DAC recommendations for new AppleTV?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by rawdawg, Sep 27, 2010.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #1
    I am eagerly waiting for my ATV to ship. In the mean time I do not have digital audio capability with my stereo. Yes, I know my HDTV has HDMI which carries the audio signal but I would like to plug ATV into my stereo for music too (like an airport express). But I have a classic old Marantz receiver so I need RCA inputs.

    Any digital-to-analogue converter recommendations? I posted this in the digital audio forum with zero responses....
     
  2. macrumors 601

    Tilpots

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2006
    Location:
    Carolina Beach, NC
    #2
    I don't know about a DAC, but you should be able to run the HDMI into your HDTV, then run RCA cables from your TV's Audio Out into your receiver. Elegant? No. Should it work? Yes.
     
  3. macrumors 6502a

    pasipple

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    #3
    I have kind of the same issue. I'm in some temporary living conditions so I had to go "lite" with my entertainment equipment. All my AV equipment is in storage so I'm trying to make do with A 42" Panasonic plasma and a set of AudioEngine 5 powered speakers.

    I'm running a DirecTV box, and a Blue-Ray player into the TV using HDMI and will be doing the same with the ATV. Then I'll bypass the TV's lousy speakers by sending the TV's audio out to the AudioEngine speakers. I just ordered a digital audio decoder....to take the audio out (Toslink) from the TV to the powered speakers (RCA or mini-RCA).

    http://www.gefen.com/gefentv/gtvproduct.jsp?prod_id=5980
     
  4. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2009
    #4
    While I can't recommend one, since I'm not well versed in this area, I can say that there are quite a few people against using your TV's built-in DAC. Typically it sounds terrible. Not to mention the fact that your TV has to be on in order to listen to music, another downside. I'd recommend using the TOSlink out on your TV, or, even better, the optical out of the ATV itself, which is what you're looking to do. That's the best route.

    I'm looking forward to some of the responses.
     
  5. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #5
    I definitely wanted to avoid having the leave the TV on to listen to music. So it looks like I'll need a DAC. I was looking at the same one as pasipple here

    Anyone have experience with this thing? I know $50 is still a decent price considering true 'philes' spend $1000 on a dac. But since I don't know if my Marantz is going to live much longer should I just save the money and invest in a newer receiver that takes optical digital audio?
     
  6. macrumors 6502a

    pasipple

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    #6
    One thing you have to be aware of is that most new TV's output Dolby Digital through the optical out (TOSlink). Therefore, a decoder would be necessary not just a converter. Thus my link above....a Gefen DAD (not DAC)...so to speak.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
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    Brooklyn
    #7
    But if I went straight from the ATV using a converter I wouldn't need to worry about that right? Or that just in case I want to watch timewarner cable or something and use my stereo?

    Having a pretty old stereo system with only two-speakers, not 5.1 or anything home theater-ish I'm sort of uneducated in this area.
     
  8. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    #8
  9. macrumors 6502a

    pasipple

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    #9
    I'd like to say correct....but I don't know what format is streamed out the ATV optical output? If it's Dolby Digital then you will need a DAD.

    I just wanted to point out that for new TVs....a DAC may not be the solution.
     
  10. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    #10
    I would recommend the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic for approx. $350 or so if you can swing it. It is quite the stellar performer for the money and quite flexible.

    Others to try would include be from the likes of Arcam (new R-Dac), Beresford as mentioned or even Musical Fidelity.
     
  11. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    #11
    It all depends on what you want to spend.

    I would recommend that you start here:
    All the DACs money can buy: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/494290/all-the-dacs-money-can-buy-pt-3

    You should be looking at TOSLINK input (S/PDIF) units if I'm not mistaken.

    If you happen to be looking at the $300-$400 or so price range, I would recommend the following based on my research (but not my ears yet.)
    • Scott Nixon Chibi DAC $290
    • Musical Fidelity V-DAC $299
    • Cambridge Audio DAC Magic $430

    There's such a huge range in what's available, but many of the lower priced units are USB only. You can easily spend $1000 plus (well, *I'm* not gonna spend it, but I'll let *you* do that), but there is supposedly a lot of excellence as well as value in the units I mentioned.

    Dan
     
  12. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2003
    #12
    If you are going to spend several hundred dollars on a DAC, you may as well save up for a new receiver. Then you can add additional speakers and other components in the future. Just my two cents.
     
  13. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2009
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    Brooklyn
    #13
    Yeah, I can't imagine paying hundreds for a converter. I know the audiophiles do it but IMO it seems like going digital was just another way to trick enthusiasts to waste more money on equipment previously not needed.

    Could it really make that much a difference? I'd rather buy a new receiver.

    Does anyone know if ATV's audio will require Dolby Decoding?
     
  14. macrumors 68000

    musio

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    #14
    I have a converter for sale. Link HERE. PM me for details
     
  15. macrumors 68000

    bobr1952

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2008
    Location:
    Melbourne, FL
    #15
    :confused:
    This is a pretty good solution--one I would probably consider if I didn't have an optical digital input on my AV Receiver. Of course that doesn't help with leaving the TV on.

