Amp vs. DAC vs. Sound Card [Explained]

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To people that are familiar with audio systems and their intricate workings, the terms Soundcard, DAC, and AMP are very commonly known. However, to people with less knowledge, these terms may sound like foreign concepts.

Although these terms are related to one another, they have a variety of features that make each of them unique and distinguishable. For example, consider the soundcard. Its job in the audio system is to produce and enhance audio sounds on computer systems.

Most soundcards contain DAC’s. The DAC is used to convert the sounds from digital audio to analog audio. While this may all sound a bit complex, it is a simple process that we aim to uncover in the following paragraphs.

What is a soundcard?

A soundcard is an expansion card that works to produce sound on a computer that can be heard through speakers or headphones. Soundcards are used for a variety of computer systems; including gaming systems, audio systems, theater systems, and voice recognition devices.

Although soundcards are not necessary for audio systems to produce sound, they can greatly enhance the sound quality of your system. In addition to enhancing the sound quality, soundcards are also known for reducing CPU usage.

This feature is great if your system is being used for gaming purposes. While the soundcard will offload work from your system, your system will experience better frame rates.

What is a DAC?

A DAC is a term used to describe the digital-to-analog converter. Therefore, a DAC converts digital audio information to analog audio information.

DAC’s are commonly used in a variety of devices; including MP3 players, television, and mobile phones. To put things in simpler terms, digital audio information is the stored data on your device. It is represented by a combination of 0’s and 1’s. This information is then converted to analog, which allows the information to be played through speaker systems.

The DAC (see our list of under $200) has also been referred to as the Google Translate of the audio system. This term has been coined in reference to the converter acting as a translator.

What is an amplifier?

The term AMP refers to the amplifying system. It is the circuit in the audio system that boosts weak audio to a higher power suitable for your speaker system. Amplifiers can be found everywhere, from CD players to theater systems.

Amplifiers function by first receiving an input signal from a source and input device. For example, if you are playing music from your iPhone, the phone would be the input device and the song would be the source. Once the amplifier receives a signal from the source, the amplifier creates an enlarged replica of the original signal.


Although AMP’s, DAC’s, and soundcards are all extremely different terms with their own functions, they are all interrelated.

While soundcards are expansion cards that can be inserted into your audio device, they all hold DAC chips to translate the information between your system and your audio output.

Once the audio file is converted to a compatible format, an AMP is then used to enhance the signal.

Therefore, these terms are very relative to one another. If you still have questions regarding these terms, or are looking for more information, drop a comment below for our team of experts.

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