Aug 4, 201635280 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.
thumb_up
PeteMtl, jasdfhg, and 9 others
thumb_up11
170
remove_red_eye35.2K

Add a comment...
From what I can tell the MacBook late 2016 13inch model has an impressive DAC, 24bit actually. However; it only boasts an out put of 2 *35mW (for both channels) at 32 Ohms. This is noticeably smaller compared to other amps. such as the Fiio A5 which can output 800mW at 32 Ohms. It should be noted, the Fiio A5 is recommend UP TO 300 Ohms. Btw, the Sennheiser HD 6XX's impedance is 300 Ohms.
Let's be clear, what an amplifier does is in the name, it increases the amplitude of the signal. It doesn't necessarily make your headphones "sound better," the only way that can happen is if the amp is way out of its league and distorting. In that case, yes a better amp will improve the sound quality.

When I get my HD6XX's I'll be listening for any distortions or low volume in general. I'll probably post about my experience after a few days. And if any of the listed issues come up, I will definitely be ordering an amp.

And on a personal note; I don't think Apple expects its customers to be plugging in their laptops into speakers with massive energy needs without an amplifier, especially if they're musicians.

Sources:
Macbook's breakdown: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Pro+13-Inch+Function+Keys+Late+2016+Teardown/72415
Audio Codec used by Apple: http://www.techinsights.com/reports-and-subscriptions/open-market-reports/Report-Profile/?ReportKey=8277
Specs of Codec: https://www.cirrus.com/products/cs42l42/
Fiio A5 Specs: https://www.headphone.com/products/fiio-a5
By the way, you don't need a DAC if you have an iPhone 7, 8, X (or up) either! Check out Ken Rockwell's post on the iPhone's audio quality:

https://kenrockwell.com/apple/lightning-adapter-audio-quality.htm
Do you ever really "need" a DAC? I mean, technically, if you have a computer, you have a DAC already :P. The point here is that you're going to be paying the same amount as anybody else with a basic onboard DAC, but getting less of an improvement. People have different needs (especially musicians and other content creators), and actual hearing varies a fair bit too. Some mid-range and all high end PC motherboards also have good audio, probably better than at least some apple products. And of course, it's not just the chip that matters, but the overall electronic package.
Unlike many Audiophiles, Macs evolve! Check this Apple publication to find out what your particular Mac model is outputting through the SE Earphone jack--you may be surprised!

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204392
Load 1 more comment
RayF
Is there one of these pages for the Macbook Pro? I can't seem to find it.
Mark_M
Depends on your version of course--start here and see if you can narrow it down to your model:

https://support.apple.com/kb/index?page=search&q=MacBook%20Pro%20external%20features%20and%20ports&product=&doctype=&currentPage=1&includeArchived=false&locale=en_US&src=globalnav_support&type=organic
It's not "extremely good" just better than most motherboards. If you're used to say high end NOS R2R DACs or Chord's recent high end DACs then there is a world of difference.
Load 7 more comments
Been seeing a lot of your posts lately, it's pretty evident you have a very high opinion of yourself and enjoy mocking anyone who actually have a different opinion. Should try playing nice sometime, it will do you some good.
Jemma
I'm confused

As to the charges:
1. Guilty
2. Not especially guilty.
3. Happens all the time.

I'm sort of the Take it or Leave it type. You're welcome to join either club.
Quite right indeed, Sounds amazing without any external DAC accessories. I noticed one only issue: My mid. 2011 MacBook Pro's (El Captain) fan is loader, spinning almost every time I'm playing TIDAL's Masters only, (MQA files). A lot more data for processing at 24/96 rate for its aging i5 processor. Absolutely no need for some DAC, TIDAL's own software decoder works perfect with most of Macs, even my old 2011's iMac 22.5"/ i5 too, silently
lordiaco
This is natures way of telling you to turn up the volume--or buy a new computer ;- )
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.
Saeulf
Oh..."propper is is then"? Pity the largest technology company in the world couldn't figure out how to build a computer with a proper OP-AMP! I suppose they just couldn't afford to buy the good stuff, you know , second quarter earnings being what they were. Might have added another fifty cents to the cost of every iMac and MacBook Pro--christ who would buy them then?!
RayF
I'm sure they're fine for most folks (apple's main audience). I said I PREFER a headphone amp. Not that other people can't enjoy built in audio.
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.
Load 9 more comments
I love your imagination, and tremendous capacity for denial.

You...complete me. *heart*
Motorrad
I'm sure you meant detail, as in: -- "...my tremendous capacity for detail."
It's a gift.
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 :)
Load 1 more comment
JonnyModena
Well, you might need a DAC for some kind of professional application... though even for most of those you could probably get away with not using one in most cases.
Mayflower_Man
Make sense will ya?! "You might need for some kind of professional use?"

He said it's a hobby and he's having fun--not much Pro in that statement!

"...though even for most of those you could probably get away without using one?"

So what the hell's left? You canceled all those uses out in your second statement?! What, exactly is the occasion you were referring to?