I bought the Chord Qutest digital-analogue converter (DAC) which retails at $1700. Why? Doesn’t the laptop have a DAC inside so that you can just plug the audio cable into the laptop? Well, because I don’t want to listen to what is basically noise with some music in it, and I want the most accurate representation of the music possible. Why? Because this is necessary in order to elicit the emotional response that you get in a live music performance. What you get coming out of the laptop DAC is noisy, inaccurate, lacking depth or dynamics. It’s basically a low resolution facsimile of the original recording. If you want something that sounds like a live performance you need to spend some money. To go with the DAC I bought the ELAC Debut Reference speakers and an NAD C316BEE V2 amp. Still waiting for the amp to arrive to report on the sound of that. But even on my existing budget system the DAC sounds fantastic. Here’s a technical explanation of the technology behind Chord DAC’s.