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Jagatai's picture
Last seen: 7 years 3 months ago
Joined: Jan 14 2012 - 9:35am
Improving audio from a Mac Mini server

Hi All,

I am using an Apple Mac Mini to play Apple Lossless files ripped from CDs directly to a Denon AVR-3311CI amp through the HDMI cable.  There is a sort of "mushiness" to the music that is not present if I play the original CD on a DVD player connected through the coaxial S/PDIF input to the Denon.  I played the same CD on a Blu Ray player that connected to the Denon via HDMI and I believe it sounded very slightly mushier than through the standard DVD player.

I am not much of an audiophile and didn't set up this stereo system with high quality in mind.  But now I'm terrified that I'm starting down the road that leads to buying $1,000 speaker cables. :-)

Anyway, my best guess at the moment as to what is causing this mushiness that I am hearing is that there is too much jitter in the signal from the Mac Mini to the Denon.  Does this sound like a reasonable conclusion?  Is HDMI particularly susceptible to adding jitter?  Do you think it would be worth looking into a USB to S/PDIF converter and a DAC?  Is there another possible cause that I should examine?



bonhamcopeland's picture
Last seen: 6 years 1 month ago
Joined: Jan 21 2011 - 12:02am
Could be a few things...

There are a tons of tips and tweaks out there for optimizing iTunes and your Mac's various settings for audio playback that can have a big impact. Google around. These will help. And they're free. Start there.     

That said...

I suspect it's the HDMI. Generally not a good option for dedicated 2-channel audio output because HDMI was designed to carry a bunch of other signals and data.  I would take HDMI out of the audio equation.

There are a couple of different routes and they will all cost you some bucks:

1.) Use the Mini-Mac's digital output. It's the same output where the headphone jack is located. You'll need to buy a Mini TOSINK cable and run that into your Denon's optical input. You'd also need to adjust some settings on your Mac, but I'll assume you can figure that out. Cheapest option.

2.) USB Converter. Something like Musical Fidelity's V-Link will take audio from your USB and convert it to either Optical or Coaxial TOSLINK that you can hook up to your receiver. You can buy one for a hundred bucks on Amazon. And of course the USB cable and the TOSLINK cable - but it sounds like you may have a few of those cables hanging around. I had a V-Link, it sounds great and works like a charm. 

3.) Buy a seperate USB DAC. The DAC in your Denon, again, wasn't designed with 2-channel audio in mind. There so many DAC options right now I won't get into it. But this will probably give you the best sonic results. If you don't want to spend over $100 - get the V-Link.   




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