How to connect usb audio out to analog amplifier

I would like to connect my Mac mini to my analog amplifier as my harmon audio Soundsticks (originals) have taken a turn for the worst and are beyond economical repair. Instead of replacing them, I’d like to explore something and use my audio system speakers.

An easy way would be to connect the Mac mini headphone 3.5mm stereo output to the auxiliary input on the amplifier. I understand the sound quality is mediocre and I can do better.

I also read somewhere that I could use an old Apple airport express and send the signal wirelessly to the audio system. I hear that can be unstable and also lower audio quality.

I have usb a and c sockets on the Mac mini. I don’t know what cable or equipment I need to use to connect those for audio purposes to the amplifier. Is that even possible? I am seeking solutions and ideas. Thank you.

Yes, it’s possible. You’ll need a DAC or audio interface.

This was the first result that appeared on Google:
Just to give you an impression.

For analog audio out only I would suggest a Dragonfly DAC. I have the Red myself and am very happy with it. Set Mac volume to 90% or so and adjust speaker volume on the amplifier.

I do this – I use an Airport Express, with a toslink (digital) cable that goes to my integrated amp, that in my case happens to also have an internal DAC.

The sound quality is just fine … and its my understanding that even the internal DAC in the Airport Express isn’t bad.

I second the Dragonfly DAC recommendation, or really any convenient outboard DAC, to make the connection between your Mini and your amp.

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I’ve used an Airport Express to stream to powered studio monitors for years. You can pick up a cheap used one on eBay or wherever.

But there are other options too - this was just posted the other day:

I would say that you would have to have very discerning ears to take issue with the 3.5mm stereo output from the Mac mini, springing decent money for an external DAC. The fact that you were using Harman sound sticks indicates to me that unless you really want to up the quality, ie you have an audiophile sound system and will be playing from hi-res source material, you’ll probably find the quality from the 3.5 just fine.

If it’s not sounding “fine” then there may be a problem with the cable you’re using.

A lot of people can hear the difference of hi-res files played via an external DAC so perhaps that will be a fun and good investment also. To each his own.