Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tweaking the Mac for Better Audio Performance

A good customer of mine who is quite savvy when it comes to Mac computers (something I am not) provided me with some great advice I thought I would share.

Mac Tweeks for better PC Audio Performance

  • The HiFace is NOT hot Swapable on the Mac! Always shut down the computer first before inserting or removing the device.

  • Use a mac laptop that has an aluminum shell or a Mac mini. The current macbook Pro and Mac mini are both fine to use. I highly suggest you dedicate the computer to your Audio System to use as a transport and do nothing else.

  • For your Mac Operating System, the Snow Leopard system is the best with Leopard coming in second. The Mac OS X does not use a Kernel mixer like windows XP.

  • Do NOT keep your music on the internal hard drive. All computers make noise and the mac mini makes the least amount of noise. Since you are using a Mac, get yourself a portable, Bus powered Firewire interface drive. I have tremendous success using an Oyen Digital enclosure with a Western Digital Blue Scorpio drive. I use the included, shielded 1394B cable.

  • FYI, the smaller 2.5 inch drives sound better than the 3.5 inch drives. Also, the 5400 RPM drives sound better than 7200 RPM drives. With this already stated, an external, aluminum enclosure (keeps the noise down) and a good drive like the WD Scorpio Blue, you are on your way. There is some difference of opinion on this matter. I think we all can agree that Solid State hard disks sound the best (if you can afford them). Some in the recording industry do say that the 7200 rmp drives sound better, and that is what is used in the industry as well

  • For macs, the fire wire interface will sound better than USB as it uses lower CPU usage!

  • For your front end application, do NOT use Itunes. That included app does not sound good, it is geared for Ipod usage. It has way too high of a CPU usage and it does not support many of the lossless codecs.

  • One of the best sounding front ends on the Mac is a application called Play. This freeware app works with Core Audio and sounds so superior. For paid apps, try Amarra, or Pure Music.

  • As always, use a Hi-Face and BNC is better. The Stereovox cables are supreme and you should consider them. allow them to Break In as they do require some time.

  • Since your computer is dedicated to running your stereo, do not run an Anti Virus client and do not surf the when when listening to music.

  • As Always, try these tweaks at your own risk, benign as they are. I am not responsible for you screwing up your computer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Hi Resolution DACs and Interfaces from M2Tech

It's no secret that M2Tech has set the computer audio geek related crowd abuzz with the introduction of their hiFace USB to digital interface earlier this year. This $150 gadget that looks like a USB Pen drive can output a 24 bit 192 kHz stream to your DAC with only 2 picoseconds of jitter distortion. Which puts it in the top 2% of CD transport performance. When playing lossless FLAC files with a music streaming program Like Foobar, Jriver, or MediaMonkey, you have a powerful high dollar sounding transport and the convenience of having your entire music collection a click away. All for a fraction of the cost of a high end audio CD transport. Smart phones like the iPhone and Droid are also offering applications that will make your phone act as a remote control for your music streaming software, upping the convenience factor another notch. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to get started, but some computer knowledge (or the help of a tech savvy colleague) is necessary.

M2Tech is now upping the anty with three new products soon to be released.

The first product is the Evo. This is basically a hot-rodded hiFace. One major difference is that the Evo has an input for an external power supply, and is no longer chained to the PC's noisy power. There is also an input for a master clock, 1 RCA, 1 BNC, and 1 AES/EBU output that is adjustable for consumer or pro audio output via an internal jumper. There is also a Toslink out and a direct I2S output with a 3.3 volt interface. All of the outputs except the I2S are transformer decoupled to avoid ground loop noise.

The next new product is the Young DAC. The Young DAC supports up to 32 bit 384 kHz formats via its USB input. It also sports S/PDIF RCA, BNC, Toslink and AES/EBU Inputs, and for outputs, you have a pair of RCA's. The power supply is an external 9 to 24 volt DC. This DAC is not only ready for the bleeding edge 24/192 files that are available, but will be able to handle future higher resolution formats as well.

M2Tech's Vaughan Reference DAC adds a built-in digital volume control to the 32/384 DAC section plus the following:

  • Input sampling frequencies (kHz): 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384
  • Resolution: up to 32 bits (USB), up to 24 bits (other inputs)
  • Inputs: USB (B-type female), S/PDIF (2 x RCA and 2 x 75 Ohms BNC, dual AES for 384kHz), AES/EBU (2 x XLR dual AES for 384kHz), Toslink (2 x for dual AES), ST (2 x for dual AES), straight I2S, external master clock
  • Outputs: single-ended on RCA and balanced XLR, plus a headphone ouput on 6.35mm jack socket
  • Power supply: 115-230VAC, optional high current lythium battery with battery changer available
  • Controls and display: standby and select buttons, encoder, dual large matrix display to show locked frequency and selected input.
  • The Vaughan features 8 D/A IC's (4 per channel in mono mode). A digital dithered volume control will allow for using the Vaughan as a preamplifier. The headphone output is made with a discrete components amplifier.
  • Brushed aluminum case and grilled front panel
  • Dimensions: 440 x 80 x 440 mm.