DAC is an acronym for Digital to Analog Converter. Essentially the job of the DAC is to take your digital audio, MP3, AAC, FLAC, WAV, etc. and convert them back to the original form they came from – audio waves. Digital audio conversion is beyond the scope of a simple FAQ, but there’s a great write up over at Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_audio.
I encourage you to head over to that link and take a look at the first couple of pictures on the right side of the page. They give a very good visual indication of what happens when you convert an audio signal to a digital format, and the job of the DAC is to reverse that process. Essentially you’re trying to take that “block formed” digital audio and turn it back into a sound wave as that’s what’s needed to drive speakers/headphones.
A few technical details of DACs. MOST, but not all external DACs are designed to work via USB interfaces. This tells you they’re ideally set up for use with things like computers, cell phones, etc. Some external DACs have additional connection options such as SPDIF inputs, coaxial digital inputs and the like. An example of a DAC with these additional connectivity options is the Fiio E17.
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