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Macbook Air DAC/Sound Quality? - Page 2

post #16 of 27

bump.  curious to see what DAC is in my wife's macbook air (2nd gen)...i think the latest that is out is the 3rd gen. 

post #17 of 27

Compared to my 2010 MacBook Pro 17", the MacBook Air 13" (2012) has (comparatively) superb SQ. With my SE535's I got a lot of hiss from the MBP17, with the Air very little. Was a pleasant surprise - was quite similar to the level of hiss I get with the iPod Classic (latest gen). 

post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllyNewport View Post

Compared to my 2010 MacBook Pro 17", the MacBook Air 13" (2012) has (comparatively) superb SQ. With my SE535's I got a lot of hiss from the MBP17, with the Air very little. Was a pleasant surprise - was quite similar to the level of hiss I get with the iPod Classic (latest gen). 

Well, I don't own a MacBook Air myself. but I do have MacBook 2010 Pro. In Apple showroom I tried the Air though. They are not comparatively THAT much better than macbook pro. I tried some songs on both the devices. I know they are not of same bitrate so the SQ can vary. but what I mentioned earlier is something I'm more or less pretty sure about. 

 

And about the iPod classic, I own a late 2009 160 GB iPod Classic 6G (usually known as 7th gen). The noise coming out of it is very hard to determine. they don't produce any hiss. at least to my ears.

post #19 of 27
I stumbled on this thread looking to find out what DAC my Macbook Air (2011) has. I can do a very short assessment of the sound quality, based on my previous model which was a Macbook Pro (2008). Please bear in mind I'm no expert, and unable to do an A-B comparison.
 
My old Macbook Pro (2008) had pretty terrible line out: there was clearly audible noise, the overall signal level was quite low (as you'd expect). However, it did have a saving grace: the 3.5mm jack was a combination SPDIF optical out, and therefore could be connected very easily to an external DAC, resulting in an excellent sound quality.
 
In comparison, my newer Macbook Air (2011), argueably one of the finest laptops ever made, has a standard line out which is pretty damn good and a clearly noticeable improvement. Used with the newer 'EarPods' this results in a modest, but refined sound, with an acceptable soundstage, good clarity, and no noticeable bias for any particular frequencies (highly subjective, I know). I've tried 'improving' the sound using a Fiio e3, and the result was awful.. it totally killed the soundstage and the clarity was ruined. With the correct headphones it is capable of thunderous bass and sub frequencies. I've also done a little audio work on it (using BFD with an electronic drumkit), and the sound is excellent -- even very subtle transients and acoustics well rendered, in my opinion. But unfortunately, I guess to cut costs, there is no combination optical/analogue output.
 
So in conclusion, most owners of older Apple laptops should be very pleased with the upgraded direct line out in the newer models. But be aware there is no longer a combination optical out, although of course you are free to use a USB DAC which would no doubt provide benefits.

Edited by scannermobheadf - 2/17/13 at 5:36am
post #20 of 27

I just compared a couple of tracks on my 11" MBA and my Sony NWZ-1060 (Fujiya Miyagi Sixteen shades of blue, Radiohead Staircase, m4a AAC); same tracks, same ATH-M50 headphones. No hiss from the either, more clarity and spacing from the Sony, the MBA sounds all right, the Sony very good.
 

Same exercise with XBA-4; much more detail and stage on the Sony Walkman, very immersive, the bass sounds "chewy" on the Radiohead track, a little subduded in comparison on the Mac; oh and no hiss from the balanced armature headphones in either.

 

My non scientific and personal conclusion is that the MBA is fine for music; the Sony is obviously a step up, it's the difference between thinking "nice tune" and starting to dance to it. The XBA-4 might get you fired as it's easy to forget the rest of the world. In case anyone is crazy enough to start a PC vs Apple PC flame war, I wouldn't even bother comparing with a Windaz PC (still stuck with generic Realtek audio, most likely) - or an iPod.

