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A DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) does exactly what the name suggests; turns the digital bits from a digital source material (hard drive/CD/other medium) and converts that information into an analogue electronic signal that our speakers/headphones can use to produce sound. The chain is:
Transport --> DAC --> Amplifier --> Headphones/speakers
a DAC is a tone-generator of the 'reading' type. while a synthesizer is also a compiler of the 'mouth wide open' or 'input' type.
basically a DAC is like a grand piano.
picture the information sent in a binary format.
each 0 and 1 off of the page of data = a tone
and that means each page can have more than one piano key pressed at the same time which makes a different tone when compared to a single key of the piano being pressed.
you should have some respect
for the technology considering that each dac has a different 'tune' based on the same principle of the strings on a piano.
each string must be tightened or loosened to create the pre-determined tone.
and then again, each string must hold that tone for a long time (some strings will stretch quickly which changes the sound - while others wont)
being specific - each 'string' needs to reproduce the pre-determined tone PERFECTLY.
but in the DAC world. the number of 'strings' that create a perfect tone vary.
another thing to consider is how long will the DAC create the perfect tone. with age will the tone vary or fluctuate?
how well does the DAC create tones while it is excessively hot.
how bout excessively cold?
how fast can the DAC create the tone after it has received the information or 'read' the music.
how many 'piano keys' can be pressed at once?
which 'piano key' echoes and refuses to go away?
which 'piano key' requires you to press hard on the key for an audible response?