There is no music without the DAC if your music files are stored digitally. You may not know how they are arranged, but most of us use at least one digital-to-analog converter, better known as a DAC, daily.

They are embedded in devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones. DAC is the fundamental basis for decoding conventional digital music, turning it back into an analog signal that can hear the human ear.

Any device that produces a digital signal — whether it’s a CD or Blu-ray player, DAB (digital radio), game console, or music player — requires a DAC to convert a sequence of zeros and ones back to an analog signal before sending it to play.

Traditional amplifiers do not amplify, and loudspeakers do not reproduce a digital signal, and your ears cannot hear it. They perceive only sound waves. Without a DAC, your digital music collection is worthless. This is a simple set of “0” and “1”, which is necessary only for the operation of digital devices. In short, DACs play a large role in the process of playing digital music.

Digital audio is very different from analog. Digital music files, as a rule, are created by pulse-code modulation (PCM) and are created by constantly, strictly periodically measuring the amplitude of the analog signal.

Then, the amplitude value is encoded as a binary number (set 1 and 0), and the bit depth of this number is often called the bit depth. The time interval between measurements is determined by the sampling rate.

When recording a standard CD, measurements are taken 44,100 times per second (44.1 kHz). Each measurement is recorded for storage in binary format with an accuracy of 16 bits. When recording audio tracks with high resolution, bit depths of up to 24 bits are used, with a sampling frequency of 192 kHz or with higher values.

The Bottom Line

Generally speaking, digital audio data can be encoded with different bit depths and sample rates, and then into different file formats with varying degrees of compression to reduce volume. But no matter how they are created, the DAC’s job is to recognize all this and translate it from the binary format as accurately as possible and as close as possible to the analog original.

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