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Whenever I run into information about DAC, it seems to be related to audio processing. Are there any other use cases where DAC might be useful, or have any advantages over regular ADC PWM output on an Arduino?

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DACs have many uses outside the realm of audio.

Basically a DAC is used any time you want to generate a specific voltage for whatever you need it for - that could be to generate a waveform for audio, or it could be for any other situation, such as:

  • Setting an offset point for an op-amp
  • Creating a comparison voltage for comparing another signal to
  • Controlling the bias voltage of a transistor
  • Generating a specific reference voltage for an external (or even the internal) ADC

The list goes on. There are many places you would want to use a DAC. And why a DAC above PWM? Well basically it boils down to:

  • Precision - the DAC can generate a more precise voltage than a filtered PWM signal
  • Noise - the DAC generates a much smoother voltage with better response than filtered PWM which either has switching noise and fast response or less switching noise and delays in voltage level changes.
  • Thanks. Out of curiosity, would there be any benefits to using DAC for dimming LED bulbs, instead of just using PWM outputs? – Jerry Oct 27 '15 at 18:00
  • No. LEDs work best with PWM. – Majenko Oct 27 '15 at 18:00
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They are incredibly useful. They are essentially how you deal with the analog world.

For example, I'm using two of them in a project here that uses a frequency generator and a couple of op-amps to create a VSWR bridge, allowing me to figure out the resonant frequencies of an antenna... The parts with the arduino cost less than $20... Buying something that does the same thing is about $300!

So, yes, they are very useful. :)

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