Hi-Fi Questions

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by LeoFio, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. LeoFio macrumors regular

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    #1
    I was looking to do a simple speaker upgrade for my mac, and somewhere along the line it turned into me building an entry level hi-fi system.

    I have decided on the B&W 685 speakers and Rotel equipment. Keeping in mind that this is for a medium sized bedroom:

    1. Is the difference between using an integrated amp versus a pre-amp and power amp setup that different considering the extra cost?

    For the integrated setup I was looking at: Rotel RA-1062
    For the pre/power amp setup: Rotel RC-1070 and Rotel RB-1072

    2. How would playing an Apple Lossless file from the aux port on my powerbook compare to playing the actual cd from a quality player?

    I was looking at the Rotel RCD-1072 CD player.

    3. I need cable recommendations.

    I want to bi-wire the speakers, connect my laptop to the amp, and possibly connect a CD player to the amp. I don't want to spend more than $200 on cables.


    Thank you in advance for your help and recommendations.
     
  2. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #2
    I'd suggest inserting a 'proper' soundcard for starters. The analog audio from the Powerbook couldn't be called 'hi-fi'.
     
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #3
    1. Given the speakers you've chosen, probably not.

    2. Personally, I'd go for the CD player as the primary source, and the computer as a secondary. As Sesshi said, the built in audio isn't up to the task. You really ought to look into using a different audio interface that has a better DAC. SMPS's are typically very noisy, and those used in PC's also tend to be poorly regulated. Much more attention to such details would have been paid in the Rotel CD-1072.

    3. Just use a sufficient wire gauge of decent material for the application. The manual should have the necessary information (dependent on length of the cable run). The marketing used in cables is a total load of BS. You don't need to spend a fortune on it. Welding cable is more than sufficient, and works extremely well.

    If you do a search, someone (forgot :eek:) did a comparison to prove this. Multiple expensive cables vs. a metal clothes hanger. Some of the listeners (double blind testing) preferred the metal hangar! :eek:

    WARNING: Audio is highly addictive. If you go down this road, all hope for your wallet may be lost. :p
     
  4. LeoFio thread starter macrumors regular

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    #4
    Thank you both for the replies. I will use the CD player as the primary source. What are the options for using a different audio interface that has a better DAC for my powerbook? Do you have recommendations for anything external that uses firewire or USB?

    And thanks for the warning! I have quickly learned that the sky is literally the limit when it comes to this stuff.
     
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #5
    That could be a tough one.

    Try taking a look at RME (they have both internal cards and firewire products), M-Audio (external), and possibly a few others. The Digital Audio section might have some others, but most of what I've seen seemed aimed at recording. More than you need for playback only, and costs more. There may not be many options.

    Sorry I can't offer a lot more information :eek:, but I'm more familiar with internal cards (RME). There seemed to be far fewer options for a Mac last I looked. :(
     
  6. whatisthe macrumors member

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    #6
    Definitely get an external DAC if you plan on using your computer as a source.

    You have quite a few choices for the DAC, all depending on how much you want to spend. As nanofrog mentioned, M-Audio make some decent intro DACs and may be of enough quality for your system. You could also look into the Apogee Duet as it's for Macs or look into USB DAC's such as the Benchmark DAC1.
     
  7. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #7
    Would you have any specific recommendations that aren't made for recording?
    This is where I fell short. :eek: ;) Everything I recall researching was, including the Duet.
     
  8. LeoFio thread starter macrumors regular

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  9. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #9
  10. whatisthe macrumors member

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    #10
    There are DAC's not made for recording, but many are because you want the best audio possible during recording :)

    All of my research has been in the realm of DAC's for headphone usage and I didn't want to recommend DAC's that are combined with headphone amps as they would be overkill.

    The CI Audio VDA2 has an optical input that would work with the newer macs but I'm not sure about the powerbook. I bought a used VDA1 DAC awhile ago and use it with Audioengine A5 speakers which I'm happy with when I'm not using my headphones for hi-fi listening.

    The PS Audio Digital Link III DAC has a usb input which would work with the powerbook but it's costly at $1000.

    Here's a thread with many DAC's listed for further research
     
  11. whatisthe macrumors member

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    #11
  12. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #12
    The Focusrite Saffire is quite good value, even when considered alongside 'hi-fi-only' DACs in terms of capability - and since it's a mature product you can probably find it for good prices. It's a firewire interface. And of course if you get into music making you can use it as such an interface.

    I use RME and Prism soundcards exclusively. The RME Fireface 400 is a very versatile audio interface but it's performance as a 2-chan DAC is not necessarily above the Saffire, and the 800 - all but one of my RME's are 800's - is probably overkill.
     
  13. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #13
    I do like RME, particularly the HDSPe AIO. PCIe interface is necessary for me. I was planning to order one soon, but I will do more research first.

    I hadn't seen the Focusrite Saffire. I'll have to look into that one, so thanks. :) Maybe a few others have hit the market, as RME was delayed getting theirs out the door.
     
