Aug 4, 201656074 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.
Mr.P, Chun YoungJin, and 14 others

Let's all try to remember the title of this post says "IF you HAVE a Mac..." which implies/suggests that if you don't HAVE a Mac, this thread may not apply to you, and more importantly, you may not actually be qualified to discuss Macs. It would be pretty much the same as if someone created a thread called "How to Have Great Sex"--you wouldn't expect great input from all the Virgins in the audience. Not that there's anything wrong with being a virgin, it's just that as a group, they don't know shit about sex.
I'm guessing you know who you are?
This is the single greatest bait thread on this website.
LOL @ this whole thread.
Yes. I bought an external sound card (Hifime) and sold it again immediately. With a Koss Porta Pro you have a pretty good sound on the jack port. Not audiophile but - in terms of price - surprisingly good!
Well technically correct. You don't "need" a DAC to output music from your Mac. But in my experience with MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and MacPro, adding even a lowly $50 used Audioquest Dragonfly or a 15 year old M-Audio DAC made a noticeable improvement to the sound quality; with both headphones and external systems. Also most Macs, until the current generation of MacBooks, have a combination audio out that accepts a mini TOSLINK optical plug. It's worth exploring this as an alternative to USB for which digital flavor sounds best in your setup.
Unfortunately, as usual, this will be a non-sense discussion and a never ending fight, like much other with a "qualitative" subject : like PC vs. MAC (i. e. Windows vs. OSX) or Bluetooth vs. Wifi audio. Please, ask somebody of a top level digital audio industry, like Prism Audio in UK or anybody else with the same expertise, to make a series of measurements and you'll be definitely convinced without any possible other discussion... Et voilà !... Please : do it !...
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Sûre LuckyLuke but this don’t answer the asked question... And I like that questions are... answered as precisely as science can do !...
"this don’t answer the asked question..." What exactly are you saying here? I'll take a stab at it and assume that you are talking about the balanced output on my FIIO X7 MkII being heads and tails better than any apple product? Amiright? : )
Their not the best but they are definitely better than most. A professional grade DAC will usually give the best possible experience while using high impedance audio equipment. Apple products are definitely using good grade hardware but they are still pieces of mass consumer electronics. Comprises will always be made in this case.
Every computer has a "MAC" and most refrigerators have a MAC if they are connected to the "net. oh, wait - I am guessing you really mean "Mac" as in "OSX Machine" and not a PowerBook G3.
What's to discuss? You are wrong, however.
I can only speak on the mobile side, on testing on my mom's iPhone 8 plus and my own g6 the g6 blows the iPhone away while I was testing with my high impedance headphones, the g6 was able to power my dt880 600 ohms even though I had to turn the volume up a whole lot but the iPhone wasn't able to do it, and while testing with my earpiece with the same source I found the imaging better on the non iPhone. However that being said, neither of the sources are really comparable with my X7 1st gen. Another thing to note is that I passed my sister my old X5 gen 1 and after switching from her iPhone 7 she found it a lot better and has not gone back to the iphone since.
the internal DAC on a MacBook Pro is not "extremely good". the end.
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Much better than the one in your Dell.
Agreed. It works and not that bad (my Macbook Air is much worse), but it's easily blown away by a OnePlus 6 anytime. I'm not a professional, just someone who clearly hears the difference.
I usually do t comment on things oike this because it spurs the MAC/PC/audiophile whats better thing, but I personally disagree, especially since i have seen the inside of said magical Mac devices abd I can assure you there is little to no isolation for the sound board on the motherboard, a DAC is designed with isolation in mind for both power and stray signal. Also, I have had several audiophile designed motherboards for my PC, where they shield and isolate the entire audio path from the rest of the board, sonetimes to tye point where they use a small Faraday cage. this makes a ton of difference. External DACs, as long as they are properly constructed, will blow away anything the supposed magic fruit can do. This includes the iPod and iPad devices, especially since they have gotten rid of the hedphone jack so now they transit over a connector that us used for power delivery so it is inherently noisy. Mechanically speaking there is no internal DAC from Apple that can supply the clarity and goid sound that a well built external DAC can.
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RayF Comment hidden

Had a 2012 non-retina MBP 15". Lots of hiss and noise from the headphone jack. Even if the internal DAC is good, given the issues I had the laptop was useless for music without an external DAC/amp.
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I use some Sennheiser H280s much of the time. And some olde Apple earbuds . And my earphones I got here - I forgot the name right now. On Mac Mini 2012, iPhone 4, iPhone 5s and MacBook Air 2012. Also sound just fine, maybe not as good as the tube amp....
True, I'd say that they try and do a pretty okay job trying to boost the sound by focusing solely on a built in Amp. But I don't think they have a good DAC.
Apple uses better DACs than just about any pc laptop which is easily verifiable or other type of smartphones as well. Not only do we know what they use there are measurements of them. I do use an external dac/amp in some cases but it’s probably the amp making more of the difference.
