Can I improve my streamed Music from my Mac .. with a DAC?

Chalkdust

Member
Feb 24, 2024
2
0
20
Visit site
I used to have a turntable and decent amplifier and loudspeakers, then sold my LPs for CDs, then ripped all my CDs to mp3's on my Mac ... well you know the story, bit by bit my musical appreciation has been dulled. So now I want to stream Apple Music but I want to take advantage of the higher streaming quality.

Initially I want to stream music from my Mac through a couple of KRK powered speakers augmented by a KRK subwoofer. And that's okay, but I often wonder whether the addition of a purpose-built DAC would further improve the resolution of the music, particularly where for example Spotify boasts hi fi quality (ie better than my ripped mp3s).

Maybe later I'll go down the dedicated streaming rabbit hole but for now I just want to improve upon the capabilities of the Mac ... with a DAC...?

I'd be very keen to hear from anybody who has successfully improved the sound quality of say, Spotify or Apple streamed music coming from the Mac.
 

Vincent Kars

Well-known member
a purpose-built DAC would further improve the resolution of the music
Of course not. You can't improve on the source.

However, your Mac contains a DAC (otherwise it couldn't play digital audio) and it contains a amp as well (otherwise it wouldn't been able to drive a headphone).

DAC's do differ in quality, good ones are able to convert digital into analog without creating artifacts. If the external DAC is a better one compared with the one of the Mac, you will improve.

A Mac of course doesn't exist. They have a long history, all kind of different models and all kind of different DAC's. They improved over time audio wise. If you have a older Mac and a good USB DAC there might be an audible improvement. If you have a recent Mac, the improvement might be inaudible.
Don't know if a KRK (have a couple of different models as well) is able to render subtle differences. If not, stick to the (unspecified) Mac.
 
  • Like
Reactions: DougK1

Chalky

Well-known member
Jan 27, 2021
2
0
4,520
Visit site
Thanks VK, all of course understood.
Still interested to hear from someone who has actually succeeded in improving their streamed music quality from (apologies, did not specify) Mac Book 2021 M1, and … how.
 

Gray

Well-known member
I often wonder whether the addition of a purpose-built DAC would further improve the resolution of the music, particularly where for example Spotify boasts hi fi quality (ie better than my ripped mp3s).
Spotify doesn't currently provide anything above mp3 quality.

Some people talk of 'night and day' sound differences between DACs, many will tell you they've found differences to be subtle at best.

Regardless of the opinion of anyone else - you're the one that needs to judge.

In your position I would pay no more than the cost of an S.M.S.L. SU1 and see what I thought.
 

My2Cents

Well-known member
Nov 10, 2023
242
174
470
Visit site
I stream from a 2021 Mac Book M1 to a Yamaha R-N800a occasionally, but I mostly stream to it using the MusicCast app (on an iPhone) using Qobuz (which, of course, is UPnP)... that's how I improved the quality, by not actually using the MacBook!
Yes, I could use the USB out to the amp but it's just a faff.
I'm guessing that you are using the headphone out? Using the USB out to an external DAC is the only other way that I know of (and is what Apple states on their support pages).

Your ripped CD's are now stuck at mp3 quality, what bit rate did you rip them at? (hopefully at least 192, preferably 320).
What KRK's do you have? The V series are very good but the others are just mediocre entry level products for home recording enthusiasts (supposedly 'flat' and not really designed for Hi Fi listening).

How are you currently getting the music from your Mac to the KRK's? (I'm guessing headphone out)?

As stated by Gray, Spotify does not (currently) boast Hi Fi quality because it is not. If you are a premium member you can get up to AAC 320 (on a desktop/mobile/tablet) which is lossy.
If you subscribe to Apple Music you can get lossless from your MacBook by following Apple's instructions here:
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Chalkdust

DiggyGun

Well-known member
Mar 2, 2021
147
95
4,670
Visit site
I stream Qobuz from my Linux PC to a SMSL SA300 amplifier.

I have tried two outputs from the PC;
  1. 3.5mm socket using the internal PC DAC to amp
  2. USB to an external SMSL SU-1 DAC to amp
Of the two, the sound is much better when using an external DAC.

This works for me, but may be different for you as different equipment.

It may be worth getting an external DAC to try from a supplier that offers free returns. Try it and see if it makes an improvement. If it does, keep it and job done. If not, return it and no harm done.

That way, you will know for sure and it will be a bit of fun along the way doing so.

DG…
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chalkdust

Chalkdust

Member
Feb 24, 2024
2
0
20
Visit site
Thanks all, I currently use a Focusrite Scarlett interface which I would think probably provides decent ADDA conversion. While I appreciate the limitations of Spotify I prefer its user interface to Apple which wants me to do things 'their way', but perhaps need to examine other streaming providers. I guess this is ok for now, but I would be interested to know whether there is a discernible difference using hifi streaming and a built-for-purpose streaming device .. that said I don't want to go down the rabbit hole - heck my ears can only hear what they hear after all ha ha. Thanks again everyone, that was all helpful.
 
Thanks all, I currently use a Focusrite Scarlett interface which I would think probably provides decent ADDA conversion. While I appreciate the limitations of Spotify I prefer its user interface to Apple which wants me to do things 'their way', but perhaps need to examine other streaming providers. I guess this is ok for now, but I would be interested to know whether there is a discernible difference using hifi streaming and a built-for-purpose streaming device .. that said I don't want to go down the rabbit hole - heck my ears can only hear what they hear after all ha ha. Thanks again everyone, that was all helpful.
There are several benefits of a dedicated streamer, but whether these matter to you, you’re best placed to decide:-

1. There are no moving parts, like a spinning hard disc, and most have an inbuilt power supply.
2. Many come in a Hifi component sized box, so can fit with the rest of your system.
3. Are designed only to stream music, so aren’t background processing potentially interfering or noisy activities.
4. Leaves your PC free for work, surfing, emails etc.
5. No alerts, alarms or other noises off to disturb you.
6. Not password protected so usable by others in your household.
7. Doesn’t need plugging in and unplugging each time you use it.

And so on.

A few years ago, I’d have said plug an Audioquest Dragonfly into the USB port, and use the analogue output. But modern MacBooks don’t have many ports, and the internal DACs are allegedly pretty decent.
 

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts