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Mac Pro Configuration Options

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I am new to CA, which has motivated me to move to stop spinning optical discs. Pardon me if this question has already been asked.


What configuration purchase options would forum members recommend for a Mac Pro quad core to be used as a server? As long as I get sufficient capacity, will the internal hard drive(s) suffice, or is there a special reason to use an external drive or NAS?


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Hi dynamis - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. Any of the new Mac Pro computers will work great. Mine has quite a bit more memory because some of my files can be several GB in size and I need to play them in iTunes and would like the complete file to load into memory. Necessary no, desirable yes (by me).


One reason for a NAS is flexibility. You remove noise from you listening room as it can be placed anywhere on your network. Most NAS units can be upgraded very easily with larger drives if needed. The RAID set is just expanded when this is done. Internal drives may not be this easy. Plus a NAS is accessible by all computers on your network even when your Mac Pro is turned off. There are more reasons why I use a NAS but this is a good start.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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It makes money for hard drive manufacturers.


Basically RAID is an enterprise-grade technology that is of little or no use for home users. There are several levels (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 0+1, RAID 5, etc.). It essentially does one or both of two things:


1) it provides faster read access by spreading the files you need across multiple drives, which can be accessed in parallel. It also may provide faster access when many people are trying to read the same data (think of a web server serving thousands, or the old days when travel agents were trying to access an airline's database).


2) it provides enhanced reliability, which contributes to up time. This sounds like a good idea, even for home users, but it really isn't. In an enterprise, you need up time - three nines (99.9% uptime), four nines (99.99%), etc. When your on-line order system is down, for example, you aren't making any money, and you are willing to spend money on additional hardware to reduce the chances of an outage. The protection you receive is limited to drive failure. By having more drives spinning, you increase the chances that at least one of them will fail, but since the data is redundant (various schemes are employed), a single drive failure will not bring the system down, and you can put a new drive in place (perhaps even hot-swap it) and the RAID controller will restore the required data to the new drive without you having to muck with it.


So aren't these good things, even for home users? Not really.


Very little to nothing a home user does is disk-bound. Speedups of disk access mostly benefit big database servers since the data is all disk-resident (even if they have huge caches, and they do, they need to sync all that data constantly). In particular, disk access time for audio data is a non-issue for a home user.


The reliability issue is not much of a deal for a home user because you don't require high reliability. It's OK, if the (single) drive on which your music files live dies, because you can shut down the system, drive down to the shop (or mail-order) and get a new drive, install it, format it, then load your backups. Drives don't fail all that often (I've had two drive controllers die at home in 15 years, never a drive itself, and they were both due to cheap fans failing). You may never experience it. Why have extra drives spinning, drawing power, against something which most likely will never happen? The cost (in your time) of a dead drive is just not that big a deal.


The important thing, and I can't stress this strongly enough, is RAID is not a backup. You will live or die by your backups. All data kept on a RAID still needs to be backed up to other media.


On the other hand, there is not much wrong with having RAID. Many motherboards have hardware support for RAID. You can get add-in cards that have more sophisticated RAID controllers. You buy, worst case (I think) twice as many drives (0+1 takes four drives, but you get two drives worth of usable space). Drives are cheap. Controller cards can be as much as a few hundred dollars, but your motherboard support is probably fine.


If fiddling with RAID makes you happy, by all means go ahead. But you aren't missing out on anything if you don't.


16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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WoodsDweller, thanks for that nice explanation of RAID. I had no idea.


dynamis, I've stopped spinning the silver disc, entirely. Sold my CD player. Now I just need (in the audiophile sense of the word) a nice DAC.


It sounds like you're going to have a terrific setup. Enjoy!


2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

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Hello WoodsDweller,

You say: 'The important thing, and I can't stress this strongly enough, is RAID is not a backup. You will live or die by your backups. All data kept on a RAID still needs to be backed up to other media.'

I'm not sure I get it all. I've always thought that when you used a couple of HD's in RAID1 you actually got a mirror image of disk 1 onto disk 2. Isn't that a 'sort of' backup system?

Now — for Mac users — how about using Time Machine?





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RAID is great but as previous readers said it is not a backup solution. For example a RAID 1 array will mirror your data whether it is good data or bad. If you accidentally delete your entire library that deletion will be mirrored on the other disk. In addition it's entirely possible for a RAID controller to go bad which would likely mean both drive are unrecoverable.


It's all about managing risk. Personally I use RAID 5 without any backup. I'm willing to take the chance. Plus I have physical discs for 99% of my music.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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There are many bad things that can happen to your data. An incomplete list:


* drive failure

* file system corruption (which might be recoverable, in whole or in part)

* drive controller failure (which, by the way, frequently leads to serious file system corruption)

* what I like to call the "oh, shit!" phenomena, wherein you delete or overwrite or accidentally (!) reformat your data

* virus-related data loss or corruption

* electrical surges, beyond what your surge suppressors can handle, which takes out your whole machine

* unexpected power loss during a write, which can leave your file system in a bad state (modern, journaled file systems address this issue)

* cat-and-coffee-cup related incidents

* fire, flood, theft


RAID protects you against #1. Off-site backups give you a disaster recovery plan for pretty much everything.


You want to protect not only your data itself (which may have your original audio discs as the ultimate backup), but your considerable efforts at ripping and repairing metadata. Not to mention the fact that music you purchased via download may not otherwise have durable backups.



16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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