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tango
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OK, this site is terrific, but my comprehension is limited so please any input will be wonderful. I have a Mac Cube G4 which I would like to use as a server. I see how to use the CD drive to import CDs to an external drive (120 GB) using iTunes and AIFF formatting. Now...how does one direct that output digitally to a DAC?

To be further specific, I have an Arcam AV9 pre-amp processor that has multiple coax digital inputs (and internally has a WM 8740 24/96 stereo DAC) that I could use for sound reproduction. I just don't know if it is possible to make a marriage of these pieces of equipment.

Any help for a neophyte will be appreciated, and thanks for what is the best site on this topic that I have come across.

 

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Hello fellow Cube owner!

 

Apparently the Cube was not a commercial success for Apple, but as soon as I saw this machine I knew I had to have one. I've loved it mightily ever since. Being fanless, it is a nice choice as a music server.

 

I upgraded the internal HDD to a more modern (faster and quieter) version and that was a good decision. My original drive always seemed noisy. From my viewpoint, the best OS for this machine is Tiger OS X 10.4.11. It runs faster than Panther on my setup. I've got the 450 MHz model.

 

The Cube does not have the mini-optical output for digital that later Macs do. For that matter my iBook G4 (I know... all of my computers are sooo modern) doesn't have this either.

 

So to get digital out I think you'll have to pull from either usb or firewire. Since you have a DAC already I think you are in the market for a converter. One example is Bel Canto's USB Link http://www.engadget.com/2008/12/02/bel-cantos-usb-link-24-96-converts-usb-audio-to-s-pdif?icid=sphere_blogsmith_inpage_engadget -- this gadget converts USB to S/PDIF (via bnc coax). I think that's the kind of thing you need.

 

I haven't used this class of products so I can't give you any guidance on how well they work, but others here will probably know.

 

You are so going to love computer audio.

 

 

 

2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

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Dear flatmap,

Thanks for that input. I agree that the Cube is one of the most esthetically pleasing computers ever created. And thanks for the referral to Bel Canto. Now, I hate to be so dense but I am still not sure how one "directs" iTunes to output the digital signal to the USB port. Please advise on that one and I should be getting close to computer audio...

 

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The older Apple's like the G4 cube have the slower USB 1.1, not USB 2.0 which is assumed for most if not all USB products these days. You may come across compatibility issues as well as performance issues, like only being able to play 16/44.1 audio etc. If CDs are all you will be concerned with, then you are good to go.

 

Another option you might consider is to get an Airport Express. Coupling the G4 cube with itunes to the Ariport gives you an optical digital output to feed to an external DAC. Mind you, the express is also limited to 16/44.1, even the digital output, but then you could pair the AX up with, say, a Benchmark DAC1 which re-clocks and upsamples the incoming stream to a higher sample rate.

 

Food for thought.

 

CD

 

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It's pretty straightforward: As soon as you plug in a sound-capable usb device, you will be able to select it for sound output in your System Preferences.

 

You'll also be able to adjust the bitrate being sent to it via the Audio MIDI Setup utility in your Applications/Utilites folder. Opinions vary as to whether to set this as high as possible, or to match your source material (usually 44.1kHz for ripped cd's and itunes music purchases). But either way will work and I'm sure you'll love having quality computer audio.

 

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You don't have to spend that much to get the functionality of connecting USB to your DAC. Much cheaper are the HagUSB or the M-Audio Transit. I have no idea if the performance is similar, but those latter two will do the job.

 

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Taking on board the comments about the limitations of usb 1.1 in older macs, you might want to look at some of the firewire interfaces used in professional/hobby audio. Products like Edirol FA-66, Apogee Duet, Presonus Firebox (a Duet would look pretty darned nice sitting alongside your Cube). Some are dacs with analog output only, some have digital out as well as analog. Even if you don't plan on making use of their recording capabilities, I thnk they represent good value for money.

 

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I setup a 450Mhz Cube as a music server a while ago, altho I still tend to use my laptop as it's more handy.

 

I found that the Firewire out to my DAC worked very well - I use a Metric Halo ULN-2 (a 'pro' DAC with high quality master clock and multiple inputs: Toslink, Firewire, and AES S/PDIF)

 

I also sorted out reliable Airport Express connectivity. In my experience, the best method was to connect the Cube via ethernet directly to an Airport Express, as the Wifi capability (specifically the 'original' wifi card) in the Cube is apparently notoriously unreliable for streaming data. Direct connectivity to the AE gives the Cube reliable Wifi access, although not as 'elegant' as having it entirely self contained.

