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Controlling the music broadcast from an iMac

Door Philippe Daussin |

Our answer to the question and the list of specifications submitted by one of our readers.

We have chosen to answer the mail of this Qobuz subscriber via the Qobuz&You column —whom we thank for his compliments which we were delighted to hear— This subscriber cites his exact equipment, which allows us to make tailor-made suggestions after giving some clarifications about the DAC environment that causes him a problem.

Can I ask you for your help?

I have been a Qobuz subscriber for more than two years, and I have been able, thanks to you, to widely broaden my listening repertoire, in particular in the “classical music” genre.
Your application is wonderful and seems to still be improving gradually.
I read with great interest your Hi-Fi “testing grounds” column.

I also have a lot of difficulties understanding the DAC environment and thus can’t decide on what equipment to buy.

I possess a Hi-Fi system:
amplifier: harman/kardon hk 825
preamplifier: harman/kardon hk 870
tuner: harman/kardon TU615
speakers: B & W DM 200
This equipment is rather old but high-quality.

As for the computer:
iMac (27 inches, from mid 2011)
Processor: 3.1 GHz Intel Core i5
Memory: 8 GO 1333 MHz DDR3
Graphics card: AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GO
OS: macOS High Sierra (10.13.2)

I would like to broadcast music from my iMac toward my Hi-Fi system from Qobuz or any major digital library, and the different pieces of equipment can be connected via Ethernet.

Can I ask you to help me find the intermediary (or intermediaries) who could advise me (in a detailed manner) on what to buy?

Thank you in advance and I congratulate you for the quality of Qobuz.

Best regards.

Our answer

Hello, and thank you for your email,

The DAC environment is the last part of the playback of digital music, i.e. stored as digital audio files on a computer, on a server located on a home network (called NAS server for Network Attached Server) or on any other storage device that can be connected to a device that the user can access.

From an electronic perspective, the DAC section is, strictly speaking, a sound card, like one which can be found inside computers, smartphones and tablets, no more, no less, if only more advanced and high performing, it goes without saying.

This DAC section can belong to different types of devices, among which the ones which will more precisely relate to you are the autonomous digital-to-analog converters called, by analogy, DACs, as their role is essentially to convert digital signals into analog signals, and the network players that also include a DAC section.

The autonomous digital-to-analog converters require to be connected to a computer (or a smartphone or a tablet) via a USB cable and will thus work with the Qobuz application for Mac/PC (or for iOS or Android). They will also be connected to a Hi-Fi system via RCA cables to send them analog signals coming from the decoding of the digital signals.

The network players (also called streamers) are able to play (thanks to a control application or a remote, or even via command keys on their facade) digital audio files stored on systems connected to the same network and also to connect to Internet radios or online music services, such as Qobuz, if those are integrated (see this article), and their DAC section will transform digital audio data into analog audio signals that will be sent to your Hi-Fi system thanks to interconnect cables plugged into an auxiliary input.

As they don’t need to be connected to a computer, they can be located near the other elements of your Hi-Fi system and their connection to the network can be done via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable (a solution which will prevent you from experiencing the hazards of Wi-Fi wireless broadcast), and this is precisely the kind of device you need.

Furthermore, as you wish to broadcast music from your iMac computer toward your Hi-Fi system, you don’t have to purchase a network player integrating Qobuz; we will explain to you why, and we will give you a detailed list of what would suit your needs, and you’ll see it’s no big deal!

- First, we think that the Audirvana Plus software for iMac is able to answer every control need you have: you can manage a digital library, it integrates Qobuz in Hi-Res, and it can broadcast via Wi-Fi toward a UPnP network player (which therefore doesn’t have to integrate Qobuz).

- Next, to choose a network player, it must be compatible with UPnP, and it seems to us it would be better if it could decode Hi-Res digital audio files (up to 24-Bit/96 kHz or even better to 24-Bit/192 kHz).

As for subjective factors, such as aspect, sound quality, price, we’ll leave it up to you and there are network players in the catalog of most traditional Hi-Fi major brands, and also in the catalog of less known manufacturers, and many models have been reviewed in our testing grounds column.

Harman/Kardon sells the Adapt model, it is rather cheap, integrating Qobuz in Hi-Res up to 24-Bit/96 kHz, but the manufacturer’s website doesn’t say if it’s compatible with UPnP and we have every reason to think that it’s not (our Internet research led nowhere and unfortunately we didn’t think to check during our testing ground).

We hope we gave you enough clarification about the DAC environment and also found you a suitable solution that will suit your needs.