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Best async usb DAC with integrated amp & remote for ? $1,200?

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Don't know if you remember me, but I'm the one ripping husband's huge CD collection. I'm on #1,126 at the moment & the end is finally in sight!



The entire iTunes library resides on an external hard drive (3T Iomega Mac Companion), connected to a MacBook Pro via firewire 800. Thanks to previous responders I learned I couldn't just connect an iPod classic to the hard drive & expect it to work (darn). Shows what a "newbie" I really am. A Mac Mini was suggested, but it seemed I'd need too many peripherals (monitor, keyboard, CD superdrive, etc.) to make that work - after all, husband does need to SEE what the heck is on the hard drive, doesn't he? I must be really stupid but I fail to see how others can use the Mac Mini. Our family doesn't have iPads, iPod Touches, or iPhones. So...I found a used mid-2009 MacBook Pro which will be dedicated solely to husband's music & he'll be using iTunes. The entire CD collection was ripped using AIFF encoding since hubby has a discerning ear. He's currently listening to a 160g iPod Classic with Bose Soundtrack - I can hear the groans now - so I figure whatever I get him next will be better than what he has now.


* Was my impression about the Mac Mini correct?


Okay, now that almost all of the CDs are ripped, the next step is to copy the entire external hard drive to an additional 3T Iomega - that way one hard drive can remain at home attached to my iMac while the other one goes to the office attached to the Macbook Pro. This also gives us a backup hard drive since I don't want to rip everything again.


Current Problem:

What's next? I need something that I can connect to the laptop so that husband can listen to his music. The setting is his work office (roughly 14' x 14'). He can't use earphones because he's in face-to-face meetings most of the day. He needs a way to easily control the volume/mute the music without having to get up from his chair. We do NOT want to connect the Macbook Pro to our office network since we have enough trouble already with how the network performs & synchronizes with 2 other office locations (each 50 miles away). Ideally I'd like to connect the laptop to a single unit (DAC with integrated amplifier), to which I could then connect some bookshelf-sized speakers. The DAC w/amp & speakers will reside on top of a large wooden cabinet (about 5 feet tall x 8 ft.long). We already have an electric outlet up there. Macbook Pro & external HD will reside on a small table next to this cabinet. Total distance from Macbook's location on the table up to the top of the tall cabinet is about 10 ft. I've been reading about asynchronous usb connections which are supposedly better than what the industry has previously used. I also read that you can't get better quality than what you already have on your hard drive.


* If this is the case, what is the advantage to getting a DAC that gives upsampling of 24/96 or 24/192 if what I get will never be better than the AIFF figure (16-bit/44.1 kHz) that the CDs were ripped at? What am I missing here?


* Assuming the asynchronous 24/96 or 24/192 makes sense, what DAC (with integrated amplifier and remote) would you recommend?


* Any recommendations on speakers? Keep in mind we don't need building-shaking base.


* Does it make sense to do a wireless connection between the Macbook & the DAC unit or will that degrade the data transfer between the two?



I'm most concerned with making sure any blips, skips, etc. are minimized because husband is picky & doesn't want to deal with system troubles. Neither do I since I'm not an audio engineer.


I'd like to keep the cost of a new DAC to $1,200 or so since I'll also have to spring some $ for speakers (is $500 enough?) and I have one kid in college & another at a private high school (sadly, money doesn't grow on trees). DACs that look interesting include Peachtree Decco 65, Wired-4-Sound 2, and possibly the AudioLab M-DAC. I looked at the Peachtree Nova, but it doesn't appear to have the asynchronous usb feature that everyone is recommending. The Peachtree DAC-iT doesn't appear to include amplification.


* I don't think you can just connect speakers directly to a DAC-iT, can you?


* If I chose a DAC with integrated amp that didn't also have a remote, could I just buy a universal remote?


Thank you for whatever suggestions & recommendations you have - l truly appreciate the positive support people using this forum have towards audio computer illiterates (and forum users) such as me. Making explanations easy to understand (with enough detail) really helps, even if there's more verbiage than many people like. My husband is getting really anxious to have the new system in place soon. I'm getting anxious too - I'm really, really sick of messing with these stupid CDs and agonizing over what equipment makes the most sense for our situation.


PS - husband even gleefully asked if I'd be willing to add his jumbo collection of old LP albums to iTunes using the Ion LP ripping turntable he bought me for Christmas, but that's a whole separate can of worms. I was ready to slug him!


PPS - thank you DigiPete for the helpful hints.


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