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Do You Still Need DAC/Amp Combo in 2023?

If you are someone who loves to listen to music, watch movies, or play games and you want to have a good audio experience, then it is safe to say that you are looking for a good overall experience as far as the audio is concerned because if you do invest in something that is not as good, the experience will vary.

Now you can literally go for any good gaming headphones and you would be good to go. However, for audiophiles, a gaming headphone is not something that is going to be enough. People are now becoming more and more aware of the sound how it differs and that is why they are investing in professional-grade headphones to make the most of their experience.

Speaking of professional-grade headphones, the best ones are not going to be driven by your motherboards simply because the motherboards do not have enough power to drive them. This is where the concept of a DAC/Amp combo comes into place. There is nothing new about these combos as people have been using them for a long time now.

However, at the same time, motherboard technology has become a lot better. Therefore, this raises a serious question; do we still need DAC/amp combos. This is what we are going to be looking at in this article.

Considering how we are already aware of just how the DAC/Amp combos work, we are not going to trudge over that here and focus on whether they are relevant or not.

Low Impedance Headphones

First things first, when it comes to headphones, one of the most important factors that come into play is their impedance, at least as far as driving those headphones is concerned. Headphones with low impedance such as the Audio-Technica ATH M50x can be run on pretty much every computer or even smartphones and other similar devices. Simply because they have lower impedance and do not require a lot of power in the first place.

However, headphones like the Sennheiser HD800 or even the HD600 are going to require more power to be properly driven. Sure, they will work just if you directly drive them through your motherboard’s audio port or your smartphone but they will not give you the same sound quality, or volume levels that they are capable of being delivered.

What About the Professional Grade Headphones

Now the previous point that we talked about raises another question. What about the professional-grade headphones that are available in the market and are getting so much more popular? Well, in theory, they need more power, the power that our devices simply cannot provide them in order to sound the way they should sound.

Let’s say that you have just bought the Sennheiser HD820S and you want to run it directly through your computer. In theory and practicality, you can do that, but the sound will not be the same since the impedance on the HD820S is a lot higher.

However, when you drive the same headphones through the DAC/Amp combo connected to your PC, you will have the ability to enjoy the headphones fully without any degradation in quality.

Can I Use Any DAC/Amp Combo?

This raises another question that is whether you can or you can’t use any DAC/Amp combo. This is not as simple as you might think. You see, just like your motherboard, or any other device, the combo is also going to be limited when it comes to the amount of power it can deliver. So, a cheaper combo might be good enough for entry-level professional headphones, but it might not work the same way on the higher-end headphones.

In order to deal with that situation, you are going to need to go for a better and higher-end amp and DAC combo so you can have a proper experience as far as the sound is concerned.

Do We Still Need DAC/Amp Combo in 2023?

Coming back to the original question and that is whether you need the DAC/amp combo in 2023. In short, you definitely need to go for the combo if you are looking to drive higher-end headphones that also have a higher impedance. However, the headphones do not have a higher impedance and can easily be driven by your motherboard or other devices, then there is no real need to spend the extra money on the combo.


Bill Wilson

Bill is a certified Microsoft Professional providing assistance to over 500 remotely connected employees and managing Windows 2008 to 2016 servers.