New to DACs: Please Help

Hi Audiogoners,

I am new to the whole DAC scene. I used to have a full 5.1 set up a few years back and have since paired things down.

My current set up is straight from my computer. I am running a pair of high end M-Audio active speakers (DSM2) from my Mac Pro which is running all lossless files in iTunes.

As a temporary solution I have used a Y cable from my mini speaker jack out to the analog 1/4" on the speakers.

I would like a DAC that will provide a great deal of listening enjoyment, and give my sound an organic quality to it. I have been looking at the Apogee Mini-Dac, Apogee Duet, and just saw a Muisc Hall Tube DAC listed on CL in my area. I would like to get something soon, and have no clue which direction to go.

Thank you!
It's very difficult to make a recommendation because DACs are different. Most people focus on the digital (D) part of a DAC and forget that most of the sound character comes from the analog (A) part of the DAC. I've been designing and building DACs for a few years now, and it seems that most of the difference in DACs comes from the analog stage, and that makes DACs subjective depending on the person, system, room, source, etc.... DACs are like phono stages and speakers, it's a very subjective thing. The digital stuff can be messed with (jitter control and re-clockers), but it's much more subtle and doesn't always sound best.

I personally prefer the NOS (No Over Sampling) designed DACs since they have a natural , engaging presence. Most (if not all) of my music library is Apple Lossless, ripped from 16/44 CDs, so 24/96 and higher bit rates don't interest me much....yet. My three favorite DACs are the 47 Labs, Altmann Attraction and the Audio Sector (Peter Daniel). I'm also very impressed with the new Naim DAC. My picks lean more toward the "musical" side of sound, rather than the "technical". ;)
To use a DAC, your MAC has to have a digital audio output. Your speakers accept digital audio directly. I'd try that first before buying a DAC.

Assuming your MAC has a digital audio output and you decide to get an external DAC, the DAC should have balanced analog outputs to properly mate with the balanced analog inputs of your speakers (whether TRS or XLR). I assume your MAC's analog audio output is unbalanced, so the speaker's balanced analog input is currently getting an unbalanced signal -- probably not the best solution.
Check out the USB DACs from HRT. I got an HRT Streamer II, which bested my Bel Canto DAC2, and then decided to go for the HRT Pro. If your speakers have balanced inputs then you could go with a Pro which is a balanced design using mini-XLR outputs. But pay attention to volume control. The pro itself does not have volume control. You could use the volume control in iTunes, but that may not be ideal.
I using a Mac Pro to a Wavelength Proton DAC with a USB connection for my first DAC. Sounds great.