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You can't improve the Mac's performance audibly. They are already audibly transparent with specs far beyond human hearing. You might improve theoretical sound, but only bats and dogs would appreciate it. Macs contain DACs that perform just as well as audiophile DACs. They've been specifically designed for music and video production and playback since the old Powermac days.
I really wonder. Do you actually listen or just read spec sheets? Mac uses crummy DACs just like every Computer. I use a FireWire connection from my Mac to a FireWire DAC and believe me, the improvement over the native computer DAC is not subtle
 

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Mac used very high quality Wolfson DACs in the past. They now are using an Apple branded DAC. Mac equipment has been tested independently and measure as good as a lot of audiophile gear. Apple has always been focused on A/V. PCs didn't care as much in the past, but recently even inexpensive PCs come with very good DACs. The same is true of portable devices and phones. External DACs are becoming less and less needed as time goes by.

The reason your Firewire DAC sounds better probably has more to do with the amp you're plugging into or the impedance of your headphones than it does the DAC itself. You have to match the impedance, power and sensitivity between the amp and cans to get good sound. My guess is that you are comparing the Mac to the DAC using the headphone out, and your headphones require amping. If you compared line out to line out, they would likely be identical.
 

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recently even inexpensive PCs come with very good DACs.
external DACs perform much better than internal ones because they have a dedicated power supply uninvolved with any other function but powering the DAC alone and designed with great deal of research applied to the last detail including the chassis of the device in order to achieve the best sound possible and it is a proven fact that standalone equipment items perform way better than all-around ones.
 

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external DACs perform much better than internal ones because they have a dedicated power supply uninvolved with any other function but powering the DAC alone and designed with great deal of research applied to the last detail including the chassis of the device in order to achieve the best sound possible and it is a proven fact that standalone equipment items perform way better than all-around ones.
All that applies to Macs too.
 

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It is impressive how in my search for better audio reproduction I have encountered two extreme poles of irrational thinking that need to be completely disregarded.

The believers of no difference when there is a difference (in my subjective opinion) - this is especially the case with amps and dacs

The believers of extortionate high cost snake oil magic audio shoot yourself in the head cause you are broke gear

It has been an absolute minefield and I am glad that by careful searching and trial of gear I got to a great sounding home audio system.
 

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The trick it to translate your subjective impressions of differences into objective, quantifiable, documentable differences. It is a little more work, but it can help you determine what areas are in need of improvement, and what areas aren't worth changing.

Once you know that there is a objective difference, the next step is to figure out which one is the better of the two.
 

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There are no objective differences that can mirror the listening experience.

Measurements can quantify certain parameters of audio equipment and are an important part of designing and comparing equipment. However they cannot replace the actual listening experience. Measurements cannot be surrogate outcome measures for the sense of hearing. It is way more complicated and still not fully understood.

Just taking measurements is not a viable scientific method to completely rely on as unknown variables are not controlled.

In order to control variables including unmeasured equipment variations and the actual hearing experience much bigger studies are needed with enough power to give us a statistical result that can be generalised to the whole population. At present there are no properly conducted studies and probably there will not be as the financial implications are huge.

Blindly relying on measured criteria makes no sense as much as solely relying on biochemical processes or animal studies when a new medicine is put out.

Pharmaceutical companies base their products on large well controlled studies were variables are carefully controlled. These companies spend billions on these studies, hardly the realm of audio companies!

Telling me that there is no difference between amps or other audio equipment such as dacs (contrary to my experience), simply because measurements are in line with what is expected, does not make sense as much as telling me to invest loads of money on the latest cable made of unobtainium.
 

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Is the sound going in the same as the sound coming out? What coloration or distortion is being added if any? These are simple objective ways to determine audio fidelity with any component. Once you answer those questions, it's easy to determine which is objectively better.

Better yet, why not take the time to understand the fundamentals of how digital audio works? If you understand what it is doing under the hood, you have a better chance to diagnose problems and identify weak parts of your system. Or do a little research into human perceptual limits and you'll be able to know at a glance if something is audible or not.

Or you can just throw your hands in the air and be subjective about it. Drift pleasantly with the breeze. Buy what the salesman tells you to buy. But flying blind like that can be very expensive and not very effective. Random swapping of components will just get you random results. I think it's better to be an informed consumer and have a plan for improvement myself, but your milage may vary.

By the way, I never said all amps and DACs sound the same. I said all amps and DACs SHOULD BE AUDIBLY TRANSPARENT. They shouldn't have any unique sound at all. If they do, they are either poorly manufactured, or poorly designed. There are plenty of inexpensive amps and DACs that *are* audibly transparent, so it's pretty easy and inexpensive to find one that does the job perfectly.
 

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I have a new amp (Schiit Ragnarok) in the house with impressive measurements as my old one (Musical Fidelity M6i). I am using Monitor Audio Gold speakers to compare them. Both amplifiers are manufactured by reputable companies but they could not sound any more different!


The Schiit Ragnarok is smooth, highly resolving with impressive life like tonality. It also performs superbly with the Sennheiser HD800 headphones.


