Using Your Android DACs With PCs and Laptops (How to)

A DAC, or digital-to-analog converter, converts digital audio signals into analog signals that can be sent to headphones, speakers, or other analog audio devices. Using an external DAC with your PC or laptop provides several benefits over relying solely on your computer’s built-in audio capabilities.

The DAC built into most computers is designed to handle basic audio output, not high-fidelity playback. Standalone DACs use higher quality components and circuits optimized for audio performance. This allows them to convert the digital signals with greater accuracy and resolution. The improved analog signal provides more detail and dynamic range compared to typical onboard audio.

In addition, external DACs offer features not usually found in integrated sound cards, like support for hi-res formats, hardware-based EQ, and technology to reduce jitter and distortion. They also provide cleaner analog signal output free from interference or noise from other computer components.

Pairing an Android DAC with your laptop or PC gives you audiophile-level playback, enhancing music, movies, games, and voice. The external DAC bypasses the computer’s lower quality conversion, transforming sound quality and making the most of high-end headphones and speakers.

Key benefits include:

  • Higher resolution D/A conversion
  • Improved dynamic range and stereo imaging
  • Lower distortion and noise
  • Support for high-resolution audio formats
  • Dedicated headphone amps for driving high-impedance headphones

Prepare Your Android DAC

The first step is to ensure your Android DAC is in USB mode and has the proper drivers installed on your PC. Most Android DACs have a mode switch that toggles between standalone amplifier mode and USB DAC mode. Refer to your device manual to find this setting.

Put your DAC into USB mode before connecting it to your PC. This allows the DAC to interface properly and be detected as an audio output device. If your DAC does not switch modes automatically, you may need to disconnect and reconnect after toggling the mode switch.

On the PC side, install the latest USB audio drivers provided by your DAC manufacturer. This is essential for establishing a proper USB audio connection. For example, FiiO provides USB DAC drivers for its devices like the following: FiiO USB DAC Driver Download.

On Android 11 and higher, generic USB drives may work without proprietary drivers. But it’s still recommended to use your DAC maker’s drivers when available for optimal compatibility and audio performance.

After connecting your Android DAC and installing drivers, your PC should detect it as a usable audio output device. You can confirm this by checking your sound settings. With proper setup on both sides, you are ready to start directing audio through your DAC.

Connect Your DAC

The most common connection methods for using an Android DAC with a PC or laptop are USB and USB-C cables. Most modern external DACs will have a USB-B port that can accept a connection from your computer’s USB-A port. Some DACs may also have a USB-C input that can accept a direct USB-C to USB-C connection if your PC has USB-C ports.

To connect via USB, you will need a USB-A to USB-B cable (sometimes called a printer cable). The USB-A end goes into your PC’s USB port, and the USB-B end goes into the DAC. Make sure to use a high quality cable designed for audio use rather than a basic USB printer cable. Some recommendations are the Wireworld USB cable or the Audioquest Carbon USB cable.

For a USB-C connection, you need a USB-C to USB-C cable. Be aware that not all USB-C cables are created equal – you’ll want to use one capable of high-speed data transfer for optimal audio quality. Look for cables that explicitly state USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 compatibility. The Anker Powerline USB-C to USB-C 3.1 cable is a good option.

The advantage of USB-C is that it carries both data and power, so you don’t need to connect your DAC to external power. USB-B connections require you to also plug your DAC into an outlet or powered USB hub. As long as you use a high-quality cable, both USB and USB-C will provide excellent audio quality from your Android DAC.

Configure Your PC Audio Settings

Once your DAC is connected to your computer, you’ll need to change your audio settings to route sound through the DAC instead of your built-in speakers or headphone jack. Here’s how to do it on the major operating systems:


On Windows 10 or 11:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for “Sound Settings”
  2. Under Output, select your DAC from the list
  3. Click on Device Properties and set the sample rate and bit depth to match the capabilities of your DAC
  4. Disable audio enhancements like EQs and spatial sound (source)


On macOS:

  1. Open Audio MIDI Setup in Applications > Utilities
  2. Select your DAC in the sidebar and set it as the output
  3. Set the sample rate and bit depth under Format (source)


The process varies by distribution, but generally involves:

  1. Opening Sound Settings
  2. Going to the Output tab and selecting your DAC
  3. Disabling any audio effects or enhancements

Consult your distribution’s documentation for full instructions.

Enable Audio Enhancements

One of the main benefits of using an external DAC is that it unlocks advanced audio enhancement features that are not available when using your computer’s built-in sound card. Many Android DACs come with proprietary software that allow you to customize the audio experience. For example, the iFi Zen DAC V2 has an “Enhancements” tab in its control panel software that provides the following audio tweaks:

  • Bass Boost – Boosts bass frequencies for a fuller sound.
  • 3D HolographicSound – Creates a wider, more spacious soundstage.
  • XSpace – Simulates the acoustics of different environments like a concert hall.
  • Loudness – Boosts bass and treble at lower volumes.

To access these audio enhancements on Windows 10/11:

  1. Right click the speaker icon in the system tray and select “Sounds”.
  2. Go to the “Playback” tab and select your external DAC.
  3. Click “Properties”, then go to the “Enhancements” tab.
  4. Check the box to “Enable audio enhancements”.
  5. Adjust any effects like EQ or surround sound to your liking.

