I play my music from my laptop and am thinking of buying an external DAC so I would need to get the audio from my laptop to the DAC. What's a good USB or Firewire Mac OS X compatible digital out? Is there any difference between a cheap one and expensive digital out if all it's doing is sending data to a DAC?
From what i've read, M-Audio Sonica for optical and Xitel Pro Hi-Fi Link for coax. The Sonica is discontinued, but is around $50 used. The Pro Hi-Fi Link is around $100 new, but it includes tons of cables. used, without the cables, it's aorund $50. I believe there's one in the FS/FT forum.
The Xitel has a reputation for recessed bass. In part it is deserved, but the real problem is that the crappy cables that ship with it have recessed bass. Used with different cables, the sound is quite good. Also, the Xitel has both optical and RCA digital out, and it uses the standard OS level usb audio driver and thus works on all operating systems (Linux works great though FreeBSD seems to be a bit flaky.)
The sonica (I own them both) only has optical, though it has a better analog section than the xitel. The digital sections are pretty equal in quality though the sonica is a bit fatter in the bass. Also, the m-audio requires the m-audio drivers which can present a hastle.
So are you guys saying that the sound out of different digital outs is different? I thought all they did was move bits around, so the sound would be the same?
I may wait for the Perreaux SXD1 to be released in the next couple of months. It's a USB/DAC. I wish I knew a bit more about it. Perreaux emailed me and said it should be compatible with Mac OS X since it uses USB standards.