DAC connection

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by hoyajack, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. hoyajack, Oct 1, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2014

    hoyajack macrumors newbie


    Feb 6, 2014
    I have a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic Plus playing high-res files from my MacBook Pro. What connection will give me the best quality (24/192) out of the Mac into the DAC; USB 2.0, S/P DIF co-axial or TOSLINK optical? I don't think USB (even 2.0) will go above 24/96. I have a great system, will I even hear a difference between 24/96 and 24/192? Thanks for your help!
  2. Irishman, Oct 2, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2014

    Irishman macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    For the most part, DACs are a mature technology. There is negligible difference between DACs, so there is no need to drop thousands of dollars on DACs. That said, there can be a noticeable difference between your Mac's onboard sound and an OUTBOARD DAC, like your Cambridge.

    How much research have you done about FLAC and ALAC files? I don't want to do an info dump if it's not necessary.

    And what are your speakers?
  3. hoyajack thread starter macrumors newbie


    Feb 6, 2014
    I mostly purchase AIFF files from HD tracks. I have Audirvana Plus and Amarra Jr. but I like to use iTunes with Bitperfect for convenience. Currently have MonitorGold Reference speakers with Mirage BPSS-210 Subs.
  4. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I think this is still a matter for some debate. In the end, it comes down to what you prefer. People do speak highly of USB/direct/integer modes.

    That said, I have had some issues with USB (temporary; re-initializing the device usually fixes them). I have found optical output to be the most consistent/reliable interface. It also allows for electrical isolation between the computer and the audio system which can be beneficial in some installations (e.g. your computer might be protected by a surge suppressor or UPS but your audio system not, and that metal USB cable might undo all the protection offered by your surge suppressor in the event of an electrical storm).

    So, try them all. Use the one you like best. :)

  5. Irishman macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    I would suggest reaching out to other sources for high rez recordings - like linn records, itrax, etc. Recordings available from HD Tracks are inconsistent, unfortunately, especially older catalog titles. One thing that's been noticed is that lossy files (CD quality) are being put inside lossless containers.

    I don't have the articles on me, but a simple Google search should yield them.
  6. cycledance Suspended

    Oct 15, 2010
    you will not hear a difference. most likely you don't even have files that were recorded that high. (because it's absurd.)

    the audio hardware business and the professional review sites are fraudulent. they rip you off. it's esoteric bs. the profit margin for dacs is especially bizarrely enormous.

    some facts:

    hearing for everybody gets worse the older you get. you don't notice that.
    your speakers probably aren't linear. your room can not be treated perfectly if it is at all. all recordings are made differently.
  7. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    You seem to equate lack of perfection with "will not hear a difference".

    Sure, we are human and as such we are not perfect by a long shot. But we are pretty plugged into our senses, even as they fade. We can detect miniscule changes in temperature, light, sound, and touch. No, most could not tell you that the temperature was 30º C, or that the wavelength of the light was 700nm, or even that the note being played was C above middle C. That is not the point. People could probably tell you when any of those changed, even to a tiny degree. Changed for the better or for the worse? That is where practice and experience come into play.

    As for people not noticing their hearing (or other senses) changing as they age, I do not understand how you could think that.

  8. cycledance Suspended

    Oct 15, 2010
    no i don't. not sure where you got that from.

    indeed, it isn't.

    no they couldn't. if it was a tiny degree especially not. a lot of people are convinced they hear an improvement when you tell them it's better. this has been proven with expensive food and other stuff as well. u think this is unrelated? nope...the point is that it's in our mind.

    play some test tunes of really high frequencies.


    again. the point is that people overspend on dacs and high bitrate files. it's a scam. a well recorded 16 bit and 48khz file is all you need (44.1 khz is also PERFECTLY fine.). that money could be spent better. all dacs sound the same when played at the same volume (impossible to measure by ear, as it takes around 3db difference to hear a noticeable difference).

    if you want to listen to ear damaging loud sound (90db+) you need a dac that is built solidly for minimal noise build up. but that should not cost more than 300 max (and would have several inputs and outputs).

    let me quote some esoteric audio bs. (http://www.audiostream.com/content/dsd-v-pcm-file-comparison-16441-2496-24192-64x-dsd-128x-dsd)

    Let's start on the positive side - music sounds punchy and bold and is clearly well recorded. There is also a sense of dynamic edginess, a hardness that creeps into the sound at dynamic peaks as if you're not hearing the full sound. This holds for each track and lends the music an overall sense of harshness as if it was recorded in too small a space. There's also an unnatural aspect to decay and reverb where they sound stunted reducing both a clear sense of the space of the recording as well as the full natural voice of an instrument or vocal or a finger snap. There's also an emphasis on transient attack that shifts the music's tonal center away from body.

    Everything opens up as if there's more space in and around the recording. Decays sound more natural, musical images in space take on a more solid and fuller feel. Dynamics have a greater sense of ease, tone colors are richer and overall music sounds more natural and relaxed. On the loudest passages which are most prevalent on Sample #2, there is still some sense of hitting a wall as if some of the sound has been cut off.

