Halide Design - MF X-DAC v3, vs Benchmark DAC?

I'm wanting to take the plunge and move from CDs to a Mac Mini-based digital front end.

Current system includes Musical Fidelity X-Ray V3 CD, A5.5 integrated amp, X-DAC V3, X10 V3, X-Can V3, Focal Profile 928 spkrs.

A year or two back, I tried outputting Apple lossless files from a MacBook Pro via an Airport Express to the Toslink input of the X-DAC. The results were less than impressive - quality was much lower than CD from the X-Ray V3 through the same DAC.

What I want to do is run high-res (at present, CD quality, burned from CD) files from a new Mac Mini into the system. But, quality has to be equal to CD (i.e., well above the level of the Airport Express/X-DAC connection). Don't have the Mac Mini yet, it would be bought specifically for this use.

Weighing several options...

1. USB output from Mac Mini to the existing MF X-DAC V3 via a Halide Design Bridge, USB to RCA (the X-DAC V3 has Toslink and RCA inputs; Toslink currently used for a BluRay player; RCA currently used for X-Ray CD). This means buying the Halide Design bridge, and hoping it will work well with existing DAC.

2. USB output from Mac Mini to a new DAC -- either a Benchmark USB DAC (this would also negate the need for the X-Can V3; so I'd sell the X-DAC and X-Can); or the new MF DAC-1; or another high quality DAC. It would be good to have a DAC with several switchable inputs, hence the appeal of the Benchmark. But, this route means buying a new DAC and hoping it will do the job.

Anyone have experience with similar set-ups; or any related advice?

Many thanks,

There was a test of several DACs on both computer audio and CDs a couple of years ago in HIFICRITIC. The Benchmark was beaten fairly decisively by the MF V-DAC. I use one myself which I purchased after reading the review and have been very happy with it; I do not use computer audio so can't comment on that part. Copies of the review can be purchased on their web site; they don't take ads so not much is on line, I don't know if it is on the MF web site.
The V-DAC reviews on the MF site do not include HIFICRITIC. It is still available however if anyone wants one. What does this DAC do that is special?
There is another wrinkle to this... I just realized that my existing integrated Amp (the MF A5.5) has a USB input (and, thus, presumably a built-in DAC!). I think it will only sample up to CD rates, and I have no idea how the A5.5 DAC compares to stand-alone DACs, including the MF DACs! I figured the DAC in this Amp was MF's early response to the need for USB input for iPods and so on.

Presumably, if the A5.5 DAC doesn't upsample, it will be inferior to my existing X-DAC and/or any other stand-alone DAC that does upsample. However, it should be easy to compare a signal from my current Mac (burned using Apple lossless or similar) going straight to the A5.5 USB input, with the same exact source played as a CD via the X-ray and X-DAC. Sounds like a project for tomorrow...

(The original testing with Airport Express was done using a different integrated Amp -- hence it never occurred to me until now that the A 5.5 has the USB input...!)
The beauty of the apple is it has a toslink out and it will sound MUCH better than USB (more air, detail, bass depth, less bright). I tried a bunch and ended up with the benchmark DAC-HDR and a mac mini using plain old toslnk. Don't forget to get and iPhone or iPod touch/ipad to use as a remote for iTunes. You can set the mini to boot iTunes when you turn it on and use it as a headless unit when you want to.

My point is buy what ever DAC you want you are not tied to USB and I personally try to avoid it.
I saw you have not tried your A5's DAC yet. Give that a go and upgrade if you want later. Benchmark has a 30 day trial... No harm trying it. I am sure others do too.
Thanks for the suggestions.

So, a little experimentation goes a long way...

1. I tried the A5.5 USB input straight from a Mac USB output (CD file copied as AIFF file to Mac) -- not a disaster, but not great, sounded very compressed compared to CD. Not acceptable, and not the solution.

2. I tried the digital optical output from a Mac into the Toslink input of my existing MF X-Dac v3; again comparing CD to same files copied as AIFF to Mac. *Amazing results* !! Output is almost indistinguishable using Mac Toslink input to DAC compared to CD coax input to same DAC (output from DAC, regardless of source, goes to a MF X10 vs3 and then to MF A 5.5 integrated) with same source file on CD or Mac.

So, this is clearly the way to go - use the existing DAC with toslink output from Mac. No need to buy a new dac or halide bridge, just a dedicated mac Mini, and reconfigure some existing cables.

Happy days!