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Old 12-10-2012, 04:05 PM   #1
scootermaster
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Default Multi-DAC systems [for HTPC]?

[The hidden question here is: I'm looking for an external USB or FW DAC for my bedroom 2.1 setup. Budget is $300-ish, give or take. Leaning toward AudioEngine D1, unless anyone has any better ideas]

I'll keep this as short as possible: I'm looking for an external DAC for my bedroom 2.1 setup (Arx A1s, an eD A3s-250, and an older Pioneer Receiver for power). So that's simple enough.

But eventually, I'm likely to combine this with my living room 5.0 setup (BA lynfield towers, etc).

So my question is: Should that alter my choice in DAC? It seems to me the D1 will only output 2 channel audio. That's certainly fine for the bedroom setup, but what about the livingroom HTPC setup? Does anyone run "multi-DAC"? I'd be more than satisfied with the D1 for music and something onboard from the HTPC for 5.1/DVDs/etc, but is doing something like that klugey? Does this make any sense?


Cliffs:
1. Need external DAC for music
2. Building HTPC
3. Can you get a 2.0 DAC to play nice with a 7.1 HTPC, or do I need a 7.1 DAC?

BONUS QUESTION: What's a good 7.1 external DAC? =]

Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-10-2012, 04:42 PM   #2
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Don't waste time/money on a DAC, get a 2 zone AVR instead?

I have nothing else useful, sorry. :/
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:14 PM   #3
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Don't waste time/money on a DAC, get a 2 zone AVR instead?

I have nothing else useful, sorry. :/
Well, that's a given.

The living room setup has an old Denon 3801 right now. Presumably when I put all of this together (with a projector) I'll get the newest Denon 3 series (or the 4 series if it exists and I decide I feel like spending the money).

So that part is handled. I'm just more interested in how to get sound from my computer to the AVR. Right now, in the bedroom, it's my Macbook Pro to an off-board FW device. I could easily replace that with the D1.

But for an HTPC, I might want more than 2.0 audio, obviously. Then what?
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:17 PM   #4
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you can get a 7.1 external sound card if your HTPC does not have optical out but in your case if you want to go 5.1-7.1 with Blu-ray as well you are going to need HDMI to decode DTS-HD MA and TrueHD. Also running a 2nd zone with it's own sub out is going to be a very expensive receiver.

My suggestion would actually be the following:

Get a new 7.1 HDMI receiver and run your living room of off that with the HTPC connected via HDMI. Now this is assuming you have a GPU that is capable of support HDMI audio/video.

For the bedroom add a wireless music streamer like an Airport Express that interfaces with the music stored on your HTPC and keep the setup like it already is.
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Old 12-10-2012, 05:54 PM   #5
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Look into something like this if you are trying to connect your macbook pro to your existing audio receiver:

M2TECH HIFACE
http://www.hifi-advice.com/HiFace-review.html
Relatively cheap, but high quality audio output over copper S/PDIF.

M2TECH HIFACE EVO
http://www.hifi-advice.com/Hiface-EVO-review.html
This is essentially a full DAC (and costs like it).
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Old 12-10-2012, 06:42 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
you can get a 7.1 external sound card if your HTPC does not have optical out but in your case if you want to go 5.1-7.1 with Blu-ray as well you are going to need HDMI to decode DTS-HD MA and TrueHD. Also running a 2nd zone with it's own sub out is going to be a very expensive receiver.

My suggestion would actually be the following:

Get a new 7.1 HDMI receiver and run your living room of off that with the HTPC connected via HDMI. Now this is assuming you have a GPU that is capable of support HDMI audio/video.

For the bedroom add a wireless music streamer like an Airport Express that interfaces with the music stored on your HTPC and keep the setup like it already is.
Ah. Hadn't thought about HDMI via the video card. Okay, well, that's fine there. Digital to the AVR and let that handle the DAC. Fair enough.

But the problem with that is then now I'm relying on the DACs of the Airport Express (Sonos?) or whatever else. And, of course, when I combine the systems, I probably won't need the Airport Express anymore, nor would I be getting the benefits of the DAC for music in the living room.

I guess I could run everything over the HDMI connection, right? But I would assume that non-encoded sources like music from iTunes aren't bit streamed over the HDMI, and now Im back to using my HTPC's internal DACs, right?

