Do this if you want to massively improve audio quality [Setups] | Cult of Mac

Do this if you want to massively improve audio quality [Setups]

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The DAC is the little gadget to the left of the monitor.
The DAC is the little gadget to the left of the monitor.
Photo: spjdm2@Reddit.com

If you’re at all into audio equipment, you’ve probably heard of a digital-to-analog converter, or DAC. You might think it’s a fancy thing for rich audiophiles. But, actually, even you already have a few DACs if you have gadgets that make sound, like a computer, tablet and smartphone.

But not every DAC is created equal. Today’s featured MacBook Pro setup illustrates the point by going to the trouble of adding a standalone DAC in between a laptop and a pair of excellent powered speakers.

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Who needs a standalone digital-to-analog converter (DAC)?

Computer science student and Redditor spjdm2 (“PJ”) showcased the clean and symmetrical workstation in a post entitled, “My WFH/computer science student setup.”

PJ works on a MacBook Pro driving a 27-inch LG 27UK850 4K display. When asked if it’s “sharp enough for coding,” he said yes, 4K is pretty sharp.

The IPS display gets 3840 X 2160 pixel resolution and has HDR10 compatibility, a 5ms response time and a 60Hz refresh rate. 

And the secret to the setup’s clean look, with nary a cable to be seen? Zip ties, apparently. Or at least that’s the only answer PJ gave when asked how he keeps it so clean.

What’s a DAC and why would do you want one?

“What is the thing between the left speaker and monitor?” another commenter asked.

“It’s a Schiit Modi DAC since my monitor’s DAC isn’t great,” PJ replied.

Schiit is a big name in high-quality audio. A DAC takes the easily-stored digital signal and, just before output, converts it from a bunch of 0s and 1s to something speakers, headphones and your ears can make sense of — namely, the waveform of sound.

And you and most other folks already have a DAC, or maybe even a few. They exist in all sorts of sound-making digital equipment we use every day, like computers, tablets and smartphones. But not every DAC is equal.

As PJ put it when someone asked how the Modi DAC “plays with” his Klipsch The Fives Powered Speakers:

“They’re powered speakers, so I just have the RCA out from the Modi hooked up to them. It sounds significantly better than the DAC in my monitor and the DAC built into the speakers.”

Klipsch The Fives Powered Speakers and Schiit Modi DAC

So this is a person who is audiophile enough to reject the audio signal that both his monitor and his very nice speakers can produce on their own.

And Klipsch The Fives powered speakers are no joke. They feature a 2-way, bass-reflex design; 4.5-inch fiber-composite cone woofers and 1-inch titanium linear travel suspension (LTS) vented tweeters.

But using them with a Schiit DAC is a definite upgrade. That DAC plugs into virtually any computer, streamer, CD player, phone, tablet or TV and improves its audio output.

PJ runs sound through the Schiit Modi DAC before it comes out of the formidable Klipsch speakers. And he goes a bit further, elevating the speakers on stands that help direct and isolate the sound.

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If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.