Computer Hardware

Best Audio Converter Devices Available Today

May 12, 2021 • 10 min read

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What is an Audio Conversion Device?

Before we get to some recommendations, let's talk a bit about why you need a device like this. Plain and simple, an audio conversion device – a physical type of audio converter – takes your analog audio and formats it into a usable digital file or vice versa.

Old school silver cassette player, Image Source

On the surface, you may be wondering why it's worth it to spend time and money devoted to researching this particular area? Wouldn't the process of converting audio be the same regardless of the type of audio conversion device used?

Yes and no.

The issue is, when you are dealing with analog audio (cassette tape or a vinyl record, for example), there are a lot of ways in which the audio can become distorted if you aren't using the right equipment. When you are converting from digital to analog it can get even messier, as many digital audio files may have been recorded and created differently. Then they need to be changed to a different format – messing with multiple data points in the file.

There are a lot of options for audio converter programs online that will help if you have a piece of audio saved in a file format that doesn't work with the device you are trying to play audio on. However, those are completely different from the physical audio conversion device or audio conversion equipment needed to convert a digital file.

So, whether you are trying to play your old cassette tapes, vinyl records on your smartphone, or setting up a home theater system with multiple pieces of audio conversion equipment, you will need a high-quality audio conversion device.


What Does an Audio Converter Do?

A laptop with sound file being played, Image Source

An audio converter essentially takes a non-digital, or analog, piece of audio and recreates it into a digital file format. This process is called audio conversion.

The longer answer, though, is a little more complicated. It’s helpful to understand the entire process so you know what to look for when searching for the best audio conversion equipment.


How an Audio Conversion Device Works

An audio conversion device works by repeatedly measuring the volume, or amplitude, of an incoming analog sound wave, via electrical voltage, and recording these on a graph as binary bytes. This creates a type of "audio picture" using the data points of audio being recorded.

From there, this "audio picture" is pieced together like a connect-the-dot activity to recreate the sound waves from the audio in a digital file format.

Let's say you have more data points which you can use as "dots" to connect to form your picture. The picture will be more detailed, yes?

This is called sample frequency in audio conversion equipment.

The higher the sample frequency, the higher the quality of the converted digital file. This is commonly seen in podcasts, as a popular example. Although the files are being converted digitally they are often recorded at different sample frequencies. This is why some podcasts seem to have much higher sound quality than others in addition to their production equipment.

When you are trying to choose the best audio conversion equipment for your project you need to consider sample frequency at the top of your list. If you use an audio conversion device that has a low sample frequency, then you may notice something called aliasing, which will cause a lot of distortion in the audio quality whether going from analog to digital or vice versa.


Do I Need a Digital to Analog Converter, or an Analog to Digital Converter?

Monochrome amp with lots of cables, Image Source

This is the second consideration on your list to keep in mind when picking the best audio conversion equipment for your project.

There are two basic types of audio conversion devices: digital to analog and analog to digital.

You will sometimes see digital to analog typed as D/A or DAC and you may see analog to digital as A/D or ADC. Keep these in mind during your search so there is no confusion.

You will need to purchase the correct audio conversion device to make sure you are converting your audio in the right direction. They both perform the same functions, but, obviously, convert from either digital to analog or from analog to digital.

And, speaking of equipment, let’s jump into our recommendations for the best audio converter devices.


The Best Audio Conversion Equipment

Understanding what to look for while deciding on the best audio conversion equipment for your particular project is half the battle. What's the other half of the battle? Knowing what some of those best options are. 

Here are our top recommendations for both DAC and ADC audio conversion devices as well as our #1 pick, a bidirectional audio converter that can serve as either a DAC or ADC.

Each one of those would be a great choice for an audio converter no matter what your project may be. They will give you the best audio quality possible while making the entire process smoother.


Best Digital to Analog Audio Converter

FiiO Q5 Series

The competition is fierce for DACs as they are the most common type of audio converter and the most common type of audio conversion project. However, a great audio conversion device doesn't have to break the bank to be an amazing choice for your DAC project.

Our top choice for the best audio conversion equipment when it comes to a DAC is the FiiO Q5 series.

FiiO is a brand known for its high-resolution audio players, and this particular model is no slacker. The best part? It can work with wireless audio gear, too.

It is small and portable and can play DSD (direct stream digital) files, the current highest quality audio format available. It can connect with computers, laptops, iOS and Android devices, and just about anything else you can think of with no problems. With a maximum sample frequency of 384 kHz you will have absolutely no problems with sound quality during conversion on this device.

The sheer versatility alone sets this audio conversion device as one of our all-time favorite options because you can use it just about anywhere with just about any device at just about any level of audio quality imaginable. There truly is nothing better, in our humble opinion.

It's a popular item and may be out of stock at times, but you can contact SabrePC to find out when it will be available again and get notified.


Best Analog to Digital Audio Converter

KanexPro Analog to Digital Audio Converter

The great news about ADC devices is that many of your analog needs are at a lower sample frequency, which means they don't take a ton of tech to produce great sound quality.

With this in mind, we are huge fans of the KanexPro Analog to Digital Audio Converter. It has all the power you need for your ADC needs without breaking the bank. With a sample frequency up to 48kHz and noiseless conversion this ADC is a no-brainer!

Features

  • Supports uncompressed LPCM digital audio output
  • Supports output sampling rate at 48 KHz
  • Provides electromagnetic-noise-free transmission
  • Easy to install and simple to operate
  • Compact size
  • Power supply included

Best Audio Conversion Device On the Market

AJA Audio A/D and D/A Converter

If you are looking for the best audio conversion equipment for any project at all, we highly recommend the AJA Audio A/D and D/A Converter.

The obvious benefit to the audio conversion device is that it is bi-directional, which means you can use it as an A/D (ADC) or D/A (DAC) audio converter. So you can buy one device that will do everything for you.

It may not have all the bells and whistles that the FiiO Q5 series has for a DAC but it packs quite a punch with a max sample frequency of 96 kHz and even a 24-bit maximum bit depth so sound files don't get truncated and distorted.

Features

  • Simultaneous A/D and D/A, or AES Synchronizer
  • Full-time AES11 low jitter reference output
  • Up to 4 channels of balanced analog to AES/EBU audio
  • Up to 4 channels of AES/EBU to balanced analog audio
  • Supplied XLR breakout cable
  • AES11/Wordclock/Tri-level Sync/Color Black Reference Loop
  • Adjustable Audio Levels
  • Sample Rate Conversion Between 96KHz and 48KHz
  • Dipswitch configuration 5-18VDC Power
  • Universal Power Supply (UPS)

Get More Helpful Insights in Other Articles

Overall, there are a lot of great options out there for audio converters. If you are looking for the best audio conversion equipment, though, then we would recommend looking no further than the AJA Audio A/D and D/A Converter.

Do you have other suggestions for the best audio converter? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

You can find other articles and comparisons on the SabrePC blog. Keep a lookout for more helpful articles that will be on the way soon. If you have any questions or want to suggest some other topics for us to focus on, please feel free to contact us.

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