Hi-Rez DACs and MacBook Pro Audio Output

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by jacofman, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. jacofman macrumors newbie

    Jul 21, 2013
    I consider myself to be an audiophile. I really like good sound and can hear the differences between equipment, sound file formats, etc. I am trying to expand into using hi-res files (24bit/192khz) from my MacBook Pro into a USB/S/DIF DAC. This is apparently more complicated than I thought. I was under the impression that you could just buy a good, USB DAC, connect it to your MBP via USB, and you're off to the races. Apparently, not so.

    Could someone help me out? I have a late 2011 MacBook Pro. I understand that the USB only outputs up to 24bit/96 kHz and not beyond. Does that mean that no external USB DAC that will theoretically play 24bit/192 files located on my MBP will actually do so?

    I also understand that the "optical out" on the MBP (more commonly called the headphone jack) WILL output 24 bit/192khz files. So, is it true that if I want to play 24/192 files I must go through the "optical out" on the MBP and into an "optical in" on an appropriate DAC that has that input and will decode 24/192 files?

    If all of the above is true, it's a little disturbing that so many DAC manufacturers claim to process hi-res files (24/192) via USB and are Mac-friendly. Apparently, this isn't true. I hope I'm wrong and I just don't understand the jargon enough to correctly read the ads and know what they mean.

    Can anyone confirm what I said above and share your thoughts about these hi-res USB DACs from your own experience? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Destroysall macrumors 65816

    Feb 28, 2012
    United States
    USB Asynchronous DACs do require drivers to process 24-bit/192khz music, but it is not impossible.
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Can you hear the diference when you are not told which it is you are listening to. Blind testing is hard to do correctly. If you have found a way to do it, please let us know. If you have not found a way to set up a blind test then you don't really know you can hear the difference.

    There are two cases to cover the first is "easy"

    If you have a "high resolution" file then you get an USB audio interface that has at least those specs and the Mac will play the file through through the interface and it all works the way you'd like it. This is one of the best 24/96k interfaces out there

    If you must have 192K
    thenlook at Apoge Duet or something like it.
    But you will never hear the difference in playback at 96 vs. 192.

    Really if there is ANY difference it is in 24 bit vs 16 bits.

    OK that covers the easy case where the source file is in the resolution you want .

    The Hard case is you have ripped a CD and have a 44.1K 16 bit file. And somehow you want to make it sound better. Of course this is impossible but you can try. You can upsample the file then try and remove any dithering that the mastering process added. But really once the engineer reduces the mix to 44.1 by 16-bit stereo the information is GONE.

    You can try and hack the file with some audio tools and you might like what you create but you are "creating" a new sound, not what they heard in the studio on the monitors.
  4. jacofman thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 21, 2013
    Are you talking about blind tests between files that are at different resolutions?
    You just play one (without knowing which one it is) and describe it's nuances. Play the same file in a different format and describe its nuances. The assumption is that the "higher" resolution will sound better, but that's not always true. Some don't sound any different at all to my ears, and some sound "better" in a lower resolution format. It's all subjective, but most of the time, there are perceivable differences--you just may not like them.

    Aren't these devices used to feed digital signals "into" a Mac, not "out" of a Mac? I'm not creating music, I'm trying to play music that already exists in hi-res formats. Am I missing something?

    You may be right about that......in general. There are fewer "differences" between 96 and 192khz than between 16 and 24 bits.

    I am considering getting the KingRex UD384 USB DAC (http://www.moon-audio.com/headphone-audio/kingrex/kingrex-ud384-usb-dac.html#). My question is:

    Will it play 24bit/192khz files from my MBP without needing some sort of audio interface in addition to the DAC (say a USB to S/PDIF converter, which it already has onboard)?

    I was hoping to use it in my home system along with my Sony Blu-ray player, but unfortunately, it only accepts USB "in". It doesn't have an optical "in" which is the only form of output on the Sony. Oh well, you can't have everything.
  5. ChrisA, Jul 22, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2013

    ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    They are used for BOTH input and output. The funny thing s that the Presonus Audio box is cheaper than many HiFi DACs and has better sound and a built-in headphone amplifier and has two channels of inputs. But it maybe you never plug in a microphone, just use the output channels

    Different markets have different pricing. You get much better deals in the pro audio market then in the home stereo market.

