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DAC/Audio Interface Recommendation

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Jun 5, 2020
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#1
Hi guys,

I'm trying to replace my audio interface and as I fell into the rabbit hole of internet research I ended up here. New to this site/forums and amazed by the knowledge and helpfulness of the community. I'm hoping you can give me some advice.

I'm completely, 100%, Mac based. I've been doing music production for a while, using ProTools and an Mbox Pro 3. I've now updated to Mac OS Catalina and the Mbox Pro is obsolete (Avid won't update the drivers), so I need a new audio interface, or possibly just a DAC.

My set up is pretty simple a Macbook Pro (USB-C ports only), a couple of powered Genelec speakers and headphones (which I need to upgrade as well, but I'll leave that for another time).

Currently I just need to do critical listening, in ProTools mostly, for some light mixing/mastering as well as audio editing. I don't really need mic pres, MIDI or a lot of inputs/outputs like on the Mbox Pro.

Here's what I want/need:

1) Mac friendly audio interface/DAC that works in Catalina, gets firmware upgrades via a Mac installer/app, etc... and that I can connect to the USB-C ports on my Macbook.

2) At least 1 set of stereo outputs to my powered Genelecs and 1 headphone output, ideally each with some sort of individual (physical) volume controls if possible.

3) Last but not least, best possible (mastering quality type) sound... as in clear/neutral, no coloring.

I was looking at the Lynx Hilo as a great (and very expensive) solution as well as units like the Apogee Element 24, Audient iD4... all of which have additional features (ins/outs, mic pres, etc) that although nice to have, I don't necessarily need/want to pay for. So I started looking into some sort of headphone amp/DAC, like the Grace m900, and as I kept digging, I ended up here and saw brands/units I've never ever heard of. So I'm very confused. :D

So, given my situations/needs, what would you recommend, say on a budget of around $400-$900?

I looked at the Performance Index and it seems like the Topping D90 or DX7Pro, Soncoz SGD1, Sabaj D5... are highly recommended and fall into the price range, but not sure how Mac friendly they are, nor if they are the best solution for my needs.

Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks!!!
 

samsa

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#2
I looked at the Performance Index and it seems like the Topping D90 or DX7Pro, Soncoz SGD1, Sabaj D5... are highly recommended and fall into the price range, but not sure how Mac friendly they are, nor if they are the best solution for my needs.
Not sure what you mean by "Mac-friendly" in this context. Only Windows users may need to download USB drivers. Any of these will work OOTB with a Mac.

As to firmware updates, there I think you are probably out of luck. The firmware updaters I've seen are uniformly Windows-only. There are ... ahem ... occasional third party exceptions for certain DACs. But you should expect to have to borrow a Windows laptop for firmware upgrades.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #3
Not sure what you mean by "Mac-friendly" in this context. Only Windows users may need to download USB drivers. Any of these will work OOTB with a Mac.

As to firmware updates, there I think you are probably out of luck. The firmware updaters I've seen are uniformly Windows-only. There are ... ahem ... occasional third party exceptions for certain DACs. But you should expect to have to borrow a Windows laptop for firmware upgrades.
Thanks for the reply!

Well, my Mbox Pro doesn't work on Catalina, so I wanted to make sure... but yes, that's mainly what I was getting at by "Mac-friendly": the ability to upgrade it via Mac directly. If none of these units can really be updated via Mac then it looks like I'll have to go with the Grace m900 which I believe can according to Grace Design... :confused:
 

Matias

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#4
RME ADI-2 DAC FS is highly recommend everywhere. I am considering one myself.
 

samsa

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#5
Well, my Mbox Pro doesn't work on Catalina,
Avid ProTools (I gather) doesn't work on Catalina. That's a bit different from a USB DAC not working.

If none of these units can really be updated via Mac then it looks like I'll have to go with the Grace m900 which I believe can according to Grace Design...
I'm looking at their firmware update page. It says

MAC OS X DFU app not currently available
I think you'll have to find some other criterion for choosing a DAC/headamp.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #6
Avid ProTools (I gather) doesn't work on Catalina. That's a bit different from a USB DAC not working.



I'm looking at their firmware update page. It says



I think you'll have to find some other criterion for choosing a DAC/headamp.

ProTools runs in Catalina. I'm using it right now. The problem with the Mbox is that Avid needs to upgrade its drivers so it can be recognized in Catalina but they won't, because, Avid. :)

I didn't scrolled that far into Grace's firmware update page, I'll reach out to their customer support and see what they say. Thanks for pointing that out.
 
OP
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Thread Starter #7
RME ADI-2 DAC FS is highly recommend everywhere. I am considering one myself.
Yes! That's another unit I was looking at even though it has some bells and whistles (Eq and whatnot) that I won't use and don't really want to be paying for, but it's on the list. Thanks!
 

Blumlein 88

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#8
You could look at the new Babyface from RME.
 

acbarn

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#9
You could look at the new Babyface from RME.
I second this. RME arguably has the best drivers and long term device support on the pro side. The Babyface is difficult to beat for under $1K, though it does have features you don’t need. If you just want a simple headamp that’s switchable to pre-outs for your Genelecs, I’d look at the JDS Labs Element II. Sits nice on a desk, switchable, and measures very well. It has a similar footprint to the little RME.

41187CEC-4EE7-406C-9FDB-6E41EC0C31F4.jpeg
 
OP
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Thread Starter #11
Thank you guys. I also just heard back from Topping and they told me they expect to have tools for Mac in the next two weeks, so I may wait a bit and then go for one of their units since they're so highly rated here. :)
 
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