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Which DAC $100-$200ish for Macbook

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi

 

My wife likes to listen to Pandora, so I plugged her Macbook into my Musical Fidelity X150 amp via a cheap cable. Now I'm realizing that I'll have to listen to it more than expected, and I hate the way it makes my Gradient Preludes  sound so flat & dull. So now I'm thinking of getting a DAC.

 

1) I'm hoping yous that have heard a number of different DACS can recommend your favorites that cost between $100-$200ish.

 

2) Is there much difference between a good $100 DAC and a good $200 DAC?

 

Thanks for your advice in advance.

post #2 of 9
Isn't Pandora limited in the format it outputs? From the Pandora website at http://help.pandora.com/customer/portal/articles/90985-audio-quality
Quote:
Audio Quality
Pandora on the Web plays 64k AAC+ for free listeners and 192kbps for Pandora One subscribers. All in-home devices play 128kbps audio, and mobile devices receive a variety of different rates depending on the capability of the device and the network they are on, but never more than 64k AAC+.

Follow the instructions below to change your audio quality settings:

On the Web:

Once you're signed into your account, click your email address (or name) in the upper right corner, click Settings and select Audio Quality.

On the Desktop Application:

Click on the menu arrow between the two thumbs icons and select Preferences. Audio quality preferences are under Music Streaming Quality

If you are getting 64k AAC+, I'm not sure the DAC is going to make a big difference. I think I might try obtaining some high resolution music and trying that before springing for a DAC. If that also sounds flat and lifeless, then maybe the DAC is the weak link. Just my 1.5 cents...
post #3 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty Brooklyn View Post
 

My wife likes to listen to Pandora, so I plugged her Macbook into my Musical Fidelity X150 amp via a cheap cable. Now I'm realizing that I'll have to listen to it more than expected, and I hate the way it makes my Gradient Preludes  sound so flat & dull. So now I'm thinking of getting a DAC.

1) I'm hoping yous that have heard a number of different DACS can recommend your favorites that cost between $100-$200ish.

2) Is there much difference between a good $100 DAC and a good $200 DAC?

Apple products usually come with decent audio support (DAC), so like Billy_Bob said, it could be Pandora.

 

You could try a Hifimediy Sabre U2 USB DAC, $55 plus shipping.

It should be a better DAC then what is in the Macbook.

http://hifimediy.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=123

 

Would need a 3.5mm stereo jack to RCA (red/white) cable, to connect the Sabre U2 to the Musical Fidelity.

http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10218&cs_id=1021815&p_id=5598&seq=1&format=2

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

Billy Bob- Thanks for the info. I didn't realize that the free version of Pandora was poorer audio quality. Duh! To be clear, I'm very happy with the way my cd player sounds with my amp & speakers. Thanks again for telling me about the 64k rate. It's appreciated.

 

Purple Angel- thanks for the cable info. I was also considering spending the extra $$ to buy a Schiit Bifrost. Through Head-Fi research, I discovered that the Macbook headphone out doubles as an optical out, so I could buy the Bifrost version without the USB connect and save $100-  if I purchased that very Monoprice cable you linked. Thanks again.

post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty Brooklyn View Post
 

Billy Bob- Thanks for the info. I didn't realize that the free version of Pandora was poorer audio quality. Duh! To be clear, I'm very happy with the way my cd player sounds with my amp & speakers. Thanks again for telling me about the 64k rate. It's appreciated.

 

Purple Angel- thanks for the cable info. I was also considering spending the extra $$ to buy a Schiit Bifrost. Through Head-Fi research, I discovered that the Macbook headphone out doubles as an optical out, so I could buy the Bifrost version without the USB connect and save $100-  if I purchased that very Monoprice cable you linked. Thanks again.


I believe this the type of cable for connecting the Bifrost to the Music Fidelity .

http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10218&cs_id=1021814&p_id=2869&seq=1&format=2

 

And the type of optical cable for connecting the Macbook to Bifrost

http://www.monoprice.com/Product?c_id=102&cp_id=10229&cs_id=1022902&p_id=1557&seq=1&format=2

post #6 of 9

If you like DIY I would strongly suggest looking at the pupDAC, grubDAC. If not I am a big fan of the Modi. 

post #7 of 9

I like the Audioquest Dragonfly for its sound, portability, and built-in headphone amp.  

Really wonderful for traveling and equally nice for sitting on the sofa with your

headphones and macbook. Is at the upper end of your price range, however.

 

Other similar style DACs out there, but haven't had the pleasure of trying.

post #8 of 9

Fiio x3, doubling as heapdhone amp and portable DAP if you need that kinda stuff :bigsmile_face:

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Purple Angel- Thanks for setting me straight on the Mac>Bifrost cable.

 

MVRK- Thanks for the DYI tip...I like the idea of DYI, but don't have the time to allocate for DYI'ing.

 

Flatmap & DavidSH- I know that Head-Fi is a headphones website, but I don't want a headphone amp. I wasn't even going to post my initial question because I want a DAC without a headphone amp. But researching budget DAC's , THE BEST information I found was on Head-FI. So I posted my question and am glad I did for the helpful information already received. So....

 

I'm still interested to know from the people who've heard multiple budget DAC's what their favorite(s) are. I plan on planting my DAC inside my stereo cabinet and keeping it there. So it doesn't need to be portable and since I won't be using it for headphones, I don't want to spend the money on that feature.

 

Thanks again everybody.

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