Imic or creativeXmod improves sound quality of the IMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by macsander, May 29, 2008.

  1. macsander macrumors regular

    macsander

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    #1
    Hi,

    I am about to buy the AudioEngine A5's(Speakers). Some people say the sound output of the Imac is not very good since it is a headphone output and told me to buy an Imic.

    My question: Does the Imic(USB) noticeably improve the sound quality?, does anyone have experiences with it?

    There is also the Creative Xmod, which will be better?

    p.s I will not use it for recoding of vinyl/LP ripping. Just for my speakers.

    Thanks!
     
  2. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #2
    There must be some people with knowledge about this matter, please let me know:)
     
  3. bartelby macrumors Core

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2004
    #3
    I have the 1st version of the iMic. It does give slightly better sound than the headphone socket.
    But it all depends on the source.

    I have no idea about the other though.

    From the looks of it the Xmod has more stuff to mess with your sound than the iMic.
     
  4. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2003
    #4
    The iMic sounded much better than the headphone output on my 12" Powerbook. On my Macbook I do not notice a difference as much. My educated guess would be that you would notice little to no difference using the iMic for audio output on your iMac.

    Leopard is kind of buggy with USB audio as well, so only go for if you think your iMac's output is poor. iMic is a great product.

    PS. i would stay away from Creative products
     
  5. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    #5
    The thing is, if I may believe the reviews, the xmod makes your music sound more rich and yeah...just better, is this true or is this only when using cheap speakers or 128kbps songs(I play mainly 320kbps).
     
  6. surferfromuk macrumors 65816

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    Feb 1, 2007
    #6
    I'd buy your speakers and see if you like the sound - if you do you won't need it...It's certainly is not going to make the difference between amazing and nearly amazing...
     
  7. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    #7
    Someone here said the headphone output kills the top of the highs when (good) speakers are connected and that it also kills the clarity a bit, and by using a USB device this won't happen, isn't this true?
     
  8. surferfromuk macrumors 65816

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    Feb 1, 2007
    #8
    Only difference between headphone out is the line level outputs are lower and the impedance is different. Given that your speakers have a specifically designed input jack for an airport express which uses a headphone socket on it for it's line out I'd say it will be a perfect match. My airport express sounds amazing through my events. The frequency range will not be lesser via the headphone jack or headphones would all sound rubbish, wouldn't they!
     
  9. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    #9
    Can you please explain what ''the line level outputs are lower and the impedance is different'' exactly means? Do the lows/bass sound different?

    btw. I also have good headphones so this means that I can't connect them at the same time since their is only one output...
     
  10. bartelby macrumors Core

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    Jun 16, 2004
  11. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #11
    Yes thanks, I knew most of it but what is the conclusion of this article for me? Buy a USB device(IMic/XMod) for my Audioengine A5's or not?
     
  12. CubeHacker macrumors 65816

    CubeHacker

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    Apr 22, 2003
    #12
    I'd say don't even bother. USB sound might cause you more problems than its worth. The built in soudcard on your iMac is fine.
     
  13. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #13
    Thanks but it's not about the soundcard of the Imac, no problem with that, it's about the headphone output which isn't ideal I think...but that's what I am trying to find out in this thread;)
     
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #14
    What's wrong with "headphone output" all that means is that it is designed to drive a high inpedance

    In the end the speakers will always connect to an analog audio output. The question is where the digital to analog conversin is done, in the speaker box or in the iMac. The sound quality comming out of the imac is quite good and I don't think there is anything to be gained using an external converter. The only think lacking in the iMacs audio out is power. There is not even enough of that to drive low impedance headphnes well. But for your usage this is not an issue

    The problem here is the sound quality is relative. If you are planning on critically listienig to music none of those little desktop speakers are any good at all.
     
  15. JunBug119 macrumors 6502

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    Aug 24, 2007
    Location:
    Cerritos, CA
    #15
    i have the creative xmod (bought on clearance for $20) and hooked it up to my imac with logitech z-4 speakers. i must be doing something wrong because i have to crank up the xmod wheel and turn up the imac volume to actually hear anything. i then hooked up the xmod to my PC with some cheap altec lansing speakers and it really did make a difference, so i just left it with my desktop PC :(
     
  16. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #16
    Well the thing is with the headphone output, it is not a real line-out.
    And I really wouldn't want to qualify 400$ A5's as little desktop speakers
     
  17. surferfromuk macrumors 65816

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    Feb 1, 2007
    #17
    I'm no expert but basically a headphone socket has a much lower line level output measured in milliwatts compared to RCA's but this doesn't matter since the speakers your choosing have a mini-jack input - meaning that jack is EXPECTING a line level from a headphone jack output.

