What is the best connection between Macbook Pro and a DAC

I can’t seem to get a straight answer here. I’m currently using Audirvana to stream Tidal tracks from my 2019 Macbook pro to my Naim Atom. I’m using WiFi but am thinking it might be better to direct cable but can’t figure out what is the best connection.

Best to use the headphone jack to the DAC’s Toslink w/ the appropriate cable?? If so what ‘quality’ cable should i buy, or is the seven dollar Amazon cable okay to use??

I don’t think there is a simple answer.

If WiFi works well why use something else? If UnPnP is a problem then there are several options.

The Toslink with an Amazon cable is nothing wrong with that. But it can always be better and then it is how crazy it may be in terms of budget.

The best Toslink cable is the Wireworld Supernova 7 according to multiple experiences on Head-Fi.


Thank you Matt! It’s 200 bucks! Wow! Will i hear a big difference in sound streaming from my macbook to the DAC (Uniti Atom) using a $200 cable vs a $14 cable?

Nope. Just use UPnP unless you really have issues.

Why not simple USB?'https://www.naimaudio.com/product/uniti-atom/support

  • Uniti Atom can play and serve audio files from USB mass storage devices such as USB pen/flash drives and USB hard discs. Browsing of files located on the USB device can only be seen via the Naim app.

    1. Ensure Uniti Atom is turned on or in standby mode
    1. Insert the USB device in the USB port on either the front or rear panels of Uniti Atom.
    1. Touch the Naim app.
    1. Touch Uniti Atom.
    1. Touch USB.
    1. Touch the required folder (e.g. Eska).
    1. Touch the required album.
    1. Touch the name of a song to begin playback.

My system sounds best when my MacBook Pro running Audirvana has a hardwired ethernet connection with WiFi turned off. Also, dimming the screen (off) makes a difference too. I use an iPad running Audirvana remote to access the music on my Macbook. I’ve got way to much time on my hands, so I’ve tested this a number of times and it works. Also, don’t place your Macbook anywhere near your stereo; to noisy. Everything little thing helps.

Best to use the headphone jack to the DAC’s Toslink w/ the appropriate cable?? If so what ‘quality’ cable should i buy, or is the seven dollar Amazon cable okay to use??

I don’t think your 2019 MacBook Pro has a headphone jack with Toslink capabilities.
The last MacBook pro with this feature is the 2015 MacBook Pro.

The best connection is USB, but I don’t think the Naim Atom DAC is available through USB.
Second best connection is a hardwired Ethernet network or WIFI if UPNP DLNA is not a problem.
You might also consider the USB-C to HDMI Apple converter if your Naim Atom is the model that has a HDMI input.

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If I understand you, then why not cable from your headphone 3.5mm jack to the Naim use the RCA input connectors? A cable like this https://www.crutchfield.com/p_703EGMR2M/AudioQuest-Evergreen-2-meters-6-6-feet.html. you will have to open the MacBook midi app to set for highest output sample rate and bit rate.

This article may be helpful https://hometheaterreview.com/turning-a-mac-into-an-audiophile-source-component/ (note with the 2019 MacBook you’ll need a 3.5mm Toslink adapter if you go that route.

I connected my Mac to the DAC via USB using a special hi-end USB Cable.
I personally like the Audioquest cable (I have a Coffee cable from Audioquest and it works very well), see https://www.audioquest.com/

There is also an Australian company called Curious Cable that produce great quality USB cable, see https://curiouscables.com/

This is the best way to connect a computer to any DAC. I personally use a dedicated Mac Mini just to manage the music with an Ipad as remote control.

The best connection would be USB. Try to keep the USB cable under 2m to avoid Jitter / timing issues. Any, I repeat, any USB cable will do. You don’t have to buy a special “Hi-Res” USB cable. Just make sure it is as short as possible.

I use this 16-feet “active repeater” USB cable. https://www.usbgear.com/USBG-5NEC.html Works fine, no discernible jitter.

Thank you. the Atom doesn’t seem to accept a USB input other than a memory stick. Though it has two USB inputs.

I agree with ‘iliketohideincloset’: USB works for me. I use a .75m cable and have no problems.

From my experience with a Naim Uniti Nova you get the best sound quality when streaming with Audirvana on a Macbook with UPnP over WiFi or Ethernet or through the Naim App on a smartphone. Regarding the alternatives:

  1. USB isn’t an option as the Unity series supports USB only for storage devices not for streaming.
  2. Toslink would work, but is limited on the MacBook headphone output and on the Uniti to 24bit/96kHz.

BTW, in my experience on the Naim Uniti Qobuz sounds better than Tidal for a lower monthly fee and many people have concerns about MQAs audio quality (not lossless) and commercial background (e.g. Jim Collinson about MQA.)

For the record - on any good system you will easily hear the difference between a generic USB cable and quality cable like the Audioquest Carbon or Coffee.

USB cable is an analog cable that carries a digital signal - it’s very subject to quality… even more so than an RCA interconnect.

My MBP is connected straight to my Devialet via Audioquest Coffee USB cable. Also, I usually run it off its battery just to avoid noise entering my system, though even with the power supply connected to the MVP, my system sounds perfectly quiet. Also, the MBP is connected via WiFi. This works perfectly, as the Ethernet switch is close to my rack.
This way, Audirvana sounds really good!

My MBP/Audirvana/Qobuz is similar connected via USB to DAC. For critical listening I turn WiFi off after loading the files into RAM.


How do you know that all files are loaded into RAM? Say, you listen to a high res album and only a few tracks can be loaded due to size restriction. Won‘t playing be interrupted occasionally?
Audirvana should have some means to show the progress of buffering so that you know when WiFi can be switched off.

My experience is that Audirvana is loading within a few seconds two tracks into RAM. After that you can turn wifi off at your MBP. Then you have to reestablish your wifi connection at the end of the second track for a few seconds to get the next two ones. This is not a big deal in my view.