laptop to analog, any suggestions?

I'm looking for a good way to hook my PC up to my stereo. The output on my laptop is a noisy 1/8" jack, so i was thinking maybe an external d/a converter. Do they work off of a USB connection to a computer, and how would i play MP3 files?

Thanks for your help,

Benchmark has announced a new USB DAC that may do what you are proposing. See www DOT benchmarkmedia DOT com. You can find them through Audiogon's Manufacturer's List as well.

I have never heard any of Benchmark's products, so cannot vouch for the performance, however, the original DAC-1 received good reviews.

Bob R.
You didn't state a price range, but if you're looking for something a little less expensive than the Benchmark, I use one of these:

Fubar II

I haven't compared it to other USB DACs, but it's a considerable improvement over the DAC in my iBook G4. Sound quality is much higher and noise floor is much lower.

Your computer will just see it as another sound output, so your MP3 software or anything else can use it.

Yeah, Fubar is around $120; Benchmark is closer to $1300. That probably is a better place to start. Might try one myself. This website is constantly inciting me to buy something I didn't know existed ;^)
I will offer yet another recommendation for the LinkSys Wireless Music Bridge (WMB54G). $80.95 + shipping (Office Depot). Connect to the laptop wirelessly (duh!) or using an Ethernet cable. You can then use the WMB's RCA out or its Coax Digital out if you have a Coax Digital in on your preamp.

This unit sounds great, is easy to setup, and is dirt-friggin'-cheap.

Try unplugging the AC power supply to run on battery power. I experienced a substantial noise reduction and increased dynamics doing this. Another good and cheap USB solution is the Philips PSC805 Aurilium, which can be found on ebay for around $50. The Sound Agent software it comes with is good also.
I am using a Emu 1616M. Very open and spacious sound. Excel image layering. Best $499 I've ever spent in audio.

Peter Breuninger
Wow, i had no idea this could be done so cheaply, thanks alot guys. My price range is around $100 (I really thought it was a shot in the dark). I really don't need something for critical listening, that's what CD's are for. I'll give your suggestions a good look.
another vote for the Fubar II
Get the Squeezebox 3 or transporter. I promise you that you will not regret it. It will revolutionize the way you listen to music.
Agent_kang, is it possible to connect the squeezebox over a large network (i.e. a college network in a dorm) and can it play music directly from a network harddrive without a computer in the middle?
Dk89; Squeezebox should work ok over a large network in a college dorm if the networks isn't too congested. I don't think it can play directly off a network hard drive - there is a sever component that is needed. However if you mount the network hard drive to the server you can play that to the SB.