M3 chip 24-inch iMac has a built-in hardware digital-to-analog converter
The newly released MacBook Pro by Apple has commenced sales recently, yet many online reviews express a modest desire for upgrading. By contrast, the concurrently updated M3 chip-equipped 24-inch iMac presents a more compelling case for an upgrade, especially since it has been a considerable length of time since its last update. Users desiring an all-in-one Apple device appear more inclined to embrace the upgrade, even though the new model, apart from the M3 chip enhancement, remains virtually identical to its predecessor, even retaining the same color options. However, the new model does possess unpublicized feature enhancements; notably, its 3.5mm audio jack now supports high-definition music output and can be connected to high-impedance headphones.
This is not Apple’s inaugural implementation of a 3.5mm audio jack supporting high-impedance headphones on a Mac; the feature debuted on the M2 chip MacBook Pro in 2021. Subsequent updates to the 2022 MacBook Air, Mac Studio, and the 2023 editions of the Mac mini and Mac Pro sequentially incorporated this trait. It stems from an integrated DAC within the machine that can convert digital audio of up to 96kHz into an analog signal, thereby delivering high-definition, lossless audio. Tests have shown that Apple’s 3.5mm audio jack is capable of driving some high-impedance headphones.
Nevertheless, more discerning audiophiles have reservations, pointing out that the DAC’s output specifications from Apple fall short. Apple Music offers lossless music up to 24-bit, 192kHz, and to fully leverage this quality, one must connect an even more potent DAC. Apple may have designed this port primarily for the general consumer’s entertainment, assuming that users with more professional requirements would opt for more specialized equipment.
Unlike the previous 27-inch iMac, the current M3 chip iMac only offers a 24-inch screen option, which measures just 23.5 inches diagonally and may seem somewhat undersized for even mildly professional purposes. Thus, it is more targeted toward domestic environments or office spaces prioritizing clerical work, where high-definition audio output is a sufficient feature.