Better home audio, Tip #11: Bypass your iPod's DAC
Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.
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Your iPod stores music files digitally, and automatically converts them to an analog signal for output through its headphone jack or dock connection. For many listening situations, this on-board converter is fine. But a higher-end audio system can reveal some real audio shortcomings. Is this something you just have to live with if you want to play your iPod through your system? Fortunately, no.
Tip #11: Bypass your iPod's built-in digital-to-analog converter.
A digital-to-analog converter, or DAC, has the job of converting digital information — 0's and 1's — into analog music signals. The iPod's built-in DAC usually does a good job for casual listening with earbud headphones, but it doesn't deliver the same level of performance you can get from the more advanced DACs found in many of today's audio/video receivers (or an even higher-end outboard DAC). Fortunately, there is a special dock available that let you bypass your iPod's DAC — the Wadia 170iTransport. It lets you pass signals directly to your receiver or outboard DAC in the digital realm, for cleaner, fuller sound.
This post is based on the article "15 Tips for Better Sound from your Home System" by the Crutchfield Writing Team.