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Considering Moving To A Mac laptop As My Audio Source - Need Your Help And Expertise - I'm Totally New To This

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

As the topic says, I'm completely starting from scratch here. After attending a couple audio shows over the past 18 months and noting how many exhibitors were using Mac laptops as the source for their audio systems, and some initial research, it seems clear that this is rapidly replacing expensive cd sources as the option of choice. I could really use your help in identifying how to optimally get started. My initial options are either purchasing a refurbished, older, Mac Pro laptop from one of the established refurb vendors, or purchasing a new MacBook Air. I would prefer the older Mac Pro option, but simply do not know the horsepower requirements for use as an audio source, or whether the best music software programs for the Mac play well with older operating systems. Also, Apogee Duet 2 DAC has been highly recommended to me, but while I know audio system DAC's fairly well, I have no knowledge in the MAC audio world. So, to sum things up, what do I need to start, what are the best options, how expensive a proposition is this, assuming I want a high quality result? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

JC

post #2 of 28

Hi JC,

 

MacBooks make pretty good audio sources.  With most modern mac laptops you have USB and toslink optical out via the hybrid 3.5 mini plug.  I would think that a macbook air with a solid state drive could be a great choice for an audio music server but you don't have to have a state of the art machine for playing music.  

 

I think one advantage macs have is that the USB implementation works without additional drivers for most external DACs which make it plug and play.  I recommend Centrance Dacport as a good portable choice with your new mac.  They are a real bargain at the current price of $249 (http://centrance.com/store/#!/~/product/category=7071966&id=30615334) and you can probably find one under $200 used.  That DAC/Amp has driven a multitude of headphones really nicely including my Mad Dog 3.2's.  Be sure to get a good USB cable for it.  I use the Wireworld Purple one.

 

I would also consider getting the Bit Perfect app thru the Apple App Store.  It's only $10 and it works with iTunes to give your music a little bump in clarity and nuance.  It's not a ground shaking difference but it's definitely more than $10 worth of an upgrade.

 

Be sure to change the default import settings in iTunes from MP3 to Apple Lossless and turn off Cross Fade, Sound Enhancer and Sound Check in your iTunes playback preferences for best results.

post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your thought, MBritt. I would honestly rather not spend the money on new hardware if its not necessary. Wondering what specs are needed to run the better software, Almarro, etc. I would be perfectly happy with an older Mac laptop.

 

 

JC

post #4 of 28
Quote:
 

 

I would also consider getting the Bit Perfect app thru the Apple App Store.  It's only $10 and it works with iTunes to give your music a little bump in clarity and nuance.  It's not a ground shaking difference but it's definitely more than $10 worth of an upgrade.

 

 

Thanks for posting this. I really like how it improves the sound. 

post #5 of 28

Bootcamp, Windows 7, Foobar, enjoy. At least that's what I'd do.

 

Drivers might be a pain though. So I dunno. Always been a PC person. But most DACs are supported by Mac OS from what I know. Not to mention Macs are really slick to carry around, and with a really good battery. You can go anywhere and still enjoy your music. And they still have pretty decent audio built in. Rather than the junk present in most laptops.

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VXAce View Post
 

Bootcamp, Windows 7, Foobar, enjoy. At least that's what I'd do.

 

Drivers might be a pain though. So I dunno. Always been a PC person. But most DACs are supported by Mac OS from what I know. Not to mention Macs are really slick to carry around, and with a really good battery. You can go anywhere and still enjoy your music. And they still have pretty decent audio built in. Rather than the junk present in most laptops.

 

I've always been a Windows guy too, but Amarra, Audiirvana and Pure Music, all the best music software is Mac only. Also, I really, really wouldn't want my primary music source to be based on Windows, for obvious reasons.

 

JC

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

I'm now starting to consider a Mac MIni as opposed to a Mac laptop, due to price. I also would want to use my Bryston DAC, which, apparently will require me to purchase a USB to SPDIF converter, since both the Apple USB, and the Bryston's USB interface are compromised.

post #8 of 28
Why wouldn't you use the built in Toslink output on the Mac Mini?
post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by drews View Post

Why wouldn't you use the built in Toslink output on the Mac Mini?

