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Music, Audio, and Podcasting Do you use your Mac to create music? This is the place for discussions on creating and editing music on the Mac!

connect to audio amplifier

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Member Since: Jul 24, 2008
Posts: 2
mitchx4 is on a distinguished road

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i only listen to mp3s. i know this isn't the best format for audiophiles but i want to generate at least decent sound from an external drive and a macbook connected to an amplifier.

please break down the difference in sound quality when connected via the headphone jack, usb port, and firewire.

i assume the firewire could deliver best results but not sure. i have read sound quality of add-on like these devices is only appreciable when the laptop's sound card is inferior, so what is the quality of the macbook's sound card?

i want to make this work around as cheap as possible, extra points to anyone with a cheap solution.
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Member Since: Feb 13, 2007
Location: Worthing, West Sussex, UK
Posts: 212
Peakoverload has a spectacular aura about
Mac Specs: 27" iMac 3.1Ghz 16GB RAM, 1TB HD. iPhone 4.

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Firstly does your amp actually have a Firewire or USB input? Secondly how would you propose to send the MP3 down the Firewire or USB from your Mac?

As far as I'm aware neither are possible.

In terms of sound quality Firewire and USB would be identical because all that is being sent down the cable is binary data, just a series of 1's and 0's. The only difference would be in the amount of audio that you could send down the cable at any one time. Due to Firewires increased bandwidth Firewire would be better BUT for MP3's you wouldn't notice any difference.

As for you question about the quality of the headphone output, the answer is that it won't be that good.

Amplifiers have inputs that are at 'line level'. This signal then has to go to an amplification circuit before you can hear it over your speakers. Headphones however require the signal to already be amplified. Therefore if you take the headphone out (already amplified) and connect it to a line input it will get amplified again. Amplifying and an already amplified signal introduces nasty things like square waves and clipping and increases the noise floor.

Also headphone outs are notoriously noisy anyway, especially on computers and laptops because the headphone amp built in to the computer will be a lot noisier than a dedicated hi-fi amp and there is only so much grounding and signal you can expect over such a small connection and thin wires i.e. the signal to noise ratio is very high.

None of this is to say that you can't plug a headphone out into a line in, you can, and for some tracks it might sound fine but if you crank the amp up too loud you'll here the problems.

You'd be much better off investing in Airport Express which I've recently done too as on my blog. You simply connect Airport Express to your amp and your Mac streams the music to it over Wi-Fi. Because the wi-fi connection is just taking a data stream of 1's and 0's the sound quality is identical to that of the original MP3.

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Member Since: Jul 24, 2008
Posts: 2
mitchx4 is on a distinguished road

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an old post but i thought i would reply to say thanks for your input. i did get an airport express and i am quite happy with it, very convenient and the sound quality is good. was a little disappointed that the AE only works with itunes but airfoil resolved that issue. now i use media monkey as i find it much better than itunes for the management of music files. collectively, the system works very well and is stable. thanks again for the input.
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