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Mac Mini as a Music Server, HOW


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Hello, I see a lot of mention on the internet about people using the Apple Mac Mini as a music server. Sounds good, I like the idea … but how would one use the Mac Mini, with out a monitor ?? I have used the Apple MacBook, and it does a nice job, but I can control it from the laptop keyboard and display. I can also do a VNc, with my Ipad, but it is slow. With out a display or keyboard how can it be done. ??

 

Henry Lance

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I'd started using a mac mini as a music server approximately 2 months ago. There are lots of scenarios. At first, you need a monitor or a TV to setup your computer. After setup correctly, you'll need a screen time to time because it's a computer and it can give some errors or you need to change some settings or you want to add some music to your music library.

If you have a TV nearby the music servers location, everything is easy because you just connect the TV via hdmi cable and thats it, when you start mac mini, the Tv is your screen, that simple. If you don't have tv, you should find a screen to connect and see what's happening on mac mini's Operating System.

You should decide, what is your purpose of using this mac mini at first, just for music or searching for web and watching videos and listening to music.

If it's just music, I can give you a lot of suggestions but most of them have price to pay. :)

The free option is;

Using Itunes and Apple Remote.

In this scenario, you arrange your music library on itunes and add itunes on startup icons. Download free apple remote program on ipad or iphone, thats it. Start mac mini, remote itunes from your mobile device... This is the simple way and you don't need a monitor.

For OSX, there are some 3rd party applications for better sound quality than itunes like Audirvana, Amarra, Pure music, etc etc... These programs are bitperfect and generally used with a Dac. If you want a good quality music, I suggest you to use a good Dac and a program like this... All these programs(players) have trial versions and you can download, try and decide before buying one...

If you are a crazy audiphile person, you can do much more to your mac mini like most of us here...

 

In my setup, I found the best music quality, really the best by using Windows Server 2012 R2 and AO(Audiophile Optimizer). Search for this.

 

I don't use wi-fi, Bluetooth etc on myac mini because they all effect the sound quality. If you don't use bluetooth, you can't use apple keyboard or mouse. I'm using a very simple usb keyboard mouse if I need to use time to time. My dac is connected from usb and when I listen to music I disconnect the keyboard and mouse from usb port, just the dac is connected from usb ports because of sound quality issues.

I have a firewire HDD for storing my music library and it is connected from firewire port. If you use usb for dac, you better connect your hdd from another place like firewire or thunderbolt. These are all for sound quality enhancements...

 

:)

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To setup the mini for the first time, a monitor (tv) as mentioned already, wired keyboard and mouse are necessary to add a username and password. If you use the Logitech dongle type mouse this can work out of the box. IIRC the mighty mouse can work as well, although the 'mighty' adjective is way over the top, not that great of a mouse.

Once you know the IP address of the mini, use the network to gain access, VNC, or remote desktop sharing.

The mini can be cloned from an existing machine on the network at setup, select the machine, enter username and password and you're done, just wait until it's finished.

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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Thanks for the replies. No really easy way that I can see. Like using my Ipad with Air Play, and Apple TV. I picked up a Mac Mini new ( 2014 ) with 2.6 processor, fusion drive, and 16 gig of memory, for a very good price privately in sealed box, and unregistered.

 

I was planning to use it as the household computer, but prefer the all in one Imac, so I now have a Mac Mini..

 

I know that the late Mac Mini’s 2012 and older are in high demand, since they can be reworked, but thought what the heck.

 

I had used my Apple MackBook 13 inch for a server for a while with just a simple USB dac, and placed all of my hard media on the hard drive, until I ran out of space. Only problem is that it seemed that one would be always having to reset parameters and fuss around with settings etc.

 

Debates will go on forever about the sound of this and the sound of that, and I to did that for over 40 yrs, and knew some of the very best designers, but now as time moves on it would be nice to just have a simple way to retrieve music. I’m lucky that I have a wife that loves music also, but as we age, I need a setup that is easy to use. Seems that the industry has failed in that camp. I do find myself streaming and you tubing much more these days, simply because the wide verity of performances that are not on media of any kind. So many of them are unique in there own way. Perfect sound, no but the performance ……….