 

My research indicates that it yields mediocre sound. Is there reason to believe otherwise?

 

 

JC

post #10 of 28
New macs no longer have optical out and cd drive is removed.

they have limited internal storage that can be nit enough if you have a large collection of music.

if you are planning to rip your collection again using itune you need an external drive. If you already have ripped them in flac than converting them on mac is not straight forward as windows unless you are willing to pay and still use itune as you source hub.
post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by audionewbi View Post

New macs no longer have optical out and cd drive is removed.

they have limited internal storage that can be nit enough if you have a large collection of music.

if you are planning to rip your collection again using itune you need an external drive. If you already have ripped them in flac than converting them on mac is not straight forward as windows unless you are willing to pay and still use itune as you source hub.
http://www.tuaw.com/2012/06/14/attention-world-the-macbook-pro-with-retina-display-does-have-o/





As for converting, the process is pretty simple with XLD (drag-n-drop files onto the XLD icon and it'll convert files to whatever format you set it to in the settings):
http://tmkk.undo.jp/xld/index_e.html
Edited by miceblue - 2/2/14 at 6:31pm
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by miceblue View Post

http://www.tuaw.com/2012/06/14/attention-world-the-macbook-pro-with-retina-display-does-have-o/

As for converting, the process is pretty simple with XLD (drag-n-drop files onto the XLD icon and it'll convert files to whatever format you set it to in the settings):
http://tmkk.undo.jp/xld/index_e.html
lets see if i can get mine work tonight.

XLD doesn't do tagging last time i checked.
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by audionewbi View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by miceblue View Post

http://www.tuaw.com/2012/06/14/attention-world-the-macbook-pro-with-retina-display-does-have-o/

As for converting, the process is pretty simple with XLD (drag-n-drop files onto the XLD icon and it'll convert files to whatever format you set it to in the settings):
http://tmkk.undo.jp/xld/index_e.html
lets see if i can get mine work tonight.

XLD doesn't do tagging last time i checked.
You have to set it to enable tagging before converting.

post #14 of 28
Wow xld has changed alot, i found two great news today, finally going to use the mac for more than watching movies.
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightfall View Post

As the topic says, I'm completely starting from scratch here. After attending a couple audio shows over the past 18 months and noting how many exhibitors were using Mac laptops as the source for their audio systems, and some initial research, it seems clear that this is rapidly replacing expensive cd sources as the option of choice. I could really use your help in identifying how to optimally get started. My initial options are either purchasing a refurbished, older, Mac Pro laptop from one of the established refurb vendors, or purchasing a new MacBook Air. I would prefer the older Mac Pro option, but simply do not know the horsepower requirements for use as an audio source, or whether the best music software programs for the Mac play well with older operating systems. Also, Apogee Duet 2 DAC has been highly recommended to me, but while I know audio system DAC's fairly well, I have no knowledge in the MAC audio world. So, to sum things up, what do I need to start, what are the best options, how expensive a proposition is this, assuming I want a high quality result? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


JC
There are various Mac OS X media players available that optimise the sound quality by allocating resources to the audio playback.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/539740/mac-os-x-music-players-alternatives-to-itunes

I personally use Audirvana Plus since it's easy to use, has iTunes integration (if you use iTunes), and is kept updated regularly.
You can try out a free trial of that software, or a full free version is available (though it's a bit outdated and may take up a lot of RAM).
http://code.google.com/p/audirvana/

Audirvana and other "audiophile" media players stores the music file in RAM memory in order to allow a more responsive loading.





As you can see, I use the Objective DAC for my external DAC and it's quite an affordable and good-performing DAC.
More information about integer mode in OS X: http://www.head-fi.org/t/539740/mac-os-x-music-players-alternatives-to-itunes/1350#post_8594243
"Hog mode" essentially allows the media player to take control of all of the audio processing in the operating system and only plays back audio through its interface (meaning if you're playing music in Audirvana Plus, you can't play audio from a YouTube video while using the same DAC).
Edited by miceblue - 2/2/14 at 6:53pm
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