Mac Mini owners with DACs

Discussion in 'DACs' started by Donal64, Dec 25, 2017.

  1. Donal64

    Donal64 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I have a late 2012 Mac Mini 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, and was just gifted a late 2014 Mac Mini 3 GHz i7. I have my CDs digitized to Apple Lossless and stored on an external hard drive and use itunes for playback. I have Boston computer speakers with a sub. I listen to most of my music with my computer, sometimes with headphones. I'm also planning on buying a pair of 300 ohm headphones- Sennheiser HD600.I think it sounds really good as is, but, I keep hearing that a dac will improve the sound. I would like to hear from Mac Mini owners what their opinion is. Is the improvement slight or very noticeable? Also, how much would it cost? Just any inexpensive $20 dac? All opinions appreciated.
     

     

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  2. JoelMart2017

    JoelMart2017 Active Member

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  3. Danddd

    Danddd AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I digitized all my music in 2016 to a Mac Mini and use Tidal with a Beresford SEG DAC. Used the internal HD and back up daily. I found Audirvana to really improve the sound. Incorporates Tidal too. There is a trial to test it out. https://audirvana.com/
     
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  4. SiliconTi

    SiliconTi AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Internal DAC is not too bad. You could do better, but it may not be worth the $200 or so.

    Then again, the Audio Quest Dragonflys are cheap and well regarded for headphone/powered speakers use.
     
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  5. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    I use a Mac Mini and have mine connected to a Schiit Modi 2 which then feeds my preamp. I'm not trying to promote their brand or anything like that but for about a hundy dollars it was well worth it the cost.

    http://www.schiit.com/products/modi-2
     
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  6. mythrenegade

    mythrenegade New Member

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    Do NOT go with a $20 DAC. I assumed they were fine until I noticed my CD’s sounded better than my Media Server rips of the same material. I was using a cheap DAC from amazon to connect my AppleTV 2 to my 2 channel system (I stream to the ATV using Home Sharing from my mini and run the ATV headless. Works with ATV 1-3 but not 4 unfortunately).

    I went with a Schiit Modi Multibit and I’m extremely pleased.

    But before you spend any money, what are you hoping to gain? If you want better sound the first place to start is with better headphones or streaming to a nice music system.

    Joel
     
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  7. Donal64

    Donal64 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I don't know if there is anything to gain. That's why I wanted to hear from Mac Mini owners who use an external DAC. I read that so many people think an external DAC provides an improvement in sound quality, as compared to an onboard DAC in the computer. On the other hand, I've read that some people think the Mac Mini is good as is, and that an external DAC would not offer a significant improvement in sound quality. If there is no significant improvement in sound quality with an external DAC on the Mac Mini, I'll save some money by not spending on a DAC. I have some decent, to me headphones. Looking towards the Sennheiser HD600s.
     
  8. JoelMart2017

    JoelMart2017 Active Member

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    I don't have a MacBook anymore but my Lenovo Yoga has builtin Dolby Audio and sounds pretty good when I stream Pandora, I have this connected to my Kenwood 700C. I don't have an external DAC to test it against though.
     
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  9. pdm4606

    pdm4606 Super Member

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    My Mac Mini uses the optical output to convert for my Marantz 1060 then onto my AR-7's. The DAC is one of those cheapos on the bay. I guess I paid around $8.

    I also have a pair of DAC's on our living room setup coming from the TV to a small graphic equalizer. This is done to tame down a heavy 400 HZ boom in the living room. Then onto my Onkyo to feed the 8 JBL speakers around the big TV. Another is used to record on my Awai 4000 deck via fiber optic from the Mac Mini. I have to switch as I have not found a good optic switch to change optic signals from the Marantz to recording on the Awai. The Awai is on the other side of the room and the fiber optic signal gets there distortion free.
    I have never paid over $10 for the DAC's.
     
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  10. Hipocrates

    Hipocrates Anti-Muppet Subscriber

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    yes if you use a decent dac
    I would aim for 250 or so.
     
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  11. cnolanh

    cnolanh Ad astra Subscriber

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    I have a 2014 Mac Mini that functions as (among other things) a music server. It sends optical digital out into an Oppo BDP-105 which functions as a very capable DAC. To my ears lossless files played from the Mini through the Oppo sound just like CDs played through the Oppo. As they should — and the sound is excellent.

    I haven’t recently compared the Mac Mini’s analog output directly with the Oppo’s output. I do have a Fostex DAT deck with a thin, constrained-sounding DAC built in, and the improvement is obvious when I play back DATs via the Oppo’s DAC. So at least I can report that not all DACs are equal.
     
