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Help with my setup


jmnunezizu

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Hi everybody,

 

I'm new to the site. I've been reading the forum for a couple of days now and i have found tons of good information, thanks! Now the problem is that since I do not fully understand all the components to the music server, I feel kinda lost, and I was wondering if you guys could give me a hand understanding what's missing in my current setup and how can I improve it.

 

So, this is my current setup:

 

- 2010 Mac Mini Server

- Yamaha rx-v3800 http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/av-receivers-amps/rx/rx-v3800_black__u/?mode=model

- Samsung LCD 40"

 

mac mini > hdmi > yamaha > hdmi > samsung

 

What am I missing here? I know that a DAC is a digital to analog converter, but If I'm using HDMI, why would I need that?

 

Besides using the Mini to play 1080 movies, I also want to use it to play my 24-96 vinyl rips.

 

Thanks for the help.

 

Cheers,

Jose

 

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With the configuration you are using now the Digital To Analog processing is occurring in your Yamaha receiver. As fine a product as the Yamaha may be it is still typical that they are a "jack of all trades" and the proverbial "master of none". With an external DAC the processing occurs within the DAC. The potential difference in sound quality with use of a dedicated external DAC can be substantial. My personal feeling is you are leaving lots on the table (soundwise) if you are omitting a DAC from your system. I highly recommend you add that to your system.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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Hey,

 

Thanks for the answer! I thought no one was ever gonna answer me.

 

I know that the processing occurs in the A/V, and in this case, we are talking about a $1800 receiver, so I thought that even though it's not as good as a dedicated DAC, it could perform very well. Maybe I'm wrong?

 

What would you recommend that stays around the mid-range price for DACs? Is it worth it to get a mid-range price DAC or I should save my money and stick with the Yamaha until I could buy a high-range one?

 

If I decide to get a DAC, how shall I connect everything?

 

Mac Mini > USB/Optical (coaxial or toslink?) for Audio and HDMI for video > A/V receiver (HDMI for video and coaxial for audio) > Samsung

 

Will that work? Or in general, audiophiles DO NOT use A/V receivers and plug the speakers directly to the DAC?

 

Thanks for your help!

 

Cheers,

Jose

 

 

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I really do believe it would be beneficial to add the DAC. The Cambridge Audio DacMagic might be one to consider. It is under $500 but I think over performs its price.

 

You have two hookup options with your Mac Mini. Your headphone jack doubles as a toslink digital optical connection. It does require a "special" cable, "special" in the sense that it has a mini optical connection on one end and a standard optical connection on the other end. You can also use a USB cable but if you do you will probably want to consider a different DAC because the DacMagic doesn't support 24/96 via its USB connection. It does support it though via the toslink optical or digital coax connection (which can't be used with the Mac Mini).

 

I use USB but I don't believe there is truly a distinct advantage (although you may hear many other opinions) between one or the other.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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I forgot the question regarding connecting speakers to a DAC. In general the answer is no, it is not done, because a standard DAC does not have the features to control or amplify the sound. However there are units by many companies like Bel Canto, Peach Tree and the Wadia 151 PowerDAC (which I use) which combine the features and performance of a high quality DAC with the functions of an integrated amp.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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Hey Groucho,

 

Thanks for the great info. Now, a couple more questions:

 

Do you have recommendations regarding the cables from the Mac Mini to the DAC? (mini jack to toslink)

 

Recommendations on the Stereo coaxial cables?

 

I have some 24-192 vinyl rips. WIth the DAC you are recommending I won't be able to listen to them. I don't think I would hear a difference between 24-96 and 24-192, but just wondering if there are other DAC flavors in the same price range.

 

Once more, thanks for the great info.

 

Cheers,

Jose

 

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Hi Jose,

 

I think the suggestion of getting an external DAC eventually is probably a good one, but I would at least initially just get a mini-Toslink to Toslink cable and plug the Mac Mini directly into your Yamaha. I bet it will sound quite good and, after awhile, you can always easily upgrade to an external DAC.

 

I have music streaming from iTunes on my iMac to two different systems:

 

1. To my HT system, I have an AppleTV connected to my Rotel RSP1060 processor using Toslink. Because my Rotel is about 8 years old, it does not have HDMI inputs, but I have the HDMI cable going to the TV for video only (I don't use the TV speakers anyway). It sounds very nice. I hesitate to get an external DAC at this point for that system because it all works together quite well.

 

2. To my stereo only system, I have an AirPort express connected to a Music Hall DAC25.3 by mini-Toslink to Toslink and the DAC25.3 connected by analog interconnects to my integrated amp (a Conrad Johnson CA200).

 

Of course the stereo only system sounds nicer, and I can recommend the Music Hall as a fantastic DAC for $595, but my CJ is an expensive amp with a passive preamp section and highly neutral and resolving. In fact, I'm probably short changing it with the Music Hall, but this is my foray into the hobby and I am really enjoying it. For the HT system, the internal DAC in the Rotel is just fine, and I would suspect the DAC in your Yamaha will sound fine for that level of receiver too. It's at least worth giving it some time and getting used to how things work before spending more money on another piece of equipment and more cables. At least in my opinion.

 

Regards,

 

Josh

 

P.S. This is my first ever post on CA. You should feel honored! :-)

 

Josh

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With regards to cables I think the best quality mini Toslink to Toslink is the Wireworld Super Nova 6 > http://www.thecableco.com/product.php?id=7167

 

If you opt for USB cables there are lots including Wireworld (I use their Starlight 6 - an add is usually flashing below for this cable) and Kimber among many with more audiophile brands jumping in with offerings all the time.

 

I am afraid in that same price range I don't have a 24/192 DAC I can recommend but others may have some knowledge and could make a recommendation. Whether or not you will hear the difference between 24/192 and 24/96 files I don't know but I am sure I would also like to take advantage of them if I had them. I am pretty happy at 24/96 but who knows what the future will bring.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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Groucho,

 

Thanks for the cable recommendations. As for the 24-192, yeah, I would love to take advantage of that, but if one must pay ~500 for a 24-96, I can't think of the price of a unit that supports 24-192 or even more.

 

Josh,

 

I'm honored by your response. I must have said something that caught your attention like a singing mermaid.

 

That's a nice setup you have there. I checked some pictures of the CJ and it looks very pro.

 

Now, reading the specs of the Yamaha I own, I realized that it mentions the following brand when it comes to the internal DAC "Burr-Brown". Doing some googling, I found out that it was a company bought by Texas Instruments back in 2000, and it's a very well respected company among audiophiles. Is all that true? My system sounds pretty decent and I'm happy with it, but since I started getting 24-96 rips, I wanted to take my gear to the next level, and here I am.

 

This is a very nice resource for information!

 

Cheers,

Jose.-

 

 

 

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Hi Jose,

 

If I am reading the specs list correctly on the link to your receiver, it should handle incoming 24/192 signals that are output from your MacMini using a mini-Toslink to Toslink cable from the mini-jack.

 

I believe the Music Hall DAC25.3 would also do that. The 24/96 limitation on the Music Hall is for the USB connection only.

 

Enjoy.

 

Josh

 

Josh

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Hi Jose,

 

You mention only a few components but don't say much else about your setup.

 

My best suggestion is to first, make the most of what you currently have. Until you do, the benefits (or not) of changing any part of it will not be as clear as they otherwise might be.

 

Perhaps this article will help:

Setting up your monitoring environment

 

Hope this helps.

 

Best regards,

Barry

www.soundkeeperrecordings.com

www.barrydiamentaudio.com

 

 

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