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Mac Mini SSD, Drobo with or without share? (LAN or FW800?)


Guest Claude
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Hi until now I listen to my QB9 via Amarra Transparent Cable USB and a Macbook Pro with 4 GB.

I want to set up a Music Server with a mac mini (4GB, ssd, headless).

I want to store all my music on external drives. First I thought to just hook up the mini via FW to an external drive. Then I still have the question of how to back up my music files. I do not want to use time machine and other OS Services (strip down OS).

So I am thinking of getting a DROBO and start off with 2 1TB Hard Disks. Now I have to decide how to connect the drobo. I can get the drobo with or without share (which adds lan) for the same price. What is the better way to connect? LAN or FW 800? With better I only mean, what sounds better?

Maybe external drives sound better than an NAS?

 

Chris you talked about using a mini at the symposium. What kind of NAS did you use?

Claudius

 

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Using a Drobo (or other RAID device) is NOT a substitute for a backup. You'll want an extra drive to provide proper backup.

 

If you can get the Drobo for same price with and without Drobo Share, then go for it with even if you end up not using the Share. Advantages of directly connected Drobo is better management whereas using the Share lets you remove the Drobo from listening room for noise purposes - SQ maybe slighly better via direct connection but this is a desputed claim and YMMV. For some people the noise from a HDD will be much more noticable than any SQ difference from different drives.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Thanks Eloise,

Those small improvements I am looking for. SSD, Cabling, RAM, Software all those things which count for these improvements we audiophiles go for or are crazy about ;-).

Removing the drobo out of the living room wont be possible. I have no idea on the quality of noise coming from a HD? I know of noisy computers, mostly because of fans, cd drives and sometimes of harddrives. Are 7200 rpm Drives much louder than 5200 rpm Drives? Any experiences?

Claudius

 

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Claude - I'll just toss in my controversial 2c for what it's worth. I LOVE my Drobo stuffed with 6TB of drives, but I'd never use it as my music server file source. It's an absolutely wonderful device for using as backup data (I use it for my Timeshare drive and infrequently accessed files I don't need duplicates for b/c they're non-critical). I find it incredibly slow, and while I haven't tested it doing A/B (focused on other stuff right now of greater impact like tuning the room acoustics, recent speaker change, tube changes), I really can't imagine it being the best solution. I have two dedicated external drives for my iTunes library - one connected to a Mac where I do all my ripping and day to day work, and I manually sync it to the external drive connected to my headless mini (over ethernet using FileSynchronizer, pretty quick, or if big volume changes will just grab the drive an connect via FW or USB). That way I have two external copies of the iTunes library, plus a 3rd backup resident in the Drobo. I have one iTunes library that I do have sitting on Drobo as my only copy, which is just the compressed versions of music and all the other stuff that goes onto my iPod and iPhone. Opening and working with it is SLOWWWWWW (and I have listened to some WAV files through it with my headphone system informally, and it doesn't come close to listening to iTunes/Amarra running off of SSD, and while not thoroughly compared as mentioned, really don' think it sounds as good as the external HD I'm using on that same computer.... which is much faster also has some dampening and vibration treatments).

 

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That would be my first question. Without the DroboShare, then you are buying what amounts to extemely expensive, albeit superbly managed, external storage. That's not to say that it may not be worth every penny to you - it has a great reputation and will manage your storage needs with very little input from you. But if you do not envisage the need for network access to your files, by utilising the DroboShare unit, then there are much cheaper and much quieter options available.

 

For me, the only reason for buying a NAS is to provide oneself with either, access to files from multiple machines or, to remove the storage of files from the music room altogether. If neither of these options concerns you then, again, you are buying a very expensive option.

 

My son has a Drobo/Share combo attached to his iMac and it installed beautifully, works beautifully and is a little too noisy for a music room. In that respect it is highly recommended, if you need a NAS drive. If all you need is external storage it is a great deal of technological overkill. IMHO. of course!

