So, I have the 15 inch macbook pro with retina and I was hoping to figure out what the best way to connect it to my speakers and headphones is. Heads up, I am new to the audiophile world, but I've done a little bit of research. I'll give some info about what I'm using it with/for and what I know so far to make it easier for whoever is kind enough to help me.
I'm using the setup mostly for entertainment media--that is, music, movies, and gaming. I've already seen the phrase "garbage in, garbage out" everywhere so I understand that hardware won't be able to improve quality if the input is ****. That being said, I've upgraded the majority of my music to 320kbps MP3 (from what I understand, still lossy, but not easily differentiable from lossless formats unless you have a very high end setup). I watch all my movies in 1080p MKV format.
I understand that integrated DACs generally compromise quality, so I looked at some USB DACs. To be fair, I've never owned one, so I don't really know what I'm missing. But from what I've seen, a USB DAC can be great for headphones (though I'm not sure if it would be better to use an amp/DAC or a standalone DAC). However, not really sure if using one (and if so, which one) would be the best route for me, as I'm using both headphones and 7.1 surround sound speakers. I have the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones and the Onkyo HT-S5400 7.1-Channel Home Theater System. Perhaps a combination of methods will be best, not really sure. One problem I see is that if I want to get the best out of the 7.1 surround speakers and circumvent the integrated DAC, I'd have to find a USB DAC that supports 7.1 surround output via HDMI (not even sure if that exists). With that in mind, I'm not even sure that it would make a real difference for movies.
Any and all advice appreciated. Thanks!