How Best to Achieve 2.1 Audio on Mini Mac...

ray j.

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Sam/John, we're all talking about the same thing. I think I'm getting tangled up in the low to mid-range DAC market that it seems everyone "needs" -- there's no question high-end audiophile DACs and associated equipment do their intended job, but what about a $50-150 units -- and as noted, with a new Mac Mini, would I even need one?

I'm with Sam on the studio monitors (the CR8s look awesome, btw). Obviously, given a near-field use, monitors provide a more or less consistent product. I mentioned above trying a set of Presonus (3.5s) that I had to return -- they sounded great, but I felt I was missing something... hence the question about a DAC or sub. I've decided to go with the Presonus Eris 4.5s (I had the 3.5s prior) -- seem to be a solidly built set, from a company with a great rep, although relatively speaking a little underpowred at 2x25W (though I imagine a little goes a long way in an efficient set).

In the meantime, I picked up a little usb-c dongle for 3.5mm that obviously has a dac chip. Using the Apple Audio Midi Setup, I have it set for up to 24b/96k -- at the same time I noticed I could also set the internal 3.5mm out for the same rates. However, just listening with headphones, the dongle is way better.

Now, maybe the dongle to a 3.5mm stereo to RCAs on the Presonus will be great. However, the Eris 4.5s have balanced inputs -- how worthwhile would it be to get a low-end DAC with balanced outputs? There are two DACs right now that are well reviewed and offer balanced outputs for $130-150. I understand that can be a dramatic improvement in how the audio translates, but the balanced vs single tip thing is very new to me. I'm still impressed with Monster Cables.

So that's where this little quest stands: the Eris 4.5s are inbound. I'm sure the sound will be 'great' -- but would a $80 unbalanced DAC make much of an improvement? My sense is probably not so much. However, would the addition of a $150 balanced DAC take 'great' sound and make it impressive? I'd make that investment. That might just be what this setup needs.

Any experience around the table with balanced connections? The idea fascinates me -- is it working for anyone in the wild?

Thanks All.
 
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Sam Posten

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Read the thread.
\Very helpful John. You are letting your anger with me regarding my eschewing amps affect other conversations.

Sam/John, we're all talking about the same thing. I think I'm getting tangled up in the low to mid-range DAC market that it seems everyone "needs"
...
they sounded great, but I felt I was missing something... hence the question about a DAC or sub.
What they are missing is low end. You simply can't get good bottom with a pair of 3-4" monitors. Even the 5"s have their limits but have been sufficient for me to avoid adding a sub. The 8" are great but I still think a dedicated 10" sib would provide more gut punch.

Honestly I think the idea of putting an external DAC in for any of this is crazy. I get why you might think it would improve headphones somewhat if it is driving them better than the onboard 3.5 is but there is nothing in that chain that is going to improve the sound going to powered speakers. I still don't understand why you'd want to use the dac to adjust the sound levels. All of this very much seems like a solution in search of a problem.
 

JohnRice

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Sam, what is happening is your repeated (and I mean extremely common) habit of claiming things I suggest, ranging from vast topics such as amps to using an external drive for iTunes media, as "crazy", "stupid", "absurd", "clunky" and more terms than I can even recall. It's often something you've never tried and have zero knowledge about, or something you simply refuse to consider there might be some benefit. It's an arrogant and close-minded habit that goes back for probably two decades and I've had quite enough of it.

Nobody needs to tell me to tone it down or whatever. That's been going on for years, and I'm not playing or being drawn into that game anymore. I've said all I have to say.

Ray, I wouldn't sweat balanced connections. As I said earlier, I sometimes like using a DAC. I have several minis I use and manage at work and home. On my main home and work computers I find I like having a DAC simply because I can separate music from system alerts. IOW, music and alerts are produced from different places. Same with one of the computers at work, which I don't actually use myself. They play music, which come from dedicated speakers, but prefer to have alerts come from the computer.


...clearly I need to take a little break from online interaction in general, which I am going to do.
 
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JohnRice

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In the meantime, I picked up a little usb-c dongle for 3.5mm that obviously has a dac chip. Using the Apple Audio Midi Setup, I have it set for up to 24b/96k -- at the same time I noticed I could also set the internal 3.5mm out for the same rates. However, just listening with headphones, the dongle is way better.
What did you end up doing? The amp I use on my main work computer was dying, so I got that Topping one I linked early on. It's a nice little DAC/amp. It sounds better than the one it replaced, and it has a nice feature where it automatically turns off when there's no signal for 2 minutes. I might get one for home to play around with, since it has a sub output and I have a spare powered sub that's not being used.
 

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