The Musical Fidelity M6i is warm, laid back but still detailed and a pleasure to listen to.

The numbers are really good, but measurements mean little compared to the actual listening experience.

Sometimes I wonder whether believing that there is no real sound signature becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Placebo effect can in fact work both ways and cannot be eliminated without properly conducted large studies (as yet not even attempted).

I also wonder how much people that rely on a simple term 'objective' really understand the term. Oversimplification of the argument by basing it on the upper limits of hearing or decibel level misses the point.

The physiology of the ear as well as the auditory pathways through which signals are processed in the brain are still poorly undersood. There have been recent studies on the way the brain reacts to sound on PET scanners that highlighted the multiple areas of the brain involved and the complicated filtering mechanisms employed. Other studies for example are focusing on the poorly understood role of NMDA receptors in the cochlea.

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this.

As long as we enjoy the music, nothing else really matters.

(Bach's BWV1060 Concerto for Oboe and Violin never sounded this good on my new amp!)
 

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Yes, let's trash science and embrace subjectivism. Because there are no studies performed in big populations, those with small samples mean nothing. That's surely the modern way. We'll have to agree on our disagreement. If your two amps sound so different there are two possible causes:

-One of them is defective or designed to have some sort of "signature" sound. Something like the tube amps, that have poor amplification capabilities at high frequencies and an special distortion that "softens" music in a way that people like it. Nothing wrong with that (you pick your own poison in a free world) as long as you dont ignore what's happening.

-Placebo effect.

All modern, well designed amplifiers are transparent. Some may have better measurements, but in ranges you cannot hear or distinguish.

All that takes to convince yourself is a well-designed honest double blind test. Beyond the science of large numbers.

However, I totally agree with your last statement. As long as we enjoy the music, we can be friends and enjoy it together. No hard feelings.
 

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I was a hifi nut back in the 70s. We didn't have all this "poetical reviewing" back then. It was almost always solid, nuts and bolts information based on an understanding of how the machines worked. Today, someone can write a bunch of stuff about "veils being lifted" and "fourth dimensional soundstage" and "purity of the essence of the musical statement" and get away with it. That NEVER would have passed back in the old days. I remember when all this audiophoolery started creeping in. It coincided with the descent into craven advertorial in all of the hifi magazines. As soon as there started to be less to point to to set a product apart, they started making up reasons to buy one brand or model over another. Then the average hifi nut started picking it up and repeating it... then came the internet and that was all there was.
 

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How did you set up your switching to compare amps side by side? Did you level match?
I used an SPL meter as they sound so different I was not aware of how much louder the new amp can get.

At the end this is just a hobby I have cherished these past few years. We should not take it so seriously.

Now I am just enjoying the music... for a change today I had 4 hours of non-stop Bach, then some Debussy, Stravinsky and now I am finishing off with Feldman.
 

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It is impressive how in my search for better audio reproduction I have encountered two extreme poles of irrational thinking that need to be completely disregarded.

The believers of no difference when there is a difference (in my subjective opinion) - this is especially the case with amps and dacs

The believers of extortionate high cost snake oil magic audio shoot yourself in the head cause you are broke gear

It has been an absolute minefield and I am glad that by careful searching and trial of gear I got to a great sounding home audio system.
This is no different in any other time that these topics come on here on TC or other audio related forums. Things get heated.....because we have people that are on both extremes.

Great that you got something that you're satisfied with.
 

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I used an SPL meter as they sound so different I was not aware of how much louder the new amp can get.
The idea is that you have to make them the exact same volume level to compare. If one is louder than the other, human ears will think it sounds better, regardless of whether it is better fidelity or not. Apples to apples.

If your old amp wasn't capable of putting out enough power to get your speakers as loud as you wanted, then your problem was just an underpowered amp. Some speakers are more efficient than others.
 

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This is what we should preach all day when it comes to audio stuff. Get something that you will enjoy hearing, it doesn't matter whether your amp is $200 or $2,000, we are all here on TC because we enjoy the music.
I'll take the musical pleasure without all the outlay of money, thank you! I always try to spend my money wisely.
 

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The idea is that you have to make them the exact same volume level to compare. If one is louder than the other, human ears will think it sounds better, regardless of whether it is better fidelity or not. Apples to apples.

If your old amp wasn't capable of putting out enough power to get your speakers as loud as you wanted, then your problem was just an underpowered amp. Some speakers are more efficient than others.
Yep... that is exactly why I used the meter.

My old amp is actually way more powerful with 200 Wpc whilst the new one is just 60Wpc into 8 Ohm. My speakers are 88db and can take both loads.

I still prefer the new one but may keep the old one as it sounds so different.

The Ragnarok is fully discrete with a circlotron-style stage with no caps in the signal path and no DC servos, all solid state.
It also has a microprocessor control of quiescent current and DC levels, with monitoring of all fault conditions.

But the most important parameter is ...it sounds good. That is all that matters, right?

Now let's listen to some Debussy. :)
 
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