 

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Silverlight,

You pickup differences in sound? Thats the most important point for me.

Bob, you say there are cheaper and better sounding solutions? I do not need a NAS drive. I thought it convenient to have a drive which mirrors the data stored.

If a setup Mac to external FW 800 HD provides soundimprovement over a drobo or other NAS then I am more then willing to go that way. Price does not matter that much (Cant believe I said that!) What solutions you know (better: have experiences with), that are silent enough for placement in a living room (stylish would help with my wife).

Really like your posts, they help a lot in adjusting my views and getting them on the right track.

Claudius

Any more comments on NAS?

Just to get the picture right, with whom you are dealing: I believe that there is much more than bits and bytes and jitter, I believe that all cables can make a difference, I believe that placement of components is very important, I strongly believe in positive effects on dedicated powersupplies, -cables etc., I assume that hardwired sounds much better then wlan connections, I hear differences when ripping with different drives and programs etc.... I just experienced strong differences in Soundquality when comparing different releases of an Audio Application...

 

 

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As Eloise said previously, mirroring is not, strictly speaking, a backup solution. Yes, you have two copies of the same data but they are in the same place, in the same box. Although the chances of something drastic happening to both copies are very slim, it is still not as safe as having the copy on a separate drive.

 

My personal fave external drive of the moment is the 1tb Seagate Freeagent|Desk. This a USB drive, it is absolutley silent and looks pretty. Another good drive, and possibly a better option for a Mac, is the 1TB Western Digital MyBook Studio - it is a pretty mac white, has a good reputation and comes with the 'Green' version drive so is cooler and more economical to run. (As a word of caution, single drive 1.5tb versions of the Seagate are getting a terrible press. You may see these around at remarkable prices - steer clear would be my best advice!).

 

Here's my view. I don't need NAS features. I'm fully prepared to run my own backup regime. I can easily add more storage, as and when required, and take advantage of greater capacities when they hit the best 'price per buck' point. Most quality external drives these days make little or no noise.

 

From the other side of the fence, NAS drives offer much more flexibility for piping data around, can be stored out of the way and are generally excellent for automatic backup regimes. So don't discount NAS completely - they are a viable option. It all depends on your requirements.

 

I think the point I'm really trying to make is that if you start with what you want to achieve and work backwards you end up buying the technology that will do the job you need doing, rather than buying technology for the sake of it and then trying to make it fit in! :)

 

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"As Eloise said previously, mirroring is not, strictly speaking, a backup solution."

Thanks for the clarification.

"I think the point I'm really trying to make is that if you start with what you want to achieve and work backwards you end up buying the technology that will do the job you need doing, rather than buying technology for the sake of it and then trying to make it fit in! :)"

Very good point. This one makes me think.

Get back to you with my findings.

Claudius

 

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As I commented, mirrored drives are not a substitute fr a back - the main reason I feel this is that my experiene is the majority of Data loss is actually down to user error - accidentally deleting tags or an application messing with tags, etc being good example with music storage - if you just have mirrored drives there is no pptection against this.

 

As for extenal drives - I've had good success with the Western Digital range though I've not compared them for absolute sound quality.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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About the mirroring - spot on! And that is also the exact reason I do not run automatic backup regimes! I used to have one - awesome it was. Everything was totally automated and it ran like a dream. One day. in a fit of pique, I deleted my password manager - it was a 'portable' install so it just existed within the folder I'd put it in. I thought it was too much trouble. A little later I needed to log in to Amazon - doh!, stoopid stupidity! Password manager gone, password manager backup gone - passwords gone!

 

Yep, I can be truly stoopid along with the best of 'em. At least now the worst thing I can do is forget to run the backup!

