Mike Hughes

Authored Comments

I think it makes better sense to use a digital audio (S/PDIF) output to an external DAC. Because this is a standard electrical format, there are no operating system compatibility issues so long as the output interface is supported, which it normally is. Most sound cards have the output and many computers intended for multimedia use have it on the system board. Since the output is digital data, the quality of the interface is not very important, so a cheap sound card can be used if it has the necessary output. It works fine with PulseAudio once it is properly configured. The digital volume should be set to 100% output.

The output can be optical fiber or coaxial electrical. Optical is best since it completely isolates the downstream audio system from all of the electrical noise generated by the computer. Coaxial works fine but can have hum and noise problems. Using a USB output also has the hum and noise issue plus it can have timing problems in an multi-tasking environment and the device has to be properly supported by the system.

Gefen makes a nice little DAC for about U$80 although if you are serious about audiophile performance you would want something better. Audio Advisor has a large selection over a wide price range. There are an increasing number of integrated amplifiers available with built-in DAC's from Peachtree Audio, Parasound and others.