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  12. Donal64

    Donal64 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I like the older Lenovo laptops.:)
     
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  13. SPEC2man

    SPEC2man Are we there yet? Subscriber

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    I'm running a 2016 Mac Mini with an M2Tech HiFace EVO 2 USB to S/PDIF converter which feeds a Mark Levinson 360s. The 360s also gets digital input from a Wadia no 23 CDP, Sonos Connect and a feed from my Dell Latitude laptop. I bought a cheap S/PDIF converter for the Dell just to A/B the Apple setup. The one piece of the system I would keep is the DAC. It's the most critical component in my opinion. The extra resolution I get out of the Apple setup is most evident when I A/B the Sonos. I mostly stream Amazon music and Pandora from the Sonos and as one might expect the Apple lossless files sound far superior to these old ears. That being said - the Levinson DAC is a champion. I might play around with one of the newer Modwright Oppo Sonica DACS in a few years but I doubt I will ever part with the Levinson. It's output is very consistent regardless of the digital input. To be honest, I am considering pulling out all 3000 of my CDs (long stored away) and going back to spinning CD's along with LPs. I mainly stream music in the AM for convenience and when I get serious I fire up the Apple. I am running iTunes with the Pure Music plug-in. In short the Pure Music plug-in is a pain and I lose sound output every time I play with settings. The whole setup seem too complicated to me. I can't stand the iTunes interface - much prefer Foobar 2000 for the PC but I thought the Apple had better quality sound output. I have been hooking PCs to computers for sound output since early 2000's and I have seen the sound quality go through the roof. The newer HD Tracks are pretty spectacular when fed through the proper system but again, I think it's all become a giant pain in the ass.

    I don't mean to rant, the issues I face with my setup could be mitigated by spending more time with the system and documenting my changes. With computers; a systematic approach always seems to yield the best results. A few emails to Pure Music and 3-4 hours on the Apple iTunes forum could probably teach me enough to keep my CDs in storage. The problem is; time, I just don't seem to have much of it anymore. When I want to hear "Damn the Torpedoes" I don't want to go to a forum to figure out how to tweak software to get a desired result. All that said: I think finding a good quality DAC can really make any digital source sound engaging. I spend plenty of time on the analog forums and love my LPs but a really good digital setup can take me to the same place with a lot less setup time.
     
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  14. mythrenegade

    mythrenegade New Member

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    The issue is the pure music plug in. Dump it. I have zero issues using iTunes from my mini. I keep it running and I use the remote app on my iOS devices as my control. I enjoy my music and spend zero time fussing. For my two channel system I stream the music to a headless AppleTV using home sharing. That’s where I added a DAC because the ATV doesn’t have analog out and my receiver doesn’t have toslink in. Enter the Modi Multibit.

    Joel
     
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  15. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    I would dump iTunes on any platform. There are better systems out there now. Just me.
     
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  16. Danddd

    Danddd AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I would definitely, without a doubt use an external DAC. I just received my Beresford SEG DAC w/headphone jack $260.00 delivered. I was auditioning a Rega DAC R and NAD M51 at more than four to eight times the price and the Beresford won out. That being said, it was for my main listening system. On my computer in my office I use Audioengine speakers and D1 DAC. I guess it is a matter of how much critical listening you do at where you're listening.
     
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  17. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    The OP states that his CD's have been converted to Apple Lossless, would the better systems you mention be able to play Apple Lossless? Just curious is all and I woudn't mind trying something different on my end.
     
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  18. louisjames

    louisjames The "real" Louis James Subscriber

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    My 2012 mini is setup with Audirvana and I have the Audirvana remote software running on my phone, tablet, etc. Mini goes to a Audio-gd DAC via USB and then into my preamp. Having a good, stand alone DAC made a big difference as did other tweaks like making sure the DAC is on it's own USB port, etc. There are many excellent, cost effective DAC's available so you don't have to spend a lot to get a nice step up in SQ. I personally like Audio-gd, but Schiit is good and there are several good choices on Massdrop including the fan favorite SMSL M8. As for software I like Audirvana best but have used Jriver and with good results.
     
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  19. prisoners

    prisoners AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I have essentially the same computer and I also use an external HD. I've used a few DACs including the first generation Dragonfly, a Peachtree iDac, and my current setup of a Music Hall 25.2.

    I thought the Dragonfly made a nice improvement and would still be using it except I added some sources and needed more digital inputs. I'm very happy with the Music Hall (which is also a pretty nice headphone amp). I can recommend without hesitation.
     
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  20. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    See louisjames below your post :D
     
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