    Impedance relates to an amplifiers ability to drive a speaker in terms of the resistance it has to the push pull the cones but again this doesn't matter since the speakers your choosing have a mini-jack input - meaning that jack is EXPECTING a headphone impedance from a headphone jack output and they will be matched perfectly.

    Basically, if your speakers didn't have a mini-jack input I'd say get the USB interface since it does have a mini-jack input it means there will be NO LOSS in audio performance because the expected input matches the expected output from the iMac headphone socket. There will NOT be a loss in frequency range. You won't get bad bass or treble.

    If you connected a mini-jack output from the iMac to RCA's you would find a loss in quality since the output wattage would not be enough to drive the speakers fully based upon the expected input range - ie the input signal would be too weak for the pre-amp in the RCA's. This result is that, unless the speakers had a very high gain sensitivity dial, the total volume and dynamics would be diminished. Additionally the impedance would be mismatched further affecting sound quality.

    Once again, because the AudioEngine A5's have a headphone input jack you will not have a problem - quite the contrary - this is exactly what you a paying for in buying this speaker. You are buying a pair of speakers with an ipod/headphone ready input jack. If your not going to use the mini-jack it I'd suggest you are better off buying a PRO set of STUDIO MONITORS!
     
  18. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #18
    Thanks a lot surferfromuk, I already came to the conclusion that studio monitors aren't ideal because they would maybe sound to flat/agressive for pleasure listening, I think they are really meant for monitoring. That's how I came to the A5's since I could find a better 'pro' setup for an Imac.

    I would like to connect my speakers and headphones at the same time.
    would a splitter like this
    provide any loss(what I can imagine since the signal is plitted up)?
     
  19. surferfromuk macrumors 65816

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    Feb 1, 2007
    #19
    P.S - You have PM!

    Yes, well that's flat/aggressive statement is true for most people - but you are clearly an audiophile in the making and are quite evidently on a quest for sonic perfection and so I think you may well like the ultra-clarity of pro monitors. I don't know what things are like in the states for 'returns' but can't you send stuff back if you don't like it ?

    The splitter is a very bad idea...your splitting the output signal into two devices doubling the impedance with a pair of connected phones - it's a 'easy fix' for convenience on a train or bus for sharing an output...again the Mbox I've recommended has a VERY powerful headphone amp in it - meaning that you will get a significantly better output for driving headphones ( and they'll effortlessly drive high quality headphones that require high-impedance so you won't need to buy another audio inteface as and when you eventually buy a quality pair of headphones ( which I'm certain is coming soon!)). The headphone jack will not diminish the quality of the balanced audio output on the mbox.
     
  20. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #20
    I have AKG 530Ltd headphones atm, which are pretty good, but if I am right the MBox is a 520Euro device (I live in The Netherlands not in the states;)) this is really far to much for my budget.
     
  21. txhockey9404 macrumors 6502a

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    Feb 25, 2008
    #21
    I just use the Optical Audio output on the iMac. It sounds a little better than the headphone analog output, but disables the volume controls on the computer (You can only control the audio through the receiver). I am using a Harman/Kardon receiver that is from 2004 with 2 Mirage Omnisat micro sattelites and a Polk Audio subwoofer and can notice the difference between the analog and digital. So this could be the cheaper way to go if your setup supports it. I bought a $40 cable with the appropriate adapters. (Monster Cable Optical Cable and TOSLINK 3.5mm adapter)
     
  22. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #22
    Well for this you must have a digital input for you speakers I would say.
     
  23. surferfromuk macrumors 65816

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    Feb 1, 2007
    #23
    mbox 2 mini...just as good - perfect for your needs - how much is that in Netherlands ?
     
  24. macsander thread starter macrumors regular

    macsander

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    Feb 18, 2008
    #24
    350Euro(580$) still far to much for my budget since I still don't even have speakers, my budget is max 350Euro (the A5's are 300 that also one of the reasons I ended up with them)
     
  25. surferfromuk macrumors 65816

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    Feb 1, 2007
    #25
    Understood...A5's it is then!!

    P.S - I have the AKG's 701's and they sound pretty good from the iMac headphone port and they do NEED a headphone amp - I really wouldn't worry about dynamics too much on the A5's...
     

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