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Will a 2010 Mac Mini cut it as a media source?


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I'm in the market for a new source. I need it to play hi-Rez music 98% of the time and videos the other 2 %.

 

I have narrowed my search down to a 2010 Mac Mini running headless using an IPad Air as the input device.

 

I'd like to hear from those who've used an older Mac Mini. Is their enough power to serve up hi-Rez files to my DAC/Preamp?

 

I'd be using something like JRiver as the software. I'm also open to another hi-Rez player as well. I'd be using my iPad Air to control the Mac Mini

 

The 2010 Mac Mini available to me comes cheap at $370 including JRiver software.

 

2010 Mac Mini Specs

  • 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo Proc
  • 500 GB HD
  • 4GB RAM

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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I've run the 2010 version for four years and it has operated perfectly. I do have 8gb ram and only about 10% of my library is high resolution files but they have never been an issue. The only video I do is an occasional rental of an iTunes movie.

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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That's good to hear. I plan to upgrade the RAM to 8GB if necessary.

 

Sent from my SM-N910T using Tapatalk

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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Elcorso, is that because it has a disc drive?

 

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Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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Elcorso, is that because it has a disc drive?

 

Sent from my SM-N910T using Tapatalk

 

I had this Mini for a long time, I "upgraded" because I wanted an internal LPSU and this model wasn't available for the company that made the job, this model was discontinued and I coludn't ship the Mini to them because I don't live in the US and I can't wait without music for a long time.

 

The internal disc drive is a gadget. 8GB RAM is good when you play music from a RAM music player, like A+.

 

Roch

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I see.

 

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Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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I have a similar "specced" Mac Laptop of about same vintage. I made into a PC and it performs fine, even SACD ISO/DSD files AS LONG AS one doesn't start to jump around too quickly between the SACD ISO files - machine gets overwhelmed. High res FLAC is never an issue.

 

I control with JRemote and screen updates when scrolling through a large library are spiffy - faster than on native laptop for some reason.

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I have a similar "specced" Mac Laptop of about same vintage. I made into a PC and it performs fine, even SACD ISO/DSD files AS LONG AS one doesn't start to jump around too quickly between the SACD ISO files - machine gets overwhelmed. High res FLAC is never an issue.

 

I control with JRemote and screen updates when scrolling through a large library are spiffy - faster than on native laptop for some reason.

Good to hear. I did end up buying the 2010 Mac Mini. I've ordered 8GB of RAM and I'll be trying out the JRiver software.

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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I've run the 2010 version for four years and it has operated perfectly. I do have 8gb ram and only about 10% of my library is high resolution files but they have never been an issue. The only video I do is an occasional rental of an iTunes movie.

 

+1

 

If you will be uncompressing FLAC or ALAC on the fly, more processing power can help. Some people have noticed improvements in this area with faster Mini's to do that heavy number crunching, but they were very small differences, not heard by all. I think you will be fine with the 2010, you even get a optical disk drive with it, unlike the most recent models.

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+1

 

If you will be uncompressing FLAC or ALAC on the fly, more processing power can help. Some people have noticed improvements in this area with faster Mini's to do that heavy number crunching, but they were very small differences, not heard by all. I think you will be fine with the 2010, you even get a optical disk drive with it, unlike the most recent models.

 

 

Apple will never tell you this but this model can support 16 Gb...check out Macsales OWC page for mac mini memory

Had this one but recently sold it when moving to the Aries.

WDW

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I just got the next most recent model, the 2011 mini. It's got only 4GB RAM, but the previous owner put in two 1TB hard drives, one of them a hybrid/fusion drive with an integrated small SSD for system files and such. I've got it serving up a large library of CD-quality and high-res music files, and so far it works perfectly. I did a spot check on CPU load, RAM load, and hard drive activity, and they all seemed to be nice and low.

 

The only minor concern I would have would be that the 2010 model uses the Core 2 Duo CPU, while the 2011 moves to the Core "i" line, which is noticeably faster. Of course, upping your RAM to 8GB will help performance in other ways.

 

One tip: get an HDMI dongle - it will fool the mini into thinking there's a monitor attached, which will offload more processing from the CPU to the GPU, potentially improving performance. Amazon has one for $15. You might be able to find them even cheaper elsewhere.

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I may give the HDMI dongle a try, although for my purposes (streaming hirez files) I'm not sure it's necessary. I would think that a simple dual core 2.3Ghz proc with 8GB of ram is more than enough processing power to handle the files I'm working with. Even with it being split between managing all the other processes in the Mac OS.

 

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Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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Now I've gotta get hirez digital audio out of the Mini. I've read that some are using a USB to SPDIF convertors. Why not just connect direct to a USB DAC? Won't that give you 24/192?

 

Then there's using a mini-toslink connector out of the audio out of the Mini. This will, from what I've read only output 24/96.

 

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Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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I'm just using a USB cable, as you mention: USB out on the mini, to the USB in on my DAC (actually, the USB DAC input on my Oppo BDP-105, but the principle is the same). Works fine.

Do you get 24/192?

 

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Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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Apple will never tell you this but this model can support 16 Gb...check out Macsales OWC page for mac mini memory

Had this one but recently sold it when moving to the Aries.

WDW

Thanks WDW, ever since you told me about the 16GB upgrade its been on my mind (like a bad song!). I just ordered 8, now I'm thinking about upgrading to 16 before I even get 8GB.

