Quality of MBA 11 line out (DAC req) ?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by VNM, May 12, 2011.

  1. VNM, May 12, 2011
    Last edited: May 12, 2011

    VNM macrumors member

    Nov 21, 2009
    I've seen a lot of recommendations about using USB DACs for computers as the internal digital to analog conversion is poor (on head-fi, etc.). Any audiophiles have an opinion on the quality of the MBA's output? Purchased some Shure 840s recently, and want to know if there would be a significant difference running them off the line out and an external $100-200 DAC/AMP.

  2. DarwinOSX macrumors 65832

    Nov 3, 2009
    I'm not really an audiophile but I know that the cheap DAC found on any computer will in no way compare to the much higher quality external DAC.
  3. charpi macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2006
    Been following these things about 2 years ago, and stopped 1 year ago after I bought something which I think would last me for 5 years. And I don't want to be tempted into spending more.... ;)

    From that time, the "value for money" brands/DACs would be the uDAC (which I think was updated since) or the iBasso line, I think the D4 or something....

    I got a uDAC myself and I think it's great :)

    Those are in your price range I suppose. Of course you need to remember some DACs don't come with amps and you have to purchase time separately. So I would advise you to research well :)

    Of course if you want to go into detail...head over to head-fi. Probably you would need synergy between DAC and amp, and the DAC and your Shures, and even synergy between the DAC/amp/headphone combo with the song genres which you hear and so on....

    My 2 cents would be uDAC or iBasso but I've been out of touch for about a year now so take it with a grain of salt... :)
  4. VNM thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 21, 2009
    Thanks for the advice. I checked out the UDac 2 and it looks nice, a bit of controversy on specs, but I'll read up on it. I think I'll go for and integrated DAC+AMP, don't have enough desk space for too many things.

    Some people on head-fi are too intense, thought I'd get a more reasonable answers here.

    Looks like I'll move to getting one.
  5. charpi macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2006
    If it is possible though, try to listen and try one before buying if this is your first time. Some people whom I talked to can't seem to tell the difference between $20 headphones and $1800 headphones. So the mileage for "value for money" differs from people to people. Not that I am saying that you are one of them, but the same applies when buying components. I started off by buying them based on specs and reviews and in the end did not like some of them because of difference tastes in sound.

    So my advise would be to, if possible, try out difference DACs and Amps before settling on one. It might be hard due to the lack of specialized stores, but it would save some money :)
  6. octatonic macrumors regular


    Mar 23, 2010
    The DAC in the MBA is ok, but nothing special.

    A $100-200 external converter will be an improvement but that still isn't into what I would call a 'professional' sounding converter.

    Check out the Benchmark Media DAC1, Apogee Duet 2 or the Sound Devices USB PRE-2, Apogee Mini-Me.
    My fave is the Benchmark purely for audio quality and the Sound Devices for mobile recording.
  7. VNM thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 21, 2009
    octatonic, those recommendations look very nice, but way beyond my budget (still a student...). Don't think I really need professional level, just looking for something reasonable and a step up from laptop/desktop integrated line-out, which is what I've had since I've had my own computer.

    Wish I did have a chance to check a few out, but I'm just going to have to go with the reviews at this point. Hot-audio is in town, so might just grab a bit-perfect as a starter and see how that goes.
  8. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I doubt I can hear the difference between an iPod and a good external DAC anymore (from too many rock concerts and air shows a few decades ago).

    Is the MBA 11 audio headphone output quality at least as good as that of an iPod or iPod Touch?
  9. dlamin517 macrumors 6502

    Jul 12, 2008
    i recently got one of the HRT musictstreamer ii. It deff a step up from without it. Improved soundstage and clarity in my klipsch speakers. check it out on amazon it was $150

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