Question What is needed to play FLACs directly to a USB DAC on a MacBook?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by johnnymaelstrom, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    I'm changing jobs and with that I move from Windows PC to MacBook Pro, which has implications for my office audio set-up. My ego expects that somebody will remember my quest last year to get this office set-up purchased. I currently have:

    1. Network Drive and Local Drive containing FLACs (16-bit/44.1kHz to 24-bit/192Khz) played via
    2. Lenovo X240 Laptop connected by USB 3.0 to
    3. SMSL M6 DAC connected by RCA cables to
    4. M-Audio BX5 active speakers

    I need to work out the best way to replace the Lenovo ... bit with a MacBook Pro bit. At the moment this consists of:

    1. foobar2000 plus foobar2000 WASAPI component connected through
    2. SMSL M6 Windows USB Driver to
    3. USB 3.0 cable
    So what do I need to prepare for when I get the MacBook Pro? I have heard about Audirvana, BitPerfect, PureMusic as well as iTunes to play back music. I really don't want anyone managing my library just sending it directly to the DAC. I also believe that the MacBook Pro will output directly to the DAC and I just need to set-up "Audio MIDI Setup".

    Any help to get the right steps together and reassure me that I'm not up- or downsampling somehow in the process of playing is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Jampot90

    Jampot90
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    Try reading here -

    How to Play FLAC or Other Lossless Audio Files in iTunes

    Without some sort of work round the Apple won't play the FLACs unless I am mistaken.

    I recently converted my ALACs to FLAC using dBpoweramp and the article I have linked to seems to say it will work the other way round as well, but I don't know whether ALAC can support 24 /192 so what ever you do don't over write the FLACS!

    It's available for both windows and mac pcs.

    Good luck in the new job:)

    Jim
     
  3. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    Thanks Jim/Jampot90

    Your suggestion is something I want to avoid unfortunately. I use my FLACs on more devices than my laptop so I want to keep them in the more generic FLAC format that is better supported. I also have 500 GB of FLACs, which is a lot of effort to transcode just for one platform . On a less rational point I don't like iTunes in the same way, maybe more, that people don't really like or use Windows Media Player.

    I'll keep searching and then post back once it's solved.
     
  4. PiperCub

    PiperCub
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    I guess you don't necessarily need to play from iTunes and just play it natively from the Apple using the appropriate software, so I'm sure that's possible.

    But why not put all the music on the network drive, better if you have two back drives in it for back up function. Then buy a cheap £30 chromecast audio which can connect up using optical to your dac (using the 3.5mm jack). It supports up to 24/96 but I'm not sure if it will still play 24/192 files but not in that resolution.

    This might offer the solution of enabling the mac to be off if you are just listening to music, so as to prolong its life etc. Use an app on phone to function the music with Mac off. If you have any 24/192 that don't play on the chromecast you could always down convert them using something like db power amp, which I used too, assuming you don't have huge number of 24/192 files. TBH I think you are unlikely to get any huge benefit of this higher resolution formats in your system, and I just wouldn't bother with it, as its expensive for what it is. You'd have to check if chromecast supports any streaming services you use.
     
  5. steveBN1

    steveBN1
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    Having just tried a handful of Mac apps for FLACs, the following play quite happily through my external USB DAC (Meridian Explorer) on Mac Pro (mid 2012) / Sierra but should be just as happy on a MacBook.

    VLC,
    Elmedia Player (supports Airplay, too),
    MPlayer OSX (stereo and up to 7.1 channel) and has pass-through for AC3 and DTS,
    Neutrino.

    All these have a mix of functions that may be useful.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
  6. Jampot90

    Jampot90
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    That's a lot of files:)

    Things have obviously moved on from when I originally set up my system and Apple seemed determined to keep things 'pure'!

    Jim
     
  7. steveBN1

    steveBN1
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    Hi Jim. It's not so much that Apple wanted to keep things pure, rather that there was much less 3rd party software development. I started way back on Macs in the late 90s on OS8 and there wasn't much software about and expensive. Things changed slowly once OSX was released, thankfully.
     
  8. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    I might have overestimated ;) so I just checked, it's actually 267GB and 15,708 files, not all are FLAC yet as I'm still transferring my library. Yes a lot, but I bet there are larger collections on here.
     
