Best audio path from old school Mac Mini to older school AV Receiver?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by CoachD, Oct 10, 2019.

  1. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    I have a circa 2005 Mac Mini. It works fine playing to my cheap computer speakers via the headphone jack, but when plugging into my old 1998 Denon AVR2400 via the headphone jack the sound quality from my ripped CD (WAV) files was noticeably inferior to the original CDs played through my Marantz CC 67.

    I'd like to connect to my stereo (or possibly my Mackie Mixer in the Mancave studio) to hear my ripped library at something close to the same quality as my current CD player.

    The Mac Mini has USBs, an old FireWire, and the headphone jack. Recently I've started ripping Apple Lossless to save space on my drive.

    What's the best way ($50 budget) to connect to the RCA analog in's on my studio/AV equipment?

    Cheap USB DAC? Will this be better than my headphone jack?

    Thanks for any help.
     
  2. Gabe Walters

    Gabe Walters Forum Resident

    Does the audio line out double as analog/digital? If so, fit a mini-Toslink adaptor onto the end of an optical cable, and stick the other end into a standard Toslink input on your receiver (assuming it has one).
     
  3. sjsanford

    sjsanford Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    That was my thought as well until I saw his receiver equipment doesn’t appear to have an optical in. (I’m also not sure that vintage MacMini has optical out on the phone jack.)

    How about a Topping D3 DAC off eBay? Connect the USB out of MacMini to the DAC and connect line level outputs to your receiver.
     
    gd0 likes this.
  4. souladdikt

    souladdikt Forum Resident

    Location:
    IL
    Nope. These old G4 mini's are analog out only. The optical output was added in the later generation.
     
  5. simon-wagstaff

    simon-wagstaff Forum Resident

    I have an old mac mini core solo with optical out I will sell cheep.
     
  6. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    Correct the old mini only has an analog headphone out.

    My all analog receiver was probably the last model before Dolby Digital became standard on most everything.
     
  7. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    Hopefully I will upgrade to a newer Mac Mini or iMac in the next 12 months, but unless I get a different (digital compatable) receiver for the Mancave I figure I'll still require some sort of DAC.

    I'm sort of attached to the old receiver. It's my analog mothership with the ins and outs for my retro gear (VCR, CDR, Tape deck, 80s Hitachi turntable...).
     
  8. souladdikt

    souladdikt Forum Resident

    Location:
    IL
    I think you might as well try the analog out straight to your receiver. Save your $50 to put toward a dac when you upgrade. Or maybe try to find a used Audioquest Dragonfly Black you can use for portable/headphone use too.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
    D700 likes this.
  9. Hymie the Robot

    Hymie the Robot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Reread the second sentence of the OP.
     
    souladdikt likes this.
  10. souladdikt

    souladdikt Forum Resident

    Location:
    IL
    Thanks, missed that. Well, then, Topping, AQ, or FiiO are the only budget DACs I've heard. I used them with my old Macbook Air and thought they were better than the built in headphone out for headphone use. But even those are above the OP's budget at $75-100 new.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019
  11. Hymie the Robot

    Hymie the Robot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I was going to suggest the same but purchase used to get it in the $50-$60 range...
     
  12. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    Yes, I came across this one during my brief search. Seems like it fits my current and potential future needs.
     
  13. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    Just checked and my Mac OS is 10.4.11...

    Looks like Dragonfly needs 10.6
     
  14. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    So going back to the headphone jack...

    Does it matter how the iTunes volume and computer volume are set to get optimum performance going into a receiver/preamp?

    A regular CD player just sends an unamplified line level signal, right?

    Headphone jacks are expecting to be "driving" a set of headphones, right? I assimed that's why to EQ seemed off to me during my previous experiments with the headphone jack.
     
  15. violarules

    violarules Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    If you have the EQ flat and the output not too hot, it should be okay.
     
  16. BruceS

    BruceS Well-Known Member

    Can the Mini do USB to analog? For example: MD Community Page: Xitel MDPORT-AN1
    Something like that, anyway. Really cheap on Ebay and might be worth a shot. I recall those old Minis somewhat less than fondly. Had one, single-core, and you had to use a plastic putty knife to get the thing open—but at least you could get it open and upgrade RAM & HDD.
     
  17. sjsanford

    sjsanford Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
  18. SMc

    SMc Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin TX
    The Behringer UAC202 is under $30. Check out the nwavguy review. Try the mini analog out first, though. It might be good enough!

    The Topping D10 or D3 would be great if you can stretch the budget.
     
  19. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
    I did try the the headphone jack last night into my PA (mixer, power amp, passive speakers) and other than the amp fan noise it was pretty good to my ears.

    I think that without a direct comparison to a CD in a player I'd be satisfied with the current results.

    I'm still a little concerned about having 3-5 volume knobs between the source and my speakers. But I guess the itunes and Mac Mini volumes would still be in play even with a new DAC added to the chain.
     
  20. CoachD

    CoachD Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tennessee
  21. SMc

    SMc Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin TX
    Another cheapskate alternative is the Chromecast Audio, out of production but still available online for under $40. You'd use wifi which would require some free software. The analog output is fine.

    I'll second the reassurances about volume controls on USB dacs. You'd run them full out (or maybe slightly less) and use your receiver or computer for level adjustments.
     
  22. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident

    You are wanting to listen to music through the speakers on this system, correct?
     
  23. sjsanford

    sjsanford Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Yes maybe someone else can chime in on whether there are any Mac OS version requirements for the Topping.
     
  24. sjsanford

    sjsanford Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    The MacMini system volume control disappears when you output to a USB DAC. The iTunes volume control still exists but you run that at full volume and it doesn’t mess with the data stream.
     
  25. MCM_Fan

    MCM_Fan Senior Member

    Location:
    Oregon
    Not the cheapest solution, but I have been using a Schiit Modi 2 Uber DAC connected via USB to a 2007 Mac Mini and love the way it sounds through my old school stereo.

    Looks like they have a Modi 3 available now for $99. Perhaps you could find a used Modi 2 Uber at a favorable price.
     

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