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iMac digital output

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
I've got a new 24" iMac and I want to make the most of my music library on it. I've got a NAD 3020 amplifier driving Wharfedale Diamond 9.1s, and I need to connect my iMac. I've got about a 5m span between my iMac and the amplifier.
I need to know whether using USB or the iMac's optical output would be the best option. I have around £100 to spend on a DAC, and I'm looking at several on ebay, including the Cambridge ISOMagic and DACMagic 1 / 2. My alternative would be to get something like a beresford or one of the many available from the far east. I would very much appreciate any thoughts/opinions.
Just so you know, most of my music is encoded at 192khz VBR AAC, so I'm hoping it will be worth making the effort to upgrade to a proper DAC.
Many thanks

post #2 of 36
I've got the same machine.
Biggest downside of the machine is only 3 USBs inputs and traditionally most hubs suck...

Because of this I'd vote for either the optical audio out or a firewire based audio interface.

On my home set up, I'm currently using the audio out for some Klipsch computer speakers and then use the Apogee duet audio interface connected via firewire that then connects out to my stereo, headphones, you name it!

Sounds like something like an audio interface would make the perfect companion for your NAD 3020 amplifier. They are DACs and also made specifically for computers ~ that' a win-win! In the case of my Duet it runs to my stereo and can also simultaneously be hooked up to some other amp or similar.

What's nice about my set up is I can easily (using Line-In program) control if I want the sound coming out of the computer speakers, the stereo or the headphone and amp and I don't have to disconnect and reconnect things.

Good luck and do post your final solution!
post #3 of 36
Oh and welcome to Head-Fi... sorry 'bout yer wallet
post #4 of 36
At 192 VBR I think you would find more improvements if you re-ripped all of your collection into ALAC (lossless format).
As to your dilemma, the dacmagic has some good looking specs, but I have not read much towards the sq, based off of its chipset and etc. I'd imagine that it would be a very solid solution.
For wiring, Optical is basically unheard of over 10 feet so your 5m span would expierence a fair amount of signal degradation if you went with optical, leaving usb as your final option. Can you run coaxial? that might also be a fair option if it is available to you.

post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks for getting back to me,
I like the look of the Apogee music interface, although whatever happened to my £100 budget?!
I'm unable to re-encode the majority of my music as I have over 90gb in it's current state, and much of it is downloaded too.
The distance between my imac and amp is actually not that far, I just don't want to have an optical cable running under the carpet where I walk for fear of it getting damaged. I don't believe the iMac has a coax output.
I'm thinking some kind of DAC that has a multidude of connection options might be my best bet, so that I can decide between optical and USB based on how it sounds. Any suggestions?
Just something else to drop into the mix, I have a NAD CD player with a coaxial output which it would probably make sense to connect to the DAC as well, which kind of rules out a dedicated computer audio interface.
post #6 of 36
You can get a dac that has usb input for the computer and coaxial for the CD player that has a switch between the two. That would likely be the easiest fix for this situation. Yea optical cables are finicky with distance, right angles, and any kind of abuse, I wouldnt recommend putting them under the carpeting.
As for a dac around your price you could look for one of the headroom micro dacs, they have usb, coaxial, and optical inputs that are on a simple switch. They are a bit out of your range new, but used you could find one for close to your budget I believe. I'm sure there are plenty of other offerings, but I do not know specifics.

post #7 of 36
Thread Starter 
It's looking like usb would be the better option for me to cover the distance between my imac and amp, unless I decided to rearrange my room. Having looked at lots of options, I'm rather tempted by the DIYEDEN Musiland SVDAC05 on the audiophilechina website, i don't particularly like the way that it doesn't have a proper line-out, only a volume controlled one. How much of a problem do you think this would be, and are there any alternatives for that sort of money?
I'm tempted to wait until christmas and ask for a Cambridge DACMagic (the new one) or a Musical Fidelity V-DAC, they both seem like excellent options to me. Is there an issue with cable length with USB as well as optical?
post #8 of 36
I'd be tempted to say that distance is less of an issue with optical than with USB - you can get good optical cables for 20-25' without much hassle; USB though I would not go longer than 3-4m. If distance and having cables lying around is the problem, how about an Airport Express?
post #9 of 36
Thread Starter 
Aha! I already have an airport express which I'm using at the moment. It's doing the job OK but it cuts out too often for my liking, and I want to be able to play things other than from itunes through my hifi. Also, part of the plan is to sell the airport to go towards my new DAC! If I went for the USB option, I could easily have the cable running under my rug and it would only have to go about 4m, so with a good quality cable maybe that might be the best option? I think I'll have to get something where I can compare the two and just see which sounds better.
Do people think it's worth saving up for the Cambridge DACmagic? Any thoughts on how this would compare with the afore-mentioned DIYEden Musiland?
Thank ye
post #10 of 36
DACmagic gets some good reviews and does what you want it to do... try searching, I believe there is a thread about it
post #11 of 36
I would probably advise you to save up for the dacmagic, the unit is so versatile and gets many rave reviews, especially at the pricepoint.
USB is better than optical for distance and durability. My recommendation would be to go with a belkin gold and the dacmagic and you can call it a night.

post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 
How about this for a budget option - the creative x-fi surround?
Creative X-Fi Surround 5.1 Xtreme External USB Soundcard - Ebuyer
Has anyone had any experience with this?
post #13 of 36
why go surround?
post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 
I don't want the surround capability of the x-fi, it just seems like a half decent usb DAC for very little money. I don't want to end up spending any money on something that doesn't make a discernible difference though, so maybe I'm better off saving up for something nice
post #15 of 36
unfortunately you are still using low bitrate mp3s so any dac you put in your chain will be deeply bottlenecked.
Just something to consider before you drop an inordinate amount of money.

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