Aug 4, 2016

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.
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Maybe the DAC is fine, but you still have to rely on the built-in OP-AMP to drive the headphone jack on a Mac. I prefer to have a proper headphone amp driven by a DAC line out (not headphone out). This means I need an external DAC and amp.
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.
Technically, you do not ever need a DAC. Though you may prefer one. The Mac DAC is not horrible. Yet, it is not better than most aftermarket ones. People, choose what you enjoy most. It's a hobby; it is supposed to be fun. Buy both :)
The dac is quite terrible actually. Worse than most phones. Atleast the 2015 MacBook hasn’t terrible sounding dac and I am not even an audiophile and yet I could tell the difference With my Dt 770, the audio output is quite harsh. Now I know beyerdynamic is brighter than most headphones But that doesn’t give the MacBook a free pass. My friends one plus, my iPhone and my own Alienware all have much better flatter(but not harsh) sound .
Not to mention the fact that it’s output power is again less than all the three devices I just mentioned. Yes the one plus 3t at 500 dollars sounds better and LOUDER than a MacBook Pro of 1300 dollars. I am not bashing Apple, it is honestly peculiar that their iPads and iPhones both sound better than their macs, they sound pretty good actually.
jyotshak
I agree with your assessment. My headphones sound better directly from my iPad Pro than from my 2015 MacBook Pro. That said, the MBPr isn’t terrible amd is more than adequate for most applications.
There is a reason why I bought a Mac; it was not to be one of the cool kids that wanted the best of the best. No it was because of the music production I do on it. Hours and hours sitting in front of my Mac copying, pasting, moving, deleting, hour after hour just beating on my Mac in a endless assault to get my work done. That is the key part, my work. I work from home, it is great, but even if it is from home it is still work and it still needs to get done. So my Mac, I have it because it is fast, gets the job done and comes back for more.
But what happens when it doesn't want to do those things anymore?
I move around massive amounts of information and yes even on the almighty Mac this can cause a problem after a while. Things fragment, programs get corrupted issues come up. My light speed Mac slows down to a crawl and all of the sudden I simply cannot get any work done. Because I work from home there is no IT guy to call and ask to come fix it. No instead I have to figure out what is wrong. I am lucky, I did, but not after trying everything under the sun first and wasting countless hours looking for one program that can do what I needed instead of ten programs. One program to lead them all….okay that was a lame Lord of the rings reference, but that program was/is Detox My Mac. A simple to use program that did not just fix my issues, it put my Mac on overdrive again. A few clicks and my Mac was clean and ready to rock and roll again.
Read more here:- http://detox-my-mac.com?vhbshygdf398432
I have compared the audio output from my Windows PCs, Macintosh Macbook pro 2012 I7 quad core 17", MacbookPro 15" I7 dual core and Old white Macbook., old Mac g-4 Powerpc RISK chip PC all were outputted to a Marantz 7 restored preamp (all signal and coupling capacitors replaced by me), connected to a McIntosh MA-7270 amp connected to Magneplanar speakers. I also compared the Apple iPod video (V5.5 with the famous but quite old Wolfson DAC internal). IMHO the Mac pro G-4 sounded the best. The sound resembled the iPod video v5.5 but was better yet. I wonder if the
Macintosh G-4 has a Wolfson DAC? My Asus Z-87 Quad deluxe MOBO with Realtek DAC was second best connected to a very upgraded Dynaco PAT 4 (See updatemyDynaco.com) and a Marantz , 8B tube amp (all signal caps and Power Supply caps replaced also),
Absolutel not true. The internal Macbook Pro dac arrives maximum at 96khz while an audiophile dac arrives minimum at 32 bit/192khz. And the difference is very noticeble if you listen to high resolution such from Flac files or Tidal Master streaming
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KHz does not equal kbps. Maybe learn some electronics theory.
riffrafff
I know dude. I thought I made that point. Data rate != sample rate
This is a case where one might prefer not to use their mouth, but their ears. Just hear the difference.
I had a FiiO K1 that I sold becauseI found it made my Beoplay H6s sound worse than the MBP output. Before that I had the Audioengine D2 which did sound better than the MBP output.
I’m new to all this but do tests like this guy have done confirm what the op was saying?

https://kenrockwell.com/apple/iphone-6s-plus-audio-quality.htm
What a moron
vegasf1
Can you provide some insight? Its often fun to have a discussion around topics, such as this, with people of varying opinions. People might agree with your reasoning, it's just that there is no reasoning, facts, or logic presented in your statement. Do you hate Apple's integrated DACs and believe that all external DACs are better or is there something else?
vegasf1
Toxic sob
First let me address some misinformation I am seeing.
"Headphone out can't drive high impedance headphones "
A DAC is not an amp, and has literally nothing to do with the ability to drive high impedance headphones.

It's kinda complicated, but in general no. If you are willing to spend >$200 on a good DAC then yeah there might be an improvement, but to be honest the built in DACs on newer (I know they were good as far back as 2014) mbps is phenomenal compared to the competition, and it will very likely out perform almost any sub $200 DAC.

I learned this the hard way. I bought an external DAC and as a test I tried a couple of "pick out the higher bitrate tests". I was better at it while using the internal DAC across the board.

Here is the thing. Apple cares very deeply about the audio quality of their devices because musicians are one of their primary targets. As a result they put in very, very good Dacs.


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I wrote a LONG post in boredom last night (knew it at the time and posted anyway) so PLEASE don't read that as me being overly combative.
I could rage about a litany of things Apple has done over the years. I don't hold Apple up as an ideal organization. That said, I generally have faith in their overall commitment to making best-of-class hardware. I think they're ultimate driven by the work of a lot of individual engineers who have the best intentions in mind.

I honestly think that decisions like any made around the on-board DAC are driven by more practical matters than shaving a few pennies off the bottom-line.. particularly when we're talking about the Pro lines.
I suspect they'd take into account that serious users (like Audio Engineers) would connect their devices to superior external hardware anyway and that would factor into the calculations, but I don't think they'd cripple the on-board hardware just to save a few pennies, or even a dollar or two, on a $1500+ (average retail) laptop model.

Cheers, and my apologies if previous comment came across as harsh or defensive...
Steven
sbandyk
I got you bro, it's easy to get carried away, if you talk about something your passionate about.
I'm also sorry If I sound a bit hard.
And there on-board dac might not be bad, but it also obviously isn't the the endgame some people see it as
Mac internal DAC maxes out at 96kHz + Headphone out can't drive high impedance headphones + Electrical interference can occur with onboard DAC

My Mac Pro at work has a hissing sound in the headphones when connected directly to the trash can computer. And so far, every Mac I've tried has had issues with hissing and noise in the headphones while moving the mouse cursor around or if the CPU is processing something heavy. It's kind of funny.

Anyway... can't beat having an external DAC/AMP.
Things sound better through my WA7