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After you have finished the recording process in a digital recording rig, the quality of the information you hear will be determined by the D/A, or Digital to Analog converter in your interface. A quality D/A converter is key to printing a tight, clear, and full sounding mix.
If you are simply bouncing a file out of your DAW, the D/A converter will determine how all the audio information is bundled together. With a lower quality converter, the mix will play back as “hollow” or “thin” sounding compared to how you were hearing it through your monitors before the print. A higher quality converter will stay true to all the processing happening on the computer and have more accurate translation between listening environments.
If you are connecting your digital recording rig to an analog desk, it is very important to have the highest quality converter for your budget. You want the digital information to be as clean as possible when it hits the desk, if the signal is lower quality coming out of the DAW, sounding thin and hollow as mentioned before, the magic of the analog desk will amplify those poor qualities of the digital signal.
Before looking into purchasing a D/A converter, figure out how many outputs you are looking to use. In a smaller project studio, you may be fine with two to four outputs, which would be enough to monitor the digital audio, and also have a headphone mix. In a commercial studio setup, or with the use of an analog desk, you may want to go with a larger option such as the Avid HD I/O or the Burl Mothership, which will send the highest quality signal from your computer to the desk.
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