Sound quality of the 8-core MacPro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by osplo, Nov 1, 2008.

  1. osplo macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Hi! This is my first post.

    I am SERIOUSLY considering throwing my PC away and buying an 8-core MP. But I don't know if I will need a better sound card. Sorry, I tried researching this up but I'm still confused.

    Is the sound card in the MP good enough? I am not a musician, I just want good fidelity for music, and stereo is all I want. I have a Creative (guess it's the SBLive) today in my PC.

    What type of output connectors does the MP have? I saw posts mentioning optical, but I have 2.1 Altec Lansing baffles and I'd like to continue using them. They do NOT have optical input. Just the normal mini-stereo adapter.

    I also suppose there is some kind of microphone input somewhere, I need it for skype VOiP (hope it works well on OS X).

    Sorry for asking the basics. I hope I can join the Mac community soon!

    Thanks a lot!
  2. djjclark macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2008

    Peripherals and audio
    Mac Pro Ports

    * Two FireWire 800 ports (one on front panel, one on back panel)
    * Two FireWire 400 ports (one on front panel, one on back panel)
    * Five USB 2.0 ports (two on front panel, three on back panel)
    * Two USB 2.0 ports on included keyboard
    * Front-panel headphone minijack and speaker
    * Optical digital audio input and output TOSLINK ports
    * Analog stereo line-level input and output minijacks
  3. wheezy macrumors 65816


    Apr 7, 2005
    Alpine, UT
    It has your basic, generic headphone/speaker output. I'm using the Bose Companion 2.1 or whatever it's called and they work great; all the lows go to my subwoofer.

    While it will support 5.1 out of the optical output, you'll need to run that through an A/V receiver as the MacPro does not have individual output plugs for all the channels like those special soundcards.
  4. osplo thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Thanks a lot. So, basically what you said is that I will be fine with the audio that comes standard + my 2.1 Altec Lansing powered baffles.

    Strange that the Apple configuration does not offer any upgrades for the sound card... So I will assume that it is the very best on earth. :)

    Thanks again for your help. I look forward to be writing from a Mac.
  5. xparaparafreakx macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2005
    Please buy a sound card/aduio interface if your that type of person.

    Pro Tools HD 192Khz, hehehe.
  6. Volante macrumors regular

    Feb 8, 2008
    I also recommend the Bose Companion series. Bose Companion 5 has a built-in soundcard.
  7. ceres macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2007
    Dark Forests of Germania
    Here some labwork: thd: 0.006%; linearity 0.4 db; snr 104,3 db(A), crosstalk 82,4 db
  8. xgman macrumors 601


    Aug 6, 2007
    It's probably ok for what you say, I ended up going for a TC Electronic Konnekt Live interface though and a separate amp which is noticibly improved though.
  9. NewSc2 macrumors 65816

    Jun 4, 2005
    New York, NY
    You should be fine. I was driving my Dynaudio monitors via my Macbook Pro's 1/8th inch output for a few weeks (1/8" to dual XLRs... blasphemy, I know), before I bought an audio interface, and I thought the audio quality was reasonably good.
  10. emt377 macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2008
    I think the analog output is just fine for quiet background music. If I wanted something better I'd get an outboard DAC though, not some soundcard that has to sit on a noisy PCI bus sharing power rails and ground with a gazillion other things. I'd get something like a Fubar II USB DAC.
  11. elvisizer macrumors 6502

    May 29, 2003
    San Jose
    actually, it's just your standard garden variety Realtek integrated sound chipset.
    If you need quality A/D or D/A conversion, you'll need a real sound interface. I use my mac pro for gaming under windows and recording under OS X, so I use the Realtek under windows, and I have an Apogee Duet for recording under OS X.
  12. scottlinux macrumors 6502a


    Sep 21, 2005
    Most all macs actually have very good onboard audio (24bit, multiple sample rates, low latency, etc.). Unless you are doing serious audio work the built-in sound is more than OK.

    FWIW You can buy very nice sound cards for Mac, ones that costs anywhere from $100 to several thousands. Lots of people use a Firewire audio interface as that gives nice inputs/outputs and works well with laptops of course.

    Some good brands to check out are:


    This forum is excellent for info on audio equipment:
  13. osplo thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2008
  14. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    As was said a few posts up, it's garden variety onboard audio.