 

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Claude - if price is no object, my strong recommendation would be the new Mac Mini Server. Pop it open and swap out the 2 500gb HD's with 2 SSD drives at 256 or 500GB each (the latter just being released around now). I've found that playback from SSD internal is a little better than SSD external (being forced to go through USB or FW? additional connectors? don't know). My only caveat would be on this strategy is playback software that pre-loads the music into RAM. Does a song played back from RAM from an HD sound better than playback from SSD or from RAM read from SSD? If they're about the same, but big $$ savings by using RAM-based playback software (Amarra has indicated they'll be implementing this for example).

 

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If you're going to be modding the MacMini Server yourself, you can save yourself a few quid by modding a standard Mini to take a second drive. Okay so you'll end up having a case with a CD slot which is no longer used, but you'll avoid the expense of paying for Leopard Server (which may have more services you'll have to disable).

 

There's a link to a how to here ---

 

As for players loading to RAM, if you can wait a while - there is the possibility of both the Audiofile Engineering solution will be available soon, and Pure Vinyl version 3 also has a "memory" player linked in to iTunes. Both maybe worth a listen to as an alternative to Amarra.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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This really helps a lot!

I like the idea with the server and replacing the two HD with 2 SSD. With 500 gig I will be set for the long haul (I have about 1000 Vinyls but only about 120 CDs (weekly adding about 2-5 CDs). So it will take I while before the 500 gigs are full. So I guess in a year the CA-World will have turned quite some times and then there will be new options.

I havent looked at the link with putting two HDs in an mini. If this is possible, that would save a lot of cost. (400 Euros in Germany, thats about 600 $) Thanks a lot Eloise. I will look at the link tonight and will probably pull the trigger at the end of the week. Have little time right now for my hobby.

I just bought the full version of Amarra, so I wont fiddle with other players for the moment. It would hurt very much, to find out, that I could have had the same improvement for much less money. ;-) I know Amarra has issues. I too experienced some, but Sonic seems to be a very capable company. And looking at their upgrade speed and the improvements they are still to implement, it seems well worth it. Eloise, any experience with Pure Vinyl?

I understand there is an issue with SSDs that can cause Data loss when reaching a certain limit? Any recommendations on SSDs?

Silverlight,

any experience ripping CDs with internal/external blue ray optical drives?

 

 

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I'll probably be doing the two drive hack in my existing Mini too. Just waiting for the 500GB 2.5" to become available (and as you'll see in those instructions a little more work inside the case but it's not bad and saves a little $$; I like the sleek look of the slot-less mini though!).

In terms of ssd, for ~250GB SSD Vertex is probably amongst your best choice. Here's the latest AandTech article from this week which has updated performance statistics.

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3667

In terms of 512GB SSD, I only know of Toshiba, SuperTalent and A-DATA (one would need to research the controllers used, TRIM compatibility... not that OSX supports it yet, but during the life of the drive they no doubt will).

You'll be happy with Amarra, it's a great program.

 

With respect to ripping, I have experienced slightly better rips with Blu-Ray than regular DVD-ROM. I use a TEAC 224 SL R drive and getting a replacement slim-line Blu Ray this week (Panasonic) to see how it fares. The biggest difference I've found (and there are a number of threads on these in CA) is selection of ripping program. I've gotten the best results from EAC on Windows ripping WAV files (better than others I tried on windows, as well as OSX; best I found on OSX was XLD). For whatever reason (dont ask me to explain!), AIFF always sounds more veiled and less alive than WAV files. I don't have a love for re-ripping like all of us, so been experimenting with different tweaks to further improve results. SandyK's 3M tape tweak is a great one, definitely improved the rips. Mike from TweekGeek is sending over a few things this week that I'm going to try to see if they make a difference

http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue45/acoustic_revive.htm

Of course as should always be mentioned, amp and speakers I find make a MUCH bigger difference than these incremental changes as does room selection and tuning/voicing/treatment.

Have fun!

 

 

 

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Cant wait to hear about your findings. I once tried a demagnetizer on my vinyl! And it works very well. If it wasnt for the cost of 2000 € (3000$), I would have bought it right away. But it is still in my mind.