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I was just trying to associate the two terms as best I could. The word "signal" can be used in one stage of the process that is applied to this conversation, as it is just a misnomer for this persons perceived concept of how a digital file is perceived by the output stage of a digital DAC converter. I was merely trying to play the name game in order to conjure up the concept of how a source file is converted through the DAC chip and the output is coming out as an analog "signal" (if you will) waveform that the output stage can recognize. I knew what he meant, but like you said, the nomenclature was in need of an explanation.
Being 100% sure you hear differences, and then not being able to pass even a simple blind test is very common. It's kind of an audiophile rite of passage. I urge people not to comment until they have at least tried to eliminate sighted bias.
I could not disagree more. I have a MacBook Pro Retina 13 2015, my rig comprises of DAC into AQ Tower interconnect-Cavalli Tube Hybrid and then to 58Xs. I compared the 3.5 output of Mac to my DragonFly Red with Jitterbug. The difference is night and day. While the DAC in MacBook is usable just fine the difference is substantial. Everything is better by a large margin. Everything from soundstage, separation, macro and microdynamics, bass, tonality, treble. There is nor contest nor any doubt that the difference is huge. If you do not hear a difference you may have the weakest link of whole chain somewhere else.
True. Unless you have something like the $10,000 chord dave, theres no meed for an external dac. The people saying you need one obviously doesn't have the macbook pro or at least not the maxed out 2015 version thst i have. It's sounds damn near perfect and no noise. 
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I'm guessing things up your ass must be a preference of yours? The rest of us will defer to your expertise in that area.
Can I do it in front of a mirror? That way I can " improve one's delivery". Pee Wee Herman would be proud. See
The problem isn't the dac itself, it's the fact that said dac is in the middle of a ton of emi bouncing around the case
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the problem is also the DAC.
in what way does any modern dac cause the issue on its own
A quality DAC designated device will add a significant improvement to any laptop or motherboard embedded product that Apple, or any motherboard manufacturer has ever produced. I had an older FIIO X5 Mk II that I am still using as a DAC for my Windows based computer. I am assuming that this poll is designed to apply to an external set of speakers. The latest DAP (Digital Audio Player) I am using as an external DAC to my computer is a FIIO X7 Mk II. For someone to suggest that an outboard quality DAC doesn't influence the sound is nonsensical. One of the main problems with the internet these days is the ability of people to post comments that are simply not based in fact, and you can tell who has never even even touched a quality DAC device by the outrageous audacity to suggest that they don't make a difference. A quality DAC based device can make your laptop into a premium audio player just by running the outboard sound through a premium DAC, and I just cannot understand why someone would just guess at it, and claim there is no difference. There is more to an outboard DAC than just the DAC chipset. There are many other design incorporations that make a premium outboard DAC based unit a serious upgrade to the audio output of these devices. I was leary at first when I bought my first DAC, a FIIO X5 Mk II for a mere $130. It was on sale for half price, so I took a shot in the dark. I had never heard such an impactful, detailed sound presence come to life like this did before. It was almost staggering in the difference that DAP made. I have purchased a FIIO X7 Mk II for $650 and will never look back. Unless someone has experience using these electronic components before, it would be wise not to hypothesize on what a premium quality DAC based will actually do to the quality of the audio output of any computer. It is almost unbelievable in the difference that exists when you hook a FIIO X7 Mk II up to any car audio system. The presence of the soundstage is incredibly detailed and precise. It is one of the best things you can do, to purchase a quality DAC for any your audio components. Trust me, you won't be dissapointed.
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"Saying it's premium doesn't mean it's better." That's MY line. You seem to think that because it has an apple logo on it, it's the best there is. All you have to do is go to any one of numerous audiophile websites and read the reviews of any and all products they review. No one is bringing up any apple product for a reason. If your holy grail were the best available, then it would be the gold standard that all others would be compared to. You are wasting our time with your nonsensical insistence that apple makes the best sounding EVERYTHING. That leads all of us to believe that it's a cult following. The apple fanbois cannot even realize that manufacturers are making stand alone audio devices that are competing among themselves, because the (apple) devices that have been talked about on this thread are not in contention with the best audio devices people can buy. Face it, the audiophile products here at Massdrop have enough information readily available that would tell you that the devices that they are selling are far superior to any second thought audio that the apple company produces. It's called common sense. How about if you bring up your premise on an actual audiophile product that Massdrop sells? You can make your claim that you can't buy anything better than what your apple device produces on an actual audiophile grade device's comment section. Let's see how fast you are shut down by the people like me that have actually invested in these products and can testify to their inherent superiority to your holy grail apple cult products. Go ahead. Be prepared to be either laughed at, or ignored, or perhaps both. Just do all of us here in the audiophile community a favor and tell us where you comments are being shot down. I could use a good laugh. : )
Please don't give morons a bad name. : ) In all seriousness, there are actually people out there that believe that they are gifted with superior products because they have an apple logo on them. They will argue until they are blue in the face over it, but they will always fail to be taken serious in the end. It happens every time. There are no more fanatical debates occurring on the internet than the apple fanbois who will go to their grave believing that they have the best of everything, only because they are overpaying for a logo, in a cult. I can tell them in all seriousness that my Surface Pro is a much better product than their apple device, and they will do the same thing. They lose every time, but that discussion is for another day and time. The difference here is that there is no valid debate that places the apple sound circuitry above even some of the lower tier audiophile grade DAP/DACs. As far as the phones go? Apple even went so far as to remove a headphone jack from their latest products, forcing them to go to a bluetooth format. Everyone knows that a bluetooth connection is a compromise. The engineers at apple have given up even trying to compete with manufacturers like LG, who put real DACs in their phones that are capable of some reputable performance. Apple engineers dropped the ball, and the ONLY reason that they can get away with it because of the cult like following that is on full display right here in this discussion.
