Apple recently launched the M3-powered 24-inch iMac. Though the design of the new iMac may feel outdated, it offers improved audio capabilities, such as support for high-impedance headphones and an enhanced digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
Apart from high-impedance headphones support, new iMac offers flexible sample rate settings
A recent Apple support document update sheds light on the unique audio advancements in the new iMac. With adaptive voltage output and impedance detection, the built-in 3.5mm headphone jack ensures an improved digital-to-analog converter. This advancement allows support for high-fidelity, full-resolution audio with compatible headphones, providing an enriched sound experience.
The 3.5 mm headphone jack on compatible Mac computers features DC load detection and adaptive voltage output. Your Mac can detect the impedance of the connected device and will adapt its output for low- and high-impedance headphones, as well as for line-level audio devices.
When you connect headphones with an impedance of less than 150 ohms, the headphone jack provides up to 1.25 volts RMS. For headphones with an impedance of 150 to 1k ohms, the headphone jack delivers 3 volts RMS. This may remove the need for an external headphone amplifier.
The new iMac is not the only Mac that supports high-impedance headphones. Several other Mac models, such as the 2021 MacBook Pro, the 2022 MacBook Air, the 2022 Mac Studio, the 2023 Mac Pro, and the 2023 Mac mini, also offer this capability. These Macs automatically detect headphone impedance and adjust voltage output accordingly, catering to a wide range of headphones, each with specific power requirements for optimal performance.
Impedance, a crucial factor in headphone performance, influences the power needed to drive headphones. Generally, higher-impedance headphones deliver superior sound quality, requiring more power for optimal performance. The iMac’s automatic voltage adjustment eliminates the need for an external headphone amplifier, but dedicated audiophiles might prefer additional features offered by standalone DACs and amplifiers.
Apart from headphone support, the iMac boasts an improved DAC that handles digital audio at sample rates of up to 96 kHz. This enhanced capability allows users to connect analog devices directly to the Mac without requiring an external DAC. The flexibility to set the sample rate through the Audio MIDI Utility further enhances user control over the audio output.