Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Cruciarius, Apr 24, 2019.

  1. Cruciarius macrumors member


    Aug 18, 2013
    I recently got the Audioengine A2+ speakers to pair with the Mac Mini I plan to purchase in the future. Audioengine makes a DAC as well, but reviews I've read suggest to not use it with the iMac (my current Mac), since the built-in hardware of the iMac is pretty good. Not much of a difference is noticed by adding a DAC to it.

    How is a DAC with the Mac Mini 2018 though? Worth a purchase? Big difference in sound quality?
  2. D.T. macrumors G3


    Sep 15, 2011
    Vilano Beach, FL
    Check out https://www.schiit.com, specifically the Modi 3 DAC, it's spectacular for the price ($99 new. $89, B-stock).

    That being said, while a better DAC does improve the audio, it's incremental, you're not going to go from audio that sounds like a kids 1970s turntable to music from the angels ... though if you buy a $2500 DAC, you better hear music from heaven :D

    The DAC in earlier model Macs was pretty good, same for iPhones, some early iPods had an excellent DAC, however, most integrated DACs are so-so compared even to an entry level stand-alone DAC some Schiit, Topping, O2, etc. (talking sub-$150). Teac makes some killer DACs for the price point, but you're getting into $500+ territory.
  3. Duncan68 macrumors regular


    Sep 22, 2018
    I can second the Schiit recommendation. They make very good gear for not too much money for most of it.
  4. richpjr macrumors 68040


    May 9, 2006
  5. iluvmacs99, Apr 24, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019

    iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Apr 9, 2019
    Before you spend big and unnecessary money on a DAC, I would highly suggest that you visit this site below and check your ears. Regardless on how good an expensive DAC is, the weakest link in audio is actually the human ear and for some human beings, having exceptionally great sensitivity in the fine spatial frequencies and depth perception, so much so that a nice DAC would help distinguish against an internal DAC in the latest macs. Unfortunately, the majority of people while having good hearing, may not benefit from 24bit 96khz and up sampling rate at all. In fact and in most cases, the majority of people simply can't hear the difference between the internal DAC and external. Which is why you should try the hearing test first. If you score 6 out of 6 with your Audioengine A2+ speakers with your current iMac, then you can consider a refurb Audioengine D3 for $45 they have now. It sounds pretty darn good if you've got the ears to enjoy it. Otherwise, it will just sound the same.

    Another thing to consider is that, you need a high quality streaming subscription service to enjoy the DAC. I have both the Mac Mini 2011 and the Macbook Air 2014 and I would say that their internal DACs are pretty darn good. I use them to record to my Tascam DR-22WL with pretty darn good clean crisp result. You can do better with a DAC, but I struggle to justify the need to hear the absolute in audio perfection. I was an audiophile in my younger years -- Sansui, Denon, Nakamichi, JBL etc, but as I got much older, my hearing is really not the same as I was young.

    Btw, despite me being an old fart, I still got 5/6 right with a crappy speaker on the NPR site. The one that was wrong was still a much higher sample rate closer to the original. So if you can get 6/6, then you deserve a DAC and a nice set of speakers as it will help expand your audio fidelity depth. Otherwise, you will find some people who have a placebo effect -- meaning that they think they can hear a difference just because they have an expensive DAC and amp system but they don't. I still run a pair of the legendary Monsoon MH500 like 17 years old and it sounds amazing.

  6. EightyTwenty macrumors 6502a

    Mar 11, 2015
    The DAC in my iPhone 6 is utter trash. Can’t even listen to it. The on-board audio in my 12 year old cheap AMD PC runs laps around it.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 25, 2019 ---
    His speakers are not capable of outputting anything above 22 kHz (which is roughly CD quality: 44.1 kHz sampling rate divided by 2), so playing “Hi-Res” audio would be pointless, regardless of the DAC he uses.

    As I’m sure you know, a DAC can make a fairly significant difference even for lossy iTunes files. I could hook up 2 different DACs and play the same song and you’d absolutely be able to tell the difference. Not necessarily which is “better”, but they will certainly sound different.

    Using the same headphones, I can barely make it through a 4 minute song on my iPhone, while I can easily listen for 30 minutes or more on my PC with no ear fatigue. A DAC can make a big difference.
  7. iluvmacs99, Apr 25, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019

    iluvmacs99 macrumors member

    Apr 9, 2019
    That isn't the point of the NPR test to test out the frequency response. The NPR test is somewhat similar to a hearing test prescribed by doctors, to see if you can hear the actual nuances of the change in audio fidelity between uncompressed WAV to compressed audio similar to how a human ear can interpret nuances in changes in audio amplitude and fidelity without the human brain overriding the actual results . These changes has a direct correlation to how one would respond to having a DAC. If one can hear the nuances of the NPR blind tests and select ALL the correct answers without much effort using a not so great speaker (like I did with the Acer Aspire E5 and its crappy onboard speakers), that means that you will greatly benefit from the DAC without the placebo effect. I work in health care now, but my former career was in digital media (audio, video, print and digital stills) and it is simply amazing how people actually they could see, hear, smell, taste and feel things that just aren't there because of the placebo effect. When you believe you see things, you actually see it when it's not there. Same with hearing. I just want the OP to first test his ears. There's no point in discussing the frequency ranges of his speakers when his ears aren't up to par with an audiophile!

    The built-in DAC in most phones and computers are not trash, just like not everyone needs to drive and benefit from a Ferrari or a Mustang or shoot with a medium format 100MP camera either. General built-in DACs are made for the general population who don't have as good a hearing as you and I and there's no point in over-building a DAC and power and clock circuitry and isolation that the majority of these people will NEVER EVER hear the difference. And yet, they are forced to pay more for something they can't hear would, at least to me, be unfair. Why pay more for something you can not taste, smell, hear, see and touch better than some outlier?
    The purpose of owning a higher end DAC is the same as in the 70s, 80s and 90s where audiophile strive for the best audio fidelity money can buy, while the rest of the population are contend and happy with their crappy cheap audio equipment. Please don't judge your hearing as the defacto standard for the rest of the human population. Anyone's hearing will degrade as one ages. You will eventually realize as you age older, your ability to discern the nuances of what a DAC can provide will diminish!
  8. Fastyz400 macrumors newbie

    Jun 5, 2014
    It will make a huge difference if you are playing lossless audio files like flac files or Apple lossless mp4a files.
    The one I have is:

    It’s not amplified so, you will need either powered speakers or amplifier. But, it’s a Awsome day for the price. Once you hook it up, you can select sampling rate by, opening midi and selecting the sampling rate of your lossless music file. There are programs out there that will automatically adjust the dac to the correct sampling rate of your music file.

    If you only have simple mp3 files. I wouldn’t invest in a dac.. you won’t notice any difference. A good flac file will allow you to hear the musicians fingers on the guitar strings, very detailed..
  9. F-Train macrumors 65816

    Apr 22, 2015
    NYC & Newfoundland
    At US$220 from Amazon, these are standard desktop speakers that I doubt very much are going to sound any different by adding a third party digital to analogue converter.
  10. Sarpanch macrumors member

    Jan 12, 2013
    No big difference in sound quality. If you were to buy the A5 series, maybe yes, but for A2, the onboard DAC is plenty good.
  11. NaimNut macrumors member


    Oct 28, 2017

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