The CD Version costs only ;-) 500€. Never tried it on CDs but if the effect was audible after ripping and would be the same improvement as on LPs I would spent those 500 right away (no joking). The effects I heard are the same as stated on positive feedback.

I heard from a dealer in Germany (only heard no experiences on my side!) that the quality of my rips would improve, when rotating speed of a cd drive is reduced to max 4x. This has nothing to do with read speed! He sells CD-Drives with reduced speed (1-4x). They also recommend "CD-Bremse" for Windows and "DiskRotate" for Macs to reduce the speed of your CD Drive. Most drives cannot be reduced in speed, but it is supposed to help. The Mac Version does not work on my mac and I had a hell of a time, to get rid of background task which started every 10seconds. "CD-Bremse" works on my IBM Think Pad and reduces the speed to 6x. I havent had time to test the effect on rips. I am very intererested, if Chris comments on rotating speed. (I think EAC can reduce the speed, but is it read speed or rotating speed?)

So if you find, that demagnetizing and treatment with special cleaning liquids and ionizing does change the sound, I wouldnt be surprised. Please post your findings.

 

OK I know I am completely off topic but this is very interesting.

Claudius

 

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I think the question was asked four score and seven years ago (above) about what NAS was used with the Mac Mini at the Symposium.

 

We used a Thecus N7700 running RAID5.

 

I use a NAS at home because the amount of storage is currently 5 TB and expandable to however large the current drives are. I can put in new 2 TB disks and increase capacity by two. All without moving any of my data to another device. Large capacity, good management, easy upgrades, universal access from any computer, etc... are some of the reasons I use a NAS.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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I like the tip on the drive rotation speed, thank you! I usually reduce read speed in EAC, but you're right, they're probably different things entirely. Since I rip in Windows (bootcamp), I'll give those utilities a try.

Will post some feedback once I've had a chance to test out the new BluRay drive and the accessories.

Best,

Geoff

 

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While I haven't tried this yet, my current plan is to buy the OWC Mercury 1TB http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/MEAQ7H1TB32M/

 

I've read very good reviews on performance and it has the reputation for being quiet enough for the listening room. Then, as an earlier post said, will buy a second of these or a cheaper 1tb drive for a complete, separate duplicate of my music library. As I'll only need to access from one machine (and I've also read too many things about the Drobo slowness), this seems to be a good solution.

 

MBP13-128gb ssd using VoiceOver to hear the screen, iTunes, Ayre QB-9, McIntosh mx119 & mc207, Thiel CS2.4

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone,

I purchased a mac mini (4GB) and am waiting for a new intel ssd. Will go for external drive as soon as the ssd is packed. Streamlined the os (tips on amarra site). So far I am satisfied with the sound. Running it headless, controlled by macbook and ipod touch.

I will not get the drobo!

I wanted to make it right from the beginning and found out (Thanks to you), that I am not ready to know, what is right. So I will take it easy.

 

@Silverlight

still waiting for your findings about the acoustic revive stuff.

 

 

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Congrats for getting your system together! stick in a piece of stillpoints ERS paper in the mini (inside top cover) while you're at it...

 

I received the Audio Revive gear late last week and got a chance to treat and rip several discs in a controlled environment this weekend. Bottom line, did not improve the sound and more likely changed it for the worse. followed the manufacturer's guidelines for treatment top then bottom with both demag and neg. ions. soundstage closed in and some loss of HF detail in the rips i tested. confirmed with several others who I sent test rips to to make sure it wasn't just me. i'm told by the distributor there may be better ways to run the process (i.e., treat only one side) but for $1500 more bang for the buck in SSD and computer enhancements (power, etc).

 

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Excellent info here, thanks to all for sharing.

 

I guess the mention of Drobo scared me away, as I didn't see the point.

