Server/DAC Newbie Question

I'm just dipping my toe into downloading and ama curious about how a DAC might fit into this. So far I've downloanded a couple of cds from iTunes, burned them onto cd and am playing those through my system. I was surprised that the sound was comparable to a factory cd (one of the downloads was of something I already own for comparrison purposes).

So, my question is, in order to run directly from my computer to my hi-fi, I gather that I would need some sort of DAC to convert the signal? Also, with something like the Bryston BDA-1, could I also run my Cambridge 840C through it and would there be any sonic benefit to doing so? Or would that just be redundant?
You needn't spend anything like the cost of the Bryson. There are many less expensive products available. Stereophile did several reviews recently of $300 DACs that would do the job quite well.
Certainly the Bryston is well reviewed, but reflecting on your current system I'd probably echo the same comment as the first response: there of plenty of excellent DACs for less money, and if you cannot hear the difference between iTunes downloads and a redbook CD then it is not worth the added investment for a very expensive DAC (diminishing returns factor in big time with DACs). Plenty of threads on reasonably priced DACs to search the archives. I'll give you a few names: MHDT, TADAC, PS Audio, Apogee, just to name a few. Presentation of each will vary so research your purchase based on listening preferences, music, etc. Yes, you can run your Cambridge 840C through whatever DAC you get as long as it has a digital output (RCA SPDIF or Toslink or BNC probably). Sonic benefits will depend entirely on the DAC you choose (whether or not is better to your ears than the Cambridge). It is certainly possible, but bigger sonic benefits are possible running full resolution, ripped files (NOT iTunes downloads) through a superior, jitter-reducing DAC solution....IMHO. All kinds of ways to run from computer to your hifi - the two popular interfaces via a DAC would be USB or Firewire, both of which need to be converted at or before the DAC. You can also provide the signal wirelessly with a WIFI interface like Sonos or Squeezebox, or another wireless server. That device will either use an internal DAC to provide an analog signal that your hifi can understand, or stream the digital signal that a DAC can convert. Plenty of other threads on this subject too. Search on "PC Audio" Good luck - it's a great way to store and listen to your music.
Some other very reasonably priced items are the vDAC from Music Fidelity and the HRT (two models, one at 99 dollars and the other at about 299). It sounds as if spending more will be a waste for your purposes based on what I know about your needs and uses.
Thanks for the responses. I think one of the reasons I can't tell the difference is that I'm not using the Cambridge. It's in the shop. I'm playing these through my Jolida JD100 which is very warm and not overly detailed. I'll be curious to see what these discs sound like when I get the Cambridge back.
Hmmm, the JD100 is a nice player IMO, regardless of the slight colorations - very easy to listen to and pleasant, though yes, not royalty in the resolution department if that's what floats your boat. If you like resolution and neutrality you may want to take a listen to Benchmark's offering (I have not been fond of it, but plenty of folks like it a lot). I'm not familiar with your Cambridge except by reputation. You should really just try the DAC route via computer. There have been a few issues of TAS that have some interesting input on computer audio, which I'd take with a grain of salt. Plenty of input on the chat sites. Burning the ripped files to a blank CD-R, as you have done for your comparison, adds a whole different dimension to the question (a burned CD vs a factory manufactured CD). As with any of this stuff, There's absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with not hearing any differences - actually, I kind of envy sure would save me a whole lot of money. Another DAC available (from China) off eBay that's getting a lot of good comments is VALAB.
I downloaded and burned a copy of Oscar Peterson's 'The More I See You' on Telarc to compare to the factory cd, which I've had for years. The downloaded/burned version **maybee** gave up a hair in the highs, but most of the low level stuff - Oscar mumbling over his piano - was there. I was listening for collorations, over-emphasized bass. Any differences were very slight. If anything the burned CD has a slightly smoother presentation, but that was about it.

Again, I'll be very interested to hear it through the Cambridge, which is much more revealing.

The thing that I find interesting about the BDA-1 is the ability to run multiple components through it. It can be set up as a DAC for a computer, but also potentially perform as an upgraded DAC for a cdp. That's pretty good flexibility.
The thing that I find interesting about the BDA-1 is the ability to run multiple components through it. It can be set up as a DAC for a computer, but also potentially perform as an upgraded DAC for a cdp. That's pretty good flexibility.

Most PC compatible DACs can do that. There are actually only a few dedicated entirely to a PC interface only (a few Wavelength DACs come to mind there).