Digital music formats are ubiquitous — even the staunchest vinyl supporter can admit that there's a lot of appeal to holding your entire music catalog in the palm of your hand or hosted on a server.
Without a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC), however, music aficionados will notice a considerable drop in audio fidelity when listening to their favorite tracks, albums and artists. And if you’re serious about music, maintaining pristine quality is non-negotiable.
How DAC technology works
In its simplest terms, DAC hardware converts digital data into sound that can be heard and enjoyed. When you break digital files and music streams down into their base components, you get a bunch of binary code. A DAC transforms that data into an analog signal, which is then sent through an amplifier and finally transmitted through the listener's headphones or speakers.
Aside from vinyl records, just about any music format used today relies on this process to create sound: streaming services, digital music files, compact discs, etc.
Not all DAC equipment is made equally — or meant to be, for that matter. The DAC in your smartphone doesn't need to convert data streams with the same fidelity and quality as a high-end speaker, for instance. No one expects their phone to provide audio playback with 100-percent accuracy and hi-res sound quality. If you want to get the best sound quality from various digital audio formats, you need a DAC that's up to the task of providing the best audio fidelity possible.
Choose the right DAC solution for your audio system
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering your DAC options: First, does it support a wide variety of data file rates? If the timing of the bitstream conversion isn't absolutely precise, you're going to experience jitter, which means poor sound quality. Second, what level of craftsmanship went into the design of the device? Bad circuitry can introduce unwanted noise, marring the listening experience.
There are standalone, external DAC units available to act as a go-between for your music source and speakers or headphones, but you can cut out the middleman by using audio equipment with high-quality built-in DAC technology.
The Marantz HD-AMP1, for instance, features hi-res conversion and is compatible with numerous audio formats, including FLAC, AIFF, WAV and ALAC. The digital integrated amplifier also has advanced noise isolation capabilities to prevent digital noise from negatively impacting the overall sound quality. It also comes equipped with a dedicated headphone amplifier block, so music lovers can completely immerse themselves in their favorite albums.
The best equipment makes for the best audio system. Browse the entire line of Marantz AV receivers, wireless music systems and Hi-Fi components to lay the foundation for your setup.