Aug 4, 201676624 views

If you have a MAC, you don't need a DAC

If your music library is coming out of a MacBook Pro, the internal DAC is already extremely good. Adding a dedicated DAC will not yield meaningful improvement. Thoughts? Discuss.
Geo Rivera, TubeHead35, and 16 others

I agree that macs have good DAC's but there is still improvement that could be made by upgrading.
I agree. the Mac’s Cirrus Logic or Wolfson DACs (depending on Mac’s model) are 1st class Delta Sigma DACs. By the way Cirrus Logic owns Wolfson, same manufacturer since Wolfson was acquired a few years ago... The only DACs that could make a sensible difference (and the debate is out whether it is sensibly better or not) are multibit DACs such as in my five CD players I own (all with TDA1541 multibit Philips DAC). It would be great for Massdrop to offer a lower cost IC multibit DAC, probably based around the Analog Devices chip or maybe a Burr Brown (Now Texas Instruments) multibit chip (are they still manufactured ?). The only multibit DAC offered by Massdrop at this time are discrete component multibit DACs, far more expensive and probably more difficult to calibrate to perfect linearity than IC DACs. The only drawback in the case of internal DACs in Mac computers is their relatively low voltage output... about 1V to 1.5V depending on models. This drawback may not be a drawback depending on headphones used, their impedance and their efficiency. Worst case you may add on a headphone amp at the Mac’s output and still use the premium DAC inside the Mac. Just my 2 cents of personal opinion in the matter...
i have a Imac 2011 27 inch fully spec'ed out and the dac sounds better than most pc on board audio and plugging it into a dac is more clean but the Imac still has a good amp it still wont drive anything high OHM properly, but its still good for high end headphones if you don't have a dac but I would strongly recommend a dac for audiophiles, that is at least if you have a high end pair of headphones.
With the Onkyo HF app and plugin through my Oppo HA-2se or HA-1, I can hear a difference between 96, 192, 384 and it's not always better. seems like apple is cutting costs on DAC. newer macs would benefit from external DAC.
The 2018 now supports 96Khz again.
I'm sitting and listening to MBA 2013, MBP 2018, and EMU 0202 (which is super old monitor) of Yello-Babby(1991) recorded in FLAC using Grado SR60e. There is noticeable difference. Both Macs sound very plain. And I'm not really into music in general.
I've never been impressed by Apple audio anything. Going back to the iPods sound was poor. iRiver had them beat and the ZUNE (yes ZUNE) was a substantial improvement to the Apple products. I can't say MBP's are great either. Depending on the HP's you're using, you'll benefit from a DAC and Amp. Fanbois chime in below...
Spoken like a guy who owns...sorry, what Mac did you say you own again?
Macbook pros can only output 192 kHz, a Fiio K3 dac/amp for example can output 384kHz. Don't know about you but I can hear the difference between 192kHz music and 320kHz music.
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I don't see anyone actually charging more money for these DAC chips that are capable of delivering multiples of 32 bit, 48 kHz output, Per Se. The technology is such that there is no restriction that would prevent the technology from delivering these chipsets based on their inherent ability to deliver these multiples at little to no extra cost. In other words, the ability to have a 128 bit, 1536 kHz DAC would not cost that much more to produce, if any at all, than the lower frequency chips. The question at hand is whether the altered output waveform would be discernibly different than the basic output, that doesn't contain these multiple frequencies in the output waveform. The comparison to a gimmick, such as X Ray glasses, is inconsequential to the discussion, as the presence of multiple frequencies is REAL, and actually exists in the waveform (if purposefully implemented). My theory is based on the resonant and dissonant multiple outputs of a sine wave affording the human ear the ability to discern the difference in a slightly audible way. Just like the way a subwoofer has the ability to change the output waveform 180 degrees by the flick of a switch, one of the reasons would be the prevention of "Doubling" and "Tripling" of the waveform, the output will have some audible undertones created by the presence of these multiples. These multiples could actually be detrimental to the output if implemented incorrectly, like being out of phase, or having peaks that occur at the same time as the base frequency, causing the doubling of the audio waveform output. There is a simple explanation for the 180 degree frequency phase switch on the back of most subwoofers, and a valid discussion can be made that questions the validity of an output waveform that contains multiples of the base frequency being present in the output audio waveform. I am interested to see if these multiples can be beneficial to the output waveform, and would like to see someone expound on this theory with an unbiased intent.
You literally cannot hear the difference between 192khz and 384khz, period. It's not humanly possible. 100% placebo.
have you ever tried any DAC? Firstly, there is lots of distortion in the mainboard which need a lot of stuff to eliminate them, do you thing Apple does and have enough space to do so? Secondly, Apple has never focus on sound quality, since they are still selling AAC in iTunes and no hires track can be found.
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Are you living five years in the past? That or you're using pretty dated Apple hardware, seeing how they switched over to having USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 be the only I/O ports available on all their phones/tablets (except the iPhone SE, but I think they've dropped that from their lineup by now) and all of their laptops. I'd imagine that the iMac and iMac Pro may still have a 3.5mm audio jack + other ports (I'd need to double check to say for sure), but other than that, Apple made the bold decision of only having USB-C ports on their devices quite some time ago. How about you do some research before telling someone they're wrong.
Like I said: "Got headphone jacks in ALL my many Apple devices" and if I didn't, I'd know how to resolve the issue, if I thought it was an issue. How about you do some work on that anemic little number next to your oh-so-clever user name before you make an ass of yourself again? Alternatively, you could just by a Mac--you'll still be a bit of a jerk, but you'll look smarter.
If I only had what I "needed" I'd be stinking rich.
This is kind of risky thing to assume. I mean MacBook pros I used to tinker with for DIY had wide ranges of ICs that were compatible and interchangeable ie) LCD drivers, SMB ICs, etc. I don't think audio DAC is any different. Also, it's usually the amplifier that people notice especially if they have those hi impedence stuffs. Finally, DAC ICs are very cheap, even those with ridiculous widths or SNR, and it's reflected on various under 100usd USB DACSLs that are available. And with those, you know which DAC ICs you are actually buying.
Flour is cheap. It's how you put it to use that makes Blue Ribbon quality baked goods. Just saying.
Computer manufacturers buy chip in sets and in bulk based mostly on price point they're trying to meet and the resulting set of marketing specs and features for the model they're building. The vast majority of them, including, in my experience, Apple, don't put any more thought into the DAC chip than they do into the chip that runs the CPU fan. There are standards, supplier considerations, etc. They are at liberty to choose the cheapest set because nobody knows the difference. The big manufacturers have some special feature models that sometimes include a better-than-average DAC. I had a really nice-sounding Sony laptop once. But by and large it's all interchangeable lowest-bidder stuff in there. Also, the inside of your average computer is a mass of electromagnetic signals bouncing around in a tightly packed can of heat and vibration. You don't have to get into speakers that are bi-amped by four monoblocks to realize that a little isolation is a good thing.
Dream on..... Yes if you got 20$ headset, then yes. BUT if you got any seriosly called hifi headphones then h€ll no.
Oh look! Another little bee has buzzed in to give us his learned opinion on a product he neither owns nor has knowledge of... Take a number, fat-boy there's a line here!
I beg to differ. My whole house is run by Macintosh computers and I use a Mac Mini for my HT media controller. The internal DAC is abysmal at best and it's best to use an external DAC. You can use the 3.5mm as an Optical output on most older Mac's and it's a far cleaner signal than the USB coming out of the Mac. USB will have better bit rates but the Optical is by far the cleanest signal from a Mac. I have an Audiophile DAC on 2 of my Mac's and the wife's 27" iMac has no external DAC, just a pair of great Multimedia speakers. I also find that Mac's in general don't have much drive for 600 Ohm headphones so an external amp or DAC/AMP offers much improved drive and sound quality with Audiophile cans. If you're a BOSE type of person (like my wife) the internal DAC and output should be more than sufficient for your needs.
Well.. I have AKG K7XX and old MacBook Pro Retina one of the "middle" versions . Sometimes the internal DAC just can't drive headphones, not enough power . Maybe - it's just a matter of my _specific_ computer. Just saying.
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or you mean one-direction only oriented extra-pure non-oxigen copper.? :-) I am not an audiocrazy :-) Just having a bad laptop. An hence it had been bought in NY, while I've been living here, almost 5 years ago, no ways of any warranty fix can be done here in Europe. So - using external DAC - is a natural solution. Plus - I can use it with some other devices. So once more - generally the MacBook Pro audiochain is good enough. Unless you unlucky.
Luck is everything (timing is everything else ;- )
Let's all try to remember the title of this post says "IF you HAVE a Mac..." which implies/suggests that if you don't HAVE a Mac, this thread may not apply to you, and more importantly, you may not actually be qualified to discuss Macs. It would be pretty much the same as if someone created a thread called "How to Have Great Sex"--you wouldn't expect great input from all the Virgins in the audience. Not that there's anything wrong with being a virgin, it's just that as a group, they don't know shit about sex.
(Edited by moderator AlexPk)
This is the single greatest bait thread on this website.
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Motherboard repair--while you wait!


