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Help on choosing DAC

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Hi all-- Great site!


I am a totally new on DIGITAL high end (computer driven). I tried this on the general forum with not much response so I'll try here. Sorry for all the questions!!!


I'm searching for an inexpensive DAC (I want to order one like today!) to go with the following system which is music only:


- Sony C333ES SACD player

- Krell KSL2 preamp

- Counterpoint SA20 hybrid tube/mosfet amp

- Von Schweikert VR4 speakers

- Vandersteen sub

- Decent interconnects, etc.

- I am a musician with good ears, and have completely schizophrenic tastes (classical to punk to rock to jazz)

- I have i-tunes on my desktop PC and an 80GB ipod (not the touch) with everything in Apple Lossless

- Just purchased a new Macbook 2.4GHz (NO FIREWIRE) which I will be using for everything including storage (for now). I can look into more storage, NAS later.

- From reading here, I THINK USB is the way to go vs optical digital out? Not sure on this either--need advice.


DAC budget is $500 MAX (prefer less--I will move it to another system and upgrade if needed as I get the hang of this new medium).


Do I need one capable of 24/96, and if so, any thoughts on which one?


A ripping question: If I dl a file from the site which shall remain nameless in mpg format and use Itunes to store is as apple lossless or AIFF, is that then the same quality file as a real lossless file as ripped from a CD? Not sure I get this...


Thanks in advance for your help!!


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Ripping: you can never improve the quality that you start out with, so if the .mpg file is less than 16/44.1, then converting it to apple lossless won't make it cd quality.


24/96: You don't need a DAC that can do this yet because cd quality is still by far the most available even online; however, it is a good idea for future proofing.


As for the DAC, I'd say look to the pro-audio field. If you some way could have firewire and a mac, then without a doubt I'd recommend the Apogee duet as it stands out in that price range.




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Thanks for your help! A few more questions: (sorry--I know shit about computer based audio)


1) When I look in Itunes I see most (at least the 10 or so songs I looked at) say 16 bit, 44.1. Is that CD quality?

2) I think I know the answer to this (cringe): I used some sort of "sound leveler" on Itunes to keep the volumes similar. I knew this was a bad idea. Can I remove it or do I need to start again?

3) Can I still change Apple Lossless to another format on these files?


OK, back to the DAC. I wont have firewire on my new macbook so Apogee is out (I've run across apogee in my younger days as a musician). I GUESS USB seems the consensus. Should I just get a cheap DAC for now (Fubar, maybe with xtra power supply, or another in that pricepoint)? I can always send this one to my garage/outdoor speaker system if I want to upgrade on the main system...


Wish there was somewhere to listen to this stuff!


Thanks again for taking the time with someone just figuring this out.


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