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iMproving iTunes...??

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Luke Kenobi's picture
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Joined: 15 Jun 2008
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I listen to music ripped to 320kbps AAC files via iTunes. I have a 3.5mm to 2 RCA lead from my laptop to my amp. Now i've just read about a Cambridge Audio DACmagic.

Am I correct in thinking that if I connect this DACmagic between the laptop and amp I will gain more sound quality? I don't intend to use it with a cd player just for computer based music.

A definate purchase for me if anyone can confirm/recommend this.

Thanks.

Octopo's picture
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Joined: 29 Jun 2008
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??

Yes - the DM has been the talk of the town for many moons now, do a search on DacMagic to hear more rave stories. Basically if your laptop has an optical out connect it to that, if not connect it via USB and use a normal RCA interconnect to connect the DAC to your amp. It will be a far more agreeable listening experience.

chebby's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??
Luke Kenobi:

I listen to music ripped to 320kbps AAC files via iTunes. I have a 3.5mm to 2 RCA lead from my laptop to my amp. Now i've just read about a Cambridge Audio DACmagic.

Am I correct in thinking that if I connect this DACmagic between the laptop and amp I will gain more sound quality? I don't intend to use it with a cd player just for computer based music.

A definate purchase for me if anyone can confirm/recommend this.

Thanks.



A DAC will be a great idea whatever bit rate you have ripped to. Apple Lossless will be best for ripping CDs (my lossless files all seem to be around 800+ kbps) but 320 kbps is fine. There are also well over 8000 internet radio stations many of which stream at high quality bit rates. (Try Radio Paradise at 192 kbps and 'open with' iTunes if you want an idea of how good internet radio can sound.) Many of my iTunes+ (256kbps) downloads sound excellent through a DAC too.

There are other good DACs out there for a little less than the DacMagic's cost of £200. There is the Beresford TC7510 (optical and co-ax only) for around £105 (+VAT) from here....

http://www.beresford.me/others/main.html

..and the Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC (£123 & free delivery from Russ Andrews' website) if you only have USB and if the cost of a DacMagic + Airport Express (£200 + £65) is too prohibitive for you right now. The Fubar II USB DAC is an option I can personally vouch for Smile

If you have deeper pockets there are better/more expensive options from the likes of Stello and Chord (Chordette Gem and Chord QBD76) and Benchmark amongst others.

I would suggest a little research on these forums and other sites/mags/reviews etc.
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manicm's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??

In fact I would not recommend the Chordette Gem, recent UK mag review (HiFi Choice I think) stated its Bluetooth as dodgy and the USB as good.

I suspect the DACMagic, Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC and others would trounce it in USB mode, at less than half the price.

The Gem is a very niche product. I suspect in future Chord would release a similarly priced device without Bluetooth but with normal digital inputs. Must admit though, the Gem looks like a gem!

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chebby's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??
manicm:
In fact I would not recommend the Chordette Gem, recent UK mag review (HiFi Choice I think) stated its Bluetooth as dodgy and the USB as good.

I suspect the DACMagic, Firestone Audio Fubar II USB DAC and others would trounce it in USB mode, at less than half the price.

The Gem is a very niche product. I suspect in future Chord would release a similarly priced device without Bluetooth but with normal digital inputs. Must admit though, the Gem looks like a gem!



The Hifi+ reviewer had problems because (as he stated in the review) he was using Mac OSX 10.4 and Windows XP both of which do not natively support the A2DP format....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A2DP#Advanced_Audio_Distribution_Profile_.28A2DP.29

What Hifi? did not seem to have the same problem....

http://whathifi.com/Review/Chord-Electronics-Chordette-Gem/

Also the USB codec on the Chordette supports 24 bit/96khz (I have called Chord and checked this with their technical guy) so 24/96 downloads such as Linn records SACD quality etc. will not be downsampled like they would be if using the Fubar II USB DAC or USB input on the DacMagic (both 16bit/48khz on USB).

Despite owning the Fubar II DAC myself, I would expect the Chordette Gem to be a definite upgrade with full capability from a suitably equipped laptop/Mac running Leopard or Vista or an iPhone/iPod with Bluetooth A2DP 'dongle' attached.

Chord cannot help it if the Hifi+ reviewer does not keep himself informed.

This youtube instructional video shows how easy it is with the QBD76 and/or the Chordette (both work the same on bluetooth)...

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ALhO3_3Xg4I

But it is advisable to have Vista/OSX 10.5.xx with full native A2DP support.
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Eddie Pound's picture
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Joined: 8 Dec 2008
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??

Rip losslessly and use an external DAC.

Something like below, a pro DAC with active speakers, should walk over a lot of HiFi:

http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/system1/digital-analog-converter/dac/dac1-...

manicm's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??

Hmmm I stand corrected Chebby.

In an earlier post you said you were listening to WMA lossless rips on your Solo Mini USB, how did they sound? In fact that's the way I'm going - ripping my CDs to WMA lossless and playing on USB stick on port on Mini.

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chebby's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??
manicm:
Hmmm I stand corrected Chebby.

In an earlier post you said you were listening to WMA lossless rips on your Solo Mini USB, how did they sound? In fact that's the way I'm going - ripping my CDs to WMA lossless and playing on USB stick on port on Mini.



I did that with a couple of classical downloads from LR and it sound great but it is a very expensive way to go (£18 for the last one I think), limited in choice, and take forever to download even with 10mbps cable broadband, and would take up an enormous amount of space (if I downloaded 24/96 a lot), so I will continue with iTunes+ downloads and ripping CDs in lossless.

The Solo-Mini is going to get upgraded next year so I don't want to get into the WMA lossless/memory stick thing a lot. It was interesting but is not the way I want to continue.
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manicm's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??

Actually Chebby, I'm gonna try something bordering on lunacy, maybe you can too:


The Solo Mini manual states that USB hard drives are not supported but can possibly be used. I will try a powered hard drive and test!


Who knows, you might get some mileage out of the Mini in your study etc!

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chebby's picture
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Re: iMproving iTunes...??
manicm:

Actually Chebby, I'm gonna try something bordering on lunacy, maybe you can too:


The Solo Mini manual states that USB hard drives are not supported but can possibly be used. I will try a powered hard drive and test!


Who knows, you might get some mileage out of the Mini in your study etc!



Good luck. Let me know how it goes.
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Marantz M-CR603 • Rega R3 loudspeakers • AirPlay • Apple iPad Mini • Apple iPhone 5 • Apple iMac • Apple AirPort Extreme 802.11N • Humax HDR-Fox T2 • Panasonic TX-L32D25B • Sony BDP-S390