Mac Pro Audio Quality

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by orangezorki, Oct 15, 2006.

  1. orangezorki macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 30, 2006
    #1
    Hello,

    Probably will splurge for a mac pro soon, and I was wondering what the quality of the line out was. I'm currently using an M-Audio audiophile PCI card with my PC, and I'm not sure if I will need to get an external DAC to keep the same quality.

    David
     
  2. orangezorki thread starter macrumors 6502a

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  3. apfhex macrumors 68030

    apfhex

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    #3
    What kind of quality are you looking for and for what uses? I don't know much about that stuff, but AFAIK the analog line out is 24-bit/44.1kHz (I can't confirm this though).
     
  4. Transeau macrumors 6502a

    Transeau

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    Jan 18, 2005
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    #4
    The analogue line output is 44.1K, 48K or 96K / 16-Bit, 20-Bit or 24-Bit, user selectable.

    The Digital out is 44.1k, 48k or 96k / 16/20/24 Bit 2-Channel OR Encoded Dolby Digital.
     
  5. orangezorki thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    Basically I'm looking for a very clean line out for playing my music through some very good speakers.

    David
     
  6. Tucom macrumors 65816

    Tucom

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    Jul 29, 2006
    #6
    I have the G5, and the line out surpasses the most, if not all, Audigy series in terms of audio quality. I would imagine the Mac Pro is similar. You know, I wouldn't think Apple would "downgrade" the audio port, being as macs are known for their uber media creation and power.


    Peace
     
  7. NATO macrumors 68000

    NATO

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    #7
    You mention the outputs are user selectable - where can I make these selections? I can't find anything anywhere to allow me to adjust the line output
     
  8. daveporter macrumors regular

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    Green Cove Springs, FL
    #8
    The built-in audio is really quite good. I use my Mac Pro as a recording studio and have an outboard MOTU UlraLite because i need more inputs and outputs then the on-board audio supports. If you look at the audio specifications for the built-in audio, especially for the optical outputs, you will be surprised; the equal of exceed the M-Audio Audiophile card specs. I have a pair of Roland DS50 studio monitors connected to the on-board optical outputs that are used to play Mac system sounds and ITunes music. The quality of the sound is every bit as good as that from my $550 class firewire outboard professional audio interface. The latency of the on-board audio outs is also very good when operating as a Core Audio device. Again, the latency can be set to 256 samples (6 ms at 44.1 kHz sample rate) with no audio glitches or dropouts.

    If you don't need more then two mono (or one stereo) in, or four mono (or two stereo) outs, then the onboard audio will give you at least as good performance then your Audiophile card did.

    Dave
     
  9. orangezorki thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    Sorry, I might not have been completely clear - I'll almost certainly use the built-in soundcard, but am wondering if the line out is any good. So far, every computer I have had has had poor line out performance. The 24" iMac I just sent back was better than most, and didn't have interference when you scrolled through a document, but it was still muddy compared to the Audiophile.

    The other option is using the optical out, but since my system (and any stereo amp I've seen) doesn't use optical (or SPDIF) I'd need an external DAC, which is a significant extra expense. I don't really think of this method as using the built-in sound, as it is pretty difficult for any sound card to muck up a digital output.

    David
     
  10. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #10
    You'd be surprised.

    What you'll get in terms of the audio component is something Intel HD Audio compliant - definitely not worse, but probably not much better. The exact codec differs from machine to machine (Intel 5000x / 975x manufacturers have the flexibility to choose codecs) but if the one fitted to my Dell Precision 690 is any indicator it will be respectable but not spectacular.

    Unfortunately having plumped for the Dell instead of the Mac Pro I can't offer any insights beyond that. I say the best thing is since you will be getting it anyway, try it. If you don't like it you'll have to get a DAC - simple as that.
     
  11. orangezorki thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    Interesting - would a USB or Firewire Audiophile be a better option, then?

    David
     
  12. bradc macrumors 6502

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    #12
    I'm also an Audiophile and I am quite frustrated with the headphone jack. I have three pairs of headphones, Sennheiser HD650's, Shure E500's, Sony MDR blah blah. With nothing playing on the Sennheiser's I can hear a bit of feedback but when I use the Shure's, the feedback is brutal! To the point where if I don't have something playing I can't stand the various feedback noises from static to high-pitched whine. Even when I use an amp the feedback is still there:mad: It annoys me because I can't use my $500 earphones, ugh.

    That's my experience at least.
     
  13. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #13
    Probably. If possible go Firewire. I use RME Firefaces myself but it depends on how rabid you are about this sort of thing - and the Fireface is also the reason I don't really care what audio codec is built into the motherboard.
     