    Maybe a digital optical to analog converter? Not too pricey--but still a bit expensive for this one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Audio...r_1_4?s=gateway&ie=UTF8&qid=1285620827&sr=8-4
     
  16. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    #16
    Since you have a Marantz, I figured you might be interested in better than average sound, but a few hundred bucks is a lot for a single component like this. Almost anything you get should sound better than what an iPod or the old Apple TV output via analog, even what appears to be the cheapest with optical inputs:

    Dan
     
  17. macrumors 6502

    potatis

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2006
    #17
    There's also a "CYP" DAC which looks the same as the little Gefen, but black.
     
  18. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    #18
    A receiver will not be able to match the sound quality of a decent DAC partnered with the OP's Marantz amp.

    I have found that very few high end receivers can match the 2 channel performance of a mid priced 2 channel integrated amp. Too much going on in one box.

    Since the OP likes the performance of his amp, a DAC is the better solution.
     
  19. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
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    Brooklyn
    #19
    Great feedback everyone. So having not had a DAC all this time and simply have been using the analogue out from my MBP into my Marantz I should expect better sound using a DAC? Maybe that's why I never saw the value of one, because I never heard it!

    Then again as I mentioned I have an old system. My 1984 Klipsch KG4 horn speakers and the Marantz 2015 may not perform as it probably once did, certainly the pots need cleaning but I can't find anyone to service it. Anyone know if I would still hear an improvement using a DAC versus the analogue outs I've been using on my MBP?

    Does anyone know if ATV needs a Dolby decoder? I guess I could use my HDTV to play Dolby movies using HDMI and just use a DAC for the optical out with iTunes music. Right?
     
  20. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    #20
    A dedicated DAC should sound better than most integrated DACs, especially one inside of a laptop due to components used, the type of power it gets, and the interference you get from neighboring electronics.

    I think it all comes down to how you listen. I don't know that my wife or kids would be able to tell the difference between good and better sound, not so much because they can't, but because they don't care to listen for the differences. So if all of your listening is casual, you may never notice. But if you try to pay attention to more than the sound as a whole, if you attempt to make out the sounds of different instruments or vocals, and the qualities of their individual tones, and their placement within the stereo field, etc., etc., then a good DAC can reward you with better imaging, less veiled sound, clearer less muddy bass response, and other benefits.

    But will you notice? That all depends on how you listen.

    As far as having old equipment goes, I've been surprised at how good some of the older stuff sounds. Sure some of the amps have come a long way recently, but I've spoken to folks that have had a very hard time replacing their old (decent) amps with newer stuff for a reasonable amount of cash.

    For myself, I had an old pair of (quite good) bookshelf speakers, now about 25 years old, but that still sound better than most speakers running upwards of about $800 a pair.

    As far as to needing a Dolby decoder goes, I'll hazard a guess only since no one else has answered. Dolby decoding these days is primarily for multiple channels, i.e. beyond stereo. If you're not using more than 2 speakers, I don't think you will see any benefit.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Dan
     
  21. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #21
    Thanks again for all the responses!

    As for Dolby, as Dan brings up, it's mostly for more than 2 speaker setups, so I don't think I'll need it for my current setup

    I'll opt for a lower end one I guess
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2009
    #22
    I suppose I'm more confused with the semantics-- if the ATV outputs with Dolby Digital over its TOSlink, and I'm just going to dual channel analog, do I need to get a DAD, or will a simple DAC suffice?
     
  23. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #23
    I'm not sure myself, but I think it means you would need a DAD if you want to play it straight to the stereo, but in my case if I ever have a dolby digital source I could just send it via HDMI to my TV which will decode it. I think my TV even has analogue out (though poor probably) so I could send that to the stereo if I really wanted to.

    Am I correct?
     
  24. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2009
    #24
    Correct at least in terms of the TV analysis. Your TV will do the DAD decoding, and unfortunately the analog out probably sucks, hence the need for a DAC. In my case I have an older computer with a mini-DVI port, so I cant transmit audio over HDMI in certain cases (unless I were to rely on a new ATV->TV's DAD/DAC-> analog). However in my case I'm really looking to put out audio via the ATV through the optical, bypassing the TV entirely.

    My question still stands. Also, for all you DAC/DAD people out there, how does your DAC compare to the built-in one for your mac?
     
  25. macrumors 6502a

    pasipple

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    #25
    I'm not an expert...and I could be wrong...but from what I learned over at AVForum....

    All HD programming...DirecTV, HD Movies, etc...would include Dolby Digital (DD) audio. SD material would not. So HD programming directed to the optical audio out (ATV, most TVs) would contain DD and would need to be decoded to analog via a DAD. SD programming w/o DD directed to the audio out would not require a DAD and thus a DAC would suffice.

    So it depends on the source of the material and certainly whether the source audio is DD. If you were to send DD thru a DAC without decoding it you would get nothing.

    So...same with the ATV. If you are renting an iTunes HD movie and/or are streaming an HD quality movie file with DD thru your ATV and utilizing the optical audio out you will need to decode the material to play thru some analog speakers.
     

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