with the music fidelity and i think the cambridge you get more flexibility with inputs but must be plugged into the wall. the hrt is usb input only. i have the hrt and the music fidelity and they work well and i have read great reviews about the cambridge. these products have lots of press. for the price i like them.
Which model MacBook do you have? If it Is a pro or the 2009 aluminum chassis MacBook it has a digital audio out on the headphone port. I have been using mine via the digital audio out. Via toslink directly to my pre-pro with great success.
Not to say a good external DAC would not improve the sound however if your MacBook has a digital audio out the right cable would let you dabble before you dropped the coin on the DAC.
Buy a 2010 Mac Mini instead, they sound much better than the MacBook. I have tried both. The Mac Mini is much quieter and has much lower noise floor. The power supply in the Mac Book has to power the screen which makes the MacBook noisy by comparison to the 2010 Mac Mini. Check out www.mach2music.com these guys know their stuff. I have one of their modified Mac Minis and I have not been able to find any CD player at any price that even compares to the Mach2Music Mac Mini.
Thank you Dynfan and Hotmailjbc. I appreciate the guidance. My main concern is an easy to use item with great sound.
I have an original MacBook (white casing). I have no other output than USB.
Thesoundhouse ... I respect that your a dealer and that your experience is vast , but I find it hard to believe you can't find a CD player at any price that compares to a music server used at the same bit rate . I have the new IMac , ( no fan noise at all ) run from its digital output to a Levinson Dac ( #360s ) I've tried others , and the sound is considerable thiner than my mid fi CD player ( Marantz SA11 ) . The IMac has its own power conditioner and i'm using an audio grade power cord and digital link . If I'm doing something wrong please let me know .
Have just ordered the Ayre C5 .
Thank you TheSoundhouse, my goal was to spend very little (hence the HRT streamer and V-dac questions. I already have a MacBook and buying a mini would be needless cost. I appreciate your idea though.
If you plan to use USB you will be limited to 16/48 files with both the MF VDAC and the DACmagic. One thing to point out is that the DACmagic has high levels of jitter when using USB. The MF VDAC by contrast has impressively low levels of jitter when using USB as reported by Stereophile. If your primary use is going to be USB and you will be using standard 16/44.1 I would go with the VDAC over the other options, added flexibility of additional inputs over the HRT and better USB performance compared to the DACmagic.
Thank you! That is exactly what I needed to know.
Doesn't the Macbook have the headphone out which is also a digital output? You can buy a simple plug that converts the headphone out to toslink. Then you don't limit yourself to USB DACs, which really takes the better DACs out of contention. I would double check your manual to see if the headphone out also doubles as a digital out. I have three mac laptops in my house (mine, son and daughter) and all of them have the digital headphone outs. Two of them are already 18 months old.
After a lot of research, I hooked up my MacBook Pro to a Wavelength Proton DAC and never looked back - sound is excellent. Main reason for selecting was the performance with a USB connection.
I bought a Centrance DACport a few weeks ago to use as a portable USB DAC + headphone amp for my MacBook. The thing is TINY, but the DAC is really really good. I also now use it in the office to play my computer tracks through my speakers (Rotel separates + Meadowlark Kestrel Hot Rods) and am amazed at how good it sounds - esp. with high-res tracks or high bit-rate internet radio like the Linn stations.
Centrance also just began selling the DACmini, which doubles as a headphone amp (and pre-amp, I think), but it's more money (http://centrance.com/products/dacmini/)
According to Stereophile, Centrance licenses its jitter-reducing technology to Benchmark, Lavry, Bel Canto, Empirical Audio, and PS Audio, among others. Well worth a try.
I'm getting outstanding results using iTunes > MacBook > USB output > Ayre QB 9 > balanced out to my integrated amp. Very basic, with excellent results. The only sound I hear is from my speakers.
FWIW I use the M2Tech Hiface to convert USB to SPDIF. I'm no techno man but for reasons unknown to me it works wonders! Note: I go from an iMac to a Krell processor. The M2 Tech is the best "go between" that I am aware of.
I've been using a Dacport for about 4 months now, not with a Mac but with an expensive Lenovo laptop. I use if for many hours a day. Originally I used it just with my Denon 5000 headphones when I was out working, but then after talking to Michael Goodman, the head of Centrance, I tried hooking the Dacport directly from my computer (playing only AIFF files and Itunes) to my home amp via a simple 1/4" to RCA adapter and the results are stunning: much more detail than I heard through an NAD CD player playing the same song, be it rock, classic, etc. Another great thing about Dacport is that Michael Goodman answers phone calls and emails. The unit is super strong and also doubles as a Class A headphone amp. To pay only $400 for a DAC that has this many uses is quite astonishing. I plan on using it to run from my laptop direct to my Bryston 4B-STT2 and then my Mag 3.7's. I'll post the results. Goodman told me that the chip in the Dacport is even more advanced than the chip in the Benchmark DAC which goes for close to $2,000.
After 2 months of listening, I have to say that the Centrance DACport is one of the most satisfying bargains I've ever purchased in audio. I keep it in my headphone case when I travel or work at the coffee shop, and hook it up to the office system when I'm there. I love the fact that it doesn't need a power cord but still has ample power to drive my Sennheisers and Audio Technicas. I'm not saying it's the best DAC or best headphone amp you can get, but it's super convenient and a downright steal.