    The size of the recorded space is once again larger and much more natural sounding, even compared to the 24/96 versions. There's also a better sense of micro-detail or hearing exactly what the musicians are doing. A more intimate picture. This lends the music more drama, more impact because there's more variety to the sounds. Dynamics also appear to have a greater swing from soft to loud and there's an overall sense of ease that is not present in the previous versions. Upper frequencies take on a sweeter sound, cymbals sparkle, and horns sound more fleshed out and with less glare.

    64x DSD
    Holy crap! The musicians just relocated into real space. Finger snaps are 3D as compared to the PCM versions. Actually every aspect of the music is more dimensional. Dynamics are astoundingly natural-sounding and there's an overall ease to the presentation that translates into an almost uncanny sense of place. Instruments take on a more complex tonal palette and you can hear into the performance much more. Harmonica sounds like a harmonica as opposed to a piece of one. The CD-"quality" version sounds relatively dull and lifeless as if we're missing out on a ton of detail and subtle nuance.

    128x DSD
    Space is the place. Dynamic swing sounds unrestrained and fluid. There's absolutely no sense of harshness, edginess, or harmonic foreshortening. Music is rich and full. The scale of the recorded space is rock solid and stable and music emanates from this space in a completely natural way. CD-"quality" sounds like a cardboard cutout in comparison. There's a lot of "space" in the Sample #1 recording and the opening vocals resound in that space. With the double-rate DSD you can hear the size of this space whereas with the CD-"quality" version it sounds as if the singer's voice is hitting a wall. There's no depth, no complexity to this reverb tail with 16/44.1. With each step up the PCM bit/sample rate ladder and with DSD this tail gets more and more fleshed out, solidifying a sense of time (distance) and place.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Yes. USB can handle just about any audio format. Do the math: 96K is close to 100K and 24 bits is three bytes. These are only two channels so 3 x 100,000 x 3 is less than one megabyte per second. USB 2.0 is more than ONE HUNDRED times faster than what you need.

    It makes ZERO difference what kind of connection you use. It is DIGITAL. bits are bits. If anyone says different they are speaking voodoo anti-science to you.

    Can you hear the difference between 24/96 and 24/192. First what are your recordings? If yu are listening to CDs that are 16/44.1 then upscaling them to 24/96 will do nothing but add noise. But if you happen to have recording made at 24/96 then you need to play them at 24/96.

    the 24/128 setting is rather pointless. What really matters is the 24 bits not the sample rate.

    Yes some people do record at high sample rates but that is because they will post process the tracks. But you are just doing playback, not running a recording studio so 24/96 is the best you can use and even that is really not much better than 24/48.

    But the big thing is the source. Is it REALLY 24/96 or is it just upscaled CD quality.


    You were right about that being BS. Anyone who claims to be able to hear that needs proof. I's OK to claim super-human powers but you need proof.

    For example has anyone been able to pass a double blind listening test? Is this documented in ANY per reviewed paper? (some random web page or Wikipedia does not count.)


    That is absolutely WRONG. No one can sense small changes in temperature, light or sound.

    Well I guess if you define "minuscule change" as "the smallest change that can be detected by humans" then of course we can.

    Most of our senses work on a logarithmic scale. This allows us to see at night and in bright daylight but the trade off for this is our inability to see tiny differences. We mostly need about 3db or maybe 1.5 db to detect a difference.

    Can YOU do better than that? Do you know anyone else who can? Even just one example to support the claim that "We can detect minuscule changes"?
  10. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    Wow, such hostility. I will link to some elementary documentation for your convenience.

    Threshold of hearing: less than one billionth of atmospheric pressure / 20 micropascals
    Amplitude difference: Tool and Olive, 1988, .25 dB
    Light sensitivity of the human retina: one photon
    Reliable conscious detection: < 100 photons
    Tone changes: at or above 1kHz, one tenth of a semitone (or less).
    Temperature change: as little as 0.02-0.03 °C

  11. cycledance Suspended

    Oct 15, 2010
    i looked at your references.
    you are being off topic again. we are talking about being able to detect a difference.
    let's pretend u meant these things as tiny detectable changes. all absurd claims.

    to the poster who said 24 bit matters. no it doesn't. almost no one understands that. that's why you can trick people into believing it matters.

    24 bit sound is important for mixing. not for the final sound file. even a really dynamic piece of classical music can fit entirely into 16 bit with no problem.
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    NONE of those is equivalent to 24 bits of resolution. Not even close. By a factor of thousands.

    24 bits represents a change in 1 part in 16 million. So for example with temperature 24 bits means you can tell the difference if the tamp changes by 0.0000001 degree C Your .02 example is about 9 or 10 bits

    The others are the same, not even 16 bits of sensitivity with human senses
  13. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Jan 1, 2008
    I apologize, but I am not chasing your goalposts. You asked for one example of human beings' ability to detect minuscule (i.e.: "tiny", or "very small") changes. I gave you several, with references.


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