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I'm considering buying a Macbook Pro as a music server, but I think I read somewhere that the newest generation is less optimal than the previous one. Was that due to a new firewire standard? I'm also going to to buy a firewire/AES interface as a connection between the macbook and my Esoteric D-05 DAC.

Is there anything else that I should consider before choosing a macbook pro as music server?






JRiver MC22 -> Merging+NADAC (8CH) -> Bryston Cubed -> Vivid Giya G2/Vivid C1/4xVivid V1W

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Graham, it is true that the review from 6moons.com states that the iLink of the D-05 is not compatible with a computer. I'm using the iLink input for an SACD transport anyway and a firewire/AES interface is needed to get the best result from the DAC.




JRiver MC22 -> Merging+NADAC (8CH) -> Bryston Cubed -> Vivid Giya G2/Vivid C1/4xVivid V1W

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The Macbook Pro has both Firewire 400 and 800 and will be more than adequate as a music server. The comments you're thinking of may relate to the Macbook - the aluminium ones have dropped Firewire. The white, base model still has it and would also work as a good music server (and is cheaper).


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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm looking into buying a laptop to use as a digital music server. I already have 2 iMacs and another Apple seems like the logical choice. I want to be able to download music files including 24/192 resolution, and play them back via an external DAC with a volume control. I would like to avoid any downsampling stages in this chain. I will hook up the DAC via XLR balanced connectors to the input of my amplifier.


I don't have any idea of how to configure the Macbook Pro (upon purchase) for maximal performance in this application, and am also looking for the right DAC to couple to it. I have no idea about all the external clocks, etc. which I've read briefly about here.


So, if you folks were to set up a laptop primarily as a music server, how would you do it? What software, components, and add-ons would you consider? (I have seen the Minerva DAC, which accepts Firewire. A bit pricy as my startup piece.... any others worth a look?)


Thanks for the time,




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I should have mentioned that I don't have an internet connection in my audio room. Therefore, I'll need portability for the server once I've downloaded files from my hard-wired Ethernet connection. In the future, I may set up a wireless network, but our house is large enough that the AirPort didn't work effectively here. The modem/router is located in a panel that is too physically far from the two current computers, and I'll need to start by carrying the server around until more upgrades are installed.


Also, I was under the impression that wireless internet would not transmit 24/192 files without downsampling......


If the Mac Mini would function easily in this scenario, I'd gladly investigate it.


Thanks for the idea,




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Hi Lee - A couple things.


1. You can always extend your wireless network using cheap $99 Apple Airport Express units. This should allow you to cover a pretty big area for little money.


2. Wireless Internet is capable of transmitting any sample rate ever made. The downsampling comes into play when you send audio to a device like an Airport Express or Squeezebox. Those devices can only handle 16/44.1 audio. Wireless Internet is a totally different story. You could download 24/192 from the Internet without issue if you got your home wireless network up and running. You just couldn't stream it via wireless to an audio system (right now).




Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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Thanks, Chris.


1. We looked into the AirPort boosters, and the WAF shot that down (mounting extra stuff around the house). Perhaps that will change in the future.


2. We have a cable modem/router by LinkSys, I believe. It's from Comcast Cable. I haven't been into the access panel for some time, so I'll have to double check that. We had the two computers hardwired with Ethernet because they didn't receive enough signal strength via wireless in their current locations. The router "might" be close enough to the audio components that I could permanently place a computer there to receive wireless data. If I don't need a booster, is the Airport device in my 2 GHz Intel Core Duo (for example) sufficient to receive and play 24/192 files without downsampling? Is the Macbook Pro or the Mac Mini capable of doing this, since I may end up getting a third computer?


I warned you that i was a computer dinosaur. This is a new frontier for a slowly-evolving 2 channel analog guy.


Thanks again,




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"If I don't need a booster, is the Airport device in my 2 GHz Intel Core Duo (for example) sufficient to receive and play 24/192 files without downsampling? Is the Macbook Pro or the Mac Mini capable of doing this, since I may end up getting a third computer?"


Hi Lee - The Airport card in your current 2 GHz may be good enough but without more details I really don't know. The new Mac Mini and Mac Pro have 802.11n Airport cards in them and they are plenty fast to move around 24/192 music. Downsampling is not an issue for moving data like music files. It only becomes an issue if you want to stream wireless music to an Airport Express connected to your audio system. Do you plan on having the computer next to your audio system? If yes, downsampling via wireless is a non-issue because you won't connect to your audio system via wireless. Let me know :~)


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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At this point, I'll either have a computer connected to the audio system, or I'll manually carry the laptop/Mini in whenever I wish to play downloaded/ripped files. Not the most elegant solution for now, but probably my only option at present. So no, I do not foresee having a separate Airport Express receiver at the audio system just to receive wireless streams of music.


I'm simply attempting to gauge what the startup costs are, and the componentry required, to play back the new Reference Recordings HRx, Chesky, etc. high-res music. Don't want to skimp, but want to step in moderately at first before moving to reference-grade components. This will provide me a less-expensive learning curve to understand this whole process more thoroughly while choosing the sound and features that I will want in the "big rig".


I truly appreciate all the feedback. This is a semi-intimidating leap to take from classical audiophilia.




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My AirPort card carries the following specs:


Airport Extreme ( 0x14E4, 0x89 )


Wireless Card Firmware Version: Broadcom BCM43xx 1.0 (


Is this card sufficient to download 24/192, 24/176.4 via Airport?


I hope this helps.