I found the DAC (and subsequent amplification) on the 2017 MacBook Pro to be quite amazing. Put it up against a Fiio E10K and I couldn’t really tell a difference. Now I’m running it through a Modi Multibit and a Pete Millett Nutube amp which does bring in some differences in detail and layering - I do need to upgrade the amp’s power supply though. Still, I think the regular output is great for what it needs to be. Something on which I can listen to great music while I work... not something to use for critical listening on headphones. I would think that using a laptop such as this for critical listening is an awful misplacement of resources, as the device can do so much more.
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I will admit I can't possibly comment on the sound from most laptops these days. I've only compared my MacBook with whatever people had around me (Surface wasn't one of them, most of my colleagues use huge workstations). Also, I wasn't referring to speakers, that's a different beast anyway. In my mind, one should always get the right tool for the job - a dedicated audio player instead of a laptop. But people have their own reasons, so I won't try to convince anyone of "my truth". PS: I appreciate the calm discussions. People get too worked up about these things lately.
All you have to do is speak truth to some people and they follow you around after the fact to pester you, like the one member I won't mention here. The Surface Pro are comparable here because they attract the same power users as the macbookwhatever does. The Surface Pro have good sound, but on the same class as any other premium laptop. The demeanor of your posts demands respect, while that guy who lurks in the shadows, not so much. :)
Having an external dac did improve the sound of a 2015 macbook pro. Just a schiit modi 3. Its not about the quality of the chip most of the time, most good audio sources have good dac chips. Its about all the other components inside a dac that make it better. Like the power supply being dedicated, having full 2v per channel output, having differently designed output stages (depending on dac model and manufacturer), input chips like the usb interface, all these other components make a difference. So while most apple products do have good dac chips onboard, they lack almost all of these other components that you will find in a stand alone dac, even cheap ones. Having external audio interfaces always will sound better than onboard, but it doesnt mean everyone will care enough about audio quality to spend the extra money.
I have a MacBook Pro, I added an affordable SMSL VMV dac for a little over 100$ and the difference is incredible. Especially for my old Stax SR 34s
Try some DACs and you can feel the difference. I know onboard chip is convient but music sounds good on a good pair of decent headset with a DAC.
I have a new MacBook Pro 2018 and (if someone has mentioned this please forgive) the DAC has been downgraded from my old 2014 model and the multi-channel TOSLINK output is now gone for good. Probably not an issue for most since the Thunderbolt 3 (NOT the same as USB 3--uses a different but identical looking cable) is very powerful and capable and opens the door to, among others, Universal Audio's new Apollo interfaces which are spectacular. DAC chips are cheap. The ESS Sabre chip in a $1000 Yamaha integrated amp goes for $10 or less if you buy in quantity.
While it's fun to be able to get a new DAC/toy in your audio chain, the reality is that a quality integrated solution will almost always be superior. Going external means adding 2x connectors and and an interconnect cable, all appreciable noise sources at (the very impressive) S/N levels of even decent commodity DACs these days. . .
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Right :P
Had been using 2015 mbp, now upgraded to 2018 Mac mini- audio is much better. Better instrument separation, more impact on low frequency, more clarity, more dynamic...and I though most macs were the same. However I did know that iphones were not similar- the 4s was better than my 7 but the X is pretty close to the 4s.
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You can bet it has a dac, or else the speaker wouldn't work.
Yeah, that’s why I said “for the headphone output anyway” ;)
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:
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Tell it to your 8 buddies.
If it's a joke, so is Crinacle. His measurement rig uses the iPhone Dongle, it's also got a sub-1 ohm output impedence, making it doubly useful for IEMs. Hell, I picked up the USB C apple Dongle for use with my Pixel, and honestly the DAC amp sounds a bit better than the Shanling M0 (which will also recognize and use the Dongle if you plug it in)! Best 6 bucks I've ever spent on audio TBH
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!
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Is there one of these pages for the Macbook Pro? I can't seem to find it.
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.
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Posting a picture of a vanity mirror with a host of cover up colognes underneath the mirror tells us everything we need to know. Smells like a cover up to me. :)
Now there's an idea! You're more than welcome to come over and try a few dabs of my "colognes"--as a matter of fact, I'd be glad to dab several bottles on you!