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What is a DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter)?
General Information

What is a DAC and how can my hi-fi benefit from having one?

CD's store bits - that is 1's and 0's. Your CD player will read the CD and then convert the digital information to analog information that you will then feed to an amplifier or pre-amplifier. This is a critical process that needs to be done very well in order for enjoyable, fatigue free sound.

Most CD players will only make a half-hearted effort at the Digital-to-Analog conversion process, relying on OEM converter chipsets and less than adequate amplification stages. These will usually share the same power supply as that of the CD mechanism, which itself is very demanding on power because of the constant feedback mechanisms involved in the read-back process.

Many audiophiles will go for a two-box alternative. The first box being a CD transport (or CD player being used as a transport) which, in turn, feeds into a DAC. The DAC then converts the digital signal into an analog one; producing the line-level output that can be fed into a pre-amplifier or integrated amplifier.

Most dedicated CD players will have a digital output on them as well as the analog output. If you connect the digital output of your CD player to a DAC then you will bypass the CD player's "internal DAC" (digital-to-analog portion of your CD player) and the external DAC will then be responsible for the conversion process.

This is an extremely effective way of upgrading a CD-based hi-fi system and can make an extreme impact on the quality of playback. Later, you can then consider whether or not to upgrade your CD player to a dedicated CD transport. It is even possible to use a computer as a transport by use of a USB interface between the computer and DAC (such an option exists for our DAC Kit 2.1 in the form of an internal add-on board) and appropriate software.

Our DAC kits are based on the experience gained from Audio Note's many years of producing DAC's. They produce some of the most highly rated of all DAC's on the market today and have some unique and novel methods of handling the many aspects of the digital-to-analog process - many of which we can pass on to you through our DAC kits.

Instead of blindly accepting all of the then-current theory and dictate from the early pioneers of the technology as most manufacturers did (and still do), Audio Note decided to do their own research into how the DAC process should be achieved (they were already experts in handling the eventual Analog portion). They found that simplicity and careful design at each stage of the process was the best way to go. Their resulting approach was, at the time, very controversial and upset many deeply held beliefs in the design world. Today, however, more and more manufacturers are beginning to use some of Audio Note's methods in their own designs and Audio Note are still at the forefront of DAC design.

Parts of a DAC

Below is a simplified breakdown of our DAC Kit 2.1.

The Dac Kit 4.1 offers the ultimate in DAC kits. We also provide a simpler DAC in the form of the DAC Kit 2.1 A which is one of our simplest kits to build. The DAC Kit 2.1 A can also be upgraded to a DAC Kit 4.1 at a later stage if required.