    But if you are into high end audio you really should get some kind of audio input and a good microphone. How else to MEASURE your speakers and room response? Eventually you might do some plots or see how moving the sofa from the wall changed the bass or whatever. Lots of good uses for mics in a home stereo setup.

    It's odd that the moon-audio site does not give ANY audio specs on their device. No frequency response or distortion numbers. Is there a 20KHz low pass on the output? they don't say. I think you'd do as well with a studio type audio interface unit
  6. fa8362, Jul 23, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013

    fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    The Mac OS does not allow optical output beyond 24/96.

    Someone recommended an Apogee Duet. I used one for years until I tried the $169 Audioengine DAC. The very next day I listed the Duet for sale on eBay.
  7. cheekypaul macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2005
    where are you getting/buying your 24bit / 192k audio files from?
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The persons is $20 cheaper and has a lot more features. No one ever complains about it's audio quality.

    I have this silly hobby of building audio amplifiers so I'm set up to test them. I looked at round trip distortion through the Audiobox, that means sending a signal out then taking it back through the preamp then ADC. It is nearly perfect as far as I can measure. About what you'd expect from 24 bits.

    Apogee is an expensive brand, mostly because you pay for the input section and the brand name.

    In general, for playback 24-bits makes some difference but going to faster really has no effect. For recording it's a slightly different thing, the processing adds noise and stating with lots of bits helps that problem
  9. walkie, Jul 25, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013

    walkie macrumors 6502

    Feb 13, 2010
    I'm in the same boat and I'm seriously thinking on buying one of these:

    Schitt MODI:

    Schitt Bifrost:

    I have seen good reviews of both on the Internet, I would like to know if any of you has any further opinions about it, thanks.

    IMHO a 24bit/48khz DAC is more than enough for any audiophile since the human hearing is not capable to tell the difference beyond that, 96khz and 192khz are only used for mixing/recording the audio masters without losing quality.
  10. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    You can't possibly know what other people can hear.
  11. walkie macrumors 6502

    Feb 13, 2010
    Can you tell the difference between 48k and 96k?, tell us what you hear? most blind tests and experiences I have read on the internet says very few people (if true) can.
  12. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    For me, that's a question that's not relevant to music listening. For most people (myself included), listening to music is about deriving pleasure from that experience. As such, the relevant question is: Does 96k provide more listening pleasure?

    Nearly 20 years ago, I determined that I derive more listening pleasure from higher resolutions than CD. I try not to dissect my listening experiences as words cannot convey the emotion I derive from music. Let's just say higher resolution is more realistic and involving, and I much prefer it to 16/44.

    I've never evaluated 24/44 vs higher resolutions. I have thousands of 24/88, 24/96, 24/176 and 24/192 recordings on various hard drives, so investigating 24/44 has no practical value for me.
  13. walkie macrumors 6502

    Feb 13, 2010
    If you feel that beyond 24bit/48k you have a better listening experience just enjoy it :), you are very fortunate to have a good pair of ears, in the end one needs to forget about audio and enjoy music.
  14. cheekypaul macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2005
    are these commercially available recordings? or ones you've made yourself?
  15. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    They are mostly digital recordings of my LPs and open reel tapes. About 150-200 are high resolution releases from the record companies themselves. Some of the open reel recordings were never released commercially.
  16. cheekypaul macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2005
    this subject, and the passion with which people argue around it is often misguided. before these sounds reach ones ears, they have travelled through so many "links in the chain" it becomes pointless to argue that "as long as this part is right, the rest will follow". i'm not saying you're saying that, not at all, you've touched on other aspects of listening for enjoyment already. but i wonder what the point is of overfocusing on this stage in the link? it's certainly not a bad thing to aim high, just be careful not to overshoot...

    unless a sound has originally been recorded (correctly, and recorded well) at 24bit 192k (for example) it can never be of a higher rate/depth, only lower.
    transferring recordings, made with equipment (microphones, mixing desks, mastering) that couldn't deal with 192k, to higher sample rates/bit depths adds nothing (this is certainly true in the digital domain). it will however allow for digital manipulation without degrading the inherent signal. and all digital recordings must be degraded to alter them, and they are all altered. it cannot be otherwise.

