Audiophile setup for imac 27 inch

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by pxl357, Feb 6, 2011.

  1. pxl357 macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2011
    Hello Everybody ,

    I'm looking for a good audio setup for my Imac. I was wondering i can do a simple setup like Imac > Dac ( via toslink ) > Active Speakers.

    I need some advice in term of a good dac and good speakers.
    After a few research i was thinking to start with a Cambridge Audio DacMagic , Apogee duet , Beresford TC-7510 or something similar. I really like the duet ( especially for the recording option as a plus ) but i'm looking for a desktop dac only.

    In term of speakers Audioengine 5 , Klipsch Reference Series RB-81 sounds a kind of good option with no risk.

    Here my questions :

    1 - Is someone have any advice in term of entry level good DAC ? Budget around 200/800. Recording capabilities like the duet is more than welcome.

    2 - Any advices on good active speakers ? Around 400.

    My goal is too have a clean audio system with optional recording capabilities.

    Thanks ,

  2. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    1. Lately, I've been really impressed with Headroom's external DACs. I ended up getting this one several months ago. It costs $300 and accepts signals from both Toslink and USB (I use the Toslink on my Mac Pro, but I think both methods work on a Mac). Headroom is a direct-to-consumer manufacturer and they have great customer service.

    2. Buying speakers is a largely subjective science and you really need to listen to different setups with your own program material to truly determine what sounds best to YOU. Personally, I'm not a big fan of Klipsch speakers in general because they tend to sound a bit too bright for my tastes (due to their horn-loaded tweeter designs). I prefer speakers with a flat, accurate response. My brother runs Dynaudio monitors on his ProTools setup and those are fantastic, but they're also outlandishly expensive ($1600 for their "multimedia" model that accepts RCA connections as opposed to XLR).

    What I do know though is that if you order directly from AudioEngine, they do offer a free 30-day in-home audition, whereas I'm not sure an online Klipsch reseller would do the same thing.
  3. Danny Boy macrumors newbie

    Oct 9, 2009
    Try NuForce

    I've used a NuForce Icon, driving B&W leisure monitors (white) on my desktop. The Icon is an integrated DAC/preamp/amp about the size of a softcover book. It comes in silver which matches the Apple "look". It's not the ultimate in resolution, but pretty good for $300. I've also heard the Headroom products...they are very good, but a little rich for my blood by the time you add the amp and the DAC/preamp.
  4. phoobo macrumors regular

    Sep 13, 2008

    active monitors here, with an Edirol usb box. The Genelecs are exceptional. The 8040s are about $1000 each, the 8030s are about $550 each. There's even a smaller one (8020) if your room is not too big, you can get the pair for around 600 bucks.
  5. musique macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009

    You might also want to check out the Arcam rDac and the Emotiva XDA-1. I think they're each under $500.

    Or, if you wanted to go nuts, you might want to look at the Anthem AVM 50v for $5K+, just to see what else is out there on which to spend your money.

    And for DAC craziness, there are the Mark Levinson No. 30.6 (weighs 90 pounds) or the Krell Reference 64. Both are around $15,000.
  6. 7thMac macrumors 6502

    May 10, 2010
    I would start with just the Audioengine speakers. They will work well through an analog cable without an external DAC. Then see if you can try the Cambridge Audio with return privileges. This will allow you to evaluate the impact of each component separately.
  7. CortoMaltese macrumors newbie

    Sep 25, 2007
    I use a cheap but decent Edirol DAC, and Tascam VLX-5 active monitor speakers. These were really good value, but they are unfortunately not made anymore.

    It all depends on your budget. For more money, an Apogee DAC is quite convincing, and for speakers look at Adam, Genelec, Dynaudio, higher end JBL monitors and the like.

    For a lower budget, Fostex provides pretty nice monitors.
  8. pxl357 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2011
    Thanks for your reply ,

    In term of connectivity should i focus on a spdif connection ?

    To be honnest i'm lost in all this possibility . The Yulong D100 DAC looks also intersting , the DAc , the apogee mini dac. Some much options are available!

    Is there a brand / model should i consider as a overral most used dac by the Mac owner community ?


  9. pxl357 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2011
    OK i follow your advice and what about the Nuforce Icon HDP with active speakers ? With optical connection it seems people realy enjoy it. It worth 450 on amazon.

    Any people think i can find a better dac ( which fit for my imac need ) at this price ?
  10. pgaiduk macrumors newbie

    Feb 9, 2010
    The Duet is a desktop unit. It has 4 little feet and generally is considered the best quality for the buck. Is it the form factor that bothers you?
    I have one and after having both Lexicon and Presonus fritz out on me, I love it!
  11. pxl357 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2011
    Well i like the design of the duet. I just don't like the fact it's only work on Mac and the wires are not really what i like in term of organization. ( sounds dumb i know )
  12. Danny Boy macrumors newbie

    Oct 9, 2009
    USB vs Optical

    Use an optical connection if you can, USB introduces more jitter into the datastream. There are more expensive USB DACs that reclock the signal to minimize the jitter, but they cost more money.
  13. CortoMaltese macrumors newbie

    Sep 25, 2007
    Try to use optical for a good uncoupling.
    I forgot to say that in my setup, I have a "separation audio transformer" (sorry, don't know the English expresson) between the Edirol DAC (which connects via USB to my Mac) and my Tascam monitor speakers.
    If I don't use this transformer, the speaker picks up all kinds of horrible computer noise.

    One last thing about monitor speakers. You really should listen to them before deciding, it's not a product you should decide purely on specs, even less than conventional speakers.
  14. Ace134blue macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2009
    If you're an Audiophile you wouldn't and shouldn't have bought an iMac. Just saying. You will never get perfect sound quality in an iMac, and PCIE Soundcards are/and will be superior forever to these external ones.
  15. VelNZ macrumors newbie

    May 21, 2010
    Yes, which is why one buys an external DAC which is fed through firewire to bypass the inbuilt sound card....
  16. Ace134blue macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2009
    Yes.... and even than PCI/e are superior to any externals.
  17. phoobo, Feb 8, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011

    phoobo macrumors regular

    Sep 13, 2008
    baffling misconception

    You have to get the sound card out of the computer. There is tremendous electronic noise within the box, where the card is too close to all the other components to do its job cleanly.

    Sticking a sound card inside a 'puter is like putting an operating room on a rolling subway car.
  18. pxl357 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 6, 2011
    OK so after a few hours of research , here my plan :

    1 - Buy a decent speakers and a cheap dac/amp. My speakers choice is the B&W 685. And the dac/amp will be a Udac Icon.
    2 - Buy a better dac/amp later . My choice is a dac1 for the guarantee of a decent result and the spdif connection.

    Is that make sense to you ? Do you think i would rahter consider to buy a separate dac/amp instead of a combined dac/amp ?

    I just want to double check before order ,

  19. Danny Boy macrumors newbie

    Oct 9, 2009
    I think you'le love the 685s, I have a pair as my left/right in a home theatre, they'll be amazing on a desktop. The NuForce is a good initial step. WHile I might upgrade my Icon to something better, I still think it was a good value.

    Happy Listening!
  20. Bengt77 macrumors 68000


    Jun 7, 2002
  21. Ace134blue macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2009
    Sorry dude, that is the Biggest lie i've ever heard. Sooo not true. Guess what? I have zero noise with my PCIe soundcard. Only way to get noise is when I am using the front panel audio and even then its minuscule.
  22. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 12, 2005
    I have an Apogee Duet and audioengine 5's. Considering my (insane) audiophile past, I don't consider this set up "audiophile" (read:snob), but it's very impressive for the price. Duet has a good headphone amp built in too.

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