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Thread: Audiophile output on Mac OSX

  1. #21
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Long Stratton, Norfolk

    Posts: 4,238
    I'm Rob.

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    Good luck Alex.
    .
    Evolution: One man's preposterous and non-sensical hypothesis based on the death of his daughter, now sadly taught as fact. Evidence to the contrary.

  2. #22
    Join Date: Mar 2008

    Location: Woking

    Posts: 90

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    I've been a MacAddict for the last 15 years! However it has been the last generation of Macs that has pushed me towards computer audio, just because of its conveniences and, now, its audiophile possibilities. I'll keep ye all posted...
    One is a sinner. One is a saint, but most of us worry about showing up late. Pete Townshend - Street in The City

  3. #23
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Posts: 14

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    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for starting this thread and the info. I have been spending many late nights researching and experimenting to ultimately reach the goal of better sounding music through a pc/mac music server versus a cd player. There are so many options, it is daunting.

    Currently I have a Mac Mini, a Benchmark DAC1 (non-USB), a Squeezbox and a Native Instruments Kore (v1) unit to play with. I am using a Denon multi-player as a benchmark to all the various music server options. McIntosh pre and tubes are powering the speakers.

    OS Type

    Mac or PC is purely a personal choice on which OS you like better. I went for the Mac Mini as it was such a small, quiet, hide-behind-the-tv unit that will start playing music from sleep mode faster than you can put a cd in the cd player. And it can be accessed through a remote control (front row, Mac remote, Ipaq, iPhone etc.)

    iTunes/CoreAudio Setting

    For iTunes /Core Audio the 24 bit setting is a given and has been confirmed by many sources to give better results, however, after all the research I can still not get a definitive answer on whether upsampling up to 192Khz is better sounding. And which setting is the best sounding? Some say you need to be at multiples of 44.1, others (Benchmark Media) sample everything to 110Khz as they found that to give the optimal performance. Others say upsampling just adds more noise into the path and should not be done. Confusing!

    Media Format

    I have currently been ripping CDs to ALAC (Apple Lossless) as it seems easy to use, and from many different sources I read it is bit for bit the same as AIFF or WAV. It is just packed, analogous to a Zip file.

    Of course there are many schools of thought, and I would love to hear a definitive answer.

    Connection Type

    To add more variables into the mix is the question of what connection to use which will result in the best sound; LAN, WLAN, optical fiber, optical glass, coax, USB, USB2, Firewire!?

    Many threads will discount toslink/optical and WLAN for introducing too much jitter. Toslink/Optical is also maxed out at 24/96. USB is maxed out at 24/96. And the Mac does not have Coax. That leaves LAN, USB2 and Firewire from the MAC and Coax through from an external DAC.

    The permutations are ear-numbing.

    At this point I am thinking of getting the Apogee Mini-Dac firewire, so that I can set the iTunes/Core Audio to upsample to 24bit/192Khz, and return the Benchmark DAC1, retire the Kore unit (currently used to try the USB2 connection from the MacMini), and use the Squeezebox (used to test the WLAN, LAN connections from the MacMini) purely for internet radio.

    Another option is to use the Apogee as the firewire interface at 24/192 and send coax to the Benchmark for D/A. The only issue I see from a theoretical standpoint is that a 16/44.1 recorded cd is upconverted by Apple's src to 24/192 to then be downconverted to 24/110 by the Benchmark.

    What are the best options to obtain the best sound setup? What are the best DAC solutions out there, from money no object to slightly more affordable? Please share blind listening test experienes or shootouts with units such as Dcs, PS Audio, Apogee, Lavry, Mytek, Prism, RME etc.

    Look forward to sharing the continuing quest.

    Cheers.
    Last edited by tr@nz; 14-04-2008 at 02:41.

  4. #24
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 252

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    Have you tried the analogue output from the Mini because we've had customers who've switched from 1000 hi end CD players and announced that it's much better.

    We use the Optical digital out and have had an opportunity to compare it with quite a number of CD players, some costing thousands and have never heard anything better, but plenty that are worse. As they say, Jitter is only a problem when you're A to D'ing or D to A'ing.