 

I do like the feature of Chris's setup in which the single(?), centralized music library is available directly to all music servers, but given that I don't have that now, I won't move in that direction IF it limits sound (and it seems to, per this thread and others). Am I missing something, CHris?

 

I now have 'headless' (removed the display when it broke) MB Pro, Mac Mini , G4 Cube and G5 PowerMac all operated via Screen Sharing from Macbook Air, so the single external MyBook music drive is getting to be a bit of an issue.

 

carry on,

clay

 

 

 

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first, make sure to follow the other active thread that's touching on these topics.

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Magic-Words-Power-Mac-G5-versus-Mac-Mini#comment-30711

 

Re Mini PSU, I use one built by Bolder Cable, a high quality linear PSU running at 18.5V. In A/B testing it made a very healthy difference in SQ in my setup. I have since installed far higher resolving speakers and should probably re-do the A/B's with the stock PSU but I suspect the difference will only be magnified. have to qualify as always "YMMW". For fun I've asked Wayne at Bolder about constructing an external high quality PSU for the MacPro, and it is do-able but tres cher as they say given number of voltages (although I would run headless and strip the video card for heat/fan noise/power draw etc.)

 

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I bought a Drobo + DroboShare to replace a Snap NAS to put my music library on my home network, which is a bit overkill, frankly. (APC Symmetray 8-hour UPS, SonicWall firewall, Cisco switches, bunch of Mac and PC servers etc.).

 

Do not buy DroboShare. It's VERY slow and is a waste of $$$.

 

DroboShare itself is also SLOW. Mine has 2 1.5 Seagates and is currently attached to a regular MacMini. Idea was to take advantage of the FW800 connection, but for some reason, it's still having speed issues. With the DroboShare, I could connect 3 older macs (2 Cubes, 1 white iMac) that I was using as a digitization farm solely to digitize CD's into the system using iTunes (no compression, just straight AIFF conversion, so each CD is 650-700mg - total library is 1000 CD's, so final storage will need to be need to be about 1TB including headroom). With the DroboShare, I could get all 3 macs to stream into to the Drobo with a sprinkling of self-correcting "file busy" errors along the way, but now with the Mac Mini, only one mac can talk to the externally-attached Drobo. I think this is some config or permissions issue.

 

Once I solve this communications issue, I will get a fast 1-2TB external drive and attach it to the just-released MacMini server (great deal!), and use the Drobo as a backup. I will also add a clone 1TB road drive (for travel and DJ'ing) and park another one at our second house.

 

The Drobo is fussy and there are enough stories out there of people losing all of their data. Mine had an issue from a PC where it would generate a warning box on the PC that would say that "file could not be saved," but on the drive it would leave a 0mg residue file with the original name. On both mac and PC, folders with a huge number of subfiles (like my current iTunes Folder, which has 900 items) will often take 20-30 seconds to display the first time, which seems to point to a spin-up issue. I also have issues with the Drobo doing odd permissions related stuff, and I seem to have to verify permissions every few months. So lame. Data Robotics service, however is very solid and responsive. And they don't seem to be dumbed-down people reading a script. They have actually solved most of the issues, albeit with combos of sequenced power-cycling and permissions exercises.

 

Given this I cannot recommend Drobo products for file serving, ESPECIALLY for any streaming music or media applications.

 

BTW, there seems to be some notion in this thread that the type or format of drive/network that one uses can affect the sound quality of the music. Not true. It's all the same (ones and zeros) until it hits a D to A (digital-to-audio) converter. If that converter is cheap, like the ones in iPods, then it will not sound that great. If it's just the A/D on your mac, then it will sound a bit better. If you want best, then a dedicated HW device like an Apogee DA 16X is right choice. Any cables, busses, electronics, or transducers (speakers) between ears and the converter will additionally affect the sound quality.

 

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One major difference just might be quality of PSU and internal distribution.

This will get very interesting in the next couple of years.

CLaude

 

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