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Mini Mac or a macbook air

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Hi this is my first post, but I have been reading this forum for the past week so and its a great resource. I am not a long time audiophile so go easy on me.


I just purchased the system and it meets my needs as it is small and portable which I need because I am moving overseas soon.



-NAD D 3020 DAC

-Speakers: Quad 11L (bookshelf speakers)


Playback: tried two different rMBP (2012 model and 2013/2014 model) playing from iTunes.

Connection: USB cheapo cable, and Toslink optical cable, still plastic belkin


I want to get a dedicated media server as I tried airplay and apple TV and they both went back to the store as the jitter was horrible.


So far I can't hear much difference between USB and Toslink cable, except the newer MBPr does output 192kHz 24bit, and usb limited to 96kHz but is asynchronous.


My thoughts are a mini mac, although I don't want to have to do a ton of mods to get one to run without fan noise and or mechanical HDD noise. As my MBPr and all solid state I am concerned about the mini mac introducing noise from the HDD fan etc hence why I was thinking of the macbook air as it is sold state and using external storage (not USB HDD).


Ideas and suggestions for

-Media Server, macbook air or mini mac

-connection usb vs toslink optical

-itunes play back, pure music, Audivrana, amarra, bit perfect, is there any point is my DAC running bit perfect or up sampling etc?

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I always answer this question thus:


Get both. Use the mini for your audio (and video) playback, and control it from the comfort of your Macbook Air.


If you get a mini, get it with a SSD and at least 8 gig of memory and you won't have to modify anything.


One thing to be aware of if you do use the air as the music server is that it doesn't have an optical out. The other limitation is the memory is physically soldered in. The one I am typing this on is limited to 4 gig of memory. 8 gig is probably better for a music server.

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I have a MacBook Pro retina to run the Mac mini in a headless mode. Yes no optical out is a limitation, not sure if that alone will be a limitation given my amp and speakers. The minis are expensive with ssd built in but will give it consideration. Is the hdd noise issue going to be a non issue if I use the optical out to electrically isolate the mini Mac. I have also read that I can connect my mini Mac to my time capsule hard wired and use that as a storage device similar to thunderbolt FireWire in respect to electrical noise isolation

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If you get the i7 (I recommend that, regardless), you can get the SSD for $200.


Since you already have a macbook pro, why get another laptop (unless you need a more portable one)?


I have the i7 mac mini with two internal SSDs (I originally intended to use it for something else) and it has been a great computer. To me it was worth the price to get it with the SSD pre-installed. I never hear fan noise when I am playing music. I only hear it when I am maxing out the processors doing heavy-duty computational stuff (that has nothing to do with audio).

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  • 3 weeks later...


Ideas and suggestions for

-Media Server, macbook air or mini mac

-connection usb vs toslink optical

-itunes play back, pure music, Audivrana, amarra, bit perfect, is there any point is my DAC running bit perfect or up sampling etc?


Hi Francis,

at the moment I am using an iMac with Mavericks installed on a SD card running the CAD script to reduce services. And I am very pleased with the result. Nonetheless - and this would be my advice to you - I am keen on getting more information concerning a new 12´´MacBook Air which, as rumours go, is likely to be released in the second half of 2014. Its hopefully sonic advantage will be the fanless design (!), that should lead to even more "electrical quietness" (I don´t mean the noise of the spinning fan itself) and the possibility to have a prolonged listening time being on battery.

I am glad I found a picture today (12-inch Apple Macbook could launch soon: Rumoured to sport button-less trackpad, fanless design - Tech2) showing a slot (for a sd card) the lack of which would be a no-go for me.

Best wishes,


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