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I would recommand White MacBook and connect it either Firewire, USB, or Toslink to the DAC of your choise.

Weiss DAC II is best (and cost effective) product for 24/192 via FW.


I have choosen the portable Apple Mbook for exact the same reason as your are having.

My WLan is not stable and strong enough in my listening room. So I just unplug the MBook and do the downloading in my living room, where Wlan signal is strong.

I use a 2.5" Seagate ToGo external drive holding the AIFF files (recommanded by Chris).

Downloaded Hires files are converted with MAX to AIFF.

I do that all in my living area and when finished, take it down into my listening room, connect it - here we go...

I finally deceided to choose the Macbook Pro, but that was for other reasons than music server - I wanted more powerfull grafics for movies and pictures.

Had first tried a White Macbook and returned it for the Pro.

For pure music server tasks, the White MB is better, as it is slightly quiter (less fan noise because less process and grafics power).

I have not bought the Weiss DAC II, since it was not that much better then my existing DAC (DIY).

I´m quite happy with the sound of 24/96 AIFF via Toslink to my DAC. Not a lot of 24/192 files availably at present anyway, most are 24/96 or less.


Audirvana Plus ->15"MBP 16GB 1TB SSD -> USB-> Intona USB Isolator -> USB -> Chord DAC ->Borbely Balanced Preamp->Active X-over-> 4 Class A Monoamps->3 Way SpeakerHeavens SE

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Well, this is where I'm at. I don't have quite as much computer savvy as you, though. If I get an external hard drive for storage (Seagate, Drobo, etc.), do I hook it up sequentially via Firewire from the Macbook->Storage->DAC? The Drobo has two Firewire ports, so is that how they can function, as an in/out pairing? Or, do I simply download files, save them on the hard drive for storage purposes, then load them back into the Macbook for playback?


Having never done this stuff, I don't have any idea about how to convert an HRx, etc. file into AIFF, or any of the manipulations/settings/hookups that are required.


Chris recommended the White MacBook, too. Sounds reasonable to start. I was looking at the Apogee Mini-DAC Firewire as an entry point DAC.


Is there any resource that explains all of the foundational information and starts at the beginning? I only have so much time to read every day on this, so any condensed primer would be appreciated.






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I have no knowledge about this computer issue aswell.

After reading this site for some time I deceided to test a Weiss DACII. I got this dac and tried to hook it up to my Dell Latidtude D820 notebook, without any good luck. Finally I bougth an MacBook and this hooked up without any problem to the Weiss DAC II via Firewire and Toslink.

The reason for me to stay with MacBook, itunes, etc, is just because it is easy to setup and connvinent to use.

When you want to connect the MBook via Firewire to the Dac, then you have to connect the external drive via USB or Ethernet...


About storage :

I have the AIFF files on the external 2.5" Seagate drive, which is connected via Firewire to my MB.

As the MBook has limited disk capacity, this is the way to extend and for mobility reasons (as descripted in my previous post) I deceided for the 2.5" drive.

From time to time I run a complete backup to my 3.5" backup drive, but this is not connected permanent.


About HRX etc.:

Just start with redbook 16/44 and test upsampling to 24/96 in audio midi settings.

I personaly beleave, that the 24/192 hype is very much the same as the SACD road.

You need to have a very good overall system and a top of the line DAC to be able to benefit from the Hirez.


Most dacs, which claimed to decode 24/192, may have done this, but suffered in the I/V convertion section.

I may not stand alone in saying, get a dac that can handle 16/44 up to 24/96 and have a proper implemented I/V convertion, may give you more fun and joy than just looking for 24/192.


BTW, what Dac do you have ?



Audirvana Plus ->15"MBP 16GB 1TB SSD -> USB-> Intona USB Isolator -> USB -> Chord DAC ->Borbely Balanced Preamp->Active X-over-> 4 Class A Monoamps->3 Way SpeakerHeavens SE

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Thanks for the suggestions. I do have a pretty high-end audio system, with the only exception being the Denon AVR4806 that I use as preamp/processor/surround amplifiers for the system. However, the Denon has an IEEE1394 input jack on the back (which is 4 pin Firewire, I believe), so that I may try to run a Macbook's Firewire output directly into the Denon. The receiver has 24/192 DACs (Burr Brown 1796, if I recall) for all eight channels. I will be testing this application with a friend's Macbook Pro in the next few weeks. If it works, it may mean that I only have to buy the Macbook (which I plan to purchase anyway) and wait until the right preamp with 2-channel passthrough comes out. The new Krell S1200 is rumored to be a great fit for this role. Then I'll pick up an appropriate DAC that will compliment the system.


I was also looking at the Apogee Mini-DAC as a stop-gap until the dust settles on this whole computer-based music server thing. With its external volume control, I could run balanced XLR cables directly into my Krell EVO 403 amplifier to the B&W 801Ds and bypass the use of a preamp. Although I'm researching this aggressively, and asking lots of questions to a certain beleaguered forum owner, I won't jump on something until I find the right combination.


And I've got 3 of the Chesky DVD-R 24/192 master file copies sitting here just waiting to get played! They're hand-made, one at a time, from the master files. Chesky also sent me the matching SACDs for comparison. My good fortune for being a loyal customer for almost 20 years... The sound quality of the stereo layer of the SACDs is very good, so I am naturally anxious to hear the full resolution experience.


I hope that answers your questions about where I'm at with all this. Bought nothing yet, and still contemplating.




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  • 4 months later...

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