DAC or Audio Extractor?

I have been using an old (Late 2012) Apple Mac Mini to store all of my CDs in iTunes/Music and play them on my home stereo system using an SPDIF/Toslink cable from the audio output jack to an Emotiva MC-700 processor.

I am need to purchase a new Apple Mac Mini, but understand that the SPDIF/Toslink connection is no longer available on newer Mac Minis.

My question is:

What should I purchase (hardware and software) that will provide the best (and reasonably affordable) audio quality from a new (2021) M1 Mac Mini to my processor?

I have seen/read information about DACs and Audio Extractors but not sure which would be the best solution for my needs.

Help greatly appreciated.


Are you buying the Mini solely for the purpose of serving your music or are you using it for other things as well?

I plan on using it for several purposes. Primary use is for serving music, but may use it for connecting an AI to it to and use a TV as a monitor.

This has a USB input next to the optical. Just go Mac Mini → MC-700.

Now, if you…

Don’t plug the Mini into anything but find a solution that goes over the network and uses a network streamer into a DAC (or a network DAC) and analog out into the MC-700.

Welcome to the rabbit hole.

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A target budget would be helpful.

My assumption is that there are limited device / connection solutions.
I’m trying to understand the technical connection / options that are available to provide the fundamental solution and then I can determine the pricing options and see what I’m willing to pay.

There are limited options:
USB direct from Mac to DAC
Mac to network streamer → DAC
Mac to Network DAC

However, within those 3 options are thousands of devices at all different price points and that’s before you get into some exotic configurations with reclockers and “audiophile switches” etc.

I’m not trying to scare you away but the digital playback chain is crammed with a ton of gear all, basically, meeting the same use case of music as 1’s and 0s → DAC → Music as analog sound

It would help to understand your budget and what level of education / complexity you’re willing to research here before anyone can give specific recommendations on gear.


My level of education / complexity is very elementary. I have received excellent advice and suggestions of new alternatives (e.g network streamer - which I’ve never heard of before) and am having some difficulty why I would need to spend a lot of money to replace something that was “stock” with my old 2012 Mac Mini.
Basically my need is to play music from a new Mac Mini to my audio system.
Based on previous responses, it was indicated that I just connect it directly to my Emotiva MC-700 and see how it sounds.
My approach will be to purchase the Mac Mini migrate my Apple Music library to it and then set up the most basic connection to my MC-700 and go from there.
If I’m not happy with the quality of sound in that configuration, then I will entertain purchasing an Emotiva Big-Ego+ and see where it takes me. My investment will be minimal at this point.
Appreciate all the patience and expert advice!!
Jim P.

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