    moreover, music/sound recorded at high rates would not automatically mean you're going to enjoy it. can we agree on that? enjoying something simply for the fact it was recorded well, i do appreciate the concept, but is it something i'm interested in hearing?

    i am, however, itching to hear, even a short snippet, of a lauded hi-res piece of audio, that is also available on cd, and hearing the difference.
  17. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    I really have no idea what relevance this has to my recordings.
  18. cheekypaul macrumors member

    Apr 22, 2005
    neither do i.
  19. spacerabbit macrumors newbie

    Nov 7, 2013
    audirvana / mytec 192 dsd

    I don't see any reason for a discussion about jacofman's preferences.

    The question was clear.

    I am currently thinking if i should buy a mbp.

    To enjoy 24/192, i need a networkplayer (i heard about the man301 from weiss engeneering, or naim) which has a good library organisation. Using audirvana plus with itunes needs some work to be done. You'll need to link the roots.

    Mytec is my favourite dac which i will buy next. Check out the specs. Sounds pretty good for its cost!

    I am currently digitalising my lp's too to 24/192. Why record it less???? Anyway.

    So: you can use audirvana plus with your mac or you decide to use a fine network player which will provide you the desired, "best" possible playback.
    As help, i can strongly recomend this link:


    Yes.. its in german but you will find a very nice selection of software to dac to players. Even when you dont understand GE you'll be able to find nice, up to date gear.

    With best whishes,
  20. Pompiliu macrumors 6502a


    Apr 22, 2012
    Yes, i can hear differences between different quality files.
    You need a good recording (not some modern brickwalled crap you hear on radio today), a trained ear and a good audio rig (by good i don't mean bose/logitech/beats, etc).

    For blind testing, i recommend a plugin for foobar (i think it's called ABX Comparator or smth like this).

    Get a high res file (24/96, 24/192, etc).
    It's important that you do the conversion to lower-res files (don't just download an mp3, it could be a **** encoding, or another source file (another mastering)).

    Convert it to let's say 16/44.1 (CD quality) and mp3 (i believe 192bkps is what most songs are).

    Take the test. The difference between the mp3 and the 16/44.1 lossless file should be quite noticeable even on a cheap audio system.
    For example, i can tell the difference even on my iphone with stock headphones.

    You need a good ear and a good sound system to tell the difference between 16/44.1 and 24/96.
    I can't tell on my iphone, but on my high-end stereo ($250k) it's quite easy to tell. :)

    Don't forget to enjoy the music, i mean i prefer 24-bit (and vinyl), but if 16/44.1 is the only thing i can get, i'll listen to that with no problem. :)
  21. teamrivers macrumors newbie

    Dec 29, 2013
    I didn't see the answer

    it was interesting reading thru the arguments about resolution differences in audio recordings and the age old debate of whether someone can hear the difference. For audiophiles, (I consider myself in this group), the differences are there especially with high end equipment. It's akin to digital photography...12 megapixels on a phone isn't the same as 12 meg on a DSLR.

    I'd have to agree, on most mid to lower grade consumer equipment the differences are negligible if nonexistent. Until you get into audio systems in excess of 25-30K, with components that are designed with pure signal paths, you don't know what you're missing. The slightest changes/flaws are exposed. These systems expose all flaws, especially in what was done in the studio. Most audio gear adds "color" with equalization, tone controls, etc.

    With all that said, i'm looking for the answer around whether the USB output on a macbookpro is pure or limited, when playing 24/192 or the like thru iTunes. hdtracks.com is in the business of selling this level of audio files and before I begin to sift thru their libraries, I want to know the limitations. I have a windows workstation as a HTPC, but I rarely turn it on due to win7 issues. My oppo 105 has a USB DAC that supports up to 24/192 if I can get the info to it...
  22. slayerizer macrumors 6502a

    Nov 9, 2012
    nothing wrong with 24/192 DAC on the Mac. It's best for the device to have a higher sampling rate than the source. The need for the high sampling rate is not for the audio quality but more for the precise filtering. You will likely own a few 96khz and mostly 44khz files anyway. The device will take that 48-96khz pcm content and resample them to 192 internally without affecting/improving quality. Then a serie of audio filter(s) are run before being sent on the analog outputs.