RE: Multi-zone: I'm obviously going to get a multi-zone receiver in the living room, but that's not what I mean. I don't want separate zones in the living room. I'll probably, as I said, combine my existing 5.0 and 2.1 setups for a 7.1 setup. I just want my music coming at me from a high-quality DAC. I guess if, as I said above, you can somehow not decode things over HDMI, I could do that (perhaps via an AppleTV jacked in to the AVR). Or, if I decided I was somehow happy with Denon's AirPlay, I could use the HTPC for movies and AirPlay for music; again offloading the DAC to the Denon.

Hmmm.
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Old 12-10-2012, 07:09 PM   #7
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Good luck ever finding a "high quality" DAC that has an audible difference to whatever you'll find in most AVRs.

And the only DAC that matters in a pure digital transmission chain is the last one, the AVR for the living room, and whatever you use to stream from to your Pioneer for the 2.1 in the bedroom.
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Old 12-10-2012, 08:09 PM   #8
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Airport Express has a pretty decent Wolfson DAC built-in but the output also doubles as mini toslink so you have two options with it:

1. Use the built-in DAC of the AE by using a 3.5mm to RCA cable to the Pioneer receiver
2. Use the DAC of the Pioneer by using a mini toslink to toslink cable from AE

There is no need to be hung up so much on the DAC. Like stated above all receivers come with pretty decent DACs and you are going to have to spend a considerable amount of money to get something better and even then it will not equate to the amount of money you just dropped on it.

A modern GPU that supports HDMI audio will allow you to bitstream the signal to the receiver so that can do the decoding.

Also don't get so hung up on 7.1. There are very few 7.1 BDs and DVDs out there and you need a pretty big room to actually take full advantage of 7.1.

If anything take the $300 and get yourself a decent HT sub for your living since you do not have one right now. This is a good deal that newegg has once a month as it drops to $299.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16882780078

As a matter of fact it's on sale right now with coupon code for $299.
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Old 12-10-2012, 08:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phanuel View Post
Good luck ever finding a "high quality" DAC that has an audible difference to whatever you'll find in most AVRs.

And the only DAC that matters in a pure digital transmission chain is the last one, the AVR for the living room, and whatever you use to stream from to your Pioneer for the 2.1 in the bedroom.
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Originally Posted by gus6464 View Post
Airport Express has a pretty decent Wolfson DAC built-in but the output also doubles as mini toslink so you have two options with it:

1. Use the built-in DAC of the AE by using a 3.5mm to RCA cable to the Pioneer receiver
2. Use the DAC of the Pioneer by using a mini toslink to toslink cable from AE

There is no need to be hung up so much on the DAC. Like stated above all receivers come with pretty decent DACs and you are going to have to spend a considerable amount of money to get something better and even then it will not equate to the amount of money you just dropped on it.

A modern GPU that supports HDMI audio will allow you to bitstream the signal to the receiver so that can do the decoding.

Also don't get so hung up on 7.1. There are very few 7.1 BDs and DVDs out there and you need a pretty big room to actually take full advantage of 7.1.

If anything take the $300 and get yourself a decent HT sub for your living since you do not have one right now. This is a good deal that newegg has once a month as it drops to $299.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16882780078

As a matter of fact it's on sale right now with coupon code for $299.

Alright, alright.

Look, I know I didn't do the best job explaining myself, but c'mon guys.

I never once said "I AM AN AUDIOPHILE AND I LOVE DACS AND BLAH BLAH BLAH". I would LOVE to use the DAC on a Denon AVR for music from an HTPC. That sounds perfect, to me. So instead of missing the point, how about helping with how one might go about that? Connections? Codecs? Etc. What I said was I didn't want to use the DAC on my computer itself. In the case of my bedroom setup, I figured that would necessitate something offboard, and the original question was how to integrate that to an HTPC setup.

Sounds reasonable, no?

If the point is that the DAC for my bedroom setup -- which, by the way, would not be wasted at all there -- would be wasted on the living room setup, then I simply won't buy it, and I'll make do with what I have until I combine the two. That's simple enough. But, again, these suggestions aren't exactly helpful, and they don't address what I'm getting at.

