Inexpensive DAC which syncs with system volume

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Dae, Apr 28, 2018.

  1. Dae macrumors regular

    Dae

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    #1
    I'm an audio noob who is looking for an inexpensive DAC or a sound card to drive a pair of active studio monitors (KRK RP6 Rokit).
    krk.jpg
    I've been happily using Apogee Duet 1 (Firewire) for this purpose, but it doesn't work well under High Sierra.

    I only need this device for listening. I don't record anything and I'm not an audiophile.

    One important requirement: I want to be able to control sound volume from the OS, i.e. using F11-F12 keys or a system volume slider. Apogee Duet works like that, and that's why I chose it years ago. Most professional sound cards I've seen require rotating a physical knob.

    download.png

    The device needs to have left and right XLR or TRS outputs. If that matters, the signal goes from my sound card to the monitors through a KRK subwoofer (looks like this from behind). A pair of XLR cables connect the monitors with the subwoofer and a pair of TRS cables connect the subwoofer with my current sound card.

    I would appreciate any tips/suggestions.

    Thanks!
     
  2. BrianBaughn macrumors 603

    BrianBaughn

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Location:
    Baltimore, Maryland
    #2
    I think that if an audio device has any kind of direct input mixing knob (mixing an input source, from a mic or whatever, with the USB audio coming from the computer) then the volume control is NOT going to be controllable via the macOS system. This is how my M-Track device works. You can look at all the available devices and see that most, if not all, of the ones with XLR or TRS output jacks are probably like this. The volume knob visibly has something like "0" to "infinity" instead of just being a free turning knob that turns the system volume up and down.

    You might be best off using an inexpensive USB audio device and the RCA plugs on the Rokits.
     
  3. Dae thread starter macrumors regular

    Dae

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    #3
    Thanks for the response. Yes, seems like most sounds cards work that way. Probably my Apogee Duet was an exception.

    I know that some DACs (such as AudioQuest DragonFly) allow the OS control their onboard volume even without a driver. From a DragonFly spec sheet:
    I suppose I need something like this:
    download.jpg
    ...and a 3.5mm audio cable to connect to the 3.5mm jack of my Mac or an audio device. Are there any disadvantages of using such a setup compared to a pair of TRS cables?
     
  4. BrianBaughn macrumors 603

    BrianBaughn

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Location:
    Baltimore, Maryland
    #4
    I'm unsure as to the electrical properties of the different connectors but since you're probably not in a electrically controlled environment, such as a meticulously constructed recording studio, you'll probably get good results as long as the cables you use are of reasonable quality and there aren't any ground or noise issues in the system.
     
  5. Dae thread starter macrumors regular

    Dae

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    #5
    A small update. I found an app called MenuBus (https://www.menubus.audio/) which gives the ability to control the system volume from the keyboard when using an external sound card. It can even try to adjust the volume accordingly on the sound card itself:

    menubus.png

    The only downside is that it crashes often on High Sierra for me, but hopefully it is getting fixed.
     
  6. Dae thread starter macrumors regular

    Dae

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2009
    #6
    I was able to get a used MOTU Audio Express,

    10227038_800.jpg

    and guess what I found in its driver?

    core-audio.png

    Now I don't really need menuBus, which still keeps crashing several times per day.
     

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