9 Replies Latest reply: Jul 28, 2014 2:36 AM by IanK008
NostromoUK Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

I'm new to Apple support communities having just bought my first Macbook Pro (a 17" 2.5GHz i7 model) and this is my very first iTunes post.


I’m a bit of a Hi-Fi enthusiast, so, with my new MacBook Pro I've taken the opportunity of completely reloading my iTunes library to disk in high quality Apple Lossless format. Took a while but now I've completed the task I’m really pleased I've done it.


My question is, what is the best way to connect a Macbook Pro to a high quality Hi-Fi preamp so I can play iTunes through my high quality Lounge HiFi system ? . . .  my Hi-fi system is by Musical Fidelity, and the pre amp a Musical fidelity A5cr, this is a very expensive and good quality pre-amp, which has superb audio quality, but, only has analogue RCA phono inputs.


I'm guessing one option must be to use the MBP headphone output, either as an analogue or digital source, but I suspect its analogue headphone output will be totally incompatible with the RIAA requirement of the pre amp phono input ?


I’ve also read some comments about using digital connection – USB DAC’s appear to be an option but I don’t know anything about these or which models (available in the UK) are recommended – anyone got any experience ?


I've also read in an archived post here that MBP's have an optical output so maybe that could be used as the input to a DAC ? . .again any advice on which is the best way to go much appreciated ?


Apologies if this question has been asked lots of times before but I've looked through some previous posts and can't find any answers in simple and straightforward language concentrating on the issue of connecting a MacBook Pro to an analogue phono pre amp input ?


Thanks in anticipation of some advice.

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7.4)
  • varjak paw Level 10 Level 10 (169,805 points)

    Your MacBook, assuming I'm correct that it's a late 2011 model, does indeed have an optical output (most other models do as well, but check the specs to confirm), so that would be your highest-quality connection. You will need a mini-Toslink to whatever your DAC would accept.

    Another option would be to get an Apple TV and connect that to your AV system, either via HDMI or optical audio out. The you could share your content with the Apple TV via Home Sharing and not have to physically tether your MacBook to your AV system. The quality should be equal to that of an optical connection from your MacBook.



  • Jimzgoldfinch Level 5 Level 5 (6,565 points)


    You can do this wirelessly. You will need to get airport express and connect this to you amp via its single output to your phono connections on the amp. (Digital connection can also be made.)



  • NostromoUK Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for the replies to this post,


    I think I've now answered my own question . . . . . which is . . . . one good way to connect a MacBook Pro to a quality HiFi system and get really good sound quality is to use a USB DAC. 


    When I posted this question up a couple of days ago I'd never heard of a USB DAC. Now, I've auditioned a couple at home with my system (the ones I've tried were a Musical Fidelity M1 DAC and an AudioLab M DAC, but I can see there are lots of others on the market as well). Both these boxes are really easy to connect and use - its just a digital USB cable from the MacBook Pro to the DAC box and then either phono or XLR analogue out cable from the DAC box to an aux input on your HiFi system . . . really really simple. There is also an optical input on these USB DACs so I guess they could be connected optically, though I didnt try that method.


    The only thing you have to do is go into system preferences and tell the MacBook Pro you want your sound to go to the attached USB DAC rather than the internal speakers, and this is really simple to select.


    The resultant sound quality is exceptionally good and makes it possible to get near CD quality from a MacBook source. The sound is not quite as fathful as through my Marantz CD player, but, using lossless audio format in iTunes its pretty close ! . . . It is tons better than trying to match the analogue headphone signal to a HiFi system - something which I discovered sounds really terrible.


    So, as no one was able to offer a simple answer to my original question, then I thought I'd post this reply up to let other people know just how simple it is.

  • Dozer666 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Apple TV is the right solution for this.   I'm also a hifi fan who now has a giant itunes library in the cloud... and I wanted to play it through my hifi. 


