Macbook Air- significant benefit from USB DAC?
May 12, 2013 at 10:19 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 3


New Head-Fier
May 12, 2013
Hey Everyone,
I've been a long time reader of this forum and it's been a huge help with my purchasing decisions for quite awhile.
Would I notice a significant difference if I use a USB DAC on my late 2010 macbook air with V-Moda M80s? How much would I have to spend to see a good improvement in quality?
I spend half my time at home on my PC and the other half at uni with my macbook air.
I mainly listen to Pop, R&B, Trance, EDM, piano and occasionally classical.
Asus xonar essence stx
Matrix M-stage amp
AKG Q701 cans
Built in Cirrus Logic CS4206A soundcard (DAC)
Currently: B&W C5 headphones
Soon: V-Moda M-80
I've also got a pair of ATH-M50s which I would love to use with my MBA but they're just too big and clunky to carry out which is why I ordered the M-80s.
May 13, 2013 at 7:42 PM Post #2 of 3


Headphoneus Supremus
Oct 15, 2001
It depends.  The $50 Hifidiyme USB Sabre DAC plus a decent amp was an upgrade for me on a Retina MacBook Pro.  It depends on what you consider "significant" and what the rest of the components in your system are.
Do you know what bitrate your music files are?  I don't know if any of your headphones would be classified as high-end.  
My gut would be to try out the UD100 or Hifidiyme USB DACs and see if you notice a difference.  I'm shocked at how good entry-level USB DACs are these days.
May 13, 2013 at 10:43 PM Post #3 of 3


New Head-Fier
May 12, 2013
Hey utdeep, thanks for the response!
The Late 2010 MBA has a Cirrus Logic CS4206A sound card built in. Not much other equipment in it. I'm not sure what soundcard is in the MBP but I would bet that it's equivalent if not better than the MBA.
I'd define significant difference as a very noticeable difference in sound quality. Of course it has to be matched by a not-overly-significant difference in cost 
 but the value of money can be very subjective. For me, a USB DAC <100USD that would make my music sound better would be a great investment.
Speaking of which, I listen to a mix of lossless FLAC and 320kbps MP3. I guess that my home setup would be somewhat mid-range audiophile and my mobile setup is pretty entry level.
I'll probably wait for my M80s to come in and try out the UD100 or Hifidiyme at a local store.
My Opinions:
Asus essence stx + Matrix M-stage + AKG Q701:
I agree with most reviewers that the Q701s are mixing 'phones. Excellent clarity and separation. Highs may be a tiny bit shrill. Bass tight but rather underwhelming for pop, R&B and trance. Can be a very enjoyable combination with some minimal EQ adjustments.
Asus essence stx + B&W C5
Powerful, tight bass. Clarity and separation can't match the Q701s though
Late 2010 MBA + B&W C5
Tight bass but not as powerful as with the Asus STX. Similar clarity and separation as with the Asus STX. Looks like these in-ears perform  at their best with a good built-in sound card. No point upgrading if I'm just using these.
Asus essence stx + Denon AH-D7100 (borrowed)
Very nice, warm sound with good separation. Hifi rather than reference (like my Q701). Makes everything sound good. Separation doesn't compare with my Q701s. Would love to get these but at 4x the price of my Q701s, I'll just settle 


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