Mac Mini or MacBook to Tact to MF X-DACv3

I am thinking about buying a Mac Mini or MacBook with digital out to use in my audio system to augment my current CD playback system. The plan would be to rip to Apple Lossless some CDs I listen to frequently and to have them readily available to my system.

Some questions from someone who's only moderately technically literate.

First, I use an old Tact RCS 2.0 in my system. It accepts digital signals up to 96/24. Then I send the corrected signal digitally to my Musical Fidelity X-DACv3, and then output the analog output from the DAC to my Arcam AVR300's analog in, and then I play back using the Arcam's pure analog mode. If I use either Mac product in the way I'm thinking, sending the Apple Lossless signal out digitally to the digital in of the Tact, and then out as described above, is the signal coming out of the Mac product automatically something that the Tact can, for lack of a better word, understand? Same question if at some point I take the Tact out of the chain, sending the Mac's digital stream to the outboard DAC directly. Don't the Tact and the outboard DAC only "understand" signals looking like 44/16, 44/24, or 96/24? How do they understand and then manipulate a digital stream like that which comes from Apple Lossless, or a regular AAC file, or an .mp3 file? I'm probably not understanding something really basic here, and I apologize if that's the case. But I want to be sure that my current equipment will be able to take the digital out from the new Mac, whatever file type it is, and be able to manipulate it, either to apply correction to it in the case of the Tact, or to be able to convert it to an analog signal, in the case of the external DAC I own.

Second, I read a question out on a forum that suggested that the digital out of the Mac Mini is volume controlled. The person posting the question was wondering whether this could be defeated, saying that the volume control would degrade the digital signal and make the digital stream inaccurate relative to the file. A. Is it true that the Mac Mini has a volume control for the digital out? B. Same for the MacBook? C. If so, was the poster right to worry about the degradation of the digital signal being sent out of the computer?

Third, is the digital out on Mac products basically good? I've read posts from people saying that the USB out is better. If it's much better, such that you'd recommend I go that route, would you also recommend that I look for a different DAC? Or is there some sort of USB to coax digital or optical digital converter, so that I could get whatever benefit to there is to USB out, while still keeping the DAC (and Tact) I have now. Maybe I'm not even posing the right questions with regard to the USB option, so please illuminate me if I'm not.

Thank you very much for your help.
I too use a computer setup (I actually used to send the signal to a X-DAC V3 like you), and I think that I can answer most of your questions, probably not in the most in-depth way but I think I can provide you with some insights. Regarding your first question, I think that so long as what you're trying to listen to is Stereo and not multi-channel, and so long as its 44.1Khz, your DAC will be able to decode it without any problems. File formats, as I understand it, should not be an issue as your soundcard will still be sending out a stereo 44.1Khz audio signal, so if you have a 128Kbps mp3 it will simply decode it as a compressed audio signal, but an audio signal nonetheless.

I don't have any experience with Mac products as I personally am not a fan of Apple, so I can't provide you with any information about your other two questions.
Not sure how much this will help, because I share your questions...

I have a new macbook pro and use the digital out to an X-DAC v3. As Glitch947 says, everything comes out 44.1, so there's no problem reading the files. There is a digital volume control in iTunes. My understanding is that when it is at full volume, it doesn't change the data at all.

My experiments with the direct digital out is that it is *definitely* better than going through the Airport Express. I've a/b-ed these, and I don't know why, but the AE is darker, veiled for some reason. Even my multi-player direct to pre is better than AE to x-Dac. I'm really not sure why, as this was a huge disappointment to me. But gf verified in blind testing.

Let us know how the TACT works. That would be very cool. I would like to experiment with some sofware that would do the same just through my Mac. Anyone know of such software?
Don't know if it is too late for my response to be any good, but for what it's worth, I recently got a Mac Mini and hooked it up to my Perpetual Tech P-3A DAC using the optical digital out. I then connected a large external hard drive and started ripping my CD's in uncompressed format using iTunes. Sound is great, indistinguishable from driving the DAC with my Krell CD player.

I keep my iTunes volume full up too, the Front-Row interface won't let me change it. I don't think the digital output is volume controlled, but I'll have to experiment.

Avoid lossless. I rip to AIFF. Hard drive is cheap, and there is a difference in sound quality. Don't stream over the network either. All of it cruds up the sound.
Dougcobb, I'm just now getting into this as well and I have to ask .... why avoid lossless?

While I agree hard drives are cheap, I'm not sure why a lossless format such as FLAC would degrade sound quality. Using a "wired" network (e.g. NAS server) should also not be a problem unless competing with a lot of other network traffic. I have heard problems with wireless causing dropouts (Squeezebox) but I think that can be overcome as well.
Why AIFF over other lossless alternatives? Lossless means that all the information is there, nothing is thrown away like in a lossy compression scheme, ie. mp3, aac.

The only difference between a compressed lossless format like FLAC or Apple lossless and AIFF or WAV is that the compressed version has its bits arranged more efficiently; when decompressed, all the bits are there exactly as when they were encoded.

In short, FLAC is probably the best lossless format since it's free and open. Apple lossless is good, namely since iTunes supports it, so you can convert an Apple lossless file into anything iTunes supports. AIFF and WAV are pointless, unless you want to use iTunes and don't want to use Apple's format.