HELP*%# How many DAC's does it take to screw in a decent output signal???

I'm going to try to ask this in as simple way as I can think of.
If I have an amp which includes a DAC and a CD player that includes a DAC.
I play a CD, now how does this work; does one DAC have priority over the other and if so how is that determined?
Or do they work in a "chain", and if they work in a chain; is not the chain subject to the "weakest link"?
In otherwords if they work in series would I not be subject to the DAC with the "lower" specs?
Now to really complicate things (I don't like them simple); if I wanted to use my computer as a source and thought neither of my current DAC's were really very good and I fed my computer into my system through my "new" outoard DAC, would I not be in the same situation with the DAC's in series?
I hope I have been clear enough that someone is willing to take a stab at this or does any of this matter?

So there is an answer. :) CD's are digital. Speakers are analog. Once, and only once, that digital signal must become analog before your speakers can move air.  This is done by a Digital to Analog Converter or DAC of which only 1 is allowed in the chain.

However, DAC's can be in a number of places. The CD player, an outboard DAC, a digital capable preamp or integrated amplifier or receiver. All these devices may include a DAC, especially right now as the market is still figuring out how consumers want to put the systems together.

DAC’s will be either in or out of the signal chain depending on how you connect your source (i.e. CD player, streamer, etc.) to the next device.

If you use the analog jacks, which are either a pair of RCA (often white and red) or XLR connectors then your source (CD player) must use it’s DAC to generate the music.

If you use the digital outputs (coaxial digital uses a single, often yellow, connector) then the CD player’s DAC is not in the signal path, and it’s up to a downstream device, like an integrated amp or receiver with a built-in DAC to do the conversion. Technically, the CD DAC is probably still working, but since you have nothing hooked up to the jacks the CD DAC has no effect on what you are hearing.

Sound quality is subjective. :) The better the electronics, speakers and room acoustics the more you’ll be able to hear of any differences in the DAC you choose to use.


A DAC (digital-to-analog converter) converts digital signals to analog signals, as its name implies. So it is never possible to have two DACs in series unless there is an ADC (analog-to-digital converter) somewhere in between them. And most home audio systems do not include an ADC, unless one is specifically added for a purpose such as digitizing vinyl LPs, or one is included in a component that provides specialized digital signal processing.

Your amp probably provides left and right channel analog inputs as well as one or more digital inputs (a digital input would involve a single connector, rather than a separate one for each channel). Many CD players provide one or more digital outputs in addition to their left and right channel analog outputs. If you connect a digital output of the player to a digital input of the amp the DAC in the amp would be the only one in the signal path. If you connect analog outputs of the player to analog inputs of the amp just the DAC in the player would be in the signal path. If you connect a separate outboard DAC to the analog inputs of the amp the outboard DAC would be the only DAC in the signal path.

Digital outputs should of course never be connected to analog inputs, and analog outputs should of course never be connected to digital inputs.

-- Al
I would like to thank you both for taking a moment and helping me understand this better. (It's hell gettin old, Ha)