  9. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    Thanks for the reply. All the files are on a NAS and I have a Chromecast Audio in another room, which is pretty good for Spotify and iPlayer, but there is no good upnp/DLNA app for iOS that also supports casting. At least the free ones I've tried to see if it's worth paying for the full player. I use C5 Creation 5 app and I've found it's a massive battery hog and runs constantly in the background.

    I did seriously consider your point of moving to Chromecast-only in the office as I appreciated the idea and it made me think outside of my somewhat constrained view of what I wanted to do, but if I'm not in the office using my laptop I'm not playing music. Thus is makes sense to continue what I'm doing. I could buy a dirt cheap Android phone and use that as a remote so I'll keep that as an option for now and continue to work out how to use the MacBook with my existing set-up.
     
  10. RBZ5416

    RBZ5416
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    Why not just buy a cheap Windows laptop & continue as you are?

    Or if your NAS will support installing Logitech Media Server, then a used Logitech Squeezebox Touch would be a tidy solution. It has both a touch screen & web interface as well as Android & iOS apps.
     
  11. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    I don't think my NAS will fit Squeezebox or Plex on it. It's a 6 years old Netgear ReadyNAS Duo. However I just realised I have an old Western Digital TV player with optical out that does play my high res files. That could be a good option.

    I don't need a second laptop though as I'll already be working on one at a time, but nice idea.
     
  12. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    I pick up my MacBook tomorrow and will let you know what my end solution is. I've also discovered some new things about my other devices including the optical out of Chromecast, but are off topic, which may be covered in other threads as they are off topic
     
  13. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    Well the job has made me flat out for 8 months plus I never really found a good solution to things. Sorry for the delay summarising my experience.

    That said, I have settled on Vox as a music player, it's free although has a premium version* (more about that later) and can pull my files from my NAS (I gave up on DLNA) and supports all the file types.

    You can have a lot of fun trying to get a library working consistently with different file types, variable bit rates and sample rates. Get that working and then you realise you have to either convert every file to ALAC and use iTunes and possibly move everything off the NAS. So then you look at other options, but they are either expensive or don't do either High Res or DLNA/Network audio. After a lot of messing about I compromised on Vox and not using DLNA.

    I realised I had got some things wrong on my set-up. I have no way to change the volume and that caused some problems. Each active speaker in my set-up has a knob on the back, which is not convenient for making frequent volume changes. I was going from laptop to DAC to active speaker and using Foobar to change volume on Windows.

    Other apps can do this on the Mac too, but I realised there was potential to affect the bitstream. I think that for this set-up that's okay as it's a low/medium spec system (<=£500 not including the Macbook) in a small office, but can be annoying if I use the Hog Mode to gain exclusive use of the DAC. There I'm stuck in the volume set on the speakers.

    This leads to the * above. Vox has changed it's product now. The Hog Mode and Sample Rate Synchronisation functions are now paid-for subscription functions. So that is annoying, but all I have to do is set bit rate manually to max bit rate and most of the time it's okay although I do get system sounds coming through from the laptop now.

    So, in summary without a better DAC and Amp, and paying for the application, this is as good as it gets for me.
     
  14. Rich9600

    Rich9600
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    I thought iTunes started supporting FLAC from last month...
     
  15. johnnymaelstrom

    johnnymaelstrom
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    It does support FLAC now, but not the small set of DSD I have too, I could probably handle that alone, but there was more.

    During my investigation iTunes couldn't change the output to the DAC when it recognised the bit depth and sample rate of each file and if I wanted to use it I would need to import all my files to the iTunes library - I tried using a network share as my iTunes library and this didn't work.

    To handle the output to the DAC issue there is an app called BitPerfect that offered most of the functionality I needed and so I installed this, but it did not work.

    On my NAS the music files' combined size is larger than my laptop storage, which makes copying all of them to the local iTunes library on my laptop impossible. One option is to access a remote iTunes library and my NAS offers that capability and I was able to play music remotely using iTunes, but this way to play files is incompatible with BitPerfect so I had to uninstall that and get a refund.

    I could manually change the bit depth and sample rate using the Audio MIDI Set-up tool on Macs, but I felt that as I didn't need to do this on Windows, why would I want to do it on a Mac.

    I hope that explains a bit more about my end state. Ultimately I think the real best solution is a dedicated streamer with/without separate DAC in the office, but I have one of those already elsewhere and at this point I feel I'm throwing money at the problem. If I did that I'd buy another separates system and forget about the laptop altogether.
     

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