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Potential problem with Macbook audio output

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I scoured the internet but could not for the life of me find anything that even remotely resembles my question. Thus, if you know of a thread that has what I'm looking for, please inspire me.


A little background: I have been producing/mixing hip hop music for about 5 years now, so I am no stranger to hifi audio, just not from the headphone side of the spectrum. I recently bought the VMODA Crossfade M100 (which are incredible and I could not be happier with them). 


The two devices I have been listening on are my 2009 model macbook pro, and my iPhone 4s, and I've had some rather inconsistant experiences. My iPhone seems to drive these headphones much better than my computer, which makes no sense to me. Spotify and the default music app on my iPhone are shattering my hearing (in a good way), but my mac seems to be a little quieter. I only listen to FLAC files on my computer so the issue is not the source material; which brings me to my question. Why is my iPhone driving these headphones better than my Macbook? Unless I'm missing something, it seems like it should be the other way around. 


There are only two possibilities I can think of.

1.) The iPhone adds gain automatically at a certain point within the volume limit, which wouldn't really surprise me. I've never noticed any distortion when I have the volume high, but then again I listen to Spotify a lot which is 320kbps (at best).


2.) The other thing I am curious about is whether my computer battery could affect the total output power to my cans. I've had this computer for a while now, and simply put, the battery is f****d. 



I'm hoping somebody has some insight into my problem, or at least knows somebody who I could PM or contact directly. 

Edited by protoolz - 7/24/14 at 8:02pm
post #2 of 9

I'm not familiar with macs, but I doubt they would lower amp power to conserve battery. Is this a question on volume level, or are you getting distortion from turning up your mac volume? You shouldn't considering how easy to drive those headphones are.


Not all files have the same volume. For example, a downloaded file, or streamed such as Spotify, often can have different volume than one from a CD. Not only that, but Spotify by default has volume normalization on (and from what I hear a very bad implementation of it), and could cause a volume difference.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Yes, it is a volume question. I'm not getting any distortion anywhere, but when I compared the exact same file on both devices with volume on maximum for each, the iphone is considerably louder, but no distortion. The best way I can describe it is that through my computer it sounds unamped and through my phone it sounds like the signal is amplified.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
post #5 of 9

Macs use a single chip to convert digital, output a line level signal and drive headphones, so it tends to be somewhat average, and not particularly good with the latter. You might consider getting something like an Audioquest Dragonfly, which plugs in via USB, to do those things instead of the Mac. That will definitely get you better results. Of course, you can buy components that are everything from small to huge and from $50 to $50,000 which will do all that too.

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your advice, I've been looking at some portable amp/DACs but I didn't know if that would be a good or solution, or just a bad way to fix a bigger problem.
post #7 of 9

As long as you aren't going TOO cheap, you should be able to get something that is an improvement, even a USB DAC/amp. Did you want something to use as just an amp with, say, an iPhone too?

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Yes, I was actually looking at the Fiio E17, because it seems like a well built and compact amp that would be great for portable use, while still functioning as a good DAC to use with my computer. But, like you said, there is a range of products from $50 to $50,000 to choose from. I was looking to stay under $200 though.
post #9 of 9

I use an audioengine D1 with my MacBook Pro to drive modded Fostex T50RP's. Does a great job for under $200 IIRC. I'm sure there are several DAC/amps out there that will do a great job. The audioengine seemed like a good choice at the time and it has worked well for several years. Vic

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