powered speakers though thunderbolt query

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by inscrewtable, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. inscrewtable macrumors 68000


    Oct 9, 2010
    I have a pair of KRK vxt6 speaker which at the moment are connected to my headphone socket on my rMBP.

    I'm going to get a belkin thunderbolt dock that has a headpone jack. And I heard somewhere that the mac processes the signal better if a soundcard is used and plugged into the usb port.

    I might end up getting a cheap soundcard like the Behringer U-CONTROL UCA222, and plug that into the belkin and run the monitors though that.

    However as the belkin is connected via thunderbolt I was wondering if I would get better quality sound processing if I plugged the speakers into the headphone socket on the belkin rather than the headphone socket on the mac, and thus avoid using a soundcard.
  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    That is not quite true. What matters is the QUALITY of the USB audio interface ("sound card" is not the correct technical term.)

    Simply plugging in whatever low cost interface you can find likely will NOT make the sound better and can easily make if far worse. (Behringer, by the way does not have the best reputation for audio quality. They are known for being low cost.)

    The audio interface built into the rMBP is actually pretty good and I doubt the Behringer would be an improvement. Also it does not matter at all if the USB is plugged into the Mac of the Thunderbolt dock first. What matters most is the quality of the analog parts and the D/A converter inside the USB audio interface. You are not going to get any improment at all until you move up to a much higher quality audio interface and one with an analog volume control on it.

    Some that I think are good are:
    Alpha by Lexinton. This is the lowest price unit that really is good
    Audiobox by Presonus Very popular and common.
    Any of the Scarlet series by Focusright. This is maybe the best without spending an arm and a leg.

    Your problem is that the rMBP's audio is already pretty good so you are going to have to spend a bit to get better. Notice the outputs of the three I lists are all 1/4" TRS jacks with balanced outputs, analog vole knobs and the companies have for years make equipment used in recording studios.

    Finally one more thing:
    If you care about audio you REALLY need an analog volume control. Leave the digital control at 100% and control the volume with the analog control. All software volume controls reduce the dynamic range. The one fact can explain why it's best NOT to use the Mac's built-in audio output.
  3. inscrewtable thread starter macrumors 68000


    Oct 9, 2010
    OK thanks for that. I have my macbook elevated as a desktop and basically I'm wanting to eliminate the mini jack plug coming out the side of the mac and hanging down so that it could be easily damaged and it doesn't look good either.

    I was reading this article about a blind test of a behringer bit of equipment compared to hi end stuff. It didn't do badly at all.

    Here is a review of the 202, I don't understand the technical stuff, do you reckon that those number are better or not better than what comes out of the microphone jack on the mac?

    I'm probably going to get the Elgato thunderbolt dock instead of the Belkin due to it's better design with a usb port at the front. So do you think the microphone jack on the thunderbolt dock would be no worse than connecting the behringer 222 directly to the speakers?

    I don't want to move up to an expensive audio card.
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    What "high end stuff"? The home stereo world is filled with very expensive gear that is not that great. You are only concerned with playback, not recording so it may not make much difference what you buy, playback is pretty easy to get right.

    Almost certainly, if the goal is to improve the sound your best solution is to change things in the room to deal with reverberation and the comb filter effect, slightly change the speaker locations and aim points. Changes to room acoustics usually have the best payoff.

    If the goal is to make the computer installation look better by moving some wires then look at bluetooth.

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