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Old 29th March 2009, 06:37 PM   #1
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Default Mini Mac

Okay, not DIY, but, which is the better option connecting a mini mac to a DAC, toslink or USB?
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Old 29th March 2009, 07:49 PM   #2
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The best way is FireWire. As to USB or Toslink, it will depend more on the DAC. One of the (few) Asyncronous USB DACs would likely work best, but you are well into the price range of FireWire DACs.

(BTW, it is Mac Mini -- i've updated the thread title for you)

This is the one i'm looking at getting next

http://www.rolandus.com/products/pro...1&ParentId=114

Click the image to open in full size.

I have 1 of the cheaper USB ones (cost $75 at swap-n-shop) and it is quite decent, but still doesn't trump our better CD players, and is limited to 96k one way. The Firewire will allow simultaneous in/out at 192k, which makes digitizing records worthwhile, and will allow the playback of scarce yet, but available hi-rez downloads.

dave
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Old 29th March 2009, 07:54 PM   #3
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The mac mini has an optical output in the same location as the headphone out. Both firewire and usb require additional software processing, while optical is a hardware solution.

plus optical dacs are considerably cheaper than usb or firewire. we had a "bargain dac" shootout using my macbook as a source, and the vintage entech number cruncher (about $75 to 90 used) was the winner.

I use a zero dac with a discrete jfet buffer. The headphone output is nice too.
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Old 29th March 2009, 08:09 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by d to the g
The mac mini has an optical output in the same location as the headphone out. Both firewire and usb require additional software processing, while optical is a hardware solution.
What extra SW processing?

With optical... you have a SPDIF transmitter in the Mac > out

With USB ... you have USB to IS2 hardware (transmitting the USB does require use of the main CPU)
With Firewire ... you have Firewtre to IS2 hardware

(i'd specifically avoid the ones that go FireWire or USB>SPDIF)

All the same software is in play (CORE audio -- you do need to make sure the settings in Audio MIDI setup and in your player are right)

The optical might be the cheapest (and that is questionable), but he asked for best.

dave
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Old 30th March 2009, 07:04 AM   #5
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I run my digital end of my audio system from a Mac mini via USB, basically I use a trends UD10 and then through to a DAC of choice via coax.

The sound is great, no issues at all.

The Trends is run off a purpose built power supply from a 6v SLA with integrated charger, totally noise free and better to my ears than the USB power supply. This I feel is a great solution and in the end pretty economical.

I am pretty convinced also that the MAC mini is the ideal tool for this, even out of the box it sounds way better than any other computer I have had, including my other macs. Basically I think there is much to be said for having the computer power supply external from the computer.
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Old 30th March 2009, 07:15 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zero One
Basically I think there is much to be said for having the computer power supply external from the computer.
Good point. I'll have to give my G4 Cube a try in that role.

dave
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Old 1st April 2009, 10:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by planet10
The best way is FireWire. As to USB or Toslink, it will depend more on the DAC. One of the (few) Asyncronous USB DACs would likely work best, but you are well into the price range of FireWire DACs.
So what is the difference between Firewire and USB for this purpose? Does FW have lower latency? My understanding is that USB is better than SPDIF because SPDIF is not "reliable" (i.e. doesn't guarantee accurate data stream).

Looking at the FA-66, that would be comparable to the UA-25EX on the USB side right?

I was originally looking for simply a DAC, but actually it would be cool to have the input capabilities of something like this as well for playing around with garageband etc.

Quote:
Originally posted by d to the g
we had a "bargain dac" shootout using my macbook as a source, and the vintage entech number cruncher (about $75 to 90 used) was the winner.
Is that not available any more? It looks cool.

Quote:
Originally posted by Zero One
I run my digital end of my audio system from a Mac mini via USB, basically I use a trends UD10 and then through to a DAC of choice via coax.[/B]
Why not use the DAC that's built into the UD-10?
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Old 1st April 2009, 11:13 PM   #8
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Why not use the DAC that's built into the UD10

No problem at all, it actually works really well, and sounds far better the computers output, though the analogue connection via the stereo minijack plug is not too great. basically it's intended for headphone use.

In the end an external DAC will sound a bit better and of course you can access different flavours of DAC, ie NOS, upsampler, etc
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Old 2nd April 2009, 12:15 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by sbwoodside
So what is the difference between Firewire and USB for this purpose? Does FW have lower latency? My understanding is that USB is better than SPDIF because SPDIF is not "reliable" (i.e. doesn't guarantee accurate data stream).
Firewire was designed from the start as a multi-media transport. It has dedicated hardware for handling the data transport.

Getting USB to do media was an after-thot and something that has been shoehorned... It requires CPU to assist in data transport.

Quote:
Looking at the FA-66, that would be comparable to the UA-25EX on the USB side right?
Yes. The latter is the one i have right now... picked up used for $75.

dave
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Old 2nd April 2009, 03:42 AM   #10
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OK, so far this is what I'm understanding; Optical is SPDIF which is not reliable in fidelity, USB needs CPU's help to transfer data, and while I read it elsewhere, firewire is more jitter prone.

I know with the optical I avoid ground noise from the computer, does USB and/or firewire isolate the computers ground?
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