    I know to many, especially on this forum, otherwise bog-standard or (just as frequently) inferior equipment takes on magical properties when an Apple logo is stuck on it - but if you are actually able to tell the difference then the onboard sound on the MP is mediocre, no more. The analog output is actually even worse than other more 'industrial' machines like the Dell Precision workstations which aren't really built with usage for audio 'as is' in mind.

    So it works fine with your average desktop speakers like any number of other PC's, not so good for more critical audio.

    A good compromise is to use the optical out with a low-cost DAC - a USB one as recommended above or perhaps a used, regular optical-input DAC - if you want to do some critical listening.
  15. rhyx macrumors 6502

    Jan 15, 2008
    Or just use the onboard optical. That works fine. There is no need for a separate USB DAC.
  16. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    Not being funny, but do I write in a particularly impenetrable manner? It happens quite often that people quote me and say what I said differently :confused:
  17. osplo thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Don't worry! I understood. But I got another question more related to my general ignorance about optical boards than to your writing style. Here it goes:

    A DAC adapter means that I can take the digital output and convert it to regular stereo? I didn't know such a thing existed. Digital has more channels, right? Is that something like a cheap 10$ piece of plastic or requires power or something and costs more? How does it mix back the channels into stereo, does it resembles the original stereo recording?

    If I am completely lost here, blame me, not your writing... I just want to use my old Altec Lansing powered stereo baffles...

  18. eyecool macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2008
    Fort Worth, TX
    optical tosslink to a logitech Z550 system here. Sounds great! Plays loud. I did the same thing you did, threw out the massive dell XPS tower and replaced it with the Mac Pro 8 core tower of power.

    Other things I brought to my mac pro (from the windows set up) were my ms mouse (couldn't live with a 1 button mouse), hard drive, monitors and all my music.
  19. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    The optical digital output is 2-channel, unless you're playing back something which is encoded in 5.1 multichannel (like a DVD) which the Mac can pass through to a home theatre amp (although the Mac by itself can't generate 5.1 multichannel).

    So basically, an outboard DAC just turns the stereo digital audio stream into analog. The sky is the limit in terms of price but you can pick up cheap DACs from good makers on fleabay, or buy decent new ones off the shelf for a few hundred bucks. Among the cheap, oft-recommended USB DACs is the FUBAR II (no recommendation of the link - just googled "Firestone Fubar II" and that's what I got), and I'm sure you can find many more which are under $500.

    Both hi-fi DACs and studio soundcards can act as DACs, but hi-Fi DACs tend to be a little different to studio soundcards in that they usually have a subtle shaping of the sound to please the ear, as opposed to sounding 'nominal' in the case of studio soundcards. If you only ever intend to listen to the Mac and not make any music, a hi-fi DAC is probably a better buy. However if you intend to dabble in musicmaking, a pro soundcard is a better bet.

    That's a funny joke. The total inadequacy of the Pro for what I want to do gamewise is the reason why I kept buying XPS and similar gaming towers.

    I suppose it depends on why you're considering throwing your PC away. Some people really are better off with a Mac. The shininess brought me here - The Fisher-Price is driving me away. For some, perhaps both are positive attributes.
  20. vipster macrumors newbie

    Nov 10, 2008
    I had a 24" aluminum IMAC and upgraded to the new MP, one of the first things i noticed was sound quality, the MP is far superior.
  21. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    You must listen to a lot of IDM.

    ("Oh wow! I totally missed that fzzt fzzt fzzt, and that pzzzzzeeeee on my old machine")

  22. akdj macrumors 65816


    Mar 10, 2008
    It's amazing in the last couple of years how inexpensive and "noise free" outboard audio has become. IMO, almost making the onboard audio all but irrelevant, with the exception of some of the high end DAL cards and such.

    I use the Behringer U-Control ($25-30 everywhere online) in the field. I have dropped it, stepped on it, left it in the cold and it always works! Works Great in fact! No drivers, immediate plug and play to all of my Macs (both laptops and desktops), it's been a joy! USB input, and it JUST works.

    Another cheap option is the Audio Genie. Both USB, Both sound great.

    For a bit more "performance" in high rez audio transfer, we use Edirol FA-101 and UA 25 units.

    Something to be said though....for ALL the money I pay in "analog" plug ins for Pro Tools and Logic!!! Ugh!!! Be nice to have it "all in the board" again!


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