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Replacement for Apple TV for music streaming - Cambridge Audio NP 30 or Mac Mini


GilesM

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I am wanting to replace my Apple TV. I use this for redbook standard music streaming only.

 

I have two options under consideration, Cambridge Audio NP30 streaming device or a Mac Mini to act as a localised server.

 

I want to avoid the re-sampling done by the Apple TV and keep the playback of the files as 'clean' possible.

 

As the NP30 can now handle apple lossless files it comes under consideration and has the bonus of playing other file types that my Apple eco-system currently can not.

 

Any advice is welcome... than you.

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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I originally started with an Apple TV (first version) and went to the Mac Mini in 2010. As far as I can think the only files that cannot be played by iTunes on the Mac Mini using iTunes are FLAC and DSD. However using other playback softwares that work with iTunes like Pure Music and Audivrana or JRIVER which is both a library manager and playback software you can support those only file formats. I use JRiver primarily now and I have DSD files that are converted to PCM by JRiver because I don't have a DSD capable DAC.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Hmmm.. True, my problem is deciding if I want to use a powerful machine like a Mac mini as 'just' a music server, or get the streaming device like the NP 30.

if all was equal, I wonder which would sound better? The mini is the more expensive option, but at least I will still have control on my iPad.

If I add a Mac mini, use it headless, will I be able to control it for music playback from the remote app? Ahhh questions questions,,,,

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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I have a spare PC and am experimenting with VNC pocket cloud. Seems to work ok, but if I used a Mac mini, then I would have control using the apple remote app on the iPad... Is that right? If so this would be far better...

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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I have a spare PC and am experimenting with VNC pocket cloud. Seems to work ok, but if I used a Mac mini, then I would have control using the apple remote app on the iPad... Is that right? If so this would be far better...

 

Yes you could use the app for your music library and iTunes Radio but you would need VNC to control and play say Spotify , Pandora , etc . The apple app can't control those .

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I see, that is what I was hoping for. Great so now it is a choice between an ugly PC or a nice unobtrusive Mac Mini.... Testing the PC running ITunes right now. It works just fine but the control is a little hard to see on the iPad screen, a little slow, but it works. File rate is now where it should be at 44.1 according to the DAC. .... Thanks for advice about the mini, that bey be the deciding factor...

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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Well, a Mac Mini is what I would choose, for the sound quality, capability, and flexibility (MacOS and Windows capability) - and for the looks. Hard to go wrong there.

 

There are other choices, but those work the best to me. Also, the Mac Mini gives you a wide selection of software players.

 

-Paul

 

 

I am wanting to replace my Apple TV. I use this for redbook standard music streaming only.

 

I have two options under consideration, Cambridge Audio NP30 streaming device or a Mac Mini to act as a localised server.

 

I want to avoid the re-sampling done by the Apple TV and keep the playback of the files as 'clean' possible.

 

As the NP30 can now handle apple lossless files it comes under consideration and has the bonus of playing other file types that my Apple eco-system currently can not.

 

Any advice is welcome... than you.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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FWIW I use both a Mac mini and an ATV2. I use the ATV2 for casual listening to internet radio where SQ isn't quite as important to me as my ripped & downloaded library. I use Airplay with the Pandora and TuneIn radio apps on my iPad to stream. I also use it headless BTW. Point being is you may want to keep the ATV in the mix and add perhaps a Mac mini for Redbook and above resolutions. Good luck.

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Most mainstream network audio players, such as the Cambridge Audio NP30, have no ability of storing music files, so strictly speaking it has no music server abilities and is just a streamer/player/renderer with a decent built-in DAC. You are going to require a separate network capable device to store the music files and run a media server for it, such as (ironically) a computer or a NAS.

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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Looks like the decision will be for the Mac mini. There is nothing else for it really. I tried using the PC, just was not happy with it, it worked but not quite well enough for me.

Thank you all for your advice, at least I no the direction of travel now!

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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Agree with a Mac mini although I I believe this year we will see a wave of affordable steamers coming online. I would check the new Bluesound products from the same company that owns NAD and PSB. It is like Sonos but with hires capability. If all you listen Cd quality Sonos is a nice option.

