For you to get the best out of your digital audio files, we are going to look at the best possible configuration (for audiophile quality) to connect your DAC USB in a Windows and MAC environment. Find out how to get the best out of your Pro-Ject, NuForce, HRT, Calyx Audio, Arcam, Audioquest, Micromega, Musical Fidelity, Cambridge Audio, Moon Audio, ADL, Rega or even M2Tech DACs.
In Windows, using a DAC USB is relatively easy. When it is connected to the USB port of the computer, device management recognises it and searches for the relevant available drivers. If it does not find the driver, go to the brand site of your DAC to download the latest driver.
When the driver is installed and the DAC recognised, all you have to do is right click the loudspeaker icon,
Go to playback device, then select your DAC as default playback device,
Next, double click the DAC device or right click, property and in the advanced statistics tab you can choose the resolution and output sampling frequency. If you have Studio Master files, select 24 bit, 192,000 Hz (lower resolutions and frequencies are accepted), apply the settings.
ASIO driver and Foobar2000 audiophile playback software:
The native Windows driver that manages all sounds is called DirectSound. But this driver cannot ensure audiophile quality as all the computer's audio streams are mixed together, they are processed at the same time and resampled at a frequency of 44.1 kHz, so you will be disappointed to have a DAC and Studio Master quality file that you can only play in 44.1 kHz!
The best alternative driver to DirectSound is the ASIO driver, meaning Audio Stream Input/Output. This driver communicates directly with the playback software and reproduces the quality of the audio stream at the software output. This driver, combined with a good playback software application ensures bit-perfect playback.
Now that you have configured your driver and you know what audio processing driver to use, all you have to do is choose the playback software and, finally, configure it.
The most suitable software for audiophile playback is Foobar2000. Its ease of use compensates for the fact that it is only available in English.
To configure it: Go to File ? Preferences or Library ? Configure. Got to the Components window and click 'Get more components'. An internet page will open up in your navigator with all the drivers available.
Download the latest ASIO driver. Next, in the Components page of Foobar2000, click Install and select the ASIO driver you have just downloaded to install it in the software.
Next, go to the Playback window, then Output, and select the output driver you want, if the brand supplies a corresponding driver on its site, select it, if there is not one there, go to http://www.asio4all.com/ and download the latest version of the driver. This is a generic driver that replaces the ones specific to a device. As soon as it is installed, you will have the option of ASIO: ASIO4ALL v2.
If you use the ASIO4ALL v2 driver, go to the 'Output' ASIO sub-menu, double click ASIO4ALL v2, a window opens and all you need to do is select the DAC for the output instead of the computer's sound card.
You can now listen to your digital music under the best conditions.
With Apple, using a DAC USB is even simpler, owing to Plug-and-Play! On MAC, the generic driver can play all audio files up to 24 bits 192 kHz! So you do not have to download any drivers. Just plug in your DAC, go to Tools or System preferences, then Sound. Go to the Output tab and click on the name of your DAC to set it as the output device. You can finally get the best out of your music.
The LED of my DAC shows a format of 44.1 kHz 16 bits when I am playing files of a higher quality.
It is possible that some DACs, although recognised and defined as audio output devices, require a minor adjustment for resolution and sampling frequency. It is nothing very complicated, just go to the FINDER, Applications, Utilities, Audio configuration and MIDI.
Then click on your DAC, and select maximum format quality (for the HRT Microstreamer, the maximum sampling frequency is 96 kHz; if possible select 192 kHz and 24 bits).
You will now have good quality music!