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MacBook Plus Drobo?


Mister Wednesday
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Hello all,

 

I'm brand new to submitting this first question to you all in the hopes that someone out there already has experience with this proposed set-up.

 

I've never actually owned a computer at home until this time if you can believe that. Before I retired I always had PCs at work but we also had a dedicated IT support staff who always took care of setting up the computers and peripherals and fixing those pesky PC crashes for us so I never had to do any of that stuff myself.

 

Last week I took delivery of one of the new MacBook Pro laptop computers along with an Airport Extreme plus an Airport Express to use at home. The Apple Tech Support telephone service people were great in getting my home network set up and got me connected to the Internet and working within half an hour so my hats are off to them.

 

Yesterday afternoon I finally started my initial experiments using my MacBook Pro with iTunes to feed a digital audio stream wirelessly via my Airport Extreme/Express wireless home network into my main audio system.

 

I'm using the Airport Extreme as my primary base station and have the Apple Airport Express plugged into a wall outlet next to my Linn audio system to connect to my Linn Kisto A-V controller's on board DAC via a Toslink cable. Both the Airport Extreme and Airport (as well as the MacBook Pro) are using the 802.11n wireless transmission protocol.

 

Using iTunes I imported four CDs (Buddy and Julie Miller's self-titled first album, The Church's Priest=Aura album, Tommy Keene's Into the Late Bright album and Van Morrison's Live at the Grand Opera House Belfast) into iTunes using the Apple Lossless Coding algorithm. The operating system audio settings have been set up for maximum audio quality as far as I can figure from the info I've read on this site over the past few months (2 channel 24 bit 96Khz Audio MIDI settings with all the iTunes audio enhancements turned off).

 

My aim with this computer set-up is to see if I could get audio quality through this system that, at a minimum, is at least equal to the sound through my Linn Unidisk 1.1 CD player. It has to be at least equal and if it's better that would just be a bonus.

 

I'm quite surprised so far that the sound is the same quality as when playing the actual CD through my CD player. I've been switching back and forth between the computer system playing the album and my CD player playing the actual disc to do instant comparisons and it sounds exactly the same (so far!).

 

So now I'm seeing some real possibilities with listening to music using iTunes to store and play back selected tracks and/or albums simply by picking and choosing from a menu screen on my computer. And to be able to do this wirelessly is a big bonus. I'm going to try importing some more album CDs into iTunes to get a better sense of the sound quality across different music genres but it does sound promising so far.

 

So, to cut this story short and to get to my question my next move is to possibly purchase one of the Drobo multi-disk external hard drives to use as my primary iTunes music library storage system. I'm proposing to connect the Drobo to the Airport Extreme via the USB connection and from there go wirelessly through iTunes on the Macbook Pro to the Airport Express which would then be connected to the Linn Kisto DAC via the Airport Express Toslink connection. Is anyone out there using such a system now and, if so, have you encountered any problems with breaks or dropouts in the data stream while playing back music this way?

 

 

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If I get this right, you're already streaming wirelessly from the Mac to the Airport Express, then connecting via optical cable to your Linn, right? Adding USB from hard drive to Airport Extreme and wireless to the Mac won't cause any problems at all. I do it all the time and have only experienced dropouts when listening to internet radio. No problems at all with lossless files from the drive. You should be good. And that sounds like a great set-up.

 

Someone should be along shortly tell you how that optical cable is adding oodles of jitter on its way to your Linn. Of course you're already using that optical cable, listening and loving it. Enjoy. And welcome to the fold.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Tim,

 

Yes, you're right in your assumption - I am already streaming wirelessly from my MacBook Pro to the Airport Express, then connecting via optical cable to my Linn Kisto's internal DAC.

 

I'm just now wondering if there any difference between connecting a Drobo via the USB port on the Airport Extreme as compared to getting a Drobo with the additional DroboShare unit to allow for ethernet connection to the Airport Extreme? Or would I just be wasting my money buying the additional DroboShare unit?

 

Any thoughts?

 

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Yeah, I think that would probably be a waste of money. Bits is bits so the only difference you might get is speed. I'm moving lossless files via USB with no issues at all. Spend the money on music.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Your optical cable is adding oodles of jitter on its way to your Linn.

 

 

I couldn't resist Tim's "invitation." In reality though if it sounds good to you then it is good. Chances are high that your setup would sound good to many readers as well. Worry about the most important things first and only you can define what is most important.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris,

 

Just wanted to take this moment to thank you for running such a great site. There's a wealth of great information on your site that I've been following since early last year that made my decision about which way to go regarding a computer-based audio system a much easier decision to make. So thanks a lot! I'm looking forward to continuing to use your site as my go to information resource centre on this subject.

