Digital music questions

I'm somewhat new to hi res digital audio and I'm looking for some tips. I have been building my system and have purchased McIntosh c2700, which has a DAC built in, a 462 amp, and B&W 802d4s. Using Apple Music, I have been streaming music through a Macbook Pro via a USB cable to the DAC of the c2700 preamp.

The McIntosh preamp states the streaming quality is 44.1 kHz, which seem to be the low end of high-res streaming. I currently have so many subscriptions, including Sirius XM for the cars and Apple Music for my family, and more recently Nugs for concerts, (not to mention video subscriptions...seems it never ends), so I was hoping not to add another paid subscription.

That being said, am I leaving a lot on the table? Would a dedicated streamer sound a lot better than the Macbook Pro? Are there streamers without DACs, so I can use the McIntosh DAC without purchasing redundant equipment? I understand I cannot use Apple Music to get high res audio to the preamp, as they only provide it through Apple equipment at this time. Can I get a streamer that uses the DAC of the c2700 preamp? Finally, do I then need to add another subscription, such as Tidal or Qobuz, to get high res audio?'s a lot of questions, but I'm sure someone here can help!


I use a Cambridge streamer into a Mac preamp and have it hooked up two ways so I can listen to either the Mac's DAC or the Cambridge's. I prefer the Cambridge for some reason.

I'm using Spotify and have also tried Pandora and think they both sound "ok". I was using a cheap Grace digital when I first got into streaming and thought it sounded decent and you can still but one of those for less than $200 as I just bought one for the garage setup.

Another vote for the BlueSound Node and Denafrips Pontus II 12th. When I added the Denafrips Iris DDC, the sound opened up in a unexpected way and it's amazing what this DDC has done in cleaning up the signal with the blackest background. 

Yes you can spend 10’s of thousands of dollars setting up a streaming system and it will sound very good. You can also spend only a few thousand and still get really good sound. Mid level dac and streamer will get you to 85% and then you sit back and ask us $10,000 more worth that last 15%? I use both Qobuz and Apple Music and I can tell you Apple Music just does not sound good. I have it set to hi res lossless and it just sounds muddy like there is a blanket over the speakers. I don’t know what they are or are not doing with their systems but wish they would address it. One thing though you do need to dig into the setting under general > music and make sure you change the defaults to hi res lossless.

Yes bits are bits but jitter and noise introduced into the signal affects the end sound. When using your left brain that is how you need to look at streaming. Thing is that you can’t hear the noise until it is eliminated. I as well was using my MacBook to send Qobuz to dac with usb and thought is was great. Then I tried a dedicated streamer and was quite shocked at the difference. This is with a Gustard r26 $1600, then $500 of mods to it, eversolo streamer $800. I am very happy with my streaming set up and do not feel I have to add $1000’s for that extra 15% that is out there.

This is a very enjoyable discussion with some very good recommendations. I have been streaming through my iphone with a direct connection to an external DAC. I too am in the market for a step up but my budget was not anywhere close to the yours or the recommendation by the fellow posters. I think a budget option that would provide a big step up would be the WiiM Pro with the voice remote. You can look it up and see if it has the features you need. It has a budget internal DAC in the form of the TI PCM5121. For the price of a hotel room on the outskirts of any major US city it is amazing full featured and sounds as good as it sounds. Once your are ready to move up it can be reassigned to the garage or hunting shack system. Enjoy the search and the joy of listening to your music for its pleasure without your left brain interference.

There are no third-party integrations with Apple Music so if you go the separate streamer route, you’ll need to use AirPlay which is stuck at 24 bit / 48 kHz max for AirPlay 2.


You can play back high-res files from Apple Music on your Mac. You just need to enable it from the Music app. Go to Preferences -> Playback and then select the highest resolution from the ’Streaming’ and ’Download’ dropdowns.


You’re on the right track as far as audio quality and streamers go. They’re all 1’s and 0’s. As long as the data is getting to your McIntosh DAC intact, then one streamer is no better than another in terms of audio quality.


There can be wide variations in terms of ease of use, features and technical support so I encourage you to make your choice based on those criteria rather than on anecdotes on sound quality.


A streamer is basically a computer with some specially configured audio software. For example, I’ve made my Mac mini into a streamer using a free app called Kodi. I also have a Raspberry Pi based streamer running moOde for my basement system. I’ve got a fairly technical background so I went the DIY route. You might view the Mac as a temporary situation or are less technically inclined which nudges you towards a turnkey solution.