(photos: Audioengine) Audioengine D1 & D2 24-Bit DAC | from US$169.00 | audioengineusa.com
let’s be honest: we hate to be ripped off by poor sound reproduction from our laptop and to that end, hooking up insanely good speakers via your 3.5mm audio jack isn’t going to get you any better sound. what we need is a Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) that will bypass that measly soundcard and the audio jack altogether, and squeeze every single drop of digital goodness out via its USB, or better yet, an optical-out, if any. that’s where the $169 D1 from Audioengine comes into play. it will process digital audio at any bit depth up to 24 bits and any sample rate to 192KHz and features high signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion that promise to deliver “sound quality generally heard only in more expensive DACs.” The D1’s I/Os are ample, which include a headphone output, RCA outputs, S/PDIF (optical) input and USB input. the latter also doubles as the power source for the D1. however, if you have a little more cash to splurge, the Burr-Brown PCM1792 DAC-based D2 24-Bits DAC ($599), provides a wireless solution for your DAC needs. it offers the goodness and features similar to D1 but with the addition of wireless streaming of HD audio from your computer to any music system without being tied down to your WiFi network. click through for a few more images of the D1 and D2 DAC.