First dac, transport or computer?

I just bought my first dac and as far as strictly sound quality would it be better to buy a transport or a MacBook to match with my Line Magnetic 502ca?

If I go the computer route and only use it for audio playback, what's the simplest options?

Is there anything better that has come out recently?

Thanks for any and all comments. Scott

There are so many aspects to consider and you provide little info about what you value that it's difficult to recommend something. I'll give it a shot, and you tell us where you want to take it.

In your first sentence you go strictly for sound quality, yet the second sentence asks for the simplest options. Generally speaking it's difficult to have both at the same time. Also, what's the price point?

Also, I'm not familiar with your DAC. I'm going to assume it has asynch USB, and that it's a good implementation of it.

Going down the computer path, the simplest would be getting a laptop, JRiver, and connect to your DAC. Go to and read the ripping CD article and follow it.

Next step in my book would be installing Windows Server 2012 in that laptop (note: the laptop needs to be 64-bit for this to work), add AudioPhil's Optimizer (software package), and JRiver.

Next is have a desktop instead of laptop so you can upgrade certain critical parts. Next is assembling a dedicated server, and it keeps going. By now the sound would be very, very good, but not a simple solution.

I hope this helps
I use a MacBook Air running Audirvana Plus into an OPPO 105 asynchronous USB input. The results, to my ears, are nothing short of spectacular, I could not be happier. See my previous post on this subject.
I see what you mean, sounds way complicated, but I see no one mentioned a transport. I assume the computer makes a better choice.

I had a friend recommend a Mac mini?
I guess it really depends on how you listen to music.

If you have already downloaded a lot of music from say Linn or 2L or HD Tracks or SuperHirez etc, I think a dedicated music server/computer is your best route.

If you have a lot of CDs/SACDs and you aren't sure if you have the time to rip these to a server, I'd say go with a transport. Unless your DAC has a custom input for an SACD transport, you are likely limited to CD transports. SACD bitstream is usually "proprietary" and you can't send SACD data over SPDIF or AES cables.

If you are going for the transport route - a lot again depends on your budget. I personally am a big fan of the CDPro2M top loader transport and own 2 devices with the transport - an Ayon CD5S and a Bel Canto CD2. Ayon now sells a transport only version with the CDPro2M. I've also heard pretty good results with the Stream CD transport (slot loaded) used in the Meitner MA2 and the bel Canto CD3t. The CD3T is a dedicated transport (no DAC) and is a cost effective alternative. But I suspect it won't read mini CD discs that I have.

If you are going with the computer route, I personally like Macs. If you are comfortable opening up a computer to install or upgrade components, I'd suggest ordering a base Mini and buying the following after market - SSD and fully load the RAM (16GB on current Minis). You only need at most a 60GB SSD to store the OS. If you are not comfortable opening the machine up, just customise the Mac Mini at the apple online store and configure it to have the memory and SSD upgrades.

Once you get the machine, just buy/install Audirvana Plus and run it in iTunes Integration mode. I believe your DAC USB input supports Integer/Direct mode on Audirvana Plus so check that option. Also allow Audirvana to do a System Optimizer by reducing background apps/processes. Once iTunes has imported all your music, you are good to go. You may need to use a converter app if your music is in FLAC.

You can of course manually optimise the operating system further but for now, I think will get you to 80% of a fully optimised system.

If your budget stretches further, you can have a look at the modified Mac Minis dedicated for music applications - mojo audio will strip out the switch mode power supply for a large external linear power supply for instance.
mojo audio will strip out the switch mode power supply for a large external linear power supply for instance
Not sure that I would do that. The Mac Mini is pretty good and the reports I have read on the Mojo P/S are not encouraging.

I've heard some Minis with a linear PSU and they are improved a lot IMHO.

Not the mojo ones but the older Mach2Music.

What was wrong with Mojo?
I don't mind ripping if it sounds better
However I like spinning CDs and don't have any hi Rez downloads

I'm leaning towards a transport, the bel canto I like because of the top loading

Is computer that much better?
What about a old pioneer pd65 stable platter or a parasound bd2000?
What about just buying a dedicated music server box with a
transport that lets you rip a CD right into it.
Isn't this the simplest way to convert a big CD collection
to a non-disk-spinning scenario?
Haven't thought of that
Or a PS Audio PWT. People speak very highly about them.

