Does Audirvana NEED a DAC to get the best out of it?

Do you need a DAC connected to output the best sound from Audirvana. I may come across as completely dumb, but I am really struggling with the complexities of using A+ correctly.

A+ is running from my iMac (2017), output is by the 3.5mm headphone socket to SPDIF connector on my Amp. I have some AKG K340 headphones in the Headphones OUT of the amp and listening.

Thing is, the AKGs sound quite thin with being fed 96khz from A+ and the amp?

I have plugged the AKGs into an Onkyo Amp which is playing vinyl and they sound a lot better?

So is it because I have no DAC taking the best sound from the iMac to the amp, that I am getting flat sound?

Everyone else, I see is using A+ with a DAC to convert the signal, does that boost it?

If a DAC such as a TOPPING D10 connected by USB to my iMac and then via SPDIF to the amp to drive the AKGs will give better sound I will be happy to go this route.

Any suggestions would be great, as frankly I am about to throw the towel in :blush:


yes, you must use a DAC to get better sound out of your computer, regardless of the software you are using to play it back. Our computers, generally speaking, have not been equipped with quality digital-to-analogue converting chips. I’m sure there are some gaming laptops that are an exception, but you need a DAC.

I have quite a few DACs and I can listen to files that are encoded all the way up to 2xDSD. It makes a big difference and you don’t have to spend a lot of $$. A most-affordable USB-connected DAC will be profound and then as you explore more capable and expensive DACs, you get incremental improvements up to a point where you really can’t hear the difference. is a good place to start learning about different DAC choices, although it is couple of years ago.

If one will only listen to 96Khz/24-bit and below, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red. Not only can you use it with your Mac, but you can also us it with your mobile phone and some good IEMs. I think you will be amazed! It can easily drive your AKGs

Thanks for the reply.

That linked document was very informative, I totally agree that a DAC is now on the shopping list.

I have had a good trawl through Head-Fi and other forums for some DAC recommendations. Most are integrated amp+DAC which is probably overkill for my use as I still want to use my separate amp?

I looked at the TOPPING D10 as it was just £65, but it takes ages to get shipping from Hong Kong to here in UK.

There are also these Digital to Analogue Converters which can pull the signal through to SPDIF, or am I going too cheap?

Or would something like a secondhand Schiit DAC or a FiiO - E10K Olympus USB DAC