Digital-to-analog converter

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In electronics, a digital-to-analog converter (DAC or D-to-A) is a device that converts a digital (usually binary) code to an analog signal (current, voltage, or electric charge). An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) performs the reverse operation.


Basic ideal operation

A DAC converts an abstract finite-precision number (usually a fixed-point binary number) into a concrete physical quantity (e.g., a voltage or a pressure). In particular, DACs are often used to convert finite-precision time series data to a continually varying physical signal.

A typical DAC converts the abstract numbers into a concrete sequence of impulses that are then processed by a reconstruction filter using some form of interpolation to fill in data between the impulses. Other DAC methods (e.g., methods based on Delta-sigma modulation) produce a pulse-density modulated signal that can then be filtered in a similar way to produce a smoothly varying signal.

By the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem, sampled data can be reconstructed perfectly provided that its bandwidth meets certain requirements (e.g., a baseband signal with bandwidth less than the Nyquist frequency; BUT requires an infinite number of samples. The finite number used in real life cause other problems especially with the D/A reconstruction of the original signal. However, even with an ideal reconstruction filter, digital sampling introduces quantization error that makes perfect reconstruction practically impossible. Increasing the digital resolution (i.e., increasing the number of bits used in each sample) or introducing sampling dither can reduce this error.

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