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Mac Server assistance please for audiophile new to servers


Ian Mackenzie
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Greetings, all -

 

This is my first post but I am a quasi-regular at www.audioasylum.com

 

I am a lifelong audiofool who has dabbled in high-end audio for years. Alas, as my kids hit their teens, I seemed to have placed focus elsewhere. I still listen to tons of music and we have 3 great systems in our house now. My main rig is in my "man cave/office" in the basement. I have simplified my systems over the years. I have had full Naim systems, full tube systems.....you get my drift.

 

Today, I have an ARS Sonum Filarmonia (EL-34 based) integrated amp, Audio Aero prima cdp, Merlin VSM-MX speakers and Cardas Golden Reference cables everywhere. My cdp is nice and compliments my system well. While certainly not a "reference player", it does sound quite good. I seek to replace it with a Mac-based server and DAC and am just stuck over exactly what to do. I do not want to have a sever/DAC that is inferior to my current cdp. I once had 600 CDs but have weeded many out and will only place about 200 on a HD.

 

I will only listen to full resolution music, not MP3. I am not concerned with SACD or hi res at this point. I have no interest in video whatsoever outside of watching the news, the Cubs and Blackhawks...;-)

 

Can you guys please provide some guidance?

 

Here's how I break it down....:

 

1. I have decided on a Mac. Why? Because it's cool, stable and I already have an iTouch. So....

- what Mac? Mini? Macbook? Do I need a sound card?

- Do I control it with iTouch, a remote, wireless or a long cable to the DAC from my desk....;-)...?

- I will get at least a 320 GB hard drive and 2GB of RAM

- I will get an external drive for back up

 

2. I will use iTunes as for music management. What do i need to RIP or copy CDs to HD? EAC? iTunes?What is Foobar?

 

3. If I am not concerned about file size but want the best sound possible, what format should I use? ALAC, WAV or FLAC? (I may be wrong)

 

4. I have narrowed down my search to a handful of DACs. How best to connect it to the Mac? USB...?...I hear that can be less than ideal? Toslink or Coax...?...then how do I connect that to the Mac?

 

5. I would like to keep the budget under $1,500, not including the DAC. If I can use a Mini and spend $$ elsewhere, I will.

 

6. What else am I missing? What other small SW apps will I need?

7. If my iTouch only has a 32GB memory, how will it synch with iTunes that holds my entire library of CDs?

 

Many thanks in advance for your help. Yes, I have read many of Chris' posts as well as others so I am not being too lazy here.

 

Cheers,

Ian

 

 

 

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Based on your budget, I'd say Mac Mini and maybe get a small monitor for it. My thought is the Mini has Firewire and that keep all the Hi-Res options open as USB and Toslink (on the MAC) top out at 24/96. The Macbook does not have Firewire anymore and the other MACs are over $1500. Now if you don't care about firewire and higher than 24/96 resolution, the Macbook is in play.

 

I know you said you are not interested in Hi-Res, but what if you change your mind? Same thought with the DAC, get one that supports hi-res up to at least 24/96 with all inputs (USB, Toslink, Coax, Firewire)

 

Your Touch will do remote of any MAC or PC with Itunes. The remote is not related to synching. When you sync your Touch from Itunes, you can control what playlists will sync, so your Touch will just hold a subset of your whole Itunes library.

 

Interested in the responses, because I am researching a similar purchase.

 

 

 

 

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Welcome!

 

Computer audio is a gas. Hope you enjoy the journey.

 

When you synchronize with your iPod, you'll have the option to designate only certain playlists to synchronize. So you need not sync your entire library. You see these options once you plug in your iPod.

 

I suggest that you budget for an external backup disk for your music library. You'll spend a bit of time ripping and fiddling with cover art and whatnot, so it's desirable to have an online backup.

 

I already had an external CD-ROM player when I did my initial rips. This was great as it went much faster than my built-in optical drive. Also I felt it saved wear and tear on my internal drive. Just a nice-to-have however, but it did save some time for sure.

 

Don't rip to WAV. Rather use either AIFF or Apple Lossless as these formats have will store the track title, composer, artist and other metadata directly in the file along with the music data. iTunes does not natively play FLAC, unfortunately. I prefer AIFF rather than ALAC (Apple Lossless) in my setup but YMMV.

 

I'd recommend you do give consideration to a 24/96 DAC as there is a lot of exciting things happening with higher resolution downloads. Lot's of fun waiting in the wings with this. There are also 192 kHz recordings starting to become available. FWIW.

 

Best of luck!

 

 

 

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

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1. I'd recommend a macbook or a mini with monitor because you won't be operating blind when you need to change things or set it up. The macbook will be more convenient, also, look for refurbished older models from the apple store that will cost less ($949 CAD) and still have firewire.

You don't need a soundcard; your external dac replaces its function.

You can use the apple remote and coverflow or the itouch with remote.app

 

2. You just need itunes to rip songs. EAC is only for PC. Foobar is a music playback software like itunes but for PC.

 

3. .aiff is the mac uncompressed format which I would use

 

4. The last few generations of mac have a mini toslink port built into the headphone jack (it is dual purpose). You can use this to connect to you dac or usb or firewire if your mac has it. Each has benefits and drawbacks.

 

Hope that helps

 

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