 

My old Mac Mini sounds great through the optical audio out to an Onkyo amplifier and Bose (gasp, yes Bose!) speakers; as has been said, that optical out is sadly missing from the Macbook Air, which takes a bit of the shine off.

post #21 of 27

scannermobheadf

 

Like you I was inspired to just look up "Macbook Air sound quality" as it seems surprisingly good for an analogue 'Ultrabook' output. By no means an audiophile, I have dabbled in some decent kit in the past (valve preamps and monobloc power etc), and I have to say that this little machine with a pair of Sennheiser PX-100's (minor classics in my opinion) is a revelation. WAY beyond any iPod/iPhone they've done. And they don't promote this quality of their machines. Very surprising. I suspect that the analogue output on this is a shade above their optical out on the Pros.This MBA is v.recent ~ 3 months

 

</geekness>

 

:)

post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by scannermobheadf View Post

I stumbled on this thread looking to find out what DAC my Macbook Air (2011) has. I can do a very short assessment of the sound quality, based on my previous model which was a Macbook Pro (2008). Please bear in mind I'm no expert, and unable to do an A-B comparison.
 
My old Macbook Pro (2008) had pretty terrible line out: there was clearly audible noise, the overall signal level was quite low (as you'd expect). However, it did have a saving grace: the 3.5mm jack was a combination SPDIF optical out, and therefore could be connected very easily to an external DAC, resulting in an excellent sound quality.
 
In comparison, my newer Macbook Air (2011), argueably one of the finest laptops ever made, has a standard line out which is pretty damn good and a clearly noticeable improvement. Used with the newer 'EarPods' this results in a modest, but refined sound, with an acceptable soundstage, good clarity, and no noticeable bias for any particular frequencies (highly subjective, I know). I've tried 'improving' the sound using a Fiio e3, and the result was awful.. it totally killed the soundstage and the clarity was ruined. With the correct headphones it is capable of thunderous bass and sub frequencies. I've also done a little audio work on it (using BFD with an electronic drumkit), and the sound is excellent -- even very subtle transients and acoustics well rendered, in my opinion. But unfortunately, I guess to cut costs, there is no combination optical/analogue output.
 
So in conclusion, most owners of older Apple laptops should be very pleased with the upgraded direct line out in the newer models. But be aware there is no longer a combination optical out, although of course you are free to use a USB DAC which would no doubt provide benefits.

Every curent Mac has optical out except for the Air, which has never had optical. My educated guess is that including the hardware for optical output creates space issues, as even the Mac mini and some older MacBooks have optical. I don't think it's a cost issue. 

 

For DAC purposes, my take is that so many of the inexpensive, portable DACs are USB only that it's not a huge loss. For use with a home theater system, that's a different matter...

post #23 of 27

I have the older Macbook Air from late 2008. I recently plugged in the Beyerdynamic DT 990/600 Ω headphones into the headphone output of the notebook and was amazed at the power and sound being reproduced. While it may not be an idealistic, I wouldn't mind having it as a "one-and-only" setup.

post #24 of 27

A pretty cheap external dac will sound much better than the MacBook internal sound card...

post #25 of 27

I found it for the my 2013 MacBook Air....

 

Cirrus Logic 4208-CRZ

 

see Step 9:

 

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/MacBook+Air+13-Inch+Mid+2013+Teardown/15042

 

Hope that helps...

post #26 of 27

And here are some specs of that part, based on the very similar CS 4207:

 

The CS4207 is a highly integrated multi-channel low power HD audio codec featuring 192 kHz DACs, 96 kHz ADCs, 192 kHz S/PDIF transmitter and receiver, microphone preamp and bias voltage, and a ground centered headphone driver. Based on multibit, Delta Sigma modulation, it allows infinite sample rate adjustment between 32 kHz and 192 kHz.

The ADC input path allows control of a number of features. The microphone input path includes a selectable programmable-gain pre-amplifier stage and a low noise MIC bias voltage supply. A GA is available for line and microphone inputs and provides analog gain with soft ramp and zero cross transitions. The ADC also features an additional digital volume attenuator with soft ramp transitions.

