DACs, DAPs, and AMPs

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DACs, DAPs, and AMPs

After choosing your preferred headphone and/or in-ear monitors, the next step towards achieving the ultimate high-fidelity music experience is choosing your music source. Typical smartphones, tablets, and computers are convenient music sources, yet they produce inferior sound quality due to music file compression as well as inferior DAC chips. Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) are chips utilized to translate digital music files to analog sound signals, which are conducted as electrical signals to your headphones/earphones. However, another element is needed to amplify the electrical signals to audible sound - the amplifier (Amp). All digital sound producing devices have some form of a DAC chip and an amplifier for the headphone jack. However, just like Intel processing chips, DAC chips and Amp’s have varying degrees of processing power, which determines the audio quality of your music.

DACs

Digital music files are often compressed to conserve storage space. These are often MP3, AAC, and streaming files from servers such as Spotify and Youtube. Compression reduces the file size by removing perceptually irrelevant sound details in the file. On the other hand, lossless music files include FLAC, DSD, and MQA, which are all uncompressed or compressed in a manner where there is less loss in the sound quality. Oftentimes, these lossless music files sound much higher in audio quality, marked by more transparent, airy, better detailed, and clearer sound. However, certain DAC chips are required to be able to decode these music files into analog signals.

 

Shanling UP5

Shanling UP5

 

Advanced Qualcomm QCC5120 Bluetooth Chip Portable Bluetooth USB MQA DAC/AMP

TOPPING G5

TOPPING G5

 

Built-in NFCA & ES9068AS 24bit hi-def Bluetooth Portable Bluetooth DAC/AMP

 

Hi-Res digital audio is determined by their bit and sample rate. Standard MP3 or CD quality music are 16bit/44.1kHz, or 44,100 samples per every second x 16. Hi-Res audio files are usually 24bit/96kHz, or 96,000 samples per every second x 24. These bit rates can go as high as 32bit/768kHz in modern day DAC and DAP players. The DAC chip inside your music player determines which bit rate can be played, with inferior DAC chips being unable to playback Hi-Res audio files. While higher bit rate files take us significantly more storage space, they are able to hold and reproduce exponentially higher information within the music file, translating to higher perceived audio quality. In summary, higher bit rate files will generally produce better audio quality, but to be able to actually listen to these files, your device needs to have the sufficient DAC chip inside. 

TOPPING E30 II

TOPPING E30 II

 

Hi-Res Decoder XU208 Support DSD512 Dual AK4493S DAC, Just Plug And Play

Dethonray Pegasus SG1

Dethonray Pegasus SG1

 

High-Performance High-Res Transmission ES9038Q2M Portable Bluetooth DAC

 

DAPs

Digital Audio Players (DAPs) are portable devices specifically designed to play back digital music files. In the past, these would have been the typical MP3 Players or iPods. However, these were unable to playback any high resolution music files. Modern day DAPs are generally capable of playing back much higher audio resolution due to improvements in DAC chips utilized. DAPs allow playback of Hi-Res music files with higher bit rates, which may be unable to be used with typical smartphones or tablets. Additionally, most popular DAPs use the best DAC chips, which can enhance the sound quality by producing clearer signals (there is a whole community dedicated to the different sounds different DAC chips can produce). Finally, DAPs have integrated powerful amplifiers, which can easily drive your headphones/earphones. More powerful and cleaner signal amplification translates into clearer audio with less strain. Apart from the headphone/earphone of your choice, DAPs are the next upgrade necessary for the best audio quality for the portable setup.

 

HiBy R5 Gen 2

HiBy R5 Gen 2

 

Class A Headphone Amplifier Circuits Full 16x MQA Digital Music Player

Shanling M6 Ultra

Shanling M6 Ultra

 

Latest Portable Digital Audio Player With Quad AK4493SEQ DACs Bluetooth

  

AMPs

Analog signals produced by DAC chips are too weak to drive headphones and earphones, and an amplifier is necessary to strengthen them. While DAPs have built-in integrated amplifiers, desktop DAC players require a separate amplifier device to amplify its signals. Amplifiers are completely analog, and require DAC or DAP players to provide its signals. A good amplifier for high-resolution audio should provide enough amplification to efficiently power your headphones/earphones, but do so with the least amount of distortion and signal detail loss. In short, a good amplifier will have good linearity (the sound coming out should be unchanged from the sound coming into the amplifier) and produce a strong and clean signal. There are many types of amplifiers, but the most common ones for headphones are class A and AB. The differences are based on the internal engineering and how signals are conducted. In short, class A amplifiers are always conducting at maximum, even if no signal is present, while class AB amplifiers have reduced current flow when there are no signals present. This makes class A amplifiers less efficient and produce much higher heat than class AB amplifiers. Class A amplifiers are known for their good vintage-like tones and linearity, however suffer from inefficient power consumption, high heat, and reduced longevity. Class AB amplifiers have better power consumption and reduced heat production, but may have slightly more distortion than class A amplifiers.

AUNE X1s GT

AUNE X1s GT

 

Headphone Amplifier Balanced 32bit 768kHz DSD512,Musical, Smooth Sound Tuning

Singxer SA-1

Singxer SA-1

 

Headphone AMP Fully Balanced Discrete Class A Amp/Preamp,7 inputs and outputs

 

 

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