  14. lord patton macrumors 65816

    lord patton

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    #14
    I think the Apogee Duet is great, and do not underestimate the value of its beauty and ease-of-use. Plug it in, the Mac makes it the default audio output device, and the big beautiful wheel controls your output.

    FWIW, my brother wrote an article about this stuff. He's biased towards the high-end—I think his current rig is somewhere's around $100,000—but, eh, well, I guess he can write. The article is about using a mac as the source in a hi-fi system, with lots of details regarding DACs. [Edit: well, detail about 2 DACs, anyway]

    link
     
  15. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #15
    The article shows some misunderstanding of the technology involved. As is quite normal in audiophile circles. The Duet is fine and is great if you want something to visually partner your MBP/PB, but other interfaces provide more flexible connectivity.
     
  16. lord patton macrumors 65816

    lord patton

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    #16
    Hey, I never I said I believed the jackass, just that he's my brother.
     
  17. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #17
    Oh, it's just one of those things - Most of them may as well be writing poetry.

    As a non-rabid pretend audiophile who buys high-end gear as a hedge on not missing out on anything, I have asked a few people in meets questions like "When was the last time you had a hearing test?" only to be met by a look similar to me asking "Could I microwave your testicles?"
     
  18. lord patton macrumors 65816

    lord patton

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    #18
    Yeah, they (audiophiles) speak a language, I'm not sure if it means anything.

    As an analogy, I don't necessarily believe in "Chi", that is, a biological energy field or something. I definitely *don't* believe that the average middle-aged American white yoga-mom down the street knows Chi. But I *do* believe that when two experienced meditators (or yogis, or healers, or whatever) talk about Chi, they are having a meaningful conversation, because they have a shared experience and, within their realm of expertise, the word has an accepted meaning. Whether Chi exists or not doesn't really matter, IMHO.

    But I don't think audiophiles, despite having a "shared experience" in the realm of audiophilia, are necessarily saying anything, even when they know the language.

    Have you ever seen the movie Jackie Brown? When DeNiro's character is impressed with Samuel L. Jackson's knowledge of guns, Bridget Fonda replies, "He's just repeating what he's heard. He's no more of a gun expert than I am."

    That sums up the level of "expertise" displayed in that article.

    Anyway, what was the thread about? :) Oh, yeah. Definitely get a DAC of some kind and use your 'puter. Why bother with CDs?
     
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #19
    It usually ends in an argument. ;) From my experience, it breaks down into sub groups. Some believe the "snake oil", others only on measurements. Then there's the middle ground... :p

    Either will work, but depending on budget, a decent CD player may be cheaper than a good DAC/audio interface for a computer. Not sure, as the pricing varies wildly with either. :rolleyes: ;)
     
  20. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #20
    You could also look into something like a Squeezebox Duet. I've owned regular Squeezeboxen and the Transport, and their major failing to me was that even in quite a small living room, at a less-than-reasonable distance the VFD's became hard to make out when set to display useful info. The Duet does away with that problem by putting the display in the remote. The Sonos is also an option, but it costs more.
     
  21. jjahshik32 macrumors 603

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    #21
    I'm actually selling my b&w 685 in immaculate condition on ebay current, I just pm'd ya if your interested.
     
  22. LeoFio thread starter macrumors regular

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    #22
    Thanks everyone for the helpful responses. It definitely pays to do the research beforehand.
     
  23. lotuselite macrumors newbie

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    #23
    Leo, I am using a 160GB Apple TV as a music server. I take the digital signal via Toslink optical cable from ATV to an external DAC to pre-amp etc.
    I am re-ripping my CDs in Apple Lossless to keep them on the ATV.
    Lossless may be overkill depending on the level of the rest of your audio system but you can try more compression for your self.
    Perhaps a high End CD player in an equally high end system may give better results but I suspect you will be well up the curve of diminishing returns, at least from a financial point of view.
    I can see my CD collection and my CD player remaining in storage and I have spent some Loony Tunes money on audio gear over time, (Goldmund Studio turntable eg.)

    An alternative is streaming to an Airport Express and taking the digital signal via Toslink from that to an external DAC, (bypassing the AE's DAC converter).

    A piece of icing on the cake is if you have an iPod touch (or iPhone I think),
    there is a free App from Apple that allows you to use the Touch to act as a remote control to select your music from the ATV. Very useful as it eliminates the need to use your TV to see what is on your music library.

    You could have a look in P S Audio, (http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/index.php?topic=58138.0) and Stereophile sites as they have had articles on doing this.
    Anyway good luck with your decision.

    PS. Hope including that link is OK on this site, I am a Noob here.
     
  24. LeoFio thread starter macrumors regular

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    #24
    lotuselite, thanks for the additional input

    I think I will keep everything hard-wired since both my computer and planned little hi-fi system will be at my desk, so cables are not a concern. I decided to forgo the CD player and spend the money on a quality DAC instead as it will give me more options to work with (and to keep cost under control!)

    While I am at it, I came across the Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC during my research and wonder if anyone has had any experience with it?
     
  25. AZ-GT macrumors member

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