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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.

May 19, 2023
This is even more true today:
Apr 13, 2022
Anecdotal account: Various Dell, HP laptops (not cheap) plugged directly in to Audioengine A2 powered speakers via headphone port (using DAC in the windows laptops) sounded like crap. Bad, cheap DAC in those laptops. Adding an Audioengine D1 DAC to these widows laptops helped immensely. Dell laptop USB (digital output) --> Audioengine DAC --> Audioengine A2 speakers = great, pleasing sound for daily listening, if the bass was a bit weak. Now - I would say that plugging my late 2014 Mac mini into either those A2s or my powered Edifier 1280dbs speakers, using the internal MAC mini DAC sounds about as good as the windows/audioengine DAC/A2 combo. So - in conclusion, anecdotally, the internal late 2014 MAC Mini DAC is very close to the external Audioengine D1 - at least to my ears, with the speakers used and the files used. I could definitely hear a difference between any windows laptop DAC I've ever used and the MAC DAC. Mac was simply much better out of the box.
Mar 29, 2022 Food for thought.
Dec 25, 2021
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. "Will not yield meaningful improvement" Do you mean objectively like in terms of measurements? If you mean subjectively that is just personal opinion which is case by case. The macbook dac may not offer sound that a schiit multibit, or R2R dac will offer. Then objectively dacs can all measure the same but still dacs subjectively sound subtle different from each other which can make all difference to a person. Amps can measure the same but the chips or what class amp is can change sound between amp to amp. All in all it is ones individuals needs and circumstance that will determine the need for a dedicated dac. Apple isn't different then other computer manufacture in the personal computer market. No manufacture has really raised the bar in the audio segment compared to personal, professional and home audio. To be honest the pc market can't but they can provide the best audio in terms of pc market but many consumers don't need beyond what "x" pc can provide. Macbook Pro dac is the best in it's class and it meets most average consumers needs so yes, the dac in Macbook Pro will not yield meaningful improvement for the average consumer. We also haven't got into balanced, mqa, and alex cavalli featured dacs and what they offer so the Macboock Pro dac is good for mac but hardly world changing. It's just a good Apple product and leave it at that.
Dec 25, 2021
Nov 11, 2021
Still using an early 2009 MB Pro, does anyone know the sample rate for audio playback or where I can find those specs? Also, would my MDR-7506's benefit from a third party DAC?
Oct 19, 2021
Some Macs run a higher-resolution coaxial signal out of the headphone socket for the use of an external DAC with potentially better SQ... Some Macs also support optical digital audio output via the headphone audio port. Use a Toslink cable with a Toslink mini-plug adapter or a fibre-optic cable with a 3.5mm plastic or nylon optical plug. To check if optical digital audio is available on your Mac, see the Apple Support article Play high sample rate digital audio on Mac computers.

The audio hardware in some MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and iMac computers supports 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz digital audio when connected using optical output.

These computers support up to 192 kHz sample rate for audio playback:
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) through MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) through MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)
  • iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2014) through iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2014)
  • iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, Late 2015)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014) through iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013) 
  • Mac mini (Late 2014) 
Oct 18, 2021
Regardless of the quality, you won't get a balanced output unless you get an external dac. Balanced output is an important upgrade if you're using an amp with balanced input.
Jul 27, 2021
The internal dac, in any computer, is subject to interference from the other components in the computer. By adding an external device it is possible to isolate the USB noise, reclock the digital signal and use a dac with a different tonal balance. An external dac/amp may also improve the power used to drive your headphones or iems.
Mar 27, 2021
I regret reading any part of this no-life toxicity. I was simply looking for technical specs on the 3.5mm port for an M1 Mini, if anyone has those please share.
Oct 18, 2021
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