Also, I didn't say I wanted a new sub. My next sub, assuming my budget stays where I think it is, will likely be an FV12. If it's more, I'll get something else. I don't need help with that right now; I did PLENTY of research on subs when I bought the eD. I'm fairly confident I understand that landscape, for the price points that are reasonable for me.

Anyway, saying things like "You can bitstream your audio from an aTV to the Denon over HDMI, and it'll use the DACs there" would be helpful. Saying "go buy this sub on newegg" is not.
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Old 12-10-2012, 09:24 PM   #10
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Alright, alright.

Look, I know I didn't do the best job explaining myself, but c'mon guys.

I never once said "I AM AN AUDIOPHILE AND I LOVE DACS AND BLAH BLAH BLAH". I would LOVE to use the DAC on a Denon AVR for music from an HTPC. That sounds perfect, to me. So instead of missing the point, how about helping with how one might go about that? Connections? Codecs? Etc. What I said was I didn't want to use the DAC on my computer itself. In the case of my bedroom setup, I figured that would necessitate something offboard, and the original question was how to integrate that to an HTPC setup.

Sounds reasonable, no?

If the point is that the DAC for my bedroom setup -- which, by the way, would not be wasted at all there -- would be wasted on the living room setup, then I simply won't buy it, and I'll make do with what I have until I combine the two. That's simple enough. But, again, these suggestions aren't exactly helpful, and they don't address what I'm getting at.

Also, I didn't say I wanted a new sub. My next sub, assuming my budget stays where I think it is, will likely be an FV12. If it's more, I'll get something else. I don't need help with that right now; I did PLENTY of research on subs when I bought the eD. I'm fairly confident I understand that landscape, for the price points that are reasonable for me.

Anyway, saying things like "You can bitstream your audio from an aTV to the Denon over HDMI, and it'll use the DACs there" would be helpful. Saying "go buy this sub on newegg" is not.
I don't think anyone who has replied to you including myself understands what you are trying to do. You cannot use your HTPC in one room with a DAC in another room without running a super long USB or digital cable. What's wrong with the DAC in the Pioneer receiver in your room? Also, I know you keep saying you want to bypass the DAC in your HTPC, but unless you are connected via analog to the receiver, the HTPC is not doing any DA conversion. Also the only multi-channel DAC you are going to find is an external 7.1 soundcard like the X-Fi. There is no such thing for HT because if people want multi-channel audio, they just buy a receiver.

To use the internal DAC of the Denon in your bedroom the receiver needs to have another zone, no way around that. And also using a DAC in the bedroom and the receiver's DAC in the living room connected to your PC means that whenever you want to listen to music in the bedroom you have to switch the sound output on your PC from receiver to DAC and vice versa which is a PITA.
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Old 12-10-2012, 09:47 PM   #11
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I don't think anyone who has replied to you including myself understands what you are trying to do. You cannot use your HTPC in one room with a DAC in another room without running a super long USB or digital cable. What's wrong with the DAC in the Pioneer receiver in your room? Also, I know you keep saying you want to bypass the DAC in your HTPC, but unless you are connected via analog to the receiver, the HTPC is not doing any DA conversion. Also the only multi-channel DAC you are going to find is an external 7.1 soundcard like the X-Fi. There is no such thing for HT because if people want multi-channel audio, they just buy a receiver.

To use the internal DAC of the Denon in your bedroom the receiver needs to have another zone, no way around that. And also using a DAC in the bedroom and the receiver's DAC in the living room connected to your PC means that whenever you want to listen to music in the bedroom you have to switch the sound output on your PC from receiver to DAC and vice versa which is a PITA.

Okay, maybe I wrote it incorrectly, but, uh, I think maybe nobody really read what I wrote. Cuz you certainly got it all backwards. Impressively so, even.

I'll try again.

My bedroom setup is a MBP, going to an OLD Pioneer receiver, down to a 2.1 setup. This is music ONLY. I would like to upgrade the DAC from onboard MBP audio to something off board. Simple enough.

Right now, I have an OLD Denon AVR (no HDMI) in the living room, and a 5.0 setup. I will eventually combine the two systems, giving me a 7.1 setup. I will then get a newer AVR, and an HTPC (or something very much like an HTPC). So, I need to get both 5.1+ and 2.0 audio from the HTPC to the AVR. I don't care about using the HTPC's theoretical onboard DACs for the 5.1, but I don't want to use them for 2.0. NOTE: This does NOT mean I don't want to use the AVR's. I just said I don't want to use the HTPC's. Also simple enough.