Mac Minis are great with Audionirvana+. However, lately on some long-time Mini users have been moving to PCs with Windows Server 2012 with AudioPhil Optimizer and upgraded parts, especially linear power supplies. This route can get as complicated as you want it to make it, or as simple as a linear power supply into the picoPSU in the motherboard and live with all the switching imbedded in the motherboards.

But I suggest taking small steps at a time. Get the computer of your choice, even an old one you might be able to spare for this, and get your feet wet. If Windows-based, get JRiver as player and JRemote if you have an iPad to control everything from your seat. Get a feel for computer audio and then decide if you want to go deeper or stick with a CD transport. FWIW, this is what I did and now I'm ready to go down the more complicated route.

Hope this helps.
This is somewhat of a retread from a previous post, but the basic outline still applies.

The issue is less about sound quality than what kind of experience you want while reading the digital bits off of whatever medium you’re about, and how that digital bitstream then gets sent off to your DAC. Whether you have the transport and DAC stages in the same box (i.e., in a CD player) or in separate boxes, you’ve gotta get this stuff done.

Now, I guess the question then becomes – is there something inherently better about bouncing a laser off of a spinning CD verses reading the same digital information off of either a traditional (i.e., spinning) or solid state (i.e,. no moving parts) hard drive. Not really. We can just stipulate that all manner of factors (isolation, inertness, power, etc) can effect this process – sure – and that execution matters, but one isn’t inherently better than the other. Put differently, both do just a fine job of disinterring digital data from a storage medium. (One could argue that SDD is in fact inherently more robust and inert, and thus better, but let’s not for now.)

Right, then you’ve gotta send your digital bit stream to the DAC. In a CD player, it doesn’t have that far to go, and it happens in the black box and that’s that. You can do the same thing in a computer, in the same box, on the sound card – they all have one. Or, because the on-board DAC in most computers is a crappy afterthought, you can bypass it and go direct digital to your off-board DAC. In stark contrast to whatever happens in your CD player – or between a traditional looking transport and a DAC, one-box or two -- you have near infinite control over how this gets done (OK, exaggeration, but you get the point). This gives you a degree of control over optimizing your sound that you will never, ever get from a CD player. If you want that, it’s good to have. If you don’t want it, then who cares.

But, big-picture-wise, a computer-a-la-transport can very definitely sound as good or better than any given integrated CDP or Transport/DAC pair. Similarly, you can likely find a CD player that will sound as good or better than any given computer/DAC set-up. So – and I really mean this – sound quality should not be a factor in making this decision. Or, it doesn’t need to be, at any rate. Not any more.

There are a whole bunch of other factors, however. Computer audio is not plug and play. It requires that you learn quite a bit to maximize, that you be comfortable learning it, that you WANT to learn about it, and that you find pleasure in tinkering, expanding, reimagining and improving, and then starting all over in order to keep up with the constantly-evolving pace of all things computer. If you’re not interested, or frustrated, or just against playing with computers and solving issues as they come up – because they will – don’t waste your time. It will likely bring you little joy. A plug and play CD player or Transport/DAC combo is just that, simple, easy and bullet-proof (figuratively, that is). What a computer-based system does give you, on the other hand, is vastly increased flexibility, customizability, and convenience (once you’ve crossed the barrier to entry and gotten up to speed, definitely not before). Having all your music instantly available at your fingertips, having access to orders-of-magnitude higher resolution material than you get from Redbook CD, and further being able to stream any music on earth instantly off of the internet, these things can fundamentally change your relationship to music. And that’s a really big thing.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to spin disks to make music, I get it. The ritual, the mechanics, they matter a lot. Being deliberate and physically involved in the process unquestionably can enhance the experience. It forces you to live more fully in the moment, pay more attention. It is way more simple. And if you’re into vinyl, there’s no substitute. Revel in it. But if you’re actually considering different digital transports, don’t let sound quality be your deciding factor. Sure, there are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons not to bother with introducing computers into the process, but sound quality really isn’t one of them. For me, the benefits so dwarf the costs that I wouldn’t even consider going back to CDs (I still buy them, but they get ripped, backed up, and then never thought of again). But that’s personal, and I’m into this stuff. Anyway, I’ve rambled on for too long. I suspect your instincts regarding which you would prefer to live with are unquestionably right, but one can get the sound they want either way.
IMHO a good transport still sounds better than computer audio. I know there are people who believe that bits are bits but I've often found that the same disc sounds better than the ripped version. And it gets worse, I've found that WAV and AIFF sound better than Apple Lossless or FLAC.