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I have been waiting to see the Bluesound stuff - and my local dealer is listed as a BlueSound dealer. Not sure if they have 'em yet or not.

Sure sounds like what Sonos should have moved to, or the Olive Player should have been. :)

 

-Paul

 

 

Agree with a Mac mini although I I believe this year we will see a wave of affordable steamers coming online. I would check the new Bluesound products from the same company that owns NAD and PSB. It is like Sonos but with hires capability. If all you listen Cd quality Sonos is a nice option.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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So, a mac is the way to go, but instead of buying yet another computer (Mac mini) I might see how I get on if I move my iMac downstairs to the listening room.I am guessing the iMac would make just as good a music server as the mini, not as unobtrusive of course. I think my wife would be happier with that than me buying another unit. Most of my use of the iMac has been migrated to the iPad now anyway.

Any thoughts? Is an iMac as good a music server as a new mini?The iMac is circa 2009, 4GB of RAM running Snow leopard.

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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So, a mac is the way to go, but instead of buying yet another computer (Mac mini) I might see how I get on if I move my iMac downstairs to the listening room.I am guessing the iMac would make just as good a music server as the mini, not as unobtrusive of course. I think my wife would be happier with that than me buying another unit. Most of my use of the iMac has been migrated to the iPad now anyway.

Any thoughts? Is an iMac as good a music server as a new mini?The iMac is circa 2009, 4GB of RAM running Snow leopard.

As you can see from my signature, I use a late 2009 Imac as music server, which is even also my primary computer. Works fine.

 

If you ever want to start using highres downloads instead of redbook, I'd suggest upgrading to 8GB. Furthermore, try out an external player like Audirvana and Amarra (not sure which version is compatible with Snow Leopard though). I assume you'll be connecting you Dacmagic via USB?

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I control my Mac Mini in several ways. Mine is not entirely headless as I have an HDMI Cable connected to my HDTV. with this combination I have one of those lap tables that typically are used for laptops on a table next to my listening chair. On that I keep an Apple wireless keyboard and trackpad. If I am doing a lot of ripping, downloading or editing metadata I will typically use this method of control. For most music listening it is via the iPad. When running Audivrana + with iTunes I use the Apple Remote app to control music. If the iPad is not in my hand I have the little aluminum Apple Remote Control that I use for simple track forward or volume up or down control. I also run JRiver for Mac and use JRemote for playback control. JRemote is far superior to the Apple Remote app in my opinion. Finally I also use the Screens VNC app which provides me control over the Mac Mini. I primarily use this to open and close the software packages I wish to use, eject HDD, refresh/update playlists and put the Mac Mini to sleep.

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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So, a mac is the way to go, but instead of buying yet another computer (Mac mini) I might see how I get on if I move my iMac downstairs to the listening room.I am guessing the iMac would make just as good a music server as the mini, not as unobtrusive of course. I think my wife would be happier with that than me buying another unit. Most of my use of the iMac has been migrated to the iPad now anyway.

Any thoughts? Is an iMac as good a music server as a new mini?The iMac is circa 2009, 4GB of RAM running Snow leopard.

 

Many of us are using are Mac Mini, MacBook or other as dedicated music servers meaning we have some services disabled an also allow are playback softwares to disable or control services or function to minimize potential interference of the audio signal and maximize performance. We are not generally browsing the web, composing emails and other tasks on these machines especially during music playback. It is not that it cannot be done but simply general opinion seems to be it should not be done.

 

Bottom ome line the iMac should work regardless but I would see if you could maximize RAM to 8GB especially if you will use a third party playback software (Pure Music, JRiver, Audivrana etc recommended)

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Indeed, the iMac will be connected to the DacMagic.... Great device, but I am sure it also due for a refresh by now....

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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Well, "less unobtrusive" is not quite the way I would describe it. :) Do you watch movies or television in this location? If so it might or might not be an advantage to use an iMac. It *would* be an advantage if the iMac *is* the video monitor you watch the movies on, and it would *not* be an advantage if you already have a TV in the area. See the point?

