View Full Version : Audio Lovers Assemble - Best Vintage Mac Audio Hardware

20th September 2013, 07:57 PM
While it's easy to add additional hardware and equipment to a modern Mac to achieve some truly wonderful audio, I'm of the opinion that the built-in stock standard audio hardware in older Macs had a much more natural, clearer and sometimes warmer sound than some of the integrated DACs in current model systems.

Now I can't compare every model of Mac, past or present, in order to find out which is better or whether there really is a difference in the quality of audio hardware between generations. I use a MacBook Air (Mid 2012) which likely uses the Cirrus Logic 4206BCNZ audio controller. It's a fantastic piece of hardware, but it has its strengths and weaknesses. I find it adequate for day to day listening, but there are machines out there that deliver a truly pleasant listening experience, even using the same set of headphones or speakers.

One such machine to me is the PowerBook (FireWire) G3 "Pismo", which I discovered completely by chance. Wanting to test out the older versions of iTunes under Mac OS 9, I copied over my most recent additions to my music library and played them out on the PowerBook.

Without any EQs applied, the sound was already clearly much more natural sounding, perhaps with slightly more bass, about the same clarity, and to me it sounded a little warmer than the built in audio hardware of the MacBook Air. Overall it was pleasant to listen to, not just merely adequate.

I made a point of using this machine for audio playback when I worked in radio, simply because I figured we could get the best audio quality out of the machine and into the mixer. This was in 2011 as well, it worked brilliantly for this purpose (proving that even an 11 year old machine has its practical uses).

Does anyone else have a nomination for a particularly good sounding old Mac?

22nd September 2013, 10:24 PM
Hmm, I never thought of the old Mac audio hardware that way, despite being a bit (only very mildly) of an audio buff...

I liked the sound on the Quadra 700, but everything about that machine seems to shine for me.

I have a couple of DigiDesign SampleCell cards (ca. 1990?) that I've been meaning to do something with for years, but unfortunately the original sample libraries/software/manuals seem impossible to find nowadays.