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iMac onboard DAC vs. external?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by mrheuristic, Dec 9, 2012.
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  1. jaddie
    No, but that's not the problem anyway.  When you're comparing DACs, one issue is the internal gain of the DAC.  If took a tone at 0dBFS and ran the data to two different DACs, you probably will get different output levels from them which makes comparison impossible.  If at least one DAC had a means of output level control so you could make sure both DACs reproduce identical levels, then you can compare them properly.  bigshot suggested a preamp between one of the DACs to assist in level matching (balancing). Once you have both DACs level matched, you can connect them to your favorite amp. 
  2. stv014
  3. AudioBro
    I am getting an imac soon.  DO i need a dac/amp to power some good headphones like the lcd-2?
  4. bigshot
    Probably not. My new iMac has a pretty powerful output.
  5. xnor
    Anyone have specs on that output? Who knows what output impedance it has and max output voltage it can do?
  6. jaddie
  7. xnor
     If its similar to that it won't go very loud especially with stuff like classical music.
  8. Venasa
    I am aware this is a bit of an ancient thread but I wanted to ask the specific people here. Is there really no point in an external DAC then? If that's the case why is there such a range of both external and internal DAC's to choose from? Furthermore do you think there is much benefit in a desktop amplifier at all? Take the Schiit Bifrost for example? 
    I'm just trying to get a better bearing on what is being said here.
  9. Roly1650

    I think the general agreement is that Apple products are audibly transparent devices and an external dac brings nothing to the party.
    The built in amp in the Mac will probably work OK for 90% of the phones on the market. Try the phones with the Mac first, the cheapest way. You may need a desktop amp, if you can't drive the phones loud enough with the Mac, but it wont be adding anything to the sound quality if you do.
  10. ph0rk
    They may be useful in some cases - in the pc world, for example, there are often noisy internals, and getting the DAC out of they main case can help with that sort of noise.
    But the main reason is that people like to buy things, and DACs have exploded in the last 5-6 years.
    Desktop amplifiers can help with impedance issues (say, if you have a K7xx headphone, you'd want as low an output impedance as possible), or with low sensitivity headphones (that is - not loud enough for you at max volume) but you don't need to spend very much to get something that will do the job: an o2 is more than you'd need in almost all cases save for some very "special" headphones that need ridiculous power (like the K1000). 
    And, well, like I said - people like to buy things. And audio makers are clever at packaging and marketing a "look" or image of their products. Look at all the listening station porn and you'll see it. Think of it as desk jewelry.
    Venasa likes this.
  11. shigzeo Contributor

    I'm with you re: noise. It's better than one or two dedicated amps I've used, but, through sensitive earphones is worse than 95% of what I've tried. That said, it measures extremely well. I've put up basic RMAA measurements of it at ohm. If it didn't hiss, I'd be confident to use just it as it has both power enough (not perfect) and control.
  12. watchnerd
    When I'm not using an external interface / DAC I use the jack on the Mac Mini to power a Mjolnir 2.
    Works great.
  13. tonykaz

    Mistah watchnerd,
    For god's sake man, your missing the dog fight of the century, hap'n on Stereophile's Audioquest expose : about the validity of $1,000 HDMI cable. 
    Audioquest's Lowe, Stereophile's JA, Dr.dalethorn, Spacehound and plenty of others are in a Brawl, phew, pseudo science and non-sense aplenty.   
    They need a Ghost Buster.
    Tony in Michigan ( New Hampshire ) 
  14. watchnerd
  15. nick_charles Contributor
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