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Headphone/digital out on aluminum Imac etc.


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Before I get on with my subject I would like to thank Chris for an excellent and informative website and to those who contribute much excellent information.

I am looking for a new DAC for my stereo that I have at my computer. I have a Pro-Ject USB Box (PCM-2702 chip inside) and I don't like it. The Cambridge Audio DacMagic would be a no-brainer but it only inputs 16/44 on USB and I want to download 24/96 files. The DacMagic has toslink input which would theoretically work with the digital out on my Mac. The question is, does the digital out go through the sound card (as some people have said) or is it a pure digital signal? Thanks in advance.




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Thanks Chris, that opens up my possibilities considerably. Another question, does this output have any disadvantages compared to Firewire or USB?

Also, with optical, what would I control my volume with, as my amp is not within easy reach?


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Toslink has a very bad reputation in the audiophile world.

Likewise you can find endless debates about USB vs Firewire.


In practice, it is all about the implementation.

My personal experience: when comparing a Benchmark USB DAC 1 connected to a iMac over Toslink and USB, I find it very hard to tell the difference. I have a slight preference for optical but might fail to discriminate the two in a ABX test.

This might be due to the good input jitter rejection by the Benchmark, leveling differences in jitter between the two.

The Benchmark is one of the few DACs doing 24/96 over USB



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The only time I use 3.5mm Mini Optical out to Toslink on the Mac Mini is for Dolby Digital 5.1 output to my Sony surround sound bar when watching DVDs or DivX on my Mac Mini (I have DVI->HDMI to my Plasma display). Otherwise, for music output at 24/96 or 24/192 I use a mid-priced ($1500) DAC equipped with a USB input. I'm told there is great debate about Toslink (optical) vs. S/PDIF and USB for audio but IMHO the latter is much less noisy (no optical to copper conversion). However that is an audiophile point of view. Ultimately, it is what ever sounds best to the listener for the $$$.




Mac Mini Intel; PS Audio DL III - Stage IV Cullen Circuits Mod; Mcintosh MA6500; Audio Physic Virgo IIIs, Anti-cables, Luminous Audio - Synchestra Signature Interconnects, Kimber Kable USB cable

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