Using an external DAC with digital, active speakers – is it necessary?

On this episode of Ask The Expert we discuss why you probably don't need to be adding an external Digital-to-Analogue Converter to your signal path when using modern active streaming speakers.

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A surprisingly common question topic, on this episode of Ask The Expert Otto briefly clears up any confusion surrounding external DACs used in conjunction with digital streaming speakers.

Don't forget, we need your questions to keep the Ask The Expert concept ticking, so we'd love for you to share any lingering doubts or hot topics of discussion with us via the form at the bottom of this page: "Send us your questions." Who knows? Maybe you'll see your specific question answered in a future episode of ATE!


Can I connect a CD-transport directly to the Focus series, or do I need an external DAC/Will an external DAC result in a better sound with my Xeo 4 speakers?

This episode's question pertains to DACs or Digital-to-Analogue Converters which, simply put, is a piece of gear or a module in the signal chain that serves to convert a digital signal into an analogue signal. One of the reasons that DACs are a popular topic is because using them will very often result in better overall sound.

However, in the case of the above questions, the answer would in fact be "no, you don't need a DAC. It's neither needed, nor particularly desirable." Let's explore why.

The simple answer is; both our Focus series and Xeo series are digital speakers with digital crossovers. This means that the signal entering the speakers is converted to a digital signal inside the speaker anyway – the design of these speakers simply doesn't allow for the signal to pass through in a purely analogue way.

We discuss the benefits of digital crossovers in an older video here.

So, in the case of our digital speakers, the shortest and least complicated signal path will always be to take the digital signal directly into the loudspeaker, where it will be subjected to the digital crossover.

If you were to put an analogue signal into a digital speaker, it will be converted back to a digital inside the speaker regardless,  so that extra conversion stage is entirely needless –  simply use the digital signal directly into the speaker, and you will always get the best performance.



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