 

DIGITAL to ANALOG FEATURES
 DAC1 (Headphone)
– 101 dB Dynamic Range (A-wtd)
– -89 dB THD+N
 Headphone Amplifier - GND Centered
– Integrated Negative-voltage Regulator
– No DC-blocking Capacitor Required
– 50 mW Power/Channel into 16 
 DAC2 & DAC3 (Line Outs)
– 110 dB Dynamic Range (A-wtd)
– -94 dB THD+N
– Differential Balanced or Single-ended
 Each DAC Supports 32 kHz to 192 kHz Sample Rates Independently.
 Digital Volume Control
– +6.0 dB to -57.5 dB in 0.5 dB Steps
– Zero Cross and/or Soft Ramp Transitions
 Independent Support of D0 and D3 Power States for Each DAC
 Fast D3 to D0 Transition
– Audio Playback in Less Than 50 ms

 

 

 

 

 ADC1 & ADC2
– 105 dB Dynamic Range (A-wtd)
– -88 dB THD+N
– Differential Balanced or Single-ended Inputs
– Analog Programmable Gain Amplifier (PGA) ±12 dB, 1.0 dB Steps, with Zero Cross Transitions and Mute
 MIC Inputs
– Pre-amplifier with Selectable 0 dB, +10 dB,
+20 dB, and +30 dB Gain Settings
– Programmable, Low-noise MIC Bias Level
 Each ADC Supports 8 kHz to 96 kHz Sample Rates Independently
 Additional Digital Attenuation Control
– -13.0 dB to -51.0 dB in 1.0 dB steps
– Zero Cross and/or Soft Ramp Transitions
 Digital Interface for Two Dual Digital Mic Inputs  Independent Support of D0 and D3 Power
States for Each ADC

 

 

The ADC input path allows control of a number of features. The microphone input path includes a selectable programmable-gain pre-amplifier stage and a low-noise MIC bias voltage supply. A PGA is available for line and microphone inputs and provides analog gain with soft ramp and zero cross transitions. The ADC also features an additional digital volume attenuator with soft ramp transitions.

The stereo headphone amplifier is powered from a sep- arate internally generated positive supply, with an integrated charge pump providing a negative supply. This allows a ground-centered analog output with a wide signal swing and eliminates external DC-blocking capacitors.

The integrated digital audio interface receiver and trans- mitters utilize a 24-bit, high-performance, monolithic CMOS stereo asynchronous sample rate converter to clock align the PCM samples to/from the S/PDIF inter- faces. Auto detection of non-PCM encoded data disables the sample rate conversion to preserve bit ac- curacy of the data.

In addition to its many features, the CS4207 operates from a low-voltage analog and digital core, making this part ideal for portable systems that require low power consumption in a minimal amount of space.

The CS4207 is available in a 48-pin WQFN package in both Automotive (-40°C to +105°C) and Commercial (-40°C to +85°C) grades.

 

I even found a 148 pages PDF about the audiocodec in the Macbook, download it here http://www.cirrus.com/en/pubs/proDatasheet/CS4207_F4.pdf

post #27 of 27

I just received a 2014 MacBook Air. Before that I was on a 2007 MacBook and a 2008 iMac, and most of the time using an Asus MultiMixer DAC to drive my headphones (SRH750DJ, HD280 PRO, PX-95 etc...) because I could hear some hiss on the integrated DAC and the soundstage was kinda okay but not good enough for me.

And here comes the new Air computer in my life. Wow. No matter how loud I put the sound, I can't hear any hiss (the thing I hate the most :P) and the harmonics seems much more true than what I had on the basic DAC of those previous mac. I'm not saying that the Asus DAC isn't better (it is) but I can without any problem enjoy my stuff on the integrated chip, when I couldn't bear it on the previous computers.

 

Good job Apple! Wasn't expecting such a thing in the "cheapest" laptop of the brand!

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