 

enjoy,

clay

 

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The question about USB 1.1 vs. 2.0 sounds like a good question to pose to the manufacturers, once you're down to your short list on products. Ask them if they certify the performance and sound quality of their device on USB 1.1.

 

 

I browsed over to the HagUSB page http://www.hagtech.com/hagusb.html -- and they specify USB 1.1 for their converter. Again this is unit is not capable of 96kHz.

 

I'm assuming your AV9 (which looks very nice by the way) is going to have a 16bit/44.1kHz dac. So in this application you won't need a 24/96 converter. Of course you may want to buy such for the future.

 

2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

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I think there is a misconception here. Nearly all USB Dac's use the 1.1 standard because it allows the device to be plug'n'play without device drivers and because the bandwidth is more than sufficient. However, I believe that some next generation DACs will use USB 2.0 in order to get above 96hz transmission.

 

It's worth pointing out that there is reason to suspect that 96 vs 192 is a minimal audible difference at best.

 

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Apple computers implement USB differently from Windows computers. I've read some threads on the net suggesting that Windows implements a "dirty" specification of USB, whereas the Apple implementation is more complete.

 

As an example, I own EMU-0404USB. It boasts USB 2.0 capability, but the fine print says that USB 1.1 compatibility is limited to 16/44.1 or 48 on a Windows PC only. Macintosh's with USB 1.1 are completely un-supported. It would be easy to simply add a USB 2.0 card, but the G4 cube has no expansion slots.

 

With the G4 cube, I would really lean towards a firewire 400 interface DAC or an Airport Express.

 

My music server is a G4 733 Mac tower, interestingly nicknamed Digital Audio by Apple:) The G4 feeds an Airport express hard wired to ethernet, which then optically feeds my EMU 0404, which finally DAs the audio and feeds it to my stereo, a Yamaha AX-596 with Cambridge Soundworks Tower IIs. Also of note, my EMU-0404 is operating as a standalone DAC. No software was installed on the Mac at all.

 

Tango, you should consider the EMU-0404 as your DAC, assuming an airport express as well, of course. Look at the threads here on CA regarding the beer budget DAC.

 

CD

 

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Thanks to all for the breadth of input! Really helpful, especially concerning the various recommendations about compatible equipment.

The DAC that is used by the AV9 is a Wolfson Microelectronics WM8740 (www.wolfsonmicro.com) which is 24 bit 96khz by their specifications. I am thinking about talking to the Arcam folks on Monday to see what configurations they are familiar with.

Please keep the suggestions coming!

 

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Your DAC is within your Arcam AV9 receiver. That's one beefy receiver. I looked up the specs and found that the receiver has 7 digital inputs, 5 coax and 2 optical. The least expensive way to mate your G4 cube to the Arcam would then be an Airport Express. They can be found used on Ebay for About $60.00 You would then get a mini-toslink cable to connect the AX to one of the AV9's optical inputs.

 

There have been occaisionally some DACs that just couldn't read from an airport express. You may want to have Arcam verify that the optical connection is compatible with the airport express.

 

Hope this helps.

 

CD

 

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Amazing! It is working!!!

I have an Express which is used as a relay to increase the range of my Airport Base station. After I read your message, I seemed to recall that I might have a cable of the type that you referenced that was once used on a Sony recorder. It is hard to believe that I found it, yanked the Express from downstairs, plugged it in next to the Arcam, popped the cable into it and into the Express and used my laptop as the source (have to set up the Cube later - I was just too excited to see if this setup would work). And yes I am listening to the Eagles from my laptop wireless to the Express and then via the TOSLINK to the Arcam and out through the Martin Logans. And as is typical with Apple I really did "plug and play" - never touched any config controls.

 

Now I need to make sure that I am getting the best quality from the arrangement. I don't know, for example, if the Arcam needs further instruction. But in the meantime I got music.

 

Thanks so much!

 

 

 

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Congrats on getting your iTunes running!

 

To fine tune your system, I suggest starting off with bit perfect output from itunes by adjusting these settings (assuming you have itunes version 7, 8 may be different);

 

In audio midi (Applications->Utilities->Audiomidi), set the sample rate to 44.1, volume to 1.0 or 100

 

Keep in mind that any adjustments made in Audiomidi don't take effect until you quit and re-launch iTunes if it is already running.

 

In iTunes,

set the volume to 100 or max

turn off the equalizer. (view->show equalizer)

turn off sound check, sound enhancer, and cross fade in preferences->playback

 

Play some music and enjoy!

 

CD

 

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