Audio quality on iMac vs Mac Pro

richpjr

macrumors 68040
Original poster
May 9, 2006
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I will be picking up either a 24" iMac or a Mac Pro very soon. There are very obvious arguments for each of them and like many others I am agonizing over the choice. One thing I haven't heard much talk about is the audio capabilites of these computers. I understand that the 24" iMac has an updated amplifier but not having listened to one, I don't know how good/bad it is. Anyone wannabe audiophiles have an opinion on the audio quality of the onboard sound of these computers?
 

xfiftyfour

macrumors 68030
Apr 14, 2006
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Clemson, SC
I don't know first hand about either, but really, if you're paying $2000+ for a computer, wouldn't it be nicer to get some external speakers that will surely sound about a million times better than either's integrated ones?

There are a TON of really great speakers out there that will sound perfect to the non-audiophile's ears (like me, and I'm making the safe bet you, as well) for under $100.
 

Cloud9

macrumors regular
Aug 10, 2005
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between flesh and thought
I think he wants to know about the quality of the built-in sound processing capabilities, not the speakers. i.e. core audio and the hardware that runs it.

Though I am not a wannabe audiophile and own neither piece of equipment.
 

xfiftyfour

macrumors 68030
Apr 14, 2006
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Clemson, SC
Cloud9 said:
I think he wants to know about the quality of the built-in sound processing capabilities, not the speakers. i.e. core audio and the hardware that runs it.

Though I am not a wannabe audiophile and own neither piece of equipment.
ohhHHhh..

just goes to show how much I'm *not* an audiophile: I couldn't even grab that from his post. :p

nevermind me, then.
 

XyliX

macrumors newbie
Aug 16, 2006
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My guess is that the audio quality in the iMac and Mac Pro are almost identical. They're probably using the same audio chipset.
 

richpjr

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Original poster
May 9, 2006
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Cloud9 said:
I think he wants to know about the quality of the built-in sound processing capabilities, not the speakers. i.e. core audio and the hardware that runs it.

Though I am not a wannabe audiophile and own neither piece of equipment.
You are right Cloud9 - I didn't say that clear enough. I have a good sound card in my PC right now running to a stereo receiver and also a dedicated headphone amplifier. I am interested in what is available on the Mac in those areas. I understand that the Mac Pro has a TOSLINK output but am curious about the onboard sound.
 

emptyCup

macrumors 65816
Jan 5, 2005
1,483
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I also suppose the capabilities are about the same (which is very good). Much of the sound work done for television is done on macs. Maybe this will help. Best wishes.
 

SRSound

macrumors 6502
Jun 7, 2005
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Optical!

In case it hasnt been noted, the Mac Pro features Optical Toslink in/outs for pure digital connections to external amps or recording equipment while the digital connections through the iMac are via minijack. While the toslink connection is certainly superior to the minijack, the truth is most people cant hear the difference. If your audio library is recorded at 192kbps or above or using apple lossless (etc), think about going the higher route. Otherwise, most MP3 files wouldnt make use of the quality anyway.
 

mkubal

macrumors 6502a
Jul 22, 2002
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Tampa
SRSound said:
In case it hasnt been noted, the Mac Pro features Optical Toslink in/outs for pure digital connections to external amps or recording equipment while the digital connections through the iMac are via minijack. While the toslink connection is certainly superior to the minijack, the truth is most people cant hear the difference. If your audio library is recorded at 192kbps or above or using apple lossless (etc), think about going the higher route. Otherwise, most MP3 files wouldnt make use of the quality anyway.
The iMac has optical (toslink) out. It requires a mini toslink cable/adaptor to toslink. Plugs into the headphone jack which handles both analog and digital.

As for actually sound quality, I would assume they sound the same, but I'm clueless about sound processors and what the differences would be.
 

PCM

macrumors regular
Mar 6, 2005
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0
In all honestly, you can get a cheap firewire or USB interface for around 100 bucks that will sound WAY better than the built ins. You will not find any pros, or even prosumers using built in sound cards - even with digital out. However, if you are just going to be playing games or listening to iTunes or DVD's, then the built in audio should be fine for either one. If you are an audiophile - go with a 3rd party solution.
 

Porco

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2005
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I've not used either computer you mention, but unless they're radically different to every other mac I've ever used (from 68k machines to G5s), the onboard sound could not ever be described as being satisfactory to an 'audiophile', in my understanding of the term. Listen to them via some headphones and you'll probably hear the electrical noise yourself. The problem is that whatever they do, the sound outputs are right next to lots of noisy electrical components. So I echo PCM's recommendation of an external sound output of some kind. Personally I just use a Griffin imic (USB) right now, which isn't amazing, but it's better than the built-in audio sockets.
 

richpjr

macrumors 68040
Original poster
May 9, 2006
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I have an external DAC that I am currently using to feed my headphone amplifier for critical listening. I have my PC hooked up to a set of Klipsch iFi speakers for casual listening and gaming. So if I understand correctly, the iMac has a single headphone out that can be used with a TOSLINK converter, while the Mac Pro has a built in TOSLINK and a mini stereo jack. Anyone know where I could find specs on which onboard sound chips are used in both?