I do not need to, like, get sound from one to the other. At least not now. Although I guess it couldn't hurt. As it stands now, if I wanted to, I would just buy an AppleTV and jack it in to the living room setup.

So, instead of asking if the USB DAC could be used in combined setup, I should have asked if I would even NEED such a thing.

If it can all be done from AirPlay or an aTV or something, bitstreamed to the AVR to use the DACs there, then great. That works for me.

If not, well, then I'll have to figure something else out.

Anyway, that's a recap.

The conclusion, it would see, is that while a USB DAC would be great for the bedroom setup, it really doesn't make sense in the combined setup. If that's the case, then perhaps I'll hold off, and spend that money on something else.
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Old 12-10-2012, 11:11 PM   #12
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Okay, maybe I wrote it incorrectly, but, uh, I think maybe nobody really read what I wrote. Cuz you certainly got it all backwards. Impressively so, even.

I'll try again.

My bedroom setup is a MBP, going to an OLD Pioneer receiver, down to a 2.1 setup. This is music ONLY. I would like to upgrade the DAC from onboard MBP audio to something off board. Simple enough.

Right now, I have an OLD Denon AVR (no HDMI) in the living room, and a 5.0 setup. I will eventually combine the two systems, giving me a 7.1 setup. I will then get a newer AVR, and an HTPC (or something very much like an HTPC). So, I need to get both 5.1+ and 2.0 audio from the HTPC to the AVR. I don't care about using the HTPC's theoretical onboard DACs for the 5.1, but I don't want to use them for 2.0. NOTE: This does NOT mean I don't want to use the AVR's. I just said I don't want to use the HTPC's. Also simple enough.

I do not need to, like, get sound from one to the other. At least not now. Although I guess it couldn't hurt. As it stands now, if I wanted to, I would just buy an AppleTV and jack it in to the living room setup.

So, instead of asking if the USB DAC could be used in combined setup, I should have asked if I would even NEED such a thing.

If it can all be done from AirPlay or an aTV or something, bitstreamed to the AVR to use the DACs there, then great. That works for me.

If not, well, then I'll have to figure something else out.

Anyway, that's a recap.

The conclusion, it would see, is that while a USB DAC would be great for the bedroom setup, it really doesn't make sense in the combined setup. If that's the case, then perhaps I'll hold off, and spend that money on something else.
How is the MBP connected to the receiver?
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Old 12-11-2012, 04:31 AM   #13
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Okay, maybe I wrote it incorrectly, but, uh, I think maybe nobody really read what I wrote. Cuz you certainly got it all backwards. Impressively so, even.

I'll try again.

My bedroom setup is a MBP, going to an OLD Pioneer receiver, down to a 2.1 setup. This is music ONLY. I would like to upgrade the DAC from onboard MBP audio to something off board. Simple enough.

Right now, I have an OLD Denon AVR (no HDMI) in the living room, and a 5.0 setup. I will eventually combine the two systems, giving me a 7.1 setup. I will then get a newer AVR, and an HTPC (or something very much like an HTPC). So, I need to get both 5.1+ and 2.0 audio from the HTPC to the AVR. I don't care about using the HTPC's theoretical onboard DACs for the 5.1, but I don't want to use them for 2.0. NOTE: This does NOT mean I don't want to use the AVR's. I just said I don't want to use the HTPC's. Also simple enough.

I do not need to, like, get sound from one to the other. At least not now. Although I guess it couldn't hurt. As it stands now, if I wanted to, I would just buy an AppleTV and jack it in to the living room setup.

So, instead of asking if the USB DAC could be used in combined setup, I should have asked if I would even NEED such a thing.

If it can all be done from AirPlay or an aTV or something, bitstreamed to the AVR to use the DACs there, then great. That works for me.

If not, well, then I'll have to figure something else out.

Anyway, that's a recap.