 

The second issue is more philosophical than physical, as ever time I attempt to use a computer as a music server *and* a workstation, it sooner or later gets ugly. Probably because I am not as disciplined as other folks who do that successfully. My wife, who can make the buffalo on a nickel scream in agony, didn't even blink at spend $599 for a dedicated Mini where we want music. Less hassle, and far less curses tossed about the house by an irritated me. The dedicated servers just tent too work and work and work... and get forgotten about because they just "do their job!"

 

-Paul

 

 

So, a mac is the way to go, but instead of buying yet another computer (Mac mini) I might see how I get on if I move my iMac downstairs to the listening room.I am guessing the iMac would make just as good a music server as the mini, not as unobtrusive of course. I think my wife would be happier with that than me buying another unit. Most of my use of the iMac has been migrated to the iPad now anyway.

Any thoughts? Is an iMac as good a music server as a new mini?The iMac is circa 2009, 4GB of RAM running Snow leopard.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Paul,

 

the listening room has no tv or monitors in it. My wife is very understanding of my hobby, and knows I just want the best out of the cd's we own. Until recently I was happy with the sound from the Apple TV... Friday last, when I thought I would experiment with sound 'direct' from a computer. Big mistake, made me dissatisfied with the Apple TV process. So, I have played around with, net books, old pc's both of which gave good sound via the Cambridge DAC. However using the old PC which was a spare win 7 machine I had hanging around the office is problematic because I have no screen, keyboard or mouse in this room. I am controlling it via pocket cloud, which works but is slow and unresponsive. So, back to the idea of a Mac mini. At least I know, If I want to buy a Mac mini, my wife will not complain, she just wants me to be satisfied and happy listening. In that at least, I am lucky!

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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Why not an older generation Mac Mini?........which can be had for $250 us in the used market. That's what I did to expand to another zone recently where I wanted better playback and needed some computing power.

 

There's also the 2nd generation Airport Express which Is bit perfect at 16/44.1. These can also be had for 50-60$ us in the used market.

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Ah- my friend, I suggest trying the old Windows 7 machine with a copy of JRMC and the $10 JRemote software. If you like that, the same software combination works even better on your iMAC, and has beautiful "theater view" and "display view" settings - one of which may just delight you on the screen of the iMac.

 

Also, you would hardly ever have to us the console on the machine. ;)

 

Yours,

Paul

 

 

 

Paul,

 

the listening room has no tv or monitors in it. My wife is very understanding of my hobby, and knows I just want the best out of the cd's we own. Until recently I was happy with the sound from the Apple TV... Friday last, when I thought I would experiment with sound 'direct' from a computer. Big mistake, made me dissatisfied with the Apple TV process. So, I have played around with, net books, old pc's both of which gave good sound via the Cambridge DAC. However using the old PC which was a spare win 7 machine I had hanging around the office is problematic because I have no screen, keyboard or mouse in this room. I am controlling it via pocket cloud, which works but is slow and unresponsive. So, back to the idea of a Mac mini. At least I know, If I want to buy a Mac mini, my wife will not complain, she just wants me to be satisfied and happy listening. In that at least, I am lucky!

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Paul, so I have just about decided to junk the old windows machine. I just like the way the mac system works. So, I forget the imperfection of the Apple TV (not going to happen), move iMac down from the office, or buy. Mac mini. I feel a purchase coming on....

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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So, I have moved the iMac downstairs, we will see how I get on without a mac upstairs.

Still may end up a getting a Mac mini... We will see....

Digital system:  NAS (216 play), CAT. 6 cable to Marantz NA6005 network music player. Optical connection to Cambridge Audio DacMagic. Graham Slee Novo headphone amp with Grado Sr80i headphones, and Cambridge Audio 540 amp. Monitor Audio Bronze B2 speakers.

 

Analogue: Rega RP1, Cambridge Audio Phono stage, amp and speakers as above.

 

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They are addictive and sweet little beasts - I have to admit.

 

Do download and try JRMC on your iMac. The interface can be a little primitive, but it is getting better, and there are some great advantages to it over iTunes. Not to say that iTunes isn't pretty rocking on there as well. :)

 

-Paul

 

 

So, I have moved the iMac downstairs, we will see how I get on without a mac upstairs.

Still may end up a getting a Mac mini... We will see....

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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