Enabling these enhancements allows you to customize the sound signature to your preferences. Experiment with different settings to find the combination that sounds best with your headphones.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you are having issues getting your Android DAC to work properly with your PC or laptop, here are some troubleshooting tips to try:

If you are getting no sound or audio at all:

  • Try a different USB port on your computer. Some ports may not supply enough power for the DAC (Troubleshooting DAC issues).
  • Make sure the USB cable is fully inserted on both ends and is not damaged.
  • Check that your audio player app and system settings show the DAC as the audio output device (DAC stopped working with phone – Android Community).
  • Reinstall or update any required drivers for the DAC.

If the DAC is distorted, noisy, or has poor quality audio:

  • Lower the volume on your DAC first, then adjust the system volume as needed.
  • Try a different music player app, as some may not work well with USB DACs.
  • Change audio settings like EQ and effects, which may cause issues.
  • Update firmware on the DAC if available from the manufacturer.

If your specific DAC model is not being detected:

  • Install the latest USB audio drivers for your version of Windows.
  • Try connecting the DAC before powering on the computer.
  • Plug the DAC into a USB hub with external power.

DAC Recommendations

When choosing an Android DAC for use with your PC or laptop, there are several top options to consider based on your budget and needs.

The FiiO BTR5 2021 is one of the best mid-range options, providing excellent sound quality, Bluetooth connectivity, and a reasonable price around $100. With support for hi-res audio and a compact, portable design, it’s a versatile pick for those seeking great audio performance without breaking the bank.

For audiophiles seeking reference-level sound, the Chord Mojo 2 is considered one of the best portable DACs overall. Though expensive at around $400, it delivers stunning audio quality in a compact, battery-powered unit.

Looking for maximum connectivity? The iFi Go Bar at around $150 provides USB-C, USB-A and Bluetooth support, making it easy to connect to almost any device. It’s a versatile option for those who need universal compatibility.

There are many great Android DAC options at varying price points. Focus on sound quality, connectivity, portability, and budget to choose the right match for using your Android DAC seamlessly with a PC or laptop.

Future-Proofing Your Setup

With technology advancing so rapidly, it’s important to think about how future-proof your DAC setup will be. Here are some tips for ensuring your DAC continues working smoothly with future updates and devices:

Choose a DAC with the latest connectivity standards like USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0, etc. As this article mentions, USB-C provides higher bandwidth for lossless audio streaming while Bluetooth 5.0 offers improved stability and range.

Opt for a DAC that supports unfolding MQA files if you subscribe to streaming services like Tidal that offer MQA. This will allow you to take advantage of higher resolution streams as they become available (Reddit).

Look for a DAC that can be easily updated via firmware to support new audio formats. Companies like Schiit, Topping and SMSL regularly issue updates to add compatibility.

Choose an amp/DAC combo unit that can be used as just a DAC in case you want to change or upgrade the amp section later. This provides more flexibility.

Opt for a DAC with solid driver support and developer community. This helps ensure compatibility issues are quickly resolved if they pop up with new OS updates.

Buying from a reputable brand known for issuing firmware updates and maintaining driver support can go a long way towards future-proofing. Do your research before purchasing.

Additional Uses for Your DAC

In addition to using your Android DAC with your computer, you can also get a lot of benefit from using it with other devices too. Here are some examples of additional ways to use your DAC:

With headphones – Using your DAC with high-quality headphones will help improve the audio quality and provide a better listening experience. The DAC can drive headphones properly by providing cleaner power. Source

With speakers – You can connect your Android DAC to a speaker system or powered monitors to improve the audio signal. This is especially useful if you have studio monitors or high-end speakers, as the DAC will provide better quality sound. The improved audio conversion can help you hear details you might miss with lower quality sources.

For home audio – Using your DAC in a home stereo or AV receiver setup can help improve audio quality for movies, music, and games. Connect it between your source device and the receiver. Many AV receivers have limited onboard DACs, so adding an external DAC provides audibly clearer audio.

For gaming – Having a high quality DAC can enhance your gaming audio experience. You’ll get clearer sound effects and can better pinpoint audio cues like enemy footsteps. The improved audio conversion helps deliver the optimized sound that game creators intended.


Now that you have set up your Android DAC for use with your PC or laptop, you can enjoy high-quality audio playback. In this guide, we covered the key steps of preparing your DAC, connecting it properly, adjusting audio settings, enabling enhancements, and troubleshooting issues.

Using your Android DAC with your computer has many advantages over relying on basic onboard audio. Dedicated external DACs offer far superior digital-to-analog conversion, resulting in much clearer and more accurate sound. They provide greater audio control, allow you to drive more powerful headphones, reduce electrical interference, and bypass the low-quality DACs built into most PCs and laptops.

With your Android DAC connected to your computer, you can experience your music collection, videos, games, and other audio like never before. Every soundtrack, song, and sound effect will come through with stunning quality. So take your listening experience to the next level by hooking up your specialized DAC and configuring it to work seamlessly with your PC or laptop.

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