The source is the first part of your system chain. Usually, the source consists of two parts: a Transport and a DAC. Let me explain this further to avoid any confusion.
1. What is a Transport?
A transport is the CD reading mechanism on a CD player. On a computer based system, the transport is the computer used to read the digital file from the hard disk. The purpose of the transport is to get the file from the storage media and pass it along to the Digital to Analog converter.
2. What is a DAC?
Remember that the data is stored in the digital format. In another word, in Zeros and Ones. After the digital data is read by the transport, it needs to be converted to an analog format before it can be reproduced into audio waves. This process is commonly known as the D/A conversion (or Digital to Analog conversion), and the component that does this job is the DAC (or Digital to Analog converter).
After the signal is converted to an analog format, then it is passed to a headphone amplifier so that the signal is amplified to a volume loud enough for you to hear and enjoy.
The quality of the DAC is very important to the quality of the analog signal which you will listen to with your headphones. This is where this page comes in. There are a lot of DACs out there and although I’ve done a review on many different units, there are a few that consistently have been proven to be favorites among the crowd.
- USB: Digital connection is achieved from the USB port. If you’re playing music from a computer, this is the type of DACs to get.
- S/PDIF: Digital connection is achieved using a Coaxial or Toslink S/PDIF port. The common interface used with CD Players, also available on certain Macintosh computers.
- 24/96: Support for high resolution 24 bit, 96kHz sample rate. Superior to CD quality which is limited at 16/44.1.
- Headphone Out: There is an onboard headphone amplifier, so you don’t need to add an additional headphone amplifier.
- Balanced Out: Support for balanced out which are the common connection for Pro-grade equipment and studio monitor speakers.
Only list the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Source Category: