Connect Macs to analog amplifier?

I have 2 systems I need to maximize the sound quality from Itunes to stereo.
My main system is a Musical Fidelity A300 that connects to a G4 laptop. (Mission 735 speakers soon to be upgraded)

My secondary system is a Nakamichi receiver with Triangle Stella ES speakers
which connects to a new MacPro Tower.

Both the MF and the Nak have only RCA jacks and I need to find an affordable way to get the most out of my digital music. I was looking in the $100-$150
range and consider Blue Circle USB Thingee, Trends Audio UD-10.2, or M-Audio Audiophile USB. Im overwhelmed as there are so many ways to do this.
Suggestions much appreciated!
Hey xistented,

(Disclaimer: Non-uber audiophile comments follow)
I am likely a more-modest-audiophile. I related to your post due to mac and mission. My first foray into nice audio equipment were some tiny mission bookshelfs in college. I upgraded to the next model....this was mid 80's.

I am now a mac user (and have been for 15 years). G5 Dual and mac book pro. G5 is a server currently.

While I don't have hands on experience with the entry level USB converters, my first external DAC is a Monarchy NM24, which is a tube DAC. I have found that there is a clear difference between consumer level Receiver/Integrated Amp internal DACs to the external DACs. From my research I have found the common conclusion to be that to achieve a "noticeable difference" you need to be in the $1k range...which is very unfortunate! My *opinion* is that the entry level external dacs for $100-$400 will be different than the internal computer DAC BUT may or may not be to your personal sonic preference. in other words different folks like different things. You really have to experiment to find out which is to *your liking*. I am doing that myself with my first Non OverSampling(NOS) DAC. It is really all about the interrelationship between your audio components (speaker voicing, source, cabling, and room).

Apologies that I do not have a quick easy solution.

Good luck,

Apple G5 Dual PPC AIFF server/Monarchy NM24 Tube DAC/ Anti-cable -VenHaus Cable /Tetra 120u bookshelfs + Martin Logan Abyss subwoofer /Technics SL1210 turntable.
The Trends audio unit would be a very good start if you already owned a Dac. An outboard Dac is the best way to go IMHO. Get as much of the conversion away from the Mac as you can. You will hear an improvement in sound. There are some inexpensive Dacs out there in your price range. I have no experience with them. Something like the Fubar II should do the trick.

So the Trend Audio doesnt act as a DAC as well? I looked at the Fubar as a possibility as well, but it appears to act independently as well. What is the purpose of the two units?

Thanks, Im very green to all this stuff!
Does anybody have any experience with DAC707 Super Pro USB as an option in one box?
Hi Xistented,

To try and answer your question, the Fubar II for example is a USB Dac. So what this means is, you can take your digital music from your laptop/PC/Mac, etc and output it directly to your home stereo system. The one mentioned by Gmood1 is a great DAC.

I actually do own a Fubar III so I can comment a little bit on that. This Fubar III is also a USB Dac but in addition it has a headphone amplifier built in. So not only can it output to a stereo/home entertainment center it can also output to a headphone. I preferred to spend the extra bit of money to get the Fubar III due to this because I absolutely love the headphone amp. I hear my music like I never did before.

To give you an example, I'm a big Radiohead fan. I was listening to my headsets last night with my Fubar III and I heard "voices" coming up in my music. I happened to be on ESPN at the time so I went to the page and tried to find what clip was playing. I couldn't find anything so I paused my music and the voices stopped. The funny part is it was actually voices within the song that I just NEVER have heard before, even though I've heard "Paranoid Android" a million times. True story... ;) Honestly I can hear every piano key, every drum beat, etc. The amplifier is nothing short of amazing.

IMO, the added money is worth it... but I would highly recommend the firestone audio line. Great products and very affordable.

Hope that helps!

P.S I bought from MA (miniature audio) as well... they have a great return policy so if you aren't happy I'm sure its no problem to ship it back. Personally I've never had to do that because I enjoy my product very much but that may help ease the burden. Best of luck in whatever you decide!
Yes the Trends can be used as a Dac. I wouldn't use it this way though. It is more geared for use as a USB converter.As far as I know the Fubar is just a USB Dac.
I think I will get started with the Fubar 2 as that seems to be a pretty good value for the money. Did you buy the SUPPLIER Power Supply Unit or consider doing so? Not sure it's worth the extra money.........?
Hi Xistented,

To be honest I have not bought the PSU as of yet but I'm really considering making it my next purchase. The difference it makes with the headphone amplifier is just incredible. I finally got the chance to experience the headphone amp with the PSU over the weekend and I'm very impressed. Impressed enough I plan to go out and get one.

That being said, if you are just planning to get the Fubar II, IMHO the PSU is not "needed". Honestly I haven't tried it but I have no problem with the output from my DAC with the Fubar III (which has the exact same USB Dac as the Fubar II only it has the extra headphone amp build in). I would be curious if you noticed any difference with the Dac and the PSU. If you were going with the headphone amp as well I would HIGHLY recommend it, but since you chose just the Fubar II I think you would be ok with that. It does make a HUGE difference for the headphone amp though, so I guess that's something to consider in the future.

Best of luck in whatever you choose :) I hope I helped!
yes, you have been vey helpful in me narrowing my down my options here so i can get started on this. i think i'll get a Fubar 2 as i dont have a need for the headphone, and then maybe i will try out that PSU a little later on.

Thanks for the tips!
I had a Fubar II and the supplier power supply takes it to the next level. It's worthe the extra $110.
I have an iMac connected to an M-Audio Audiophile Firewire, Redwine Audio upgraded ClariT and some Triangle Zerius. This combination is the most enjoyable I have had regardless of price - I have a small room. I enjoy it as much as I do my vinyl - just in a different way.

I'm very happy with the sound from the M-Audio. I don't know if Firewire sounds better, but I think I will stick with that over any USB product due to the theoretical benefits.