LOL @ this whole thread.
Yes. I bought an external sound card (Hifime) and sold it again immediately. With a Koss Porta Pro you have a pretty good sound on the jack port. Not audiophile but - in terms of price - surprisingly good!
Well technically correct. You don't "need" a DAC to output music from your Mac. But in my experience with MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and MacPro, adding even a lowly $50 used Audioquest Dragonfly or a 15 year old M-Audio DAC made a noticeable improvement to the sound quality; with both headphones and external systems. Also most Macs, until the current generation of MacBooks, have a combination audio out that accepts a mini TOSLINK optical plug. It's worth exploring this as an alternative to USB for which digital flavor sounds best in your setup.
Unfortunately, as usual, this will be a non-sense discussion and a never ending fight, like much other with a "qualitative" subject : like PC vs. MAC (i. e. Windows vs. OSX) or Bluetooth vs. Wifi audio. Please, ask somebody of a top level digital audio industry, like Prism Audio in UK or anybody else with the same expertise, to make a series of measurements and you'll be definitely convinced without any possible other discussion... Et voilà !... Please : do it !...
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Define "decent DAC" and then prey tell, which of your Macs did you connect it to, and how did you measure the resulting output?
Speaking of reading skills, the title of this thread doesn't say didly-squat about "Audiophile" anything. I assume you, like all the Dell, HP and Gateway boys here, threw that into the conversation because having connected some $99 hunk of external MD/Chinese crap to your little beige box (and downloaded your little driver to make it go), you now consider yourself Audiophile savants--on top of being intimately familiar with a computer you've never owned? I like that about you guys--you're entertaining.
Their not the best but they are definitely better than most. A professional grade DAC will usually give the best possible experience while using high impedance audio equipment. Apple products are definitely using good grade hardware but they are still pieces of mass consumer electronics. Comprises will always be made in this case.
Every computer has a "MAC" and most refrigerators have a MAC if they are connected to the "net. oh, wait - I am guessing you really mean "Mac" as in "OSX Machine" and not a PowerBook G3.
What's to discuss? You are wrong, however.
I can only speak on the mobile side, on testing on my mom's iPhone 8 plus and my own g6 the g6 blows the iPhone away while I was testing with my high impedance headphones, the g6 was able to power my dt880 600 ohms even though I had to turn the volume up a whole lot but the iPhone wasn't able to do it, and while testing with my earpiece with the same source I found the imaging better on the non iPhone. However that being said, neither of the sources are really comparable with my X7 1st gen. Another thing to note is that I passed my sister my old X5 gen 1 and after switching from her iPhone 7 she found it a lot better and has not gone back to the iphone since.
the internal DAC on a MacBook Pro is not "extremely good". the end.
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also this has been extremely bugging me ngl; it’s purple not pink
I was torn between the two; small photo and all—besides, you know how bad the colors are on a 27” Retina display ;- )
I usually do t comment on things oike this because it spurs the MAC/PC/audiophile whats better thing, but I personally disagree, especially since i have seen the inside of said magical Mac devices abd I can assure you there is little to no isolation for the sound board on the motherboard, a DAC is designed with isolation in mind for both power and stray signal. Also, I have had several audiophile designed motherboards for my PC, where they shield and isolate the entire audio path from the rest of the board, sonetimes to tye point where they use a small Faraday cage. this makes a ton of difference. External DACs, as long as they are properly constructed, will blow away anything the supposed magic fruit can do. This includes the iPod and iPad devices, especially since they have gotten rid of the hedphone jack so now they transit over a connector that us used for power delivery so it is inherently noisy. Mechanically speaking there is no internal DAC from Apple that can supply the clarity and goid sound that a well built external DAC can.
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RayF Comment hidden

