8-channel Cirrus Logic CS4382 digital-to-analog converter as used in a sound card.
In electronics, a digital-to-analog converter (DAC, D/A, D2A, or D-to-A) is a system that converts a digital signal into an analog signal. An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) performs the reverse function.
There are several DAC architectures; the suitability of a DAC for a particular application is determined by figures of merit including: resolution, maximum sampling frequency and others. Digital-to-analog conversion can degrade a signal, so a DAC should be specified that has insignificant errors in terms of the application.
DACs are commonly used in music players to convert digital data streams into analog audio signals. They are also used in televisions and mobile phones to convert digital video data into analog video signals which connect to the screen drivers to display monochrome or color images. These two applications use DACs at opposite ends of the frequency/resolution trade-off. The audio DAC is a low-frequency, high-resolution type while the video DAC is a high-frequency low- to medium-resolution type.
Due to the complexity and the need for precisely matched components, all but the most specialized DACs are implemented as integrated circuits(ICs). Discrete DACs would typically be extremely high speed low resolution power hungry types, as used in military radar systems. Very high speed test equipment, especially sampling oscilloscopes, may also use discrete DACs.
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