Audio plays a vital role in our routine. Whether consciously or unconsciously we tend to resort to audio for work-related tasks, gaming, or even for just relaxing we tend to resort to audio.
Despite audio being infinitely prevalent in our lives, we tend to ignore it. The reality of today’s PC setups is that audio is the last considered piece of the puzzle. Most people only think about buying an audio product after they have spent most of their budget on other parts.
This is a costly mistake. In an ever-growing digital world, most of our day is spent on our PCs whether be it for work, gaming, or consuming media and content. You see all these tasks have something in common and that being audio.
Hence, we can clearly see that audio is the most crucial part of any setup. Yet we are still stuck with some off-the-shelf generic headphones or lousy speakers.
Don’t get discouraged though as taking your audio to the next level does not require many resources but rather your consciousness on the matter. In this article, I am going to take you on a journey by the end of which your audio will be completely transformed and be HiFi ready.
The Audio Chain
The audio chain defines the components and the processes that are involved in transmitting the audio from the source to your ear. There are 3 main components in the audio which happen to be our target to prove sound quality.
Firstly, there is the source. This can either be in the form of a digital source like Spotify, Tidal, and Netflix or physical forms like Blue-Ray disc and tape.
Primarily nowadays digital audio sources have taken over and rarely do you see physical means being used as an audio source.
That said most of the digital audio sources offer high-quality audio streaming, but some outshine the rest. Case in point tidal which offers HiFi quality 32-bit AAC music streaming. This means that there are no losses in the audio, and it maintains the original quality as intended by the artist.
Dolby Atmos is another HiFi audio solution that is quite popular especially in the entertainment industry. For the best audio experience watch movies and shows that are encoded in this format. Most industry-leading streaming platforms like Netflix are already using this encoding format.
The Output Device
The output device refers to the component that is used to convert the digital audio signal produced within the computer into an analog form that can be picked up by the headphone.
The responsible component for this purpose is called a DAC. The amplifier is another common terminology you will find if you search about DAC because they go hand in hand. An amplifier like the name suggests enhances the digital signal that is to be encoded by a DAC. Using both these together leads to a more clear signal hence the result is better audio quality.
These days frankly speaking most of us lack knowledge on this matter and most often than not you see people using the default motherboard audio solution. Gone are the times when dedicated soundcards used to be a priority and hence this has led to a degradation in consumer-grade PC audio.
While motherboards have been steadily improving their built-in DACs the quality is still not here. For better quality, it is more advisable to go with an external DAC AMP.
External DAC AMPs are free from any electronic interfere and hence can produce a much clear signal leading to a better audio output. These external DAC AMPs are also pretty much plug-and-play.
With so much to gain it is a no-brainer to invest in a good DAC AMP. These products can single-handedly transform your audio experience especially if you are using an older PC. Even the built-in DAC on high-end motherboards does not hold a candle to the capability of an AMD DAC.
The Audio Product
Most of us use either of the two products for consuming audio that being a headphone or speakers. I won’t go into much detail here as this is the area where most of us make an informed decision and try to get the product for our needs.
One thing however I would like to point out is that ponder into IEM (In-Ear Monitors) and audiophile headphones territory as well. These products offer high-fidelity sound output and hence can be a good replacement for your existing hardware.
The ones I would recommend are Moondrop Starfield and Tin T2 for IEMs and Philips SHP9500 and Sennheiser HD 600 for audiophile open back headphones.
A Quick Recap to Level Up Your Audio Game
Before we move on let’s briefly summarize how to level up your audio game.
- Use streaming services that offer High Fidelity audio like Tidal
- Consume content that has support for Dolby Atmos
- Use an external DAC AMP for the best sound processing
- Use HiFi grade products like audiophile headphones and IEMs
These are some ways in which you can ensure a better sound experience regardless of if you are listening to podcasts, jamming music, or playing games on your PC.
But what if the most important out of the bunch and which should you upgrade first. Most likely right now these are the question wandering in your head so let’s take a brief look at the most important upgrade, shall we?
Which Components Should I Upgrade First?
For most people, the first component they should look into to upgrade their audio is DAC AMP. The built-in motherboard DAC is just not good enough for pushing high-quality audio. Since the DAC is not insulated from the rest of the motherboard there is also static inference present which further degrades the sound quality.
An external DAC AMP will not only purge the sound signals of any interfere but will also enhance the sound quality. You will get more detailed and clearer audio out of existing audio hardware.
The volume and loudness will also increase and if you are previously had been experiencing crackles in audio they will away go away. Another aspect of the DAC AMP we often overlook is that regardless of how many times you change your headphones or speakers you can use the existing DAC AMP with them.
Hence your priority should be to add an external DAC AMP to your setup. Rest can follow suit if you are not content with just buying a DAC AMP and want to upgrade the rest of your audio setup as well.