I think computer audio is improving a lot. Audirvana Plus gets new versions every other week and there's often improvement in SQ not just bug fixes. So I'm still plugging away at computer audio.

That said computer audio is not for everyone. I'm personally not a big fan of Windows OS. I've found that patching it regularly is a must for security and that it tends to slow the machine noticeably over time. It's one of the reasons why I've stuck to Macs.
There's this new Sony thing (reviewed recently in TAS):

"Once the HAP-Z1ES is connected to your home network, either via Ethernet cable or via Wi-Fi, you can transfer music files to its internal hard drive. Unlike many music servers that employ a closed system (see AHC’s review of the Olive player), the Sony HAP-Z1ES permits you to add, store, and backup your music files onto standard USB hard drives as well as its internal drive. "
Thanks for all the opinions. I do like the idea of having all my music at my fingertips. I think I'm going to give this a try.

I will follow up with how things go
I get the impression the HAP Z1ES isn't designed to be used with an external DAC. Was I mistaken?
No, you are 100% correct. No inputs.
"I do like the idea of having all my music at my fingertips. I think I'm going to give this a try."

Sorry to be repetitive, but I suggest you spend as little as possible initially until you figure out if you like it, and then go in spending according to your wallet.

Initially an old laptop will do, even a Win XP one. Get an internal hard disc drive with it's own power supply, and if you can use a non-USB, the better.
Get a player, like JRiver. The advantage of JRiver is you can go to and read the article on how to set up JRiver which makes it simpler than figuring out everything by yourself. If you leave your laptop sitting by the DAC and have no remote it will mimmic having a CD player, but with some benefits (instant access, playlists, etc).
Then add the remote, that could be an iPad/iPhone/android device with the right app. JRiver works really well with JRemote, and you also have a guide in

I highly recommend thinking through how you'll rip your music upfront. I follow the guide to ripping CDs to a t, and has been a set it and forget thing for me.

FWIW, at the onset I found computer audio daunting, but taking it piecemeal made it manageable for me, and that website is a good resource. At the moment I'm in the process of discarding my ancient XP laptop and building a purpose-built server (first computer I ever built). And I sold my CD player about a year ago, after I realized I was not using it anymore nor had the intention of doing so.

Have fun during the journey!
Personally I prefer building a dedicated music server since it gives me more control and allows me to tweak and upgrade components as I see fit. Of course this route is not for everyone. You could purchase a CAPS purpose designed music server fully assembled from Small Green Computers.

I disagree that a transport will sound better than a PC. It all depends on the implementation of the transport and the PC. My personal setup is a dedicated Atom based PC streaming music wirelessly from my NAS. The PC is running a tweaked version of Windows Server 2012. To my ears the sounds is great!
so your saying the pc audio sounds better than a good dac and transport?
As usual: it depends. Depends on the transport you are considering as well as the PC-as-transport implementation you are considering.

A $15k spinning transport might sound better than a fully tweaked $3k PC...but the price difference is substantial enough to make those spinning transports a non-starter in my world.

I'm no specialist, but I've come to believe a $2k tweaked PC is likely to sound better than a $2k spinning transport. Plus the convenience factor, plus hi-rez, plus the availability of any record (I live in a place where I can't get whatever I want in the mail) make it my medium of choice.
But a PC requires more involvement than a spinning transport, for sure.
Ok how about this, 3k cdp or dac and transport compared to a 3k computer setup. Which is going to sound better?

I had some files on iTunes and upgraded them to apple lossless,I then hooked this to my dell PC after downloading Jriver I also ripped some discs on Jriver. The files from iTunes came up as mp4,the files ripped came up as ape.

I was able to upsample to 192khz but really couldn't say it sounded much different than my dac to blue ray.

Do you think this was because of the quality of the files?

My ultimate goal is to get the best sounding music from my dac.

If I stick with computer I will go the Mac route just hooked my PC up to see if I could hear the difference of jitter loss,maybe but nothing drastic.
Personally I think a PC can be setup to sound better than a tranport and this can be done at a lower price. I used to own what many would consider a very good transport (Esoteric P3 transport and X-03 cdp). I would say my pc sounds better than the Esoteric. But of course careful attention must be paid to power supply, USB, converter, etc. Of course the tweaked PC route is not for everyone. I personally like the freedom of tinkering with my PC to get the best sound.
I bought a used MacBook pro and have given this a try and really think my dac thru the blueray sounds more lively with a optical cable.
Not sure what you meant. I take it as your Bluray running into your DAC thru optical sounds better than the MacBook...presumably running into

Are you running Audionirvana+ on your MacBook?
Does your DAC have asynch USB input? Is the MacBook connected to the DAC thru USB?
yes,I'm sorry I wasn't clear,my dac has synch usb input.

