(USB Digital-to-Analog-Converter) A D/A converter (DAC) that connects to a computer via the USB port. The USB DAC has become popular because people like to organize their music on the computer with software such as iTunes and Windows Media Center but want to play it on their stereo system.|
The USB DAC converts digital audio signals from the computer to analog signals for the amplifiers and speakers. Although this connection can be made via the analog outputs of the computer's sound card, purists maintain that external USB DACs provide superior conversion and hence better sound quality. USB DACs are available in a wide price range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand. In January 2010 at the High-End Audio exhibition of CES in Las Vegas, where premier audio vendors from around the world exhibited their wares, one USB DAC was showcased at $37,000. See D/A converter and CES.
Ayre's QB-9 USB DAC sells for $2,500 and is highly praised for its musical quality. Ayre was the first to put the master clock in the DAC, where it belongs. The 44 refers to the 44.1 kHz sampling frequency; the compact disc (CD) standard. (Image courtesy of Ayre Acoustics, Inc., www.ayre.com)
High-quality USB DACs like the Ayre QB-9 also include XLR audio outputs (arrows) in addition to standard left/right RCA outputs. (Image courtesy of Ayre Acoustics, Inc., www.ayre.com)