    I personnally use an Emotiva XDA-2. Both PC and Mac are hooked to it. On Windows I can tell JRiver to resample the music in software and bitstream the 192khz content to the DAC, but there is no perceived added value, I seem to get the same result.

    The display indicates the sampling rate of the source, but everything inside is resampled to 192khz. For me it's more important to have a device that support 192khz than having media files in 192khz, which leads to waste of hard drive space.

    Anything over 48khz is wasting hard disk space unless you can analyze the frequencies of your audio source and identify audio frequencies above 24khz. If you do have any, they will cause a minor audio aliasing artifact. You can listen to audio aliasing artifacts more easily with source at 44khz.

    I have files up to 24b/192khz but they don't sound better. I you setup a high pass filter @ 24khz you will probably won't be able to hear anything out of your speakers.

    if you do love your audio, try to find different recordings for the material you already own. I managed to listen to vinyl rip of several songs and they did the mastering better at that time. Even 44khz vinyl rip can sound better than a CD version. The CD is not a bad format at all. Some audio labels did a poor job with their mastering and used too much compression.

    Nothing wrong with your setup.
  23. nathan43082 macrumors member

    Dec 30, 2013
  24. Eiren macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2014
    There is a difference...

    First, anyone who thinks there isn't a difference in high resolution v standard resolution audio should stick with CDs as you'll be happy with them.

    Second, you are only going to actually notice the difference if you're going from 16-bit to 24-bit and you're using properly re-mastered audio. A lot of people who say there isn't any difference are right because they're just listening to the same 44.1/16-bit file up sampled. It doesn't take a genius to realise that you cannot simply upsample a file and magically get higher resolution out of it. If you believe that I've got some awesome HD digital pictures from my Sony DSC-F1 in 1999 you should see; there's no difference between those and my iPhone 5S

    Third, sample rate does matter as well, but again, only if you've got true remastered audio.

    And none of this matters if you do not have a solid playback chain capable of accurately reproducing the digital files with bit perfect resolution to devices of according capability for playback.

    I've got a couple of audiophile mates who swear by their Linn decks and vinyl and we did a clean, blind test using standard 16-bit/44.1kHz and actual 24-bit 96 & 192/kHz files from true remasters going out to reference monitors through a cambridge audio dacmagic plus and to reference headphones using a cambridge audio dacmagic xs.

    We used The Eagles, Hotel California, from the "remastered" CD (still 16-bit/44.1kHz) and the remastered 24-bit/192kHz versions done from the original master analogue tapes. Both these guys are Eagles fans and know the song inside out, forwards and back.

    The first listen to the standard resolution audio sounded fantastic as it's still coming off of a great system.

    The second listen to the high-resolution remaster though was a different league - entire pieces of the audio which are simply not there on the standard resolution version stood out; the "crispness" of the cymbals was so defined that you could hear Henley put his hands on them to stop them.

    The defining moment though? When the song stops before kicking off to the final chorus - silence; absolute... amazing... silence. No noise. Nothing.

    Of course when the ladies came in later on listening to Norah Jones in high resolution and commented "wow! this sounds amazing! did you do something to the speakers?" They didn't know it was high resolution audio and laugh if you like, but I find that when a woman walks in and notices audio or visual improvements without being told anything then there is definitely something there :)

    C'Mon, how many gents actually notice that new hair style?

    Bottom line however is that unless you're using a true remastered audio source vs one of the up sampled/repackaged/remastered shams that record companies are so fond of foisting upon folks and playing it back through a solid playback chain then no, you aren't going to notice any difference, but if you're ticking all the boxes? It's just as noticeable as going from standard to high definition video.
  25. iLog.Genius macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    For budget DACs, the TEAC A-H01 or the UD-H01. If you got money to spend, either the Rega DAC or Audiolab M-DAC. Since you'll be connecting your MBP directly to the DAC, I'm assuming you don't have a preference on DAC chips like other audiophiles (Burr Brown vs. ESS Sabre)?

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28 July 21, 2013