  14. QuarterSwede macrumors G3

    QuarterSwede

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    Colorado Springs, CO
    #14
    That's because your $500 headphones are quite picky. Comes with the territory.
     
  15. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #15
    If my experience with the E5 and UE-10 is anything to go by E500's would be quite sensitive to impedance. Putting the (supplied? ) airline adapter on the jack then the E500 should stop a lot of the interference.
     
  16. all2ofme macrumors newbie

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    Oct 18, 2006
    #16
    Another way of getting great sound out of the Mac Pro (or any other computer) is to bypass the internals entirely.

    I bought a Headroom amp (the Desktop Home) from www.headphone.com and use it from the Mac Pro's optical out. No background noise, no hiss. Nothing. You could also use it through USB, though apparently there's increased jitter that way.

    I use it with Sennheiser HD650s, Etymotic Research ER-4P/S...and everything I've tried has been perfect. Sounds great.

    A good place to read up on this sort of thing is:

    http://www.head-fi.org/forums/

    Hope that helps someone.

    Ben
     
  17. bradc macrumors 6502

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    #17
    I'm an idiot, I never thought about using the Optical Out to a Headphone Amp, want to sell yours?:D
     
  18. all2ofme macrumors newbie

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    Oct 18, 2006
    #18
    Not a chance - I love it too much :)

    I'd recommend them heartily, though. You can get their BitHeads (http://www.headphone.com/products/headphone-amps/the-mobile-line/headroom-total-bithead.php) for under $200 if you don't want to spend a packet, or you can spend a heap more if you want to. I went the $2k option because I just love my tunes too much to skimp :D

    No affiliations with Headroom, just a very happy customer. They're great to deal with.
     
  19. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #19
    The Micro DAC is nice. Doesn't cost too much either. But... I might still say take a look at some Pro soundcards. Something like the Focusrite Saffire LE would give you the option of going 5.1 later for example. It's also Firewire for probably the most stable computer -> audio interface you're going to get.

    I like Headroom too. Have two Max amps at the moment - one older, one newer. Headroom would probably go bananas but I'm currently one of them as a monitor stand. Works perfectly both as headphone amp and stand with non marking feet temporarily stuck to the bottom of the ACD :D
     
  20. ray_uk macrumors member

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    #20
  21. orangezorki thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 30, 2006
    #21
    I appreciate the suggestion, but Creative's marketing of this means that I'm very unlikely to buy it. If they can say with a straight face that it improves music beyond the quality of the original quality, I won't believe anything they say. I mean, if their marketing department were scientists, that statement would end their careers.

    David
     
  22. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #22
    I have the X-Fi Elite Pro which is arguably the highest quality implementation of what they do in the X-Mod. Total BS - It's like audio MSG.

    However if you turn all the rubbish off it might be a fairly decent soundcard.
     
  23. orangezorki thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 30, 2006
    #23
    LOL - 'might' being the operative word. Anyhow, got the Mac Pro yesterday, and it's great apart from a little bit of fan 'engine noise' and the 'genius' installing the extra gig of RAM in the wrong slots (Where is a slap-forehead smiley when you need one?) Luckily, switching the FB-DIMMs into the right slots seems to have helped the fans as well, as it gave me the opportunity to use my patented massage adjustment method. (i.e. prod it a bit)

    As far as the line out goes, I'm very impressed. It's much better than the 24" iMac I returned, even though the specs look similar. Far better than any built-in audio I've heard, and almost as good as the audiophile (though I haven't A/Bd them) I'd put that down to the larger, less cluttered case and a power supply that isn't so crap that it emits wierd gurgling noises. I know it's all intel audio, but are the DAC/s or amps (are these used in line out?) seperate, if so, that's clearly where extra money has been spent.

    Once again, thanks to all that have replied. I've been impressed with the useful opinion to flame ratio.

    David
     
  24. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #24
    I found out yesterday that the built-in codec on the Mac Pro is the Realtek ALC880, which is OK - on a mid-budget mainboard, but not a spectacular inclusion and definitely not 'high-end' by any stretch of the imagination. It's for example as good as a middling MP3 player from a no-name manufacturer for 2-channel playback. I expected at least the Sigmatel converters on my Dell Precisions, but apparently that's not the case - which is a bit of a surprise, and not a good one at that.

    I'd say with a decent pair of speakers you'd be better off with an external soundcard. And in the case of the ALC880, even the X-Mod would very likely be better as long as you keep that 'Crystalizer' turned off.
     

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