You don't need to buy a sound card. All you need to do is connect your laptop to the DAC using a USB cable and you can use Windows Media Player to play music through the DAC. Windows should recognize most USB DAC automatically upon connection. Some DACs may require a driver to be installed first.
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Take a peek at Wavelength Audio's DAC site. It contains good information re. PC to DAC interfaces.
The Computer Audio Asylum forum also contains lots of helpful information.
Exactly what Scramman said above me, the only thing you need is a USB port for your DAC
I ended up buying a FUBAR III USB Dac which also has a build in amplifier (Personally I love it but if you don't listen to headphones its not needed). If you solely JUST want a USB Dac I'd really recommend the Fubar II. Same DAC as the III only without the headphone amp. You can get a Fubar II for about $150 American including shipping.
Hope that helps!
If what you all are saying then, if I want to go directly from my library in WMP to my pre/pro, all that is required is the USB port in the laptop and a corresponding port in the pre/pro. The pre/pro can do the dac work and play it through my "system". Correct? Couldn't you also do the same thing from an external HD to the pre/pro?
I have to tentatively agree on the $369 USB cable being absurd. It's transferring a digital file from one digital domain device (computer) to another digital domain device (DAC). The file either transfers correctly or it doesn't - you aren't dealing with analog signal purity issues. Other than know issues with distance in USB (about 15 feet you begin to get signal strength issues), how is a $369 cable better than a $5 one?
I'm honestly curious about this.
Shazam, if you're curious about how a better usb cable makes a difference, then do a trial on different quality usb cables. Why do people spend big bucks on quality pc's, digital cables, speaker cables, and ic's? Because they make a difference. My ic's are stealth indra's and the only ic's I know that can do better is the jorma design. All the audio cables that I have purchase and tested are done through my stax srm-007tII/4070 cans w/accuphase ps-500v line conditioner along with a Lamm LL2 deluxe preamp w/1950's mullard tubes. With this system, I can tell a difference in pc's, ic's and last and not least usb cables. To really see a difference in the quality of cables, you will need a highend quality system. If you have audio gear that is rated medium quality such as having audio gear like Nuforce, and MHDT Labs, then quality usb cable may not make a difference. Good Day!
If you have a dac you like try a HAG, Trends or Empirical audio USB-to-DAC device. I own all three and recommend any of them relative to the total price point of your system.
Re: USB cables, non digital "grunge" is a real issue for some combinations of digital and analog equipment. It can be seen using a good 'scope. Excellent power/isolation hygiene is a must for the last amount of performance.
For my main system, where I am driving dcs and sigtech gear, I use Gefen pro-audio optical USB and battery power supplies as the input to the digital chain as well as isolated power lines with PS Audio Power plants for the dcs and Sigtech.
In my bedroom system with Magnepans, ASL and MSB Platinum, I just plug in my laptop and don't really bother (other than ferrite suppression USB cables).
If you are using a good high-end pre/pro you can get a signal adapter (Trends Audio UD 10 USB 1.1) (Cyro-Parts USB 2.0 to SPDIF converter) and let your processor do the DAC work. (You will be going in and out of the adapter in digital). Most interfaces have lots of bells and whistles that many don't need, i.e. mic, guitar inputs, etc. If your PC has USB 2.0 it will be better than the USB 1.0. I-Mac users have 2.0, SPDIF Optical toslink and firewire outs.