 

I have tried using VNC and control programs with my Ipad and Laptop. They work ok, but the inter face is usually slow and awkward. I suppose that I could use a 15 inch HDMI display I have here that is brand new on the Mac Mini. I purchased it 3 yrs back just for that use. Best Buy was really great, they forgot the stand mound, and I never opened up the box till last week. Probably can make a nice one out of Maple or Oak.

 

Guess I might just gut the MacBook and replace the HD with SSD drive, and up the RAM, and put in a new battery and use it for hard media storage and playback, and then get a Apple TV for streaming etc. Just need to find a DAC that has both USB and Optical Inputs.

 

Thanks for the help.

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The Apple TV is less flexible than the Mac Mini as a music server and is better for streaming online. If you have a local collection of music files, the Mini is the way to go.

 

Don't get hung up about this or that music software - various tests online have shown iTunes to be bit perfect. Software is often down to ease of use - iTunes is a bit messy because it tries to do so much. For a pure music player, try Swinsain.

 

If you don't want to use a large screen with the Mini, you could investigate one of those photo frame displays. I know someone who uses one with their music computer.

 

A wireless keyboard is useful but if you have an iPad, you can control the Mac Mini with that. Regarding RAM and HDD, the basic amount to run the OS may be sufficient. Looking at activity monitor when mine is running a surround sound stream, the amount of processing required is minimal compared to running a heavyweight graphics program.

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Thanks Shenzi for the comments. At this time the Mac Mini is now the main computer for the house. As I posted above it’s not the stock unit. All I can say is I am impressed with the fusion drive. It has proven to me to be faster than the current middle of the road Imac I had here for a week. I did pick up a used Thunderbolt display on Craig’s list, and WOW>

 

all that being said, I may still go back to an Imac desk top in late Oct when Apple will announce the Imac upgrades that are in the pipeline. Then the Mac Mini may then go to the music system. I have found some small monitors, and do have a one here but it needs a stand ( seems best buy likes to not include the stands ).

 

The better route may be to just gut my 2010 macbook pro, and put in an all SSD drive big enough to hold all my physical music. The used value of even a like new, low usage 2010 macbook pro is pretty bad these days. With the macbook dedicated only to music, there would be nothing to screw things up.

 

I still would like to find a decent VNC program that will react smoother than the ones I have tried. Actually the size of the Ipad is probably the problem. Actually a larger Android tablet using a VNC program, or maybe a Microsoft Surface Pro, with the bigger screen may be a better way to go.

 

Since a DAC unit has to be in the mix anyway, I still lean towards the Apple TV for casual listing off the internet, and youtube’ing, or Wolfgang’s Vault.

 

Then there are days that I just sit back and drop a sharp pointy think onto a black disk that is spinning around and …..

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  • 2 years later...

I know it has been 3 yrs if anyone is around still. I am planning to use Mac MINi instead of Macbook pro since I will need to work on computer and needs a separate unit so Mini sounds great. Do people find using blue tube affect the sound much ? II understand using blue tube is needed for ipad to control it.  Don't think one can turn that off while playing music or one will have no way to remotely turn it back on to change music once the blue tube is off. I know Wifi hurts the sound so that has to be off, at least from my Macbook experience.

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Also someone from Mojo audio stated that running via ethernet instead of WiFi may reduce noise further. Is it absolutely necessary to use LPS for Mac Mini. I heard only the older Mac Mini can be easily modified. 

How does Amarra compare with Audivana? Both can do multi-channel and  PCM to DSD conversion correct ?

 

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MacMini sound improves with LPS, the modification of a 2014 was easy using Uptones MMK and there are video instructions on the internet. No big deal. 

 

Amarra might sound good or even better, but the latest version is unacceptable (GUI, no DSD etc.).

Audirvana sounds awesome, best in my collection so far, but I do not use it. I use Roon. 

 

Chris

Software > Roon Server & HQ Player4 on Windows 2019/AO & MacMini MMK (plus Audirvana 3.5)  > Netgear GS105EV2 > Meicord Opal > Naim NDX 2 > Naim SN2 + Lyngdorf CD-2 + Rega RP8/Aria >  > Harbeth SHL5 plus

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Great!  I  think Audivirana may be the best for MAC, and apparently it is now Roon compatible (whatever that means, I don't do Roon) and it can send out native DSD apparently (like ASIO for windows?)  Right now I am still hesitant to use Mac Mini or just go with my current MacAir. I think I will just setup using Audivirana using my Macair and see how that goes first and maybe using Intona to isolate from the computer.

 

 

 

I know it has been 3 yrs if anyone is around still. I am planning to use Mac MINi instead of Macbook pro since I will need to work on computer and needs a separate unit so Mini sounds great. Do people find using blue tube affect the sound much ? II understand using blue tube is needed for ipad to control it.  Don't think one can turn that off while playing music or one will have no way to remotely turn it back on to change music once the blue tube is off. I know Wifi hurts the sound so that has to be off, at least from my Macbook experience.

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Im ready to mod my mac mini with MMK, Hdplex LPS 200w and SD Card 2000x 64Gb. I want to running OS by SDcard and doing one of these options

:

1) disable SSD internal

2) use SSD to store files

 

Which one improve SQ best?

 

Is there a tutorial to make Mac run OS by SDCard?

 

ps: how about fan? Is there some passive cooler to mac mini?

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2 hours ago, Chopin75 said:

I am planning to use Mac MINi instead of Macbook pro since I will need to work on computer and needs a separate unit so Mini sounds great. Do people find using blue tube affect the sound much ? II understand using blue tube is needed for ipad to control it.  Don't think one can turn that off while playing music or one will have no way to remotely turn it back on to change music once the blue tube is off. I know Wifi hurts the sound so that has to be off, at least from my Macbook experience.

Do you mean 'Bluetooth' ?

I think both Bluetooth and WiFi should be off for best SQ, and have wired network so ipads work to control music. Also dedicated PC is better for music server and Mini is very good for it, better if modded, using SD card, and small software footprint.

 

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11 minutes ago, look&listen said:

Do you mean 'Bluetooth' ?

I think both Bluetooth and WiFi should be off for best SQ, and have wired network so ipads work to control music. Also dedicated PC is better for music server and Mini is very good for it, better if modded, using SD card, and small software footprint.

 

 

I understand why turning off WiFi may be beneficial, but have you actually done the comparison?  

 

I've found significant improvements with a whole bunch of computer related things, such as SSD, but I could not tell the difference with/without WiFi/Bluetooth.

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19 minutes ago, PeterG said:

 

I understand why turning off WiFi may be beneficial, but have you actually done the comparison?  

 

I've found significant improvements with a whole bunch of computer related things, such as SSD, but I could not tell the difference with/without WiFi/Bluetooth.

 

it would depend on the type of file you're using -- bluetooth does not do high res or even 16/44 (it is lossly).  it would be a crime (imo) to take a 16/44 or higher file and then chop it down to use with bluetooth.

 

as a qualifier, everything depends.  if you're using bluetooth to send music to a all-in-one speaker sitting on a table for background music, then go for it.  i just wouldn't use bluetooth for critical listening.

main rig:  simaudio moon mind 2 > chord dave > parasound jc-5 > kef reference 1
second rig:  simaudio moon mind 2 > chord qutest > luxman sq-n150 > klipsch heresy 1
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2 hours ago, look&listen said:

 

Did you do a good compare A+ sound to Roon sound ?

Which version A+ ?

Agree about MMK & LPS.

Why would I compare? - Roon is unique. Roon or no roon. Roon does not sound in my system. A+ = always latest version, what else? A+ sounds somewhat....

Software > Roon Server & HQ Player4 on Windows 2019/AO & MacMini MMK (plus Audirvana 3.5)  > Netgear GS105EV2 > Meicord Opal > Naim NDX 2 > Naim SN2 + Lyngdorf CD-2 + Rega RP8/Aria >  > Harbeth SHL5 plus

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1 hour ago, jcn3 said:

 

it would depend on the type of file you're using -- bluetooth does not do high res or even 16/44 (it is lossly).  it would be a crime (imo) to take a 16/44 or higher file and then chop it down to use with bluetooth.

 

as a qualifier, everything depends.  if you're using bluetooth to send music to a all-in-one speaker sitting on a table for background music, then go for it.  i just wouldn't use bluetooth for critical listening.

 

Oops--my post was not careful enough--all of my music is 16/44 or better and resides on a SSD inside my Mac Mini.  I would never use Bluetooth or even WiFi to transmit music during playback, only to control the Mac from a distance.  I thought you were saying that even activating Bluetooth or WiFi to use a control device was a mistake.  Cheers

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