Amp vs. DAC: Understanding the Difference

Headphone amplifier on desk

If you’re shopping for a new stereo system, then there are two important components that you need to consider: the amplifier and the DAC. You might be wondering what these things do and how they work together to make your music sound better. This article will help break down the difference between Amp vs. DAC so that you can find out which one is right for your setup!

What Is an Amp?

An amplifier is a device that boosts the strength of an electrical signal. It takes in low power and high impedance signals from your source (i.e., turntable or CD player) and sends them through a circuit to amplify their voltage so they can be sent on to speakers with lower resistance.

To put this in simpler terms, think of a water hose. The Amp is the faucet, and the speakers are your garden hose. When you turn on the faucet, there’s pressure from one end of the tube to another which drives out all of that extra water coming through—the amplifier does this same thing with electrical signals so that they can be used by other devices in your audio system.

What Is a DAC?

A DAC is a device that converts digital information into an analog signal. It takes the ones and zeros from your computer, DVD player, or other electronic devices and turns them into sound waves so that they can be heard through speakers or headphones.

How Do They Work Together?

Your amplifier will have inputs for both analog (i.e., turntable or CD player) and digital devices (i.e., MPC). The Amp takes in these two different signals and sends them to the DAC, which converts one into an analog signal that can be amplified and sent on. The Amp will boost up this new, stronger signal so that you can actually hear it coming through your speakers or other listening devices!

Now that you know what each component does individually, let’s take a look at some different configurations of Amps and DACs.

Stereo Amp With Built-in DAC

This is the most common type of setup, and it’s what you’ll probably be looking at when shopping around for a new stereo system. The Amp takes in both analog signals (i.e., turntable or CD player) and digital ones (MPC), and then sends them both to the DAC. The DAC converts the analog signal into a new, stronger one that can be amplified and sent to speakers or headphones for listening!

Stereo Amp With Separate DAC

This setup is similar to the first option but without an integrated digital-to-analog converter (i.e., no built-in DAC). If you already have an Amp and just want to add a new DAC, then this is the right choice for you. You will need to connect your source (turntable or CD player) and the amplifier inputs on the back of your speakers directly into both devices so they can send signals to each other.

Stereo Amp With a Phono Preamp

If you have a turntable, then this is the type of setup that you should be looking for. A phono preamp takes in analog signals from your vinyl and boosts it up before sending it on to either an external DAC or integrated one, which can amplify the signal again!

Separate Amp With Built-in DAC

This is the setup that you’ll want if your turntable or CD player has an integrated digital converter (i.e., built-in DAC). The Amp takes in both analog and digital signals from these devices, sends them to the DAC for conversion, then boosts up the signal before sending it on to speakers or headphones.

Separate Amp With a Phono Preamp

This is the setup that you’ll want if your turntable or CD player does not have an integrated digital converter (i.e., no built-in DAC). The Amp takes in analog signals from these devices, boosts it up with a separate phono preamp before sending it on to either an external DAC or integrated one, which can amplify the signal again!

How to Choose Which One Is Best for Your Needs

If you’re looking for something simple to set up and use, then an integrated Amp with built-in DAC is best. If you want more power or expandability in the future, then a separate Amp with an external DAC will be better suited to your needs. And if you have a turntable that has its own digital converter (i.e., built-in DAC), then you’ll want to get a separate Amp with either an external or integrated DAC depending on your preference and current system setup!

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Amp and DAC are two different pieces of equipment that have a specific purpose. An amplifier is designed to increase the voltage while a digital-to-analog converter translates digitally encoded information into an analog form for playing on speakers or headphones.

With this article, we hope you feel more confident in understanding these two types of hardware and how they can be used together with various other components like CD players and turntables for optimal sound quality.

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