Between an amp and a mother DAC which one is better for providing high-quality sound? This is the question that must’ve come to mind at least once in your lifetime.
That is why in this guide we provide a comprehensive comparison between mother DAC vs amp.
Amp increases power of the headphone. Whereas mother DAC converts digital signals to analog. As a result, mother DAC lacks the clarity compared to amplifier. You won’t reach the full potential of your headphone with mother DAC. However, with amplifier you can reach the full potential.
Not sure yet? Do not sweat! Because in this guide we have gone in depth. And provided an in detail comparison of their features.
So, keep reading!
A Brief Comparison
To know the difference between amp and mother DAC, you have to consider a few factors first.
These factors are the usage of amp and a mother DAC. Both of their function and purposes. The hassle of connecting amps to a device. Or be it a mother DAC.
Another factor to consider is whether they have an external option. That means whether the external version of them is accessible other than the built-in one.
Also, are they required for premium headphones or not.
So, all these factors will help you determine which one is actually more useful.
And why do you need an amplifier? Or a mother DAC.
And that is why I have provided a snapshot of all these factors below.
You can just take a brief look at it. It would take you less than two minutes.
And then you can move onto the detailed description of all these.
So, let us jump right in!
|Usage||Works without a DAC||Does not work without an amp|
|Function||Giving power to the headphones||Converting digital to analog signal|
|Connection||Can be connected directly to headphones||Needs to be connected to amp first|
|External Option (device)||Makes device louder and refines sound||Improves clarity|
|Premium Headphones||Sometimes Required||Not Required|
So, that was the brief listing of all the factors!
Next, you will get to know all about them in detail.
In Depth Comparison
In this segment, we will be discussing about all the factors listed in the table.
With that, you will have a more precise notion on mother DAC vs amp.
And which one has the capacity to solely enhance the excellence of the audio you listen to. Without any help of or being connected to the other.
We will see the functionalities of both amp and mother DAC. To better comprehend their objectives.
Then I will be addressing all their usage. Which one performs which task inside an audio system.
So you may have a precise idea about their functions. And thus you can also associate them to your own requirements.
Also, connectivity is another factor that you need to know. Whether you can connect it directly to a device or not is another significant matter.
By understanding all these in detail, you are gonna be able to distinguish and contrast between them. You can also decide which one is better for you.
So, let us get to know all about DAC and amp in the coming section.
Let us start with the first factor that is function.
Amps’ job is to provide power to a headphone.
An amplifier is a mechanism which strengthens the power of any source signal. Meaning, a DAC transforms a song that is digitally coded into analog signal.
Amplifier magnifies that too weak and vulnerable analog signal. And makes it louder so the sound is audible and clear through the headphones.
And the task of a DAC is do is forming a digital signal to an analog signal.
If I put it simply, a song typically subsists as a stream of 0s and 1s. And the mother DAC in your device helps convert it into hearable sound waves. That is the sound you listen to through the headphones.
In terms of usage, an amp can be used independently. It does not need a mother DAC or external DAC to work.
On the other hand, you have to get an amp first to be able to utilize a DAC. As DAC can not be utilized without an amp.
The objective of a DAC is exclusively converting digital into analog waves. Once this conversion is made, the audio signal remains too unstable. And even too weak for the sound source to receive.
Hence, you need an amplifier to stimulate and boost that signal to the optimal level.
Now let us get to the connectivity aspect. And know whether they can be connected directly or not.
So, as for Amp, it can be connected directly to headphones. You are not gonna need any supplementary device for that.
And for mother DAC, it can not be connected directly. It actually requires to be attached to the amp first.
So, there you go.
The product you want to buy, should be well within your price point. Thus, let’s talk about this part.
A mother DAC is priced between $12-$500. However, buying ax expensive DAC won’t give any special audio output without equalizing. Hence, some of the best DACs are listed below.
Does A Mother DAC Improve Sound Quality?
The quick answer is, sometimes yes.
A mother DAC, or it is also known as digital to audio converter. It does precisely what the name indicates.
DACs tend to convert a digital signal to an analog one.
The digital signal can be data from a pc or phone. And the analog signal is the one that your headphones, IEMs or the speakers use.
All the devices, namely, phones and computers include a built-in mother DAC.
However, the internal DAC or mother DAC of your current device wouldn’t be as good. Though nowadays having a way better quality than before, mother DACs are still not good enough.
They can not give the accuracy and clarity of sound that you desire.
For example, you may notice your record player sounding low pitched.
So you are going to be needing an external DAC for that. To achieve more crisp and accurate audio. Plus, an overall good sound quality.
Nonetheless, it is not possible to have an external DAC on its own. Because a DAC needs to be first connected to an amp. Then the amp will connect it to the audio device.
In an audio with more details a motherboard can not do the full justice. As most of them are not good enough, processing an increasing amount of information isn’t likely.