Had a 2012 non-retina MBP 15". Lots of hiss and noise from the headphone jack. Even if the internal DAC is good, given the issues I had the laptop was useless for music without an external DAC/amp.
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I use some Sennheiser H280s much of the time. And some olde Apple earbuds . And my earphones I got here - I forgot the name right now. On Mac Mini 2012, iPhone 4, iPhone 5s and MacBook Air 2012. Also sound just fine, maybe not as good as the tube amp....
True, I'd say that they try and do a pretty okay job trying to boost the sound by focusing solely on a built in Amp. But I don't think they have a good DAC.
Apple uses better DACs than just about any pc laptop which is easily verifiable or other type of smartphones as well. Not only do we know what they use there are measurements of them. I do use an external dac/amp in some cases but it’s probably the amp making more of the difference.
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I was just trying to associate the two terms as best I could. The word "signal" can be used in one stage of the process that is applied to this conversation, as it is just a misnomer for this persons perceived concept of how a digital file is perceived by the output stage of a digital DAC converter. I was merely trying to play the name game in order to conjure up the concept of how a source file is converted through the DAC chip and the output is coming out as an analog "signal" (if you will) waveform that the output stage can recognize. I knew what he meant, but like you said, the nomenclature was in need of an explanation.
Being 100% sure you hear differences, and then not being able to pass even a simple blind test is very common. It's kind of an audiophile rite of passage. I urge people not to comment until they have at least tried to eliminate sighted bias.