Optimum way to connect IMac to Ruark MR1 Mk2?

rangefinder10

Novice Member
I have reposted this from the "What speakers should I buy", placed there in error

Good evening All

Let me start by confessing that I am a complete numpty as far as AV knowledge is concerned.

However, I can read, and think that I have now become somewhat confused by apparent mixed messages!.

My prime source of amusement is an elderly Imac (2011) on watch I play my music (loaded CDs via Itunes, and Spotify Connect) and watch some films (BBC, Amazon Prime and Netflix) on my desk.

I have placed an order for Ruark MR1 Mk2 speakers,to replace some Creative T20s, and asked the supplier, which method of connection would give me the best quality sound reproduction. I was advised a cable with 3.5 jack plug connections. On that basis I have placed my order.

However, on reflection, something in my head questioned this response. I had always understood with my minimal knowledge of AV, and from what I had gleaned from reading topics in the AV forum, that there might be better alternatives.

If any knowledgeable folk out there can guide me, I would be indebted for your help.
If you have better suggestions please be quite specific in what you suggest I might need, in terms of equipment, connecting cables, types of connections etc, to achieve maximum quality results from my little system.

My IMac has an Audio Out, Audio In, USB 2.0 ports, Firewire 800 port, a Thunderbolt port and an Ethernet port

I look forward with interest to any advise you can offer.
cheers
John
 

AmericanAudio

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
I hope you got a good price for the kit, because that advise seems like someone doesn't care.

Yes of course you could try the 3.5mmjack link first, see if you like the sound.

But it is generally considered that an external USB to Audio DAC would give you better audio quality to run into the Ruark.

The obvious / simplest choice would be a AudioQuest Dragonfly, bit there are some really good desk top ones that work very well too.

I am sure others will pop up with brand suggestions for you.
 

rangefinder10

Novice Member
Hi
Thanks for the comment. This is what I suspected that the jack plug link may not be the optimum solution.

I will search out for options
Thanks for your advice.
 

Conrad

Moderator
If your mac supports aptX then bluetooth might be the best option. It's a shame that the mac doesn't have an optical out as that would give you an all digital connection to the speakers which would then use their in built DAC.

As Chris says, an external DAC would be a step up from the one in the Mac.
You could also consider something like this: Douk Audio U2 USB to Coaxial Optical Converter XMOS Xu208 Digital Interface DSD for sale online | eBay

It would allow you to connect to the mac via USB and the speakers via optical.

It's on amazon as well so you could try it and return it if it doesn't improve things.
Amazon product
 

rangefinder10

Novice Member
Hi Conrad
That looks like a nice inexpensive option, and as you say, returnable if I obtain from Amazon
Cheers
John
If your mac supports aptX then bluetooth might be the best option. It's a shame that the mac doesn't have an optical out as that would give you an all digital connection to the speakers which would then use their in built DAC.

As Chris says, an external DAC would be a step up from the one in the Mac.
You could also consider something like this: Douk Audio U2 USB to Coaxial Optical Converter XMOS Xu208 Digital Interface DSD for sale online | eBay

It would allow you to connect to the mac via USB and the speakers via optical.

It's on amazon as well so you could try it and return it if it doesn't improve things.
Amazon product
Unfortunately my Imac predates aptX
 

reportwhipper

Standard Member
If your mac supports aptX then bluetooth might be the best option. It's a shame that the mac doesn't have an optical out as that would give you an all digital connection to the speakers which would then use their in built DAC.

As Chris says, an external DAC would be a step up from the one in the Mac.
You could also consider something like this: Douk Audio U2 USB to Coaxial Optical Converter XMOS Xu208 Digital Interface DSD for sale online | eBay

It would allow you to connect to the mac via USB and the speakers via optical.

It's on amazon as well so you could try it and return it if it doesn't improve things.
Amazon product
I'm new to the forum and not sure if I can ask a question on someone else's post, but this post seems dormant now and it doesn't feel like I am interrupting. Please let me know if I need another post to ask my questions, otherwise here they come!

Conrad, in your view would the external DAC also improve on the Ruark in-cabinet DAC unit?

Also my MacBook M1 does not have an optical out but has USB output. Would the USB to optical conversion be relatively costless from a quality point of view? I am very near buying the MR1 but the lack of a USB connection deters me.
 