I downloaded the pure music software and downloaded my music to the macbook just a few songs to try,it just sounds a bit lifeless compared to the blue ray.
Well...generally speaking, synch USB DAC don't sound that good, although I hear there are exceptions. With synch USB DAC, the ruling clock is inside the computer, a noisy environment with non-stellar clocks. That leads to a jittery environment, meaning "poor" sound quality.

Asynch USB DAC, on the other hand have their clock rule the timing from the computer, so if a good implementation is at hand, they generally sound better.

Sounds like the sound you are getting is in line with the hardware you have. Some options: a) be happy with what you have and call it a day, b) change DAC, c) get an asynch USB to SPDIF converter and connect that between your computer and your DAC. Should you go with c), make sure it runs in integer mode as it's said to be critical for playing from Macs/Audionirvana+.
I'm new to dacs sorry, didn't know there was a difference mine is Asynchronous
Ok. After further thought I have to say my recommendations above would still hold even if it's asynch. Maybe not a very good asynch implementation? I wouldn't know.
It might be best to leave it as is and forget about it. The alternatives involve money, assuming you cannot get a loaner to try out. And even a loaner takes time.
My two cents - if you're still loading CDs into a player or DAC/transport, get into streaming or a server. The convenience of selecting/playing music from a remote device will have you asking why you didn't do this earlier. I moved out of a quality player and into streaming from my PC to a modified Apple Express which was wired into my pre and used an iPad Touch as my remote. I saved my music in Apple lossless and used iTunes. I suffered no loss in sound quality and, because I wasn't hopping up and down to load/unload CDs, my enjoyment level rose. I wanted to move up to the next level, but lacked the skills and know-how to build/buy computer hardware. So, after doing some research, I bought a Bryston BDP-1/Bryston BDA-1 combo. Ripped my cd library using dbpoweramp in FLAC, putting my Rock CDs on one 128gb thumb drive and my "other" music (jazz, classical, religious, etc) on anther. I now use an iPad mini as my remote. Nice improvement in sound quality which I attribute to the newer DAC and maybe to the change to FLAC. Anyhoo, I couldn't be happier and can't imagine going back to spinning individual CDs. If you're into computers (which I'm not), that's certainly an option to explore. But, bottom line, get rid of that cd drawer!!
I agree with Rockyboy. I have a Mac Mini and a macbook pro. Load CDs on both as AIFF. I use a Audiophilleo2 into the BDA-1. Really not that difficult to set up.
I also have a Disk player which feeds the BDA-1. With the Macbook pro i can take music anywhere tp my other systems.
IMO the computer, any computer, sucks in comparison to an Antipodes server/streamer which clearly out preformed my music only dedicated 2009 Mac Mini w/SSD.

The Antipodes is a financial commitment to be sure. I think after auto ripping in paranoid mode to uncompressed FLAC the quality of the digital audio signal from this server/streamer makes the necessity for a mega buck DAC moot, but that's just a guess.

read loading music and about
I may be changing my mind, I decided to give the macro another listen and it sounds fantastic!!!

I think my Dax is just now fully breaking in even though I'm the 2nd owner I don't think it was used much before I got it. All the bright digital sound is gone. It's really amazing and I haven't changed anything Hayley so it has to be the breaking in.

Now that makes a big difference. If your MacBook going synch USB into your DAC sounds fantastic, then enjoy your music and in the meantime come to a point of view if computer audio is for you. Should it be, do the research about your DAC. Are others reporting big improvement when using a asynch USB to S/PDIF converter, such as an Audiophilleo?

Another route would be the computer itself. You want to eliminate as many of the elctrically noisy devices within the computer. Switching mode power supplies (SMPS) are a huge source. Screens are a source. Motors, like those found in fans and rotating hatd disk drives, are sources. You can see a laptop is not ideal. But a great starting point. I used one for a year until I had a point of view if the next step was worth it.

You are using an iPad/iPhone/something to control your MacBook, right?
iPhone with Apple remote app