 

Regards,

 

Mr. Wednesday

 

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I have a Drobo/Droboshare connected to my wireless router. I'm by no means an expert, but I don't think you can connect to the Airport Extreme directly from a Drobo. . .I think you have to have the Droboshare for any type of network connection.

 

BTW, I love my Drobo! You will too.

 

BPT 3.5 Ultra/Reference 3A Reflectors/MSB Technology S201 Amplifier/MSB Technology Analog DAC/MSB Technology Network Renderer/Audirvana +

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Hi Mister

 

I do what you are proposing. Here's my two cents after a good bit of fiddling.

 

1) If you get a Drobo start off with 4 tb storage. If you format for less and try to add it all later you might have to reformat which means store data elsewhere. This might be fixed now.

 

2) If you are only going to feed your Macbook I'd suggest locating Drobo locally and hardwire USB to Macbook. Why you ask? Well, rips will be much faster and Drobo will behave much better. There is some noise so it would be best to jam it in a drawer, etc. No need for Droboshare. Drobo is happy living it's life in a dark box. I never touch mine.

 

3) Does Drobo misbehave? Well yes and no. When happy no. When sad yes. When I started out I put Drobo on Air Extreme in back room and it would work a while then I'd lose the mount. A %^&*%* pain for sure since nobody really knew why. It was rough to get it set-up again which generally involved rebooting till the planets lined up correctly. Maybe the new ones are easier. Also, the Drobo dashboard does not work to my knowledge via wireless. Good news is Droboshare solved all that. So I would say yes, you need Droboshare because the base Drobo is not really a network device. It - - - might - - - work the way you want it to.

 

I added the Droboshare after a couple months of aggravation and Drobo rumbles along happily now.

 

4) Does it dropout while playing - nope. In fact I can play different songs on two PCs with no issues.

 

5) I've said it before, when it's set up and working it is dirt simple.

 

6) Is it the most cost effective solution - probably not if you know how to build network storage, but if you don't know how to build a RAID system like *cough* Chris, then Drobo is cool.

 

7) I've not been impressed with their customer service. There's another post around here about that. In fairness, it was a while ago, but I had to get pretty stern with them.

 

8) Would I buy another - at this point I think so, mainly because I don't want to have to learn how to do it the cheaper way. I'd pay for the convenience and already have one plus the Droboshare.

 

Good luck

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

To Chris and all the other CA readers who offered your input I'd like to thank you all for your words of advice. Very much appreciated as always.

 

Just to let you all know that yesterday I finally bit the bullet and ordered a Drobo Firewire unit and four Seagate 1.5 TB drives (the new ones with the Data Robotics re-qualified firmware specifications for the Drobo). I'm expecting to be able to pick these up from my local vendor's bricks and mortar store late today.

 

I've decided to try this set-up out using the USB connection from the Drobo into my Apple Airport Extreme as a first step. If I don't suffer any data dropouts running an audio stream wirelessly from the Extreme into my Airport Express then via the Express optical out via a Toslink into my Linn Kisto DAC then I'll just leave the set-up as is.

 

If I do run into any problems streaming wirelessly with the USB connection I can always fall back onto Plans B and C - trying it out using the Firewire connection directly to my MacBook Pro or purchasing a Droboshare for connecting via ethernet to the Airport Extreme.

 

I'll run my USB connected tests first though to see if I can get away with this set-up and if it works out fine I'll use the cash I'll be saving to buy more music!

 

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Just to let you know that I got my new Drobo Firewire unit installed, set up and running today with the help of the Data Robotics technical support staff an the Apple Wireless tech staff.

 

After unpacking the Drobo Firewire and getting it registered online I immediately called the Data Robotics technical support line who talked and walked me through a completely hassle-free set-up of the unit. Once that was accomplished I then called the Apple Wireless technical support specialists and got them to talk and walk me through another hassle-free repointing of my iTunes system to the Drobo Firewire now connected via the USB 2.0 connection to my Airport Extreme. They also helped me move all my music files to the Drobo Firewire drive system (I then erased all these same music files from the internal hard drive of my MacBook Pro. All this was completed in a very short time span.

 

I'm now listening to my music stored on the Drobo Firewire system and it's streaming perfectly. I have to say I'm also very impressed with the complete lack of any drive noise from the Seagate 1.5 TB drives (four of them) I've got installed in the Drobo Firewire. For all intents and purposes there is no drive noise so that's a big plus I wasn't expecting.

 

I've tried ripping a couple more CDs with this wireless system and the ripping time is about the same as when I tested the system ripping to the internal hard drive of my laptop. So, I don't think rippng time is going to be an issue.

 

All in all this has been a very painless and enjoyable experience so far.

 

Regards,

 

Mr. Wednesday

 

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