Apple Mac Mini v DAC


New member
Aug 10, 2019
I have recently purchased an Apple Mac Mini and wondered how much difference using a DAC would make to the sound coming through my Hifi.

My hifi is only a humble one Marantz Cd6000 OSE, NAD C325BEE and Monitor Audio Silver 4i. (And a spare Sony MDS JE530 in the garage)

I know a direct comparison between my iTunes collection and an ordinary CD in my Marantz is unfair, to rate the built in DAC in the Mac, but the output of DVD replay through the Mac is also relatively flat.

Would an in-line DAC between my Mac and Hifi be worth the outlay, or would using the DAC in my curently out of use Minidisc recorder provide similar improvements without the additional outlay and if so are there any recommendations?

( I have been looking at things like the Musical Fidelity (old) x-series DACs on places like e-bay, but would that really be compatable with the optical output of the Mac Mini?)

Andrew Everard

New member
May 30, 2007
It's certainly worth a go - if you still have the optical cable that came with the Sony recorder, why not hook that up and have a listen, just to see what you think.
You'll need one of these, as the connector on a standard optical cable is a TOSLink plug - so called because it was developed by Toshiba and Sony - and the Mac Mini's digital output is a Mini TOSLink. The same socket doubles for optical digital and analogue stereo output. But given that the adapter's only three quid or so, it's worth a punt.
If you're impressed, then yes an old X-DAC or X-24 from Musical Fidelity is a good bet if you can find one at a good price, but a look at ebay shows there's no shortage of alternatives, all with optical inputs.
For example there's a Cambridge Audio DACMagic 2 at £20 with two days to go, and a DAC-3 for just over a tenner with no reserve. Bearing in mind that these DACs were designed by the same people who did some very upmarket high-end converters at the time, they look like a good buy. In fact, I'm a bit tempted myself at that money!
Others worth considering would be the likes of Audio Alchemy's DAC in the Box, which pops up from time to time on the online auctions, and was well regarded in its time.
Let us know how you get on...


I'm looking for the same kind of upgrade for my G4. I'm currentley using the mini-jack output, and it doesn't sound as good as when I play CD's on my low budget pioneer DVD (224 kpbs mp3, standard stereo,-smart encoding, -10 Hz filtering). My plan is to upgrad to som low-end studio gear like

It has balanced output and uses "Core Audio" the native sound in the Mac.

In theory (And according to the salesman in the music-store) the Emu processor should sound much better than the build-in sound card in the mac.

Does anyone have experience with this setup?


TX-SR604E / Kef Caprice