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new mac or USB/spdif converter


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Hello all - I'm a newbie to this forum and a relative newbie to computer audio. I currently own a macbook air which I use as a music server (running Audirvana) connected to my Marantz SA8004 SACD/DAC via USB. But USB on the Marantz is capped at 96k, whereas if I can get 192k if I go in via optical or coax. Unfortunately, my MBA has no digital output. SO... assuming that I want to get 192k (don't tell me it's not worth it, I understand it might not be but I'm curious) am I better off investing in a (post-2009) Mac Mini that will give me a digital output from the headphone port allowing me to go directly into the optical in on the Marantz, or in buying a USB/Spdif converter and going coax into the Marantz. I ask because there's a Sotm dx-USB available near me right now for $180 and I've read good things about it. But I can't decide if I'd be better off just putting that money towards a Mac that has digital output capability. Any thoughts are welcome, thanks

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Something like this interface can help, but I can't speak of the capabilities myself.

 

You could also find an HDMI one too, perhaps.

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Optical out on the Mac Mini is limited to 96k no matter what? Even using Audirvana and going into a DAC that can handle 192k? Forgive me if that's a stupid question just trying to understand. Is the USB out similarly limited, such that even if I go USB to the Sotm DX-USB and come out coax into my Marantz I still won't be able to get 192k? Because if that's the case I'm not sure a USB/spdif converter is worth it to me.

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I think the limitation is only on optical. USB out from my mac mini has no such limitation, and I also have a USB/coax converter. (Halide Bridge, only goes up to 24/96). I think the limit is due to the optical interface, not anything in the OS per se.

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The Halide Bridge is a high–quality USB/coax converter. I got it when I had a DAC with USB limited to 16 bit 48kHz. Now I have a DAC without limitations on USB. I cannot hear any difference between the USB and the Coax. I use a Belkin $7 USB cable. I don't have very much music beyond 96kHz, but it is nice to be able to use the larger bandwidth for up-sampling. If you do get any sort of converter, avoid those that require installing a driver. You will thank yourself for that at some point.

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Not strictly on the thread but related.

There is lots of discussion about usb output of hires signals and all its attendant problems but what about the Lightning output?

Specifically using a lightning to usb cable. I presume this would be full resolution and powered. However I can't find any discussion about it.

Regards

Digital; Mac Mini, DACmini, CEC TL51X, DEQX Preamp/Processor, Audionote 300B, Tannoy Westminster, Janis Subwoofer[br]Analogue; Rega RP9, Denon DL103, Graham Slee ERA Gold, Bob\'s Step Up Devices,

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My recommendation would be to try and avoid USB at all costs. Mainly because USB is a noisy interface, which transfers a lot of electromagnetic pollution generated by the various components of the computer to the DAC and therefore decreases the SQ produced by your system.

 

The very best solution you can use:

- use a Sonore µ-Rendu, to output your signal from the Mac via an Ethernet interface and produce a very clean USB signal ; there are a lot of very enthusiastic reports and comments : http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f26-sonore-sponsored/sonore-microrendu-27389/

- connect the output of the µ-Rendu to a Mutec MC-3+ USB, which is an USB -> S-P/DIF interface, which offers two upsides : galvanic isolation and reclocking ; there is an interesting thread to look at here : http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6-dac-digital-analog-conversion/mutec-mc-3-a-17300/

 

With that, you should have best of bread : you could use 24/192 formats and avoid most of electromagnetic interference.

Another point is to try and remove the noisy equipment (computer, router, NAS, aso) as far as possible from the DAC/Amp. My personal installation benefited from a huge SQ upgrade just moving all these equipment 3m away from the DAC.

Hope this helps.

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