Pre Lightning Mac Book connection to a DAC

It seems like the best way to connect my soon to purchase DAC to my Mac Book is via. the headphone socket. A past statement “the headphone socket doubles as an optical digital audio S/PDIF (Toslink) output”. I see that I can purchase this connector and my DAC will have a S/PDIF Toslink input.

Q1. Is there any other better way to connect my MacBook to the DAC?
Q2. This connection us limited to 192kHz so I can not utilize Hi-Res streaming service?

I am concerned now that I am not going to be able to utilize my new DAC to get the best sound. You can tell I am new to this. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you.


What is the DAC in question?

You have two direct choices for connecting most DACs to a MacBook (and for what it is worth, NO Apple laptops or desktops have Lightning connectors), either USB or TOSLINK.

Depending on the specific MacBook its optical connection may be limited to 96 kHz rather than 192 kHz (same is true for the MacMini).

But if yours supports 192 kHz then that is NOT going to impose a limit on any current streaming service, as Tidal caps at 16/44.1 kHz for non-MQA material and 16/48 kHz for MQA files (the output from the DAC itself can be higher, but that’s the highest bitrate/resolution Tidal will actually send TO the DAC), and both Qobuz and Amazon Music HD stop at 24/192 kHz.

Usually USB provides for the highest resolution connections, which is also something you can use from the MacBook.


What @Torq says. If you have an older MacBook, the SPDIF is probably limited to 96khz. That’s the case of generation 1,2 and 3 Macbooks (Polycarbonate and aluminum shells). It looks like the higher speeds came in about 2012-2014, in MacBook Pro, Mini and other models.

However the USB should work fine.


Your knowledge is amazing and I feel like while not.
What DAC - I have decided to purchase a open box Focal Arche today in fact.
What Model - My MacBook is 2015 with the TOSLINK.

  1. I also have two USB connections but I thought my only option was the TOSLINK?
  2. Is there a cord for USB (MacBook out) to USB (DAC input)? or another type of cord USB to something I can use as input to the DAC.
  3. Do you know what my limit is 96 or 192? My comment about 192 was about the Arche TOSLINK input limit and I did not think about the limit from my MacBook.
    ps I can use my other iOS devices but their user interface is not as good as the MacBook.

Thank you. … and for all your reviews especially on the Arche, I can not wait.

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Many DACs come with a USB connection cord, and/or with a standard USB connection. If it’s a regular USB, a simple USB male to female (extension) cord that costs about $5-10 will do fine. You will sometimes have clearance issues with the DAC (like my iFi xDSD) that has no problem with standard cords, but doesn’t like some of the super-premium cords that have oversized plastic or metal ends.

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Bingo – I wondered why all the photos showed such a large usb connector but it makes sense now. Obviously I have never had the need for one before. Thank you!!

The Arche should come with a standard USB 2.0 “A” to “B” cable in the box.

This is sometimes called a “USB Printer Cable”.

Now, depending on what you’re going to be using to send music to the Arche from your MacBook, there are some settings to be aware of to make sure it’s getting bit-perfect data.

If you’re using either Audirvana 3.5 (recommended) or Roon (even better, but much more expensive), then they will automatically set the bit rate and sample depth to match the track that is playing. This is the preferred way to have things work.

The native streaming clients (such as Spotify and Amazon Music HD) and iTunes do not set the output bit-rate for you, so it’ll stay at whatever you set it as in “Audio Midi Utility” and get up/downsampled automatically if what the client tries to send doesn’t match.

It will “just work” if you plug it in - but if you want to get the best out of it, the above is relevant.

It is a lovely unit though, and an excellent listen!

Macbook has TOSLINK? How the hell did I miss that memo?

  • It took a while and two visits to Micro Center for the correct cable (USB 2.0 A to B). Hell, I had some USB Printer Cables in the basement. It was an open box so no cables and actually they were not listed in the user manual but anyhow…

  • Yes I had a print out of the user manual and I made the appropriate settings. The store was surprised that the software (iTunes) did not set it automatically but you mentions some applications do. My next step is to sign up for a high res subscription as I can tell the some of my ripped CD quality is better. I know that I would love the type of information that room provides.

  • All set up know and in my easy chair listening…

  • Thanks again for holding my hand so to speak and … just wow, the step up to the Focal Clear from my $300 headphones was significant. This step is as big or more. In the long run, I saved the various iterations from maybe a nice portable/transportable, nice mid price, then to this level. I can not compare but trust your vast experience. There is something about the Arche matching the headphone and I wanted to utilize a balanced unit(s) even though I think you probably pay for this feature.

Update – This was an open box - store demo. After intermittent problems for a couple days, I sadly returned the Arche today. It is definitely a bad USB input connector. Funny, they were using the RCA input in the store to demo from an iPad and it sounded very bad. I think they knew about the bad connector. In the trouble shooting, I tried the analog RCA input using CD player and the sound was still great. I did get a day with a new Qobuz subscription, the sound in Hi Res just keeps getting better. The store is going to contact Focal for repair but I received a full refund. After this experience, I may order a new unit and will definitely do so from the store here.


That’s too bad.

As far as I know the Arche unit that I have will be available for sale as “demo” or “open-box” as soon as Taron is back online (Monday, I think). And IT works perfectly. So definitely give him a call if you’re interested.

I do not know how to contact Taron but I had been communicating to Caleb when I first started my search. I sent him an e-mail (at with your above text and explained my interest in the Arche. Thanks for the reference and update about the unit. I was wondering and actually checking every day. Carl

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I think Taron is away at the moment.

Caleb helped me out. I purchased a new Arche and received it this afternoon. I could not be happier. Qobuz and the Arche are awesome. I have never experienced music that sounded as good. Thanks everyone, especially Ian and Caleb. Time to break out my smoky scotch.



Glad you have a unit that is working correctly now and that you’re enjoying it!