Same goes for audios with a higher bit rate. It would also need an external DAC. Since a motherboard DAC will not be able to refine that much information.
An external DAC also enhances the audio in the headphones. It does that by giving more clarity and accuracy for great performance.
But keep in mind if you expect great quality audio from your mother DAC. There are very few which can give it.
But there is a high chance you’ll be disappointed, in most cases.
Does An Amp Improve Sound Quality?
The quick answer is, yes, it does.
An amplifier takes any low power signal from a DAC. This signal can be internal or external. Next, it boosts the power of the signal for any sound device.
The power that an amp can deliver varies. It relies on the kind of amp you are using. Plus, how good they are.
An amp enriches how loud a headphone will sound. That is, if you discover that you are to use a lot of the volume scale on that device.
Amps are required for audio devices that are more premium and need a plenty of power. You do not need them for cheaper devices, for example, $30 earbuds. Because, in any way these buds would have no benefit.
So what amps do is give your headphones an increased power. And it facilitates your headphones to attain their full potential. Thus, makes the device sound better.
Sometimes, even better than a sonic maximizer.
Amps are not supposed to change the sound signature of a headphone. It gives it more power. At least enough power to retain the accurate sound signature.
This might alter what a headphone initially sounded like. Which means it can enhance bass, addmore treble and more mids. Overall it enhances and gives the sound more details.
Altogether, an amp basically enhances the quality of the headphones, IEMs and speakers.
However, again, it doesn’t apply for cheap earbuds which you may have got with your phone. Amps can do nothing in that case.
To put it simply, Amps actually do not possess any individual sound signature of its own.
However, it helps by providing the audio devices with more power. Thus, it makes those speakers or headphones sound way better.
Mother DAC Or Amp for Gaming:
For gaming your headphones actually don’t need it. As there is no need to be connected with any amp or DAC to operate well.
If you plug it straight in your motherboard, you are going to get high-quality sounds. The motherboard DAC is quite enough to deliver that.
However, in case your headset seems too quiet, get an amplifier.
A separate Amp will solve the low sound issue.
It will also heighten your level of immersion. Thus it can possibly assist you in doing better in the game.
Otherwise, if you don’t want all that, the built-in mother DAC is good enough.
Mother DAC Vs Amp for Headphones:
An amp might be the simplest solution you can use for providing more power to headphones.
Whereas DAC just converts signal, Amp offers power. While adding some extra quality to it.
So, for headphones, Amp should be the better choice. To get a crisp, detailed, louder and high-quality sound.
Amps are also needed for more premium headphones. Let’s not also forget that it is the first device you are gonna need.
You may think your headphone needs more power than the motherboard’s supplying. Then it is better to get an amp.
Granted DACs may improve performance to some extent. Nonetheless, they are not required.
Hence, buying an amp should be you first preference in this case.
Which One Should You Get?
So far you have already gone through all the aspects and functionalities of DAC and Amp.
I have also discussed the difference between amp and mother DAC.
Now let’s get into which one is sufficient to get you an overall better quality audio.
From the discussion above, you may have already realized one thing. That is, amps do a way better job than a mother DAC. Here’s what people say about LG’s quad DAC.
When your main priority is attaining an overall better quality sound in every aspect.
So, in all cases getting an amp would be the best move for you. Be it for gaming, music or your home theatre system.
An Amps is always a great place to begin with when developing your audio setup.
Amps, as referred to before, are needed before the DAC’s. Also it might be the simplest solution when it comes to providing more power to headphones.
Moreover, it adds some more quality to the audio as well.
Also an amp is required for more premium quality headphones. In fact, in that case, it is gonna be the first device you need.
Also, many headphones employ more power than what the motherboard can supply. So, amps are needed.
A DAC, in this case, might improve performance. However, it is not needed.
Therefore, in this case, purchasing an amp should be your first priority.
And I recommend this is the option you need to go with.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is a DAC better than a sound card?
In most cases, DACs provide improved sound quality than sound cards. The sound quality that you get through any external DAC is better than any sound card. They provide a more crisp sound and more bass when compared to sound cards.
Do I need a DAC with my motherboard?
Yes, you do need a DAC on your motherboard. It is a crucial ingredient of any type of audio system. So, motherboards contain one. So do the soundcards, mobile phones, headphones, and many other digital devices.
Can a mother DAC be connected directly to the device?
No, a mother DAC can not be connected directly to your device. It certainly requires it to be attached to the amp first. Then you can connect it to the device you are going to use.
Hope I have resolved your confusion on mother DAC vs amp.
Now, you know the answer. You can go through the guide again and weigh in on the options. Then decide which one you want.
Though I have recommended the most useful one. However, it is totally up to you which one you are going to use. Prioritize your specific needs first.
That is all about now! Have an awesome day!