The conclusion, it would see, is that while a USB DAC would be great for the bedroom setup, it really doesn't make sense in the combined setup. If that's the case, then perhaps I'll hold off, and spend that money on something else.
Yeah, this is it pretty much. Only way I can see it working is if you also wanted a headphone amp or something for intimate listening (but I assume that's what your bedroom 2 channel setup is).
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Old 12-11-2012, 10:02 AM   #14
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And I'll pretty much guarantee you that you

"WON'T EVEN HEAR A DIFFERENCE BY USING AN EXTERNAL DAC FROM THE MACBOOK PRO"

That clear enough? DAC chips, the best ones, are still only $1-2 a piece. I'm sorry, a new DAC isn't going to make water into wine for you. It'll just make more water.
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Old 12-11-2012, 11:32 AM   #15
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How is the MBP connected to the receiver?
Right now, via a Miglia HarmonyAudio Firewire interface. It's...not the greatest.

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Originally Posted by Phanuel View Post
And I'll pretty much guarantee you that you

"WON'T EVEN HEAR A DIFFERENCE BY USING AN EXTERNAL DAC FROM THE MACBOOK PRO"

That clear enough? DAC chips, the best ones, are still only $1-2 a piece. I'm sorry, a new DAC isn't going to make water into wine for you. It'll just make more water.
Yeah yeah, sure sure.

I have two things to say to this:

1). I'm not sure if this is Cheez-inspired "OMG THOSE POWER CABLES DON'T MATTER YOU'RE BREAKING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS!" backlash, or you just don't know what you're talking about. Even the most skeptical, level-headed reviewers admit to appreciating different DACs. But regardless, save your breath. I'm not going to argue with you. If I bought one, and it didn't make any difference, I'd simply return it.

2). Here's what I don't understand: Even if the DAC didn't make a difference at all so what? Does that help answer my question? You might gently suggest that my money be better spent elsewhere (for example when people by fancy DSLRs at the expense of crap lenses, or fancy AVRs at the expense of crap speakers) but if you are, y'know, actually trying to help, and not just trying to make yourself feel better, your response doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

Not that I'm surprised, mind you, but it's just something to think about. Are you actually interested in providing advice that the person on the other end might find useful or are you just interested in making yourself feel better/furthering an agenda/seeming smart/being an a-hole/whatever.

***

At any rate, as I mentioned above, it sure seems that if I can get audio from some sort of HTPC/streaming device, and decode it in an AVR, I should be set. If that's the case, then as much as I would like an offboard DAC for the bedroom, it would be superfluous in the living room.

To the rest of you who actually tried to read what I wrote and offered helpful suggestions, I appreciate it.
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Old 12-11-2012, 12:03 PM   #16
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If you really want to try out a DAC take a look at the Matrix M Stage USB. It functions as headphone amp, DAC, and Pre as well. Much better than the Audioengine.

Or you also have the option to go with a Maverick D2 DAC.
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Old 12-11-2012, 12:08 PM   #17
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Then here's my suggestion.

1) Don't buy a DAC

2) Buy a new AVR for your living room and connect your HTPC to it via HDMI (you might need a new video card for that as well)

3) Buy an Airport Express or an AppleTV or any other of the countless streaming media devices and connect it to your bedroom receiver via stereo -> rca or optical. You can then just AirPlay itunes or whatever you want to the Apple devices from your MBpro.


You made such crazy pointless requirements for this whole exercise that it's frustrating to suggest solutions when you refuse to put money where it matters.
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Old 12-11-2012, 02:55 PM   #18
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If you really want to try out a DAC take a look at the Matrix M Stage USB. It functions as headphone amp, DAC, and Pre as well. Much better than the Audioengine.

Or you also have the option to go with a Maverick D2 DAC.
Thanks for the suggestions.
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Old 12-11-2012, 05:40 PM   #19
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Thanks for the suggestions.
Also if your Pioneer receiver has optical you can use the DAC of that by buying a mini toslink cable for your MBP. All Intel macs have a headphone port that doubles as a digital out.
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Old 12-11-2012, 06:06 PM   #20
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If you're not concerned about name dropping, you can use the toslink out on your pc to this handy little device: http://www.monoprice.com/products/pr...seq=1&format=2 then connect RCA cables to your receiver. Of course this only addresses your short term need for 2 channel, and may not be the ideal solution for 2.1 depending on the crossover capability of your receiver.

Edit: After reading some of the reviews, it sounds like the DAC in the converter I recommended isn't really very high quality. This might be a better choice for a non-usb DAC http://www.parts-express.com/pe/show...number=180-997. A better quality USB DAC gives you more options.

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