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a DAC for ALL audio output?

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Hi everyone, a question I haven't seen addressed before:


Will any DAC (that is connected to a PC) also process sound from blu-ray movies and computer games? I would like to hear the benefit not only in listening to high-res music but also for any sound that is outputted by the computer. For example, can the QB-9 DAC be used to improve the sound of PC games & movies (played on a PC)?


Also, do external DACs require a soundcard (supposing the motherboard has no onboard soundcard)?




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The computer, acting as the source, makes the digital audio data from your BluRay, game, downloaded track, whatever, available to the outside world via one or more electronic interfaces. Typically, these are USB, Firewire (IEEE 1394), HDMI, and S/PDIF (often in its TOSLINK optical fiber form, or sometimes as RCA coax using a docking station).


The digital audio data are routed with an appropriate cable directly to the DAC, or first to an intermediate converter (for example, a device that changes FireWire to S/PDIF or AES format, which is then connected to the DAC). The selection of cabling makes a large difference in sound quality, especially with higher-quality playback gear. With an OEM USB cable, you probably won't like how it sounds.


In either case, the DAC produces (in the case of most devices discussed on this forum) a stereo analog output which drives the amplifers or powered speakers (e.g., KRK Rokit 8s). DACs are also available that have enough channels for multichannel audio (see below).


Thus, to answer your last question, this approach uses the elecronics in the external DAC instead of any on the motherboard soundcard. The DAC, or the intermediate interface, show up as available audio devices which can be selected instead of whatever sound device is on the motherboard.


Using a typical audiophile two-channel DAC (Weiss, Lavry, BAD, and many others), you'll get a superbly-reproduced version of the BluRay movie soundtrack, movie streams from Netflix, or whatever you're playing on the computer.


If you need true 5 or 7 channel surround sound, you could consider a multichannel receiver which can be "fed" via S/PDIF, and possibly FireWire or HDMI. The receiver has multichannel DACs, and can decode a large number of audio formats. And several vendors make multichannel DACS for the professional (meaning recording industry) market, which in turn would drive a multichannel amplifier. These professional DACs do not typically have the range of decoding software (a.k.a. codecs such as Dolby Digital, DTS, Windows Media, etc.) that will be found in a home theater receiver.


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