Bypassing your computer’s internal DAC

January 19, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

15 comments on “Bypassing your computer’s internal DAC”

  1. Same here Paul; if there’s music playin’ I gotta focus on the music, as it will be a distraction
    to anything else that I am attempting to concentrate on…it’s always been that way for me.
    When I was in high-school I could never understand how a lot of my classmates could be in ‘deep-study mode’ whilst having the radio on right next to them; try as I might, I couldn’t do
    that, & yet there are other things that I can multi-task…go figure.

  2. My goodness! You are still going on with power cables? As my missus says all the time, don’t they know about the wires INSIDE the wall? Those last 5 feet will make a measurable difference?
    I have my computers sending “digital music” to the DACs via USB. That’s it. You don’t need anything else. Only she doesn’t want a fancy system in her office, like you, she spends a lot of time on Zoom calls so it is unlikely she can listen to music much. In my office, I listen depending on what I am working on. My system is quite good.

    1. Your NAT storage, replace its power cable with a high end power cable — and be amazed at the improved sound.

      That is what “hifi podcast” Darren and Duncan found to their surprise.
      Darren being Mr Analog designer at PSAudio.

      1. This is pure, unadulterated audiophoolery. One truly ridiculous statement. Not from you, but from those “reporting” a sighted “finding”.
        Think about it yourself. Think it through.

  3. I did find one work around, but it requires me to use flash drives to listen to DSD files without the conversion to PCM while they’re playing.
    But that has nothing to do with my computer.
    But when that time comes, there are two DAC’s that I’m looking at.
    Both of them can do DSD all the way up to 512bits.
    But only one of them, lets you record your vinyl or tapes directly in to DSD.
    But as for the other DAC, that one has a pare of 12AX7 tubes on its outputs.
    And I love the fact that, it doubles as a nifty little headphone amp too.
    The two DAC’s I’m talking about here, are the Korg DSDAC-10R.
    The other one, is the Black Ice Audio FXX-DSD WIFI.
    Anyone of these two DAC’s can connect to your computer via a USB cable.
    When I get ready for them, I very well may order a pare of Audio Quest USB cables from PS Audio.

  4. There’s music on somewhere every waking hour unless I’m fizzling my brain with TV.
    However I can’t listen to or sample new music or new albums when I’m working on things that require focused attention. But if it is stuff I know – I find no distraction whatsoever. Truth be known I MUST have music on or else – THIS happens:

    Earworms. There are those days, where after three hours straight, you angrily ask yourself just WHY the Rubby Ducky Song has been stuck on repeat between your ears. Or some TV commercial jingle from 1977. Or one of the Lolly Lolly Schoolhouse Rock songs. Or a silly childhood playground ditty. Or a Christmas song – and it’s AUGUST! It’s NEVER a good song and almost always a tune you CAN’T STAND! How DOES this crep get aurally implanted in your cranium? How do I make it GO AWAY? This is why there MUST be music on in the background at all times. ‘Rubber Ducky’ noise cancelling and ‘My Bologna Has A First Name’ prevention. Quite often if you backtrack through the day’s events you can deduce WHY that stupid earworm has infected you. You’re driving to work and the guy who speed past you gets pulled over – “AhHA! Karma you sunnuva…!” Aaand then, oh boy, by George – Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon fades into play mode. Or you overhear something spoken in a Scottish accent and suddenly that invisible singer in your head starts proclaiming “But I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more…” Or you got autocorrected “What the DUCK Bert??” And that’s how it all starts. “Rubber ducky, you’re the one…”
    My sincere apologies for my causing you to hear the Rubber Ducky song in your head right now and for the next four hours.
    “I wish I were an Oscar Meyer weiner…”
    Like, Canada sorry.

  5. I understand what you mean, Paul, about the distraction of music. I am a musician and singer. I discovered many years ago, when I was still in high school, that I couldn’t get to sleep at night if I had the radio on due to the fact that I would listen and get really involved in the music.

  6. John, I didn’t catch what type of computer you’re using but if you’re using a Windows pc there’s couple of things Paul didn’t mention that are VERY important that are tied closely together – and they’re things that make a “night and day” difference you can hear. First what player are you using? You need to use a player that can completely take over your PC’s audio chain via what’s known as “Exclusive Mode” and second you have to change your sound settings to allow exclusive mode. The combination of the two makes a great deal of difference in sound quality. Windows does some nasty stuff to audio if you don’t have Exclusive Mode enabled with a player that can take advantage of it. Specifically it resamples to whatever you have set as default (usually 48kHz) and that’s a task that Windows truly stinks at doing. Windows Media Player doesn’t have the option of using exclusive mode but there are free players that are capable of doing so. I think foobar is one of them but I really can’t recommend one over another because I’m using a paid player. You’ll have to do a bit of research and testing to find one you’re happy with. Hopefully this helps in your quest for better audio!

    1. Believe it or not (many won’t) turning off many of Windows background tasks improves my sound. A lot.
      Fidelizer Pro is what I use and would not listen without it activated.
      (No relationship)

    2. You beat me to it OHT 😉 I was going to recommend the same thing. By default, Windows will take over all the inputs coming from, for example, your browser when you play audio content or alerts from your email reader, and so on, so it can mix it all together and play everything out of the ‘default’ sound device.

      So when you’re investigating music players, make sure they have the ability to go directly to the audio output device of your choice and, as OHT writes, make sure the ‘Exclusive Mode’ check box for ‘Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device’ is checked. (You’ll find it on the ‘Sound’ settings page. It’s called ‘Sound Control Panel’.) 😉

      1. Good morning both MikeK and Old Hardware Tech!
        I must say, both of you are in deed, on to something here!
        Old Hardware Tech, if you’re reading this, you happen to be correct about Foobar2000.
        You can set that for Exclusive Mode in Windows.
        But then again, I thought a lot of people knew that.
        I kind of wish I had somebody that knew more then what I know about this kind of stuff to show me the way.
        But Unfortunately, I had to figure that out both for and by myself.
        The two DAC’s I spoke of in an earlier post, I would have to have one of them to get DSD out of this computer without conversion to PCM while playing and listening to the DSD files.
        I sat down yesterday and took a very close look att this.
        How be it, I was monictoring it via the Music Cast app on my iPhone.
        My Yamaha WXC-50 music streamer/preamp can play DSD files directly from a USB flash drive plugged in to it.
        It tells you, “DSD, 2.8MHZ.”
        I’ve never in a long time heard DSD without the conversion to PCM until I got that preamp!
        I just wish that when using my computer as a music server to that preamp, that I could pick the DSD files up from there and listen to them.
        If someone on this list knows how to go about doing this, then I’d love to hear your ideas!

    1. You can also bypass the PC’s internal DAC via USB, which is what I’m using. Using a USB interface gets you increased data rates so it’s required if you want to go to extremes like DXD which is 24 bit with a data rate of 352.8 kHz. Many dacs can decode even higher data rates using a USB interface, mine can handle 768 kHz if memory serves but I rarely listen to anything near that. As far as I’m aware spdif is limited to 192 kHz, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of the music I consume is at or below 192 kHz and I’d be unlikely to be able to tell the difference between 192 kHz and 352.8 kHz when both use the same mastering. Those big numbers do look cool on the DAC’s display though!

  7. Paul — Finding music distracting, unless background, is common to people who are “highly sensitive,” aka scientifically as sensory-overload sensitivity. On the extreme end are those that can’t be around crowds. About 20-25% of the population. Genetic. See Elaine Aron’s books.

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