Conrad

Moderator
Hi, sorry for not replying sooner.

It depends on whether the external DAC is "better" than the DAC in the Ruark. I've never heard the Ruarks so I can't really say. Plus, what I've found with DACs is that, once you get to a certain level of quality then the sound is different but it's hard to say which is objectively better.

As an example. My office system is a big of an indulgance, it's all 90s digital stuff - minidisc, DAT, and the CD player and AVR that I first had when I got in to surround. I used the pre-outs from the AVR into a Topping E90, not the worlds best DAC but definitely well reviewed. It clearly sounds different, but it's hard for me to say whether it's better or not. So you might find yourself in that situation.

As for the macbook, USB to optical will work fine.

The key is to do the digital to analogue conversion using the DAC that sounds best to you. If that's in an external DAC then fine, if it's in the speakers then that's also fine.

Bear in mind that the earlier in the chain you do it the longer you'll have to carry the signal as analogue. If you have long runs of cable or poorly shielded cable then you can end up injecting noise into the system. Half decent cable over sensible runs should be fine though.
 

reportwhipper

Standard Member
Hi, sorry for not replying sooner.

It depends on whether the external DAC is "better" than the DAC in the Ruark. I've never heard the Ruarks so I can't really say. Plus, what I've found with DACs is that, once you get to a certain level of quality then the sound is different but it's hard to say which is objectively better.

As an example. My office system is a big of an indulgance, it's all 90s digital stuff - minidisc, DAT, and the CD player and AVR that I first had when I got in to surround. I used the pre-outs from the AVR into a Topping E90, not the worlds best DAC but definitely well reviewed. It clearly sounds different, but it's hard for me to say whether it's better or not. So you might find yourself in that situation.

As for the macbook, USB to optical will work fine.

The key is to do the digital to analogue conversion using the DAC that sounds best to you. If that's in an external DAC then fine, if it's in the speakers then that's also fine.

Bear in mind that the earlier in the chain you do it the longer you'll have to carry the signal as analogue. If you have long runs of cable or poorly shielded cable then you can end up injecting noise into the system. Half decent cable over sensible runs should be fine though.
That sound quality differences (as equipment gets more expensive) need not translate to subjective improvements in sound is a very valid truth. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Thanks for pointing out that cabling could seriously compromise the externalization of the D/A conversion. For now I think I shall push the in-speaker DAC a little and see if it doesn't perform in the required range of activity.

As for USB to optical adaptors, would you still go with the Douk you recommend above? or are there better alternatives at this later date?
 

Conrad

Moderator
I think for a digital to digital convertor, once you're over a certain quality level (i.e. not awful that causes dropouts) then there'll be very little difference, if any, with more money.

Nobsound, Douk, Topping, they all do ok stuff so I'd give it a listen and see if you're happy with it. See if you can get a trial of something much more "high end" and see if you can hear a difference.

My guess would be there would be better places in the chain to spend that money.
 

reportwhipper

Standard Member
I think for a digital to digital convertor, once you're over a certain quality level (i.e. not awful that causes dropouts) then there'll be very little difference, if any, with more money.

Nobsound, Douk, Topping, they all do ok stuff so I'd give it a listen and see if you're happy with it. See if you can get a trial of something much more "high end" and see if you can hear a difference.

My guess would be there would be better places in the chain to spend that money.
Thanks, shall look for devices with these brandnames. I didn't realise there was significant electronics between the two jack types!
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
My IMac has an Audio Out, Audio In, USB 2.0 ports, Firewire 800 port, a Thunderbolt port and an Ethernet port

Worth double checking to see if you iMacs 3.5mm output also doubles as an optical output. If so you can use a 3.5mm mini-toslink to toslink cable.

“Some Mac computers also support optical digital audio output via the headphone audio port. Use a Toslink cable with a Toslink mini-plug adapter or a fibre-optic cable with a 3.5mm plastic or nylon optical plug. To check if optical digital audio is available on your Mac, see the Apple Support article Play high sample rate digital audio on Mac computers.”
 

reportwhipper

Standard Member
Thanks @jamieu! I have read that article before. Looked again to make sure, but the feature has been missing for a few years now, so won't be a possible route for this computer.
 

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