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Rookie advice for set-up Arcam A65+ Amp and MacBook Pro


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Hi, have searched for ages before stumbling on this great site. Apologies up front if the questions I pose here have been covered before or indeed if this is in the wrong section, couldn't find what I was looking for using the search forums.

 

I have an Arcam A65+ Amp (see http://www.arcam.co.uk/prod_diva_A65_large.cfm) which has no digital input/outputs. I also have a MacBook Pro and around 500 CD's. I am thinking of ripping most of my CD's into iTunes using lossless and then streaming them from the MacBook to my hifi via Airtunes (which I haven't bought yet). Thing is when I connect the MacBook and amp using a headphone to phono lead the sound is so terrible that I suspect Airtunes will be even worse!

 

Whilst I am no audiophile (evidenced by my humble kit) nevertheless I do like decent sound quality. So first off forgetting Airtunes for the moment how does one go about hardwire connecting the MacBook Pro and Amp to get decent sound, do I need any of these - DAC, pre-amp, headphone amp?? Assuming that is a yes what is a decent budget model?

 

Taking this further is Airtunes a viable option or will sound just be awful?

 

Thanks

 

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Whilst most people would probably buy a DAC, the analogue output from your Macbook Pro should not be terrible. IMO it's not as bad as some hi fi CD players I've head and I have customers who rate the output from the Mac Mini very highly indeed. Go to preferences and audio to make sure that the levels are not set too high and causing clipping first.

 

Very good and versatile DACs are available from the Pro Audio side at reasonable prices and I'd look at an Edirol UA 25 as an external option.

 

If when you refer to Airtunes you mean an Airport Express or Apple TV, then these have optical digital output so that they can feed a stand alone DAC. The DAC alone dictates sound quality, not the noughts and ones from the computer.

 

It's well worth doing though, a Macbook pro can do so much more than a Hi Fi front end.

 

Best of luck

 

Ashley

 

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I'm with Ashley there. I often run from PC or iPod headphone output to split RCA and poke it in whever it happens to fit.

 

Try ripping into iTunes a CD you like and set preferences to AIFF encoding and be sure to turn error correction on. For playback set the volume in iTunes to the max.

 

Turn your amp down and play a song, slowly turn your amp up. Watch out for messy distortion as Ashley warns. It may or may not occur.

 

If this sounds good, then you probably just ripped something in a lower format. AIFF with error correction should give you an exact duplicate of the ripped CD.

 

Then you can fiddle with volumes out of iTunes if you like.

 

This should sound pretty decent, but depending on your ears and system and taste, it might still be noise.

 

Let's get er workin with wire before we worry bout invisible music.

 

Let us know.

 

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Ashley,

 

I took your advice and ripped a CD into iTunes setting preferences to AIFF encoding and with error correction on. For playback I set the volume in iTunes to the max.

 

Turned the amp down, played a song and slowly turned the amp up. The quality was actually really good. I ran the CD in tandem and kept switching back and forth, the ripped version was a little 'tinnier' but I guess I main gripe was that I ahd to turn the amp right up in order to get anywhere near the levels being output by the CD player.

 

 

So as you said I probably had ripped something in a lower format which was why I was getting poor sound before.

 

So moving forward - 1) how do I boost the sound level so that I don't have to turn the amp up so high 2) what's the best way to add Airport Express to the mix, in other words will the sound coming from the Airport Express match that being output by my Mac, if not how do I improve that?

 

Down the line I can see me upgrading to the ADM9.1 and doing away with my conventional kit but need a workaround in the meantime.

 

Cheers for further help on this.

 

Grant

 

 

 

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Grant

 

There are two volume controls in your Macbook Pro. The one you may not have found is in preferences under sound. This should be set at about 80% and left alone. Now you have the iTunes volume only to consider an this should be set to suit your amplifier. An expert will correct me but I believe that if you use an Airport Express, the sound level will be the same from it as from the line out of the Macbook Pro. It's best to keep the iTunes volume up high and use the Amp's volume control.

 

The sound from Macs is generally OK, although not as good as the best DACs, some swear that the Mini is, but I haven't tried it. The confusion comes because PCs often sound really bad, although I understand Vista has helped with one issue. Digital outputs from either if both are correctly set will be the same.

 

I hope this is clear and correct.

 

Ashley

 

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If you use an Airport Express you can simply disable iTunes volume control in the preferences.

 

The Airport DAC is so-so, and I'm sure you wouldn't need to spend much to better it.

 

I personally use AVI ADM9 and plug an Airport Express in the back. It's so simple and walks over normal modest HiFi separates.

 

I was so impressed by the iTunes / Cover Flow / Airport system I made a YouTube video about it.

 

http://youtube.com/watch?v=NP2vsQqIG_k

 

Before getting the ADM9 I plugged my computer system through the toslink input on a Sony minidisc deck and it sounded okay. I didn't want to buy a dedicated HiFi DAC as I felt they were very overpriced.

 

Cheers.

 

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