    Get Apple TV for $99, and make sure you have an optical cable (avail at Walmart for maybe $10 I bet).  You also need to buy an HDMI cable but it is beside the point for the hifi purpose.


    Now my setup is Apple TV with optical out to my very decent (not ultra high end) AV receiver Denon 2802 - which gives me DA conversion AND bass managment.   This goes out to my high end integrated amp using RCA cables from the receiver to the integrated amp.    Now just calibrate the subwoofer using the AV receiver's bass management and I am VERY much in business.  It sounds GREAT.


    The receiver acts like a preamp (I keep my integrated with the dial at 12:00 most of the time... sort of like a stand alone power amp with a little gain left over... for TV this powers my fronts and the receiver powers the rest - works very fine).


    Now if I want to be a little more purist about the whole thing, I might buy a separate outboard DAC to go between apple TV and my Integrated amp - cutting out the receiver.   I would cut down the signal path a bit.   But I would lose some bass management - I'd have to work harder to integrate my subwoofer using the subwoofer's dials which is tough...or else abandon the sub and play my speakers on large (which in my experience is never best... psychologically it seems best but it does not sound better if you are pretty good at dialing in your sub).


    Anyway I probably lost you by talking on too long ... but in short - the Apple TV is perfect for this purpose - at least in my setup.   One of the best $99 I have ever spent.   My CD's are all ripped to itunes and are now nothing more than coasters.  I sit in my chair - toggle to the assigned input on my receiver with the remote, use the receiver's remote for volume control, my macbook pro/iphone/ipad) to choose playlists, and enjoy pretty good hifi with my expensive integrated amp, sub and speakers.


    Most of the time, my Apple TV has nothing to do with my TV... ironically.  If I knew ATV would work this well for me I'd have been wiling to pay $250 for it.


    Good luck.

  • Radioactiveman Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)



    I thought the AppleTV up samples all signals to 48khz. Does that affect your listening experience?


    This upscaling is happening on a $100 piece of equipment (not designed for hifi audio) before it goes to your (much more expensive) DAC.


    I was considering the same option, but am now thinking of my original plan of Squeezebox/Sonos player because they can better handle these formats.


    (I building my system at the mo, which will probably be a pair of B&W 805S with a Peachtree DAC/Amp)


    Your thoughts?

  • Dozer666 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    If the upsampling is messing things up, I can't hear it.   When you implement your squeezebox/Sonos please post back here.   Maybe I'll change gears.   I just wanted to play my itunes library over bluetooth or wifi in my hifi rig and I'm happy with it.  I'm actually interested in whether an outboard dac going straight to my integrated would be audible improvement... it never occurred to me to worry about the upsampling but you might be rigth.

  • cupboy Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    If I go to System Preferences -> Sound the only choice I have is Internal Speakers. The list contains one item only. Do other people see USB DAC in this list?



    re: "The only thing you have to do is go into system preferences and tell the  MacBook Pro you want your sound to go to the attached USB DAC rather  than the internal speakers, and this is really simple to select."


    The help file is useless too:


    Select a device for sound output
    To listen through your computer’s built-in speakers, select Internal Speaker.


    To listen through your display’s built-in speakers, select Display Audio.


    To listen through speakers or headphones that are connected to the headphone jack, select Headphones.


    To listen through external USB speakers, select your speakers from the list.


    To listen through another audio interface, select it from the list.

  • cupboy Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I guess I need to reply to myself. Is there no "Edit" button?


    Anyway I get the option now, but only if the MacBook is already connected to the external device.


    Unfortunately the USB DAC I tried says "Unsupported" when I connect the MacBook.

  • IanK008 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    The Airport Express product is just an expensive junk. If you are not using the complete Apples suite (including Apple expensive router) you'll spend half a day trying to resolve connectivity issues. It's not intuitive and any help is just full of jargon.


    Just use the straightforward cable linking your iPod/iPad directly to your HiFi.