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audiophile911

Macbook or Mac mini for digital front end?

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Hi,

 

New to this so please bear with me...

 

Currently using an Apple TV to stream music to my system until I implement a capable music server. Most post here and other 'how-to's' recommend a modded Mac mini. Why is a Mac mini better than an equivalent spec'd MacBook Pro? What about a Macbook air? Is a Mac mini only superior once it's heavily modded (i.e. adding a Linear Power Supply).

 

I've read all the post I can find about modding the Mac mini but it seems to me that a MacBook on battery power would be equivalent (if not better).

 

I'm looking for something that I can repurpose once a year once technology moves on! Jeff Fritz over at SoundStage Ultra uses a MacBook Pro and streams to a router that's connected by Ethernet to his Devialet. This seems to counter what's usually recommended here??

 

Thanks for your help!

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Others here certainly know more than me, but my take on it would be MacBook Pro for number of reasons:

1. Disconnecting power and using battery alone

2. Improved RF shielding mandated for any laptop devices, should improve electrical noise artifacts--perhaps mostly theoretical,not sure how relevant this is in practice,

3. More on a personal side-I like the ability to open up and use the keyboard attached to the screen and even see the Audirvana album art, or close it and use it headless

4. The MBP is a bit more portable. I love taking my MacBook Pro with me when I travel, and hooking it up to my iFi DAC, for an awesome portable system.

 

The form factor /sexiness of the headless Mac Mini is absolutely awesome though!


Aurender S10--> Berkeley Alpha USB—> Meitner MA-1 --> Audio Research REF6 Pre --> Audio Research REF-110-->Vandersteen Quatro CT Speakers

 

Sonore UltraRendu with Uptone power supply —> Meitner MA1

 

AQ Sky XLR Interconnects, Audioquest Diamond USB, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Nordost Heimdall 2 AES-EBU

 

AMG Giro Turntable w Lyra Delos Cartridge —> Audio Research Ref 3 PhonoPre

 

HRS RXR Rack with Isolation Bases

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I also prefer the MacBook Pro for the practical part - keyboard, trackpad, display - they make it simple to select and drag'n'drop files into the playlist.

 

Extra wiring for a display and the place to fit it near the system once its needed might be considered in the layout of your future system in case you want to use the Mini.

 

If you want you can add a linear power supply to the MBP as well (Uptone Audio, Mojo Audio, Keces, ...).

 

The MacBook Air doesn't have Ethernet, which is mandatory for me as my huge library cannot fit on internal SSD/HDD drives and requires a NAS.


MacBookpro i7 w/ 128GB SSD w/ 16GB RAM - WD Passport Studio 2TB w/ Audioquest Diamond DBS Firewire - Audirvana Plus - Audioquest Diamond DBS USB - UpTone Audio USB Regen /or\ Melco N1A - Teac UD-501 - Exclusive C5 - Exclusive M6 (Class A mono x2) - QED Genesis Silver Spiral - B&W 803S

 

iMac 27" i7 w/ 256GB SSD & 2TB HDD w/ 16GB RAM - Synology DS413 w/ 12TB - Audirvana Plus - Audioquest Carbon USB - Pioneer N-70A - Beyer DT880 Studio (casual listening)

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Mac mini here- better looks, can connect to tv via HDMI when screen is needed, less $$$

 

I agree with you but once you configure a Mac Mini with 8GB and a SSD, there less than $500 difference in cost and the MacBook Pro is more versatile and will hold it's value better.

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I agree with you but once you configure a Mac Mini with 8GB and a SSD, there less than $500 difference in cost and the MacBook Pro is more versatile and will hold it's value better.

 

Not so much actually - a Macbook won't work with the cover closed for one thing, and is not meant to run 24x7 as a server. A Mac Mini does that just fine, with no overheating issues or battery bloat.

 

Also, most people don't bother with more than 4GB of RAM and use external disks to store the music. That saves more than a few dollars right there. SSD is way faster and physically quieter, but I think it is electrically a bit noisier myself.

 

-Paul


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

Robert A. Heinlein

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Not so much actually - a Macbook won't work with the cover closed for one thing, and is not meant to run 24x7 as a server. A Mac Mini does that just fine, with no overheating issues or battery bloat.

 

Also, most people don't bother with more than 4GB of RAM and use external disks to store the music. That saves more than a few dollars right there. SSD is way faster and physically quieter, but I think it is electrically a bit noisier myself.

 

-Paul

 

From what I've read here, to get the full potential, it's mandatory to install an SSD for running the OS only and using an external NAS or HDD on firewire or Thunderbolt (NOT USB). Also adding a Linear PS adds about $1k to the cost whereas in theory a MacBook running on battery should be even better. A current generation MacBook gets about 9hrs! Overheating is a non issue and I've never heard of 'battery bloat'?? I've had older MacBook Pros for work running 24x7 with no issues.

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I agree with you but once you configure a Mac Mini with 8GB and a SSD, there less than $500 difference in cost and the MacBook Pro is more versatile and will hold it's value better.

 

 

Are you including an ssd on the macbook in that comparison?

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From what I've read here, to get the full potential, it's mandatory to install an SSD for running the OS only and using an external NAS or HDD on firewire or Thunderbolt (NOT USB). Also adding a Linear PS adds about $1k to the cost whereas in theory a MacBook running on battery should be even better. A current generation MacBook gets about 9hrs! Overheating is a non issue and I've never heard of 'battery bloat'?? I've had older MacBook Pros for work running 24x7 with no issues.

 

Well, I seriously dispute it is "mandatory" to use a SSD to get the the full sound potential out of a Mac, and doubly true if you are using an external DAC, which any serious audio person is going to be doing anyway.

