How do I know which DAC is “in play”?

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I’m fairly new to the hifi world, and am wondering how to determine which DAC in my various components is actually being used when I play music or watch TV/movies. I have a Bel Canto C5i integrated connected to an OPPO 203 (RCA), a Bluesound Node 2 (optical), and my TV (optical). Depending on which device is being used through the Bel Canto (CD player, streamer, TV), how do I know which DAC is being utilized? Hope this question doesn’t sound as stupid as I think it might.

Answered question

Follow the input.

When you’re connecting to the Bel Canto via one of its Digital inputs, you are using the Bel Canto’s internal DAC. When connecting via analog / RCA, you are using the Source’s DAC (Oppo in your case).

Make sense?

Answered question

No apologies needed … it’s a good question.

It’s really pretty straight forward.

If your source component is connected by RCA plugs, then that component is utilizing its own internal DAC – so in your case the OPPO 203 DAC is in play.

If your source component is connected via some form of digital out such as optical or coax, then you are utilizing the DAC of the component (in your case your Bel Canto C5i) that your source component is connected to.   So in your case both your TV and your Bluesound Node 2 are utilizing your Bel Canto’s DAC.

You may wish to connect your Bluesound Node 2 via RCA plugs as well so as to be able to compare what you get from the 2 different DACs.


Answered question

So it sounds like a difference between analog and digital connections – analog connections utilize the source’s DAC, and digital connections utilize the amp’s DAC. Thanks so much for your help Jazzman and ML, much appreciated! I’m also unclear about the difference between line in and line out inputs on an amplifier, but I’ll save that for another time. Thanks again!

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