000 color variations to match your vehicles interior. Just like the KD-R200, it plays CD’s, CD-R/RW’s, MP3 and WMA files. And you can even perfect your sound system with 3-Band parametric equalizer and loudness control for low-level listening. There are multiple expandability options that can be added to this in-dash receiver. For example, you can add HD Radio, Bluetooth and even Satellite Radio. All of these expandability features are available with optional adapters.
Both of these JVC head units are great for first time audio enthusiasts looking to broaden their car audio system.
READ MORE +
I have one. You probably have one. It seems that everyone you know has an iPod. These portable music players are becoming increasingly popular with each new generation of iPod that comes out. Now the iPhone has taken the cell phone market by storm. With all of the hype and popularity of the iPod and iPhone, it only seems natural that it should have the best accessories around. It just makes sense that someone would come along and make some more ways for us to use our iPods. Well, the wait is over and new innovative ways have been introduced to us and our iPods.
Introducing iLuv, a high tech company devoted to creating new and unique products that enable us to get the most out of our iPods. They bring us high quality products that we can use every single day of our life. For example, the iLuv i277 is a dual alarm clock with an AM/FM radio, Bluetooth wireless technology, and of course a dock for your iPod. There is nothing like waking up to the music you love. Or you could make a specific playlist on your iPod so you awake each morning to the sounds that will get you ready for the day. These alarm clocks that play music instead of an alarm or radio have been around for a while, but none have integrated the iPod like this unit. iLuv also makes a version that includes a CD player, the iLuv i199. The i199 combines all the types of audio capabilities discussed above but also incorporates a CD player for audio CD’s and MP3s.
Also on the iLuv line-up is the i1155. This unit was given design and engineering showcase honors at the 2008 International CES Show and for very good reason. It is a portable DVD player that lives up to the iLuv name in providing a built-in docking station for your iPod. The unit will then playback any videos that you have on you iPod on the bright 8.5” screen. The playback of the DVDs or video from the iPod is quite clear and impressive. The touch sensitive keypad controls are simple and easy to use, plus they are really cool. iLuv also offers home DVD players and DVD home theater systems. The i1277 is a complete 5.1 surround sound home theater solution that includes everything you need to enjoy a great movie with fantastic sound. Well, everything except the television. The DVD player also includes the iPod docking station for playback of videos and music, whichever you are in the mood for.
Overall the iLuv products give a new look to the iPod and iPhone. They allow you to use iPods and iPhones in every aspect of your life and to their fullest capacity. Whether we are at home or on the go, iLuv brings us the best iPod accessories. With the popularity of the iPod and iPhone, it will be no surprise that the iLuv products are hitting the consumer market by storm. Everyone wants an iLuv, just as everyone wants an iPod.
READ MORE +