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Appreciable Sound Quality Improvements Over the Mac Mini?


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Hey guys,

 

Todd from AudioFlea here.

 

We currently run the Mac Mini as our music server at the AudioFlea studio, with JRiver as software.

 

In terms of the hardware, is there really any better quality to be had than a streamlined Mac Mini?

 

If so, what is the best approach for a reference level music server?

 

Hope you all have a good one!

 

Pics:

- Our trusty Mac Mini lookin' boss!

- Closeup shot of the Lynx Hilo analog meter - he was getting jealous of all the action!

 

Kind regards,

Todd @ AudioFlea

Lynx_hilo_meters.JPG

mac_mini_lookin_boss.JPG

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In terms of the hardware, is there really any better quality to be had than a streamlined Mac Mini?

 

Not sure you will get a consensus option as many people here on CA have very strong opinions about which computer is best.

 

That said, it is generally accepted IMHO that having a fanless computer works best. Given that the Mini is not fanless goes against that thinking. The Uptone Audio guys have even developed a special linear fan control for the Mini to help with this issue.

 

On the Windows side, Chris Connaker (the all-knowing god of CA) has developed a number of CAPS (Computer Audiophile Pocket Servers) music servers. You can search on these or visit Small Green Computers that will build these for you if you don't want to go the DIY route.

 

Personally, I had Small Green Computers build me a CAPS-like computer but with Ubuntu Studio (Linux) and have been very happy with it (I did have a Mini at one point). Speaking of Linux, lots of the commercially built music servers run Linux which might tell you something.

Eric


Ubuntu Linux box (i7-12700K, 12 cores, 32GB RAM, Intel X520-DA1 NIC, HQP Desktop) > fiber > MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+ > fiber > fitlet2 (HQP Embedded OS - NAA) > T+A DAC8 DSD > Rogue Audio DragoN > Klipsch La Scala — digital volume control with HQP, DSP with HQP convolution 

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Yes is the answer. That requires a lot of qualification and differing opinion.

Software is important. Bughead will offer the best sound solution coupled with huge amount of headache (Only in PC).

PC also has the following attributes that can provide greater gains.

1. Audiophile optimiser

2. Components which can be tweaked:

i) Motherboard with Clock upgrade

ii) USB card with better clock,etc.

iii) Better spdif,etc output when the DAC changes

3. Greater options with processers

4. Higher and better RAM

5. Change to better SSD via M.2 interface.

In all, you are looking at ~$5-6K if you want to go PC.

 

Your Mac Mini can still be upgraded further,far less than the above noted cost.

 

 

 

Hey guys,

 

Todd from AudioFlea here.

 

We currently run the Mac Mini as our music server at the AudioFlea studio, with JRiver as software.

 

In terms of the hardware, is there really any better quality to be had than a streamlined Mac Mini?

 

If so, what is the best approach for a reference level music server?

 

Hope you all have a good one!

 

Pics:

- Our trusty Mac Mini lookin' boss!

- Closeup shot of the Lynx Hilo analog meter - he was getting jealous of all the action!

 

Kind regards,

Todd @ AudioFlea

Synology NAS (LPS) >UA ETHER REGEN (BG7TBL Master Clock) > MACMINI (Uptone MMK JS-2) > Auralic Aries 2.1 > Auralic Sirius G2.1LampizatOr GG/Mola Mola Tambaqui /Meridian 808.3> Wavac PRT1 / Wavac EC300B >Tannoy Canterbury SE

 

HP Rig ++ >Woo WES/ > Stax SR-009, Audeze LCD2

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An interesting server comparison:http://www.head-fi.org/t/787020/review-comparison-of-5-high-end-digital-music-servers-aurender-n10-cad-cat-server-totaldac-d1-server-auralic-aries-audiophile-vortex-box

 

The reviewer concludes that more budget should be assigned to the server rather than the DAC...

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I can attest to that. I've made a lot of upgrades to my dedicated audio server (Win2k12 + AO) and with each upgrade the improvement has been noticeable while maintaining the same DAC... So as you make changes and find better ways to implent solutions, it can pay off without changing the DAC.

 

However, with that said, DACs can most certainly be a limitation as well!!

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Spent a considerable time, effort and expense on a tweaked Mac Mini setup (Mac CAPS thread) but it is handily beat by a setup that can bypass USB and go directly to I2S input of the DAC.

 

Not many of those around at this time though.

 

Using an optical network to feed the renderer also helps a lot.

 

And I think my opinion on Jriver is clear, and certainly not your optimal option on a Mac for pure sound.

 

So...yes.

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