 

Whether or not you add external storage on Firewire/Thunderbolt or on USB is very dependent upon how you have the DAC connected. If your have a Firewire DAC, then DO connect external storage by USB. If you happen to be using ethernet or optical connections to your DAC, then use USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, or any combination thereof.

 

Truthfully, I do not think that adding a linear power supply to a Mac Mini does that much. You are in the last 2% of audio there. Most people find spending the money on speakers, amps, software, new DSD music releases, or other more conventional items to be a bigger bang for the buck. Yes, a LPS does make a difference, and if you are at the edge of the envelope, you can put one in and get smile on your face improvement.

 

But straight off the shelf, a $599 Mac Mini is going to sound very good indeed if you attach it up to a nice DAC and load A+, JRMC, or even just iTunes on it. No "mandatory" additions needed. It will in fact, sound better than any of the off the shelf PCs you will find at say, Best Buy.

 

I have two MacBooks at home that experienced Battery Bloat (the battery seriously expanded) and a MacBook Pro that was used for six months as a server. Didn't do any good at all for the battery to be in use constantly, and now the MacBook battery life is far far less. About 1.5 hours is all it will go.


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

Robert A. Heinlein

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Not so much actually - a Macbook won't work with the cover closed for one thing, and is not meant to run 24x7 as a server. A Mac Mini does that just fine, with no overheating issues or battery bloat.

 

Also, most people don't bother with more than 4GB of RAM and use external disks to store the music. That saves more than a few dollars right there. SSD is way faster and physically quieter, but I think it is electrically a bit noisier myself.

 

-Paul

 

Sorry, why would you want to use a laptop with the cover closed? I've been using my MBP as a music server for two years. I put it to sleep when not listening to music, and disconnect the charger once a month to cycle the battery, but, otherwise, I keep the charger plugged in, and, basically, never shut it down. It doesn't get hot.

 

No question that the Mini is cheaper, but you need a separate monitor and keyboard, iPad, or iPhone to work it. You have to use wifi or bluetooth to control it remotely, which you don't need to do with a laptop.

 

I think most folks here would find it advantagous to spend $100 to double their RAM from 4GB to 8GB. And, although I upgraded my MBP to an SSD, I now run the OSX and apps off a $15 SDHC card and unboot the internal SSD drive entirely.

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You described the way my mini is setup, wirelessly controlled by my ipad, and I have a $20 wireless keyboard and mouse set (made by Microsoft) for those times I need/want to tinker. Connect TV via hdmi as monitor in those moments.

 

No PC glaring at me in my listening room......just the fireplace.

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Sorry, why would you want to use a laptop with the cover closed? I've been using my MBP as a music server for two years. I put it to sleep when not listening to music, and disconnect the charger once a month to cycle the battery, but, otherwise, I keep the charger plugged in, and, basically, never shut it down. It doesn't get hot.

 

No question that the Mini is cheaper, but you need a separate monitor and keyboard, iPad, or iPhone to work it. You have to use wifi or bluetooth to control it remotely, which you don't need to do with a laptop.

 

I think most folks here would find it advantagous to spend $100 to double their RAM from 4GB to 8GB. And, although I upgraded my MBP to an SSD, I now run the OSX and apps off a $15 SDHC card and unboot the internal SSD drive entirely.

 

I use my Macbook Pro to control the mini, which is on the same network. Works great, and even better with an inexpensive thunderbolt video adapter. ;)

 

I guess it depends upon where your audio is, and whether having a screen there continously will bother you or not. It bothers me, so that is a big minus to me, especially because opening the lib on my MBP has me up and connected to the Mini in less than 60 seconds.

 

I think the SHDC card improves sound more than a LPS or SSD to be honest. YMMV!


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

Robert A. Heinlein

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As noted above, you can run a MacBook Pro playing media with the cover closed.

 

I personally do not do that, as I really enjoy seeing the cover art on Audirvana.

 

Why would you want to? It's a form factor thing. I do think it looks a bit nicer, on the top of my rack, when it's closed.

 

Ultimately, from a music standpoint, I don't think you can go wrong with either. I do think you get a little bit more usability out of the MacBook Pro, in that you can take it from place to place. If you don't travel, or don't use it as a music source when you travel, clearly this is less of an advantage.


Aurender S10--> Berkeley Alpha USB—> Meitner MA-1 --> Audio Research REF6 Pre --> Audio Research REF-110-->Vandersteen Quatro CT Speakers

 

Sonore UltraRendu with Uptone power supply —> Meitner MA1

 

AQ Sky XLR Interconnects, Audioquest Diamond USB, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Nordost Heimdall 2 AES-EBU

 

AMG Giro Turntable w Lyra Delos Cartridge —> Audio Research Ref 3 PhonoPre

 

HRS RXR Rack with Isolation Bases

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The new MBP don't have ethernet (you need a thunderbolt to ethernet adapter). Is that a consideration? I can still buy the older version that has ethernet.

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The new MBP don't have ethernet (you need a thunderbolt to ethernet adapter). Is that a consideration? I can still buy the older version that has ethernet.

 

It would not be to me, as the only network traffic would be the controller (iPad application), and so wireless would work well for me. Other folks feel that wireless connections will introduce noise into the mix. I can verify that BlueTooth keyboards and mice can put some noise in the audio, but I can't verify there is an effect from wireless connections from any modern Mac. They are pretty well shielded.

 

-Paul


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

Robert A. Heinlein

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You described the way my mini is setup, wirelessly controlled by my ipad, and I have a $20 wireless keyboard and mouse set (made by Microsoft) for those times I need/want to tinker. Connect TV via hdmi as monitor in those moments.

 

No PC glaring at me in my listening room......just the fireplace.

Near exactly my setup. I wouldn't use a MBP for a music server precisely because of the batt. They will operate with the cover closed.

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