I like Sonos Connect. Great user interface. About $350 new with built in DAC. At a later date, if you like, there are various upgrades, such as a better DAC.
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The cheapest fastest way to get the sound from the MacBook Air (MBA) to the preamp is to get a stereo plug mini to RCA cable of a length that will allow you to put the MBA at a location where you can use it but still reach the preamp. (Assuming you have RCA aux. inputs available?)
Other posters, having read this, will chime in and tell you you will really need a DAC from the USB output of the MBA with standard RCA interconnects to your preamp. And you do. Or will want to.
But there are dozens of DACs to choose from and you asked easiest and little cost possible. Getting the cable and running the output of the MBA to the preamp will work. For now. Then when you do get a DAC, you will (hopefully) notice an improvement in sound quality.
The Audioquest Dragonfly DAC products or similar USB headphone amplifier products will work provided you use the line output setting on the USB headphone amp. You'll still need to use that stereo mini to RCA cable.
I’m sorry to be so thick, but I’m still struggling. Here are the questions regarding hi resolution and Sonos or similar.
1. Should I link the unit by Usb to my router or is wireless able to stream hi res Tital? My router is one wall away, I’d need to run the cable through a wall to connect Usb.
2. Without my MacBook, if I get a standalone unit like Sonos, can I control the playlist from my iPhone by using an app?
3. Will this setup allow me to stream hi res Tidal?
These answers will help me I think. Thanks for your patience!
your mac can receive Tidal wirelessly. Sonos is controlled by your iphone. in fact Sonos does not come with a remote. they have a great app and the whole thing takes a computer illiterate like myself a few painless minutes to set up. Technically Sonos and Tidal are not HiRes, but rather full CD 1411 kbps quality. Sonos has a great user interface, but a limited quality DAC. for simple/cheap, a cable from your Mac headphone output, to RCA input on your analog preamp