 

The question to be answered is; Do you need more than 8GB to efficiently run a Mac Mini as a hires media streamer/server? That's the question. Since I've never used a Mini to troll an external hard drive, connected to my network for music, I can't say.

 

In that case, would an SSD be a better upgrade than the extra money spent on the RAM?

 

Continuing along that same line, is it even worth pimping out the 2010 Mini with all these upgrades when I may be able to buy a newer one for less or similar amount of money.

 

Ahh, these are the questions swirling around in my head.

 

At any rate, I've downloaded JRiver onto the Mini. Tonight I plan to configure it to connect to my hard drive and stream music.

 

For those of you using JRiver, is Jremote the best way to control your JRiver app?

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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Strangely, yes. I thought the mini would limit me to 24/96, but with the Oppo's DAC connected, both the Audio MIDI utility and the Sound Preference Pane report 192kHz capability (which the DAC itself has as well, of course).

Yes, strange but good to know. When I get it hooked up I'll see what resolution my Musical Fidelity M1SDAC tells me is coming in from the Mini.

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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Do you need more than 8GB to efficiently run a Mac Mini as a hires media streamer/server? ... is it even worth pimping out the 2010 Mini with all these upgrades when I may be able to buy a newer one for less or similar amount of money.

 

Thomas,

 

More RAM is always a good thing. It allows more programs and OS activity to stay in fast RAM, and avoid slow paging to disk. This has nothing to do with digital audio, through it helps there too.

 

I would suggest that you watch eBay, or some other sales site, for a used 2010 (or other) mini with 16GB RAm installed. You'd be suprised how inexpensive they can be that way :)

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IMHO the ideal Mac mini streamer has a Core "i" CPU, at least 8GB RAM, and an SSD. However, I'm also confident that you can get perfectly good performance without having all three of those elements in place. The mini I just picked up has a Core "i" (although the first generation), only 4GB of RAM, and a "fusion" drive with the OS on SSD but all the music files and such on a regular spinning platter. I haven't had it for a long time, but so far it's working perfectly.

 

Streaming high-res music files to a DAC isn't that taxing, especially if the mini is dedicated to that task and not being asked to serve as a main work computer - and especially because DACs reclock the incoming stream anyway.

 

If you've already got the 2010 model of the mini, keep it, you'll probably be fine. As for the RAM, that's a personal decision, but I would say 8GB is plenty - for reference, my understanding is that loading songs into RAM (which is what the audiophile and "bit perfect" apps do) stops being effective beyond a 1GB RAM buffer size. So that leaves a whopping 7GB left over for your mini's OS to basically just sit there and manage itself.

 

I would say the SSD is really the golden ticket - your hard drive noise goes from minimal to zero, your computer's ability to get the music files into RAM goes from moderately fast to screaming fast, and your general need for more RAM goes from "always beneficial" to "more or less irrelevant."

 

The only issue with SSDs is affordability. It seems that right now 256GB is the sweet spot where you can get a decent, laptop-sized SSD without spending too much money. If your music library is, say 175GB or smaller, you will be sitting pretty with a 256GB SSD - decent amount of room left over for the OS, free space, and future growth of your library.

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IMHO the ideal Mac mini streamer has a Core "i" CPU, at least 8GB RAM, and an SSD. However, I'm also confident that you can get perfectly good performance without having all three of those elements in place. The mini I just picked up has a Core "i" (although the first generation), only 4GB of RAM, and a "fusion" drive with the OS on SSD but all the music files and such on a regular spinning platter. I haven't had it for a long time, but so far it's working perfectly.

 

Streaming high-res music files to a DAC isn't that taxing, especially if the mini is dedicated to that task and not being asked to serve as a main work computer - and especially because DACs reclock the incoming stream anyway.

 

If you've already got the 2010 model of the mini, keep it, you'll probably be fine. As for the RAM, that's a personal decision, but I would say 8GB is plenty - for reference, my understanding is that loading songs into RAM (which is what the audiophile and "bit perfect" apps do) stops being effective beyond a 1GB RAM buffer size. So that leaves a whopping 7GB left over for your mini's OS to basically just sit there and manage itself.

 

I would say the SSD is really the golden ticket - your hard drive noise goes from minimal to zero, your computer's ability to get the music files into RAM goes from moderately fast to screaming fast, and your general need for more RAM goes from "always beneficial" to "more or less irrelevant."

 

The only issue with SSDs is affordability. It seems that right now 256GB is the sweet spot where you can get a decent, laptop-sized SSD without spending too much money. If your music library is, say 175GB or smaller, you will be sitting pretty with a 256GB SSD - decent amount of room left over for the OS, free space, and future growth of your library.

In that case, an SSD does seem more beneficial and I'd agree that 256 is the sweet spot price wise. All my music is on an external 2TB WD HD connected to a Netgear AC1900/R7000 router via DLNA. Not sure then if the Mini's drive still plays a part sound quality wise since the media isn't being stored there.

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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If you're not playing music directly from the mini's hard drive, then it doesn't really matter what the mini's hard drive is. In that case, RAM is indeed your friend - although again, I doubt you'd need more than 8GB

That's my thinking exactly.

 

Sent from my SM-N910T using Tapatalk

Thomas Turner

 

SPEAKERS - Snell Type C/V | PREAMP/DAC -  Project Pre Box S2 Digital  | SOURCE - Auralic Aries Mini | ROOM TREATMENT - LEDE, bass traps @ Rear of room, acoustic panels @ 1st reflections point: side walls | AMPLIFIER - Acurus A100

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