    Ash

  5. #25
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Posts: 14

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    Hi Ash,

    Straight from the Mac Mini out using the headphone out?

    I will certainly try but if that sounds better or even equal than a dedicated DAC with balanced XLRs I might as well pack up my ears and listen to mp3 the rest of my life.

  6. #26
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Gloucestershire

    Posts: 252

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    Well, most of the music we buy is made on Macs using Apple Software so where better. The pros use outboards DACs and A to D's though, although I hear that quite a few songs are now recorded on location, simply by singing into the Mike in a Macbook Pro!

    They do all work in 24 bit though.

    Ash

  7. #27
    Join Date: Jun 2008

    Location: Oakland, California, USA

    Posts: 19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Filterlab View Post

    Now I use AIFF format which is entirely uncompressed ...

    Ok, so to import your CDs at the highest possible sample frequency ...
    ...
    you can turn up the import sampling frequency from its default 44.1Khz (or turn it down if you are pursuing a worse quality sound). By clicking on the 'Sample Rate' drop down menu you'll get the following options, choose 48.000Khz:


    Thanks for the great post. I'm new here, and just joined because I was searching for a conversation on this general point. (Actually I wanted to discuss AIFF vs. WAV, but let's hold off on that for the moment.)

    What piqued my curiosity in your post is the idea of upsampling the import of CDs. While a native 48KHz frequency is certainly better than 44.1, I'm not sure I want to process/resample my CDs at all. It seems like it would be preferable to keep them as they are, and do a bit-for-bit import of the original CD without manipulating it. Have you done listening test on your system with copying the 44.1 files in directly?


    FWIW
    My system is a Mac Mini 2GHz connected Toslink to a Linn 5103 DAC/Preamp.

  8. #28
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Bristol, UK

    Posts: 9,813
    I'm Nick.

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    I was wondering exactly the same thing. I guess that if you upsample, then any other audio processing going on would occur with less aliasing? I say that, but my ears aren't tuned enough to notice these affects... I have my CDs ripped to 128kbps AAC for convenience rather than critical listening but AAC does it for me (or FLAC lossless for really special stuff). I do most of my listening on a pair of 20 Sennheiser headphones, connected to my stock PowerMac G5 'card headphone output.

    I know this is probably shocking talk on an audiophile site, but I feel that AAC does a fantastic job of compressing audio, and the 10:1 compression ratio does make sense when you want easy portability to your portable player.

  9. #29
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Long Stratton, Norfolk

    Posts: 4,238
    I'm Rob.

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    Quote Originally Posted by barnz View Post
    ... It seems like it would be preferable to keep them as they are, and do a bit-for-bit import of the original CD without manipulating it. Have you done listening test on your system with copying the 44.1 files in directly?
    Yep.
    .
    Evolution: One man's preposterous and non-sensical hypothesis based on the death of his daughter, now sadly taught as fact. Evidence to the contrary.

  10. #30
    Join Date: May 2008

    Location: Well below the Mason-Dixon line

    Posts: 370

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    Bloody good thread mate! (OK...how's my English? I'm working on cultural integration here. If it just looks silly on me, y'all 'l let me know, huh?)

    Anyway, I actually understood a bit of it. Regarding this part:

    The difference between Apple Lossless and AIFF was negligible almost, however AIFF seems the most natural to me. Memory hungry, but in this day and age of 500Gb for 70, who cares?
    ...I suppose I care because I've already ripped hundreds of records to Lossless and iTunes tells me those files are 16 bit/44.100 khz and I don't imagine the 4khz is anything I'll hear. The outstanding question, though, is how to set output. I'm not going into a DAC, but into an Equibit full digital amp that is, essentially, one big high-current DAC with a huge output stage.

    I assume it processes at 24/196 when you feed it bits, because I've read that if you feed it analog, an A/D converter at the very front of the path immediately re-digitizes the voltage into data, at 24/196 (or is that 24/96?). So I would further assume that I could set Core Audio to the highest output settings available and the amp would use it. Does that seem logical? And if it is, somehow, wrong, can anything be hurt by trying it?

    Once again, great thread, reference thread. It needs a sticky.

    Tim

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