I need DAC help

I'm older and not up to date on all the latest technology. I simply want to be able to play various internet radio stations through my hifi. Maybe more streaming stuff after I figure out what I'm doing. My laptop has USB ports. My question is this.

Can I just get a dac with usb input and connect that via dac rca output to aux rca input on my preamp? Select a internet station on my laptop and sit back and enjoy the tunes or do I need software for my laptop or anything special to get this going. Please, if there are responses to assist me make it laymans terms.

You pretty much have it - Computer into a DAC into the amp - just make
sure the DAC you use has the USB driver for the operating system you are
using - its needed so you can select the dac as a device in place of

That will get you basic internet radio of reasonable quality.

You could even skip the dac and just take the headphone jack into the pre-
amp - even simpler - not quite the same quality though :-)

It's when you want to improve the quality with hi-res downloads that you
might want to get more a more sophisticated setup to improve playback

If you think you might want to explore hi-res then you should look at a DAC
with an asynchronous USB port and decide what the maximum sample rate
you will download - higher sample rate means more disk space required

Happy listening :-)
My 2 cents though I don't think I'm much further along the learning curve than you. I got started on "computer audio" for exactly the same reason. Wanted to listen to Pandora on my system - not just via headphones or crappy computer speakers. Got a V-DAC and later a V-Link to go with it. 1) USB cable from computer USB port to the V-Link. 2) Digital coax from V-Link to V-DAC. 3) Regular RCA interconnects to an available input on the amp or pre-amp. Nowadays you can find many DACs that incorporate asynchronous USB so you no longer really need 2 boxes. Asynch USB is definitely worth looking for in my mind. The V-Link made a good bit of difference in the sound from the V-DAC. Tech has progressed from those days but the basics can still be pretty simple. Consider talking to the folk at Audio Advisor. They can hook you up. [No affiliation or business interest with them]. Good luck and have fun.
thanks guys, I think I've got it. I'll just have to find out which dac will work with windows 8. After I get everything hooked up and operational I'll play around, get familiar with use and then on to the next step. If you have suggestions for a unit $1,000 and under I would be thrilled to have your input.
Call Music Direct. They sell many popular DACs and can advise on drivers. There are many DACs for under $500 new. For internet radio I would not spend more. Good luck.
I have the Schiit Bifrost DAC with the asynchronous USB-2 and the UBER analogue upgrade - comes in at around $600

They also have a balanced model called the Gungnir for around $850
See https://schiit.com/

I can only talk to the Bifrost, which excels when you add a good power cord like the Silver Resolution from Signal came and a good interconnect - again the Silver Resolution series from Signal Cable is a good choice.

I did audition DACs from Wadia, Chord and Mytek - all above $1300, but found the Bifrost to match or exceed their performance.

Granted, adding good cables to any DAC will upgrade it's performance, but the Bifrost has demonstrated that it can provide extremely good sound.

I have completed several tweaks to the interconnect and power cables I use and every time the Bifrost has improved significantly each time - it's a keeper :-)

Hope this helps
Rides2Work - $1000 for a DAC is a very nice budget. Of course there will be some who sniff dismissively at the paltry sum. Might want to save some of those $ for a decent USB cable. Good values are out there for DAC and cable.

I agree with Willie on the Schiit products. A Gungnir is where I went after the V-DAC.

Plenty of info and comparisons on the internet. See stuff by John Darko Digital Audio Review.

Good luck and have fun.
Ghosthouse - good call on the usb cable - I forgot about that

FWIW - I just had a friend try my 1 meter DH Labs USB priced at $70 - he's now selling his Kimber Silver USB 2 meter cable priced at $299 - we both agreed the DH Labs was more detailed and smoother.

DH Labs seem to make pretty darn good products for a reasonable price - My DH Labs Optical cable blew my Chord optical cable away.

What power cable are you using on the Gungnir - stock or third party?

Willie - I put a Pangea 14SE on it. I have a Shunyata Venom 3S I could try but haven't so far. Music Direct had the Shunyatas on sale a few weeks back. My USB is a 2M Kimber that I got some years ago. I needed a longer length so I just ordered a silver plated 3M Pangea (PCOCC w/4% Ag). Very inexpensive We'll see how that goes. Interested in your comments about the DH Labs USB. I'm thinking about a Coax from them. Hope this is of help to the OP. Cables: Power cord, USB, ICs (& Coax, maybe).
I hadn't even given any thought to USB cable. I thought digital signal cables either work or they don't. I think this audio hobby stuff is a disease and the treatments and prescriptions are very expensive...
Thanks for the advice, I'll make sure to incorporate that into my search. I wish there was a retailer close by that could or should I say would steer me. That's why I turn to the forum. This is a great place for advice.

Thanks to all!
Rides - its definately a case of cables matter, but asynch transfer helps
also. The treatments don't have to be expensive - just informed :-)

I tried a couple of computer USB cables before settling on the DH Labs -
what a difference !

Ghosthouse - I've recently heard of a budget coax cable when fitted with
Copper Harmony rca's from Keith Louis Eichman Innovations that
outperformed a very expensive digital coax - I have tried them and they
worked very well on the coax cable I used for 16/48 kHz, alas I don't have a
digital source with a higher sample rate with spdif link so I don't know the
result for hi-res files.

I just tried a power cord experiment that surprised me - I bought a 12
gauge power cable from Lowe's (like Home Depot), - stripped the outer
sleave and brainded the 3 internal conductors an added some cheap
connectors ($20 for the pair)- to my surprise it performed extremely well -
very close to a very good quality cable - cost $35 for 6 ft - sounded good
on the Bifrost :-)