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Noob Advice Needed


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Hi guys,

 

I have a question. While I've been pouring my resources into my main A/V system in my living room, where I listen to CDs mostly, I also realize that I listen to a lot of music on my desktop. I would like to improve my listening experience there without breaking the bank. My current audio stream is like this

 

AAC/ALAC from iTunes on my iMac 27" retina > Bose Companion 3 system (powered sub + two satellites) via the 3.5mm headphone jack from the Mac. I am wondering if inserting a moderately priced DAC in between would produce any noticeable improvement.

 

A few other notes - I don't know the specs on the Bose, being a crap company that they are they don't release them. I got the Bose as a gift and they are OK for listening at moderate volume. I hate headphones - anathema for this place, I know, but I just hate having bulky things on my head, especially when I work in front of a computer all day.

 

So far I've narrowed the candidates down to either Meridian Explorer or Peachtree IT-X. The Meridian is tempting because it's compact and has a very straightforward connection, with the female 3.5mm jack that would perfectly and discreetly connect to the Bose system and match the system in terms of looks (sorry, looks are also important to me). Seems like the Peachtree might sound better, but I am really not sure. Or, last but not least, am I simply wasting my money given my current set-up? Thanks!

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Just a few miscellaneous points:

 

You say you're connecting the Bose system to the Mac via the Mac's 3.5mm jack. The first thing you should try is connecting via USB to see if that sounds better. That costs you nothing. The USB connection means that the Companion 3 has its own built-in DAC, so you'd be comparing that with the iMac's built-in DAC.

 

If you decide to go ahead with the separate DAC, the iFi Nano iDSD is an option at the same price point. Not that your other candidates are bad, but the iFi offers the capability to play DSD tracks and higher res PCM files, so worth considering in that scenario, IMO.

 

I think what you're really asking is, "How can I improve my current system without breaking the bank?" Given that you don't like headphones, I think the idea of having a Mac -> DAC -> powered-speakers setup is a really good, cost-effective way to get decent sound. So if you get the outboard DAC with the idea that the next step is upgrading the powered speakers, that makes sense, even if it turns out that the Companion 3 is a big limiting factor.

 

--David

Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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The quality should be improved by pretty much anything in comparison to the 3.5 mm headphone output.

 

Schiit DACs are pretty good in terms of VFM, ODAC is another contender.

 

For starters, you can toggle with the DACs of the iMac as well as the Bose and compare which sounds better.

 

Considering the limited output options on the iMac, you can also try the existing digital output as well as wireless streaming to something like Chromecast Audio which can act as a DAC or connected to an external DAC.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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