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Massdrop 101: What Is A DAC?
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But then aren't the built in dac and the odac identical in the objective sense?
"Objective sense" means as measured by test instruments. To make those measurements, the DAC has to be operating in a complete system, like I described. You can see what the ODAC Rev.B objective measurements look like here: http://blog.jdslabs.com/?p=1003
I think what you mean is comparing specifications between the DAC chips themselves as provided by the chip's manufacturers. You'd have to have a fair amount of electrical engineering background to know how to read and compare those numbers, and they still wouldn't tell you about the way ODAC or macbook chose to use them. For instance, the original ODAC would produce a lot of distortion if the USB port it was plugged into had a particular kind of capacitor on its power lead. There's a lot of interactions like that between the chip and the surrounding components (though rarely that severe) that DAC specifications just can't tell you.