Getting into the world of music is always tricky since there’s always NEW JARGON flying at you left and right.
Now people are saying you might need an ASYNCHRONOUS USB—can’t we just use a regular old flash drive?
You totally can, but there are perks to using an asynchronous USB that we’ll discuss here.
What Is Asynchronous USB Audio?
An asynchronous USB receives data from the computer in time with its own internal clock. The computer’s clock will have to match the timing of the internal clock of the USB DAC.
How Does It Work?
The asynchronous USB will request the computer to send data as USB packets down the USB cable IN HARMONY with its own internal clock.
Because the DAC makes the two clocks sync up at the same time, it drives the converter directly, so it doesn’t have to rely on the computer’s unstable clock.
Is it Important?
The reason why there’s so much hype around the asynchronous DAC is due to the quality of the USB audio transfer.
Since the computer matches the timing of the internal clock of the USB DAC, there won’t be lapses in the flow of data being sent and received.
With that, there won’t be DISTORTIONS or JITTER in the sound from an asynchronous USB DAC.
To paint a clearer picture as to why the asynchronous USB is such a big deal, let’s compare the two other DACs that convert digital signals to analog ones.
The synchronous USB DAC works by following the computer’s timing as it receives the digital music in packets.
In this scenario, the computer dictates the timing of the flow, which isn’t ideal. Because the audio data can be interrupted as the DAC receives it, glitches can appear in the sound.
Due to that issue, only low-quality DACs use this kind of method.
In the case of an adaptive DAC, it still follows the master clock of the device, but it adjusts its own timing in periodic time frames every MILLISECOND to match the flow of data.
While this is better than the synchronous DAC system, the problem with this delivery method is that instances of jitter can appear in the audio data when the two clocks aren’t synced up.
Recommended Asynchronous DACs
So now that you know all about how asynchronous DACs work, here are some of the best devices you can use to convert your digital tracks to something your ears can process and enjoy.
The Dragonfly RED is an asynchronous DAC that is extremely COMPACT and comes in a flash drive.
It supports high-resolution audio until 24-bits/98 kHz. It may not be much, but it will definitely improve your experience when watching your favorite music videos online.
Its output comes out to 2.1 V, which is better than the cheaper Dragonfly Black’s 1.2 V.
With that, you get a smoother and more fluid experience without jitter as you listen to your sound of the day.
If you wanted, you could listen to Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai and listen to it with this device with a new appreciation for how smooth it sounds.
The only minor issue with it is that its red finish can be chipped off easily if you’re not careful.
- High output
- Offers you a smooth and fluid experience
- Red finish chips off easily
CEntrance DACport HD
This DAC is a portable asynchronous device that you can use to enhance the sound of whatever you’re listening to.
Since this is a bigger unit than the Dragonfly Red, it can deliver you a higher resolution of 32-bits/384 kHz.
There’s a 3.5 mm single-ended headphone jack on the right side of the device.
You can adjust the gain through a selector at the back of the unit, which you may find useful if you want to customize the sound.
The sound quality is superb, offering you DYNAMIC and VIVID tunes without jitter. You also won’t hear any background noise unless you’re using pretty sensitive IEMs (in-ear monitors).
To give an example, you could probably listen to Rina Sawayama’s Dynasty and hear the fainter details in the background vocals and instrumentation.
Our only issue with this asynchronous equipment is that it heats up when you use it. But that’s to be expected with this kind of device.
- High sample rate
- Adjustable gain
- Clear listening experience
- Heats up with use
This is the largest and heaviest of the three asynchronous devices here, but it tosses its weight with the performance it offers.
The Chord Mojo can perform at a maximum sample rate of 32-bits/768KHz, which is A LOT for such a tiny device.
For example, it can play Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, and you can hear all the good stuff in it—like all the small details that you can normally miss from your first time listening to the album.
The build of this piece of equipment is A BIT STRANGE for its volume adjustment and power ball-like buttons. However, it gets the job done, so it’s not like it’s a bad thing.
This asynchronous USB can deliver you clear and natural-sounding tracks while you use it, which makes it easier to spot poor recordings and mixes.
The only possible fault is that the metal box gets hot while charging it, which may be worrisome for some users.
- Powerful performance
- Extremely portable
- Wonderful listening experience
- Heats up when charging
A Quick Guide to Digital Inputs in Amplifiers
Now that you know what an asynchronous DAC is and why people like it so much let’s get into the different digital inputs in amplifiers.
What Is an Amplifier?
An amplifier is an electronic device that boosts the voltage or power.
There are two types of amps:
- Weak-signal amplifiers: These are usually used with wireless receivers. They are designed to pick up small input signals and amplify them with minimal internal noise.
- Power amplifiers: These are used in wireless transmitters, broadcast transmitters, and hi-fi sound equipment. These are prevalent as vacuum tubes with audiophiles and musicians.
What Is the Difference Between an Amplifier and DAC?
When you’re starting out in the world of an audiophile, you may be confused about the difference between an amp and a DAC.
However, there is a clear difference.
An amp AMPLIFIES the signal of your output to produce a louder sound. Meanwhile, the latter converts the digital information of a sound which comes in 1s and 0s.
With that, your ears can understand the sound coming out of the device you’re listening to.
Want to know more? Check out our beginner’s guide for beat-making equipment!
Why Are Digital Inputs Important?
Digital inputs in amps are essential nowadays because our world is largely a digital one.
And that includes MUSIC.
If you decide to get an amplifier, you should get one with a considerable amount of digital inputs, especially if you produce tracks using a DAW (Digital Audio Workspace).
If you still have questions about asynchronous equipment, here are some common questions and the answers accompanying them.
Should I Get an Asynchronous Device?
There are definite benefits to getting this piece of equipment, but that may depend on your budget.
USBs like that are usually more expensive than the SYNCHRONOUS and ADAPTIVE ones.
At the same time, even if they are expensive, they don’t produce jitter or glitches that will make watching videos or listening to your favorite tracks a finer experience.
So if you can afford it, we definitely recommend getting one.
Should I Get a DAC or an AMP?
That depends on your needs.
If you only need your track to be AMPLIFIED, then you only need an amp for it.
Most equipment already comes with a built-in DAC, so there’s really no need to buy one.
However, if you want to fix and enhance the finer details, you can get converters to help you fix those issues.
Here’s a guide on how you can choose equipment for your home studio set-up!
Do DACs Come In Different Sizes?
Yes, they do!
The ones we discussed in this article are COMPACT ones that you can easily use for both mobile and PC.
Because of their small size, you could take them with you even when you’re on the go, which is a plus for musicians who move around a lot.
However, if you want more power for your HOME STUDIO, you could get one that’s bigger and bulkier.
They come with more inputs and more features for you to enjoy.
What Does DAC Stand for?
The acronym stands for “digital-to-analog converter,” which is basically what it does.
With that, you won’t forget what it means and does!
Now that you know what asynchronous DACs are, you should be able to decide if you really need one or not.
If you love listening to videos on Youtube and Spotify playlists, you could get a DAC to enhance the quality of the sounds. It all comes to your personal opinion whether asynchronous DACs are worth it to reduce glitches and jitter, or just another throwaway gizmo you don’t want to subscribe to.
Now that you have a DAC, check out these top-quality Audio Technica Headphones!