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Tweaked Mac Mini Vs. Music Server?


PaulF
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To ask an annoyingly general question, can a new, tweaked Mini (LPS, 16 Gb RAM, SSD) compete with a music server at its price - and/or well beyond? I'm talking about sound quality only, of course (not "convenience", etc.).

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Here's my issue right now. I find HQPlayer sounds far better than any of the other Mac players. Further, I found my DAC sounds far better having HQPlayer resample redbook to DSD128. A music server cannot make use of HQPlayer.

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For a s/w based setup like HQP or the Bug a PC is a must. Many have even gone the route of upgraded PCs with 32 GB RAM and an i7 to get the full benefit of such players. The SQ is also hugely superior to anything a server/streamer could put out.

 

However, I personally find the ease of use/setup of a server/streamer refreshing. Its just plug and play simple with the likes of Aries and even their apps perform so well.

 

FWIW, I've moved away from the complexity of a PC to the ease of a NAS. I do have a Mac Mini, but not for audio. It's used by the wife mainly for video and Kodi.

 

A simple app/interface that lets me play at random or pick any album/artist is all I need most of the time and the SQ ain't all that bad.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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You assertion is that a PC is superior to a Mini, even with a LPS? And SOTA USB isolation? Why?

 

Purely from the s/w perspective. I've not heard anything that sounds like the Bug. I've heard HQP in passing (all the filters were confusing), but I'm told even that performs on par or better.

 

The Bug can truly sound vinyl like and that's with Redbook format.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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Purely from the s/w perspective. I've not heard anything that sounds like the Bug. I've heard HQP in passing (all the filters were confusing), but I'm told even that performs on par or better.

 

The Bug can truly sound vinyl like and that's with Redbook format.

 

I'm not sure I followed all that. HQ runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, so that is not an issue here.

 

The Bug - I have not heard of. Something else to Google now. Damn it.

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I'm not sure I followed all that. HQ runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, so that is not an issue here.

 

The Bug - I have not heard of. Something else to Google now. Damn it.

 

I've not used HQP much, but the Bug needs a proper tricked out PC.

 

More info on BHE.

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f11-software/bughead-emperor-19966/.

 

Bug head.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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It is almost like vinyl in that it is the world's most inconvenient and user-unfriendly software and it must run on the world's most inconvenient and user-unfriendly operating system. It doesn't get much more audiophile than that.

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After a couple hours of reading I'm now looking at CAPS v4 or something similar as the best next step. (No proprietary server as again I need to run my own software - HQP.)

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It is almost like vinyl in that it is the world's most inconvenient and user-unfriendly software and it must run on the world's most inconvenient and user-unfriendly operating system. It doesn't get much more audiophile than that.

 

LOL yes.

 

And that must be the charm too.

 

The SQ though is simply far better than any other media player I've ever heard.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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After a couple hours of reading I'm now looking at CAPS v4 or something similar as the best next step. (No proprietary server as again I need to run my own software - HQP.)

 

You should check out the microRendu running in HQPlayer NAA mode.

 

It is great.

 

You would still need a PC, of course.

 

See SONORE microRendu.

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After a couple hours of reading I'm now looking at CAPS v4 or something similar as the best next step. (No proprietary server as again I need to run my own software - HQP.)

 

I am no expert, but the CAPS machines are not designed for pure CPU power. Another option is a powerful PC (for HQPlayer) away from the listening room connected by Ethernet network to a light weight NAA

iMac > Firewire > Weiss DAC 202 > ASR Emitter 1 > Focal 1028 Be

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You should check out the microRendu running in HQPlayer NAA mode.

 

It is great.

 

You would still need a PC, of course.

 

See SONORE microRendu.

 

This is the direction I am taking (when the next batch of uRendu ships). From what I understand, this $600 device hanging off the end of ethernet negates the need for expensive mods to off the shelf servers (I use a Mac Mini) or proprietary music streamers. Even without the uR in my setup, as of today, the HQP software up-sampling to DSD128 has transformed SQ. The lack of digital glare/artefacts makes me nostalgic for my old Pink Triangle vinyl setup!

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Here's my issue right now. I find HQPlayer sounds far better than any of the other Mac players. Further, I found my DAC sounds far better having HQPlayer resample redbook to DSD128. A music server cannot make use of HQPlayer.

 

You've hit the nail on the head - player software matters and buying a "music server" ties you down to the manufacturer's choice (often MPD) So if you consider that your favourite player would sound better than MPD on a PC, then by buying an off the shelf solution you may have already compromised on SQ.

 

I have no knowledgeable of Macs, but after hearing what my £100 fanless PC sounds like with LPSU and running Wtfplay, I'm unlikely to consider shelling out ££££ on a music server.

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I am no expert, but the CAPS machines are not designed for pure CPU power. Another option is a powerful PC (for HQPlayer) away from the listening room connected by Ethernet network to a light weight NAA

 

From the specs the quad-core Xeon CAPS should be quite fine. My dual-core Mini with slower CPUs runs about 120% CPU with the settings I used converting 44.1 PCM to DSD128.

 

I will check out the Sonore thing..

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This is the direction I am taking (when the next batch of uRendu ships). From what I understand, this $600 device hanging off the end of ethernet negates the need for expensive mods to off the shelf servers (I use a Mac Mini) or proprietary music streamers. Even without the uR in my setup, as of today, the HQP software up-sampling to DSD128 has transformed SQ. The lack of digital glare/artefacts makes me nostalgic for my old Pink Triangle vinyl setup!

 

What has been getting me is how amazing a CHEAP (<$1000) DAC can sound when it's fed a clean DSD128 stream.

 

I have a $2.5K digital setup now that is not far from a $25K vinyl setup. (Ok, sometimes little things make it seem very far, but often not.) No, there is NO glare. Ever. Tonality is spot-on. Smoothness is - smooth as vinyl before it's cut. Instrument separation is - sometimes not as good as vinyl. Nor is the 3D effect of real instruments. But it is good.

 

My hypothesis is this:

 

- All these modern DAC chips are naturally DSD chips (they are all delta-sigma); there is less processing feeding them a 1-bit signal

 

- Delta-sigma is naturally less demanding on ancillaries (that R2R chips) - you don't need power supplies of nearly the same quality, for example. Sure, you need a decent (preferably discrete) output stage, IV conversion, etc., but it doesn't have to cost $5K to be really good (when you're smart and use a line stage before your amps anyway).

 

This means a mass-market $1000 delta-sigma DAC can sound pretty damn good.

 

As for DSD vs. PCM, I've gone back & forth. I've heard PCM sound very good (always on expensive R2R DACs). However, while very good PCM achieves analog-like smoothness sometimes, or maybe even often, DSD just does it more easily, more often. With one hand tied behind its back as it were.

 

All the crap up at 50 Khz+ I can't hear.

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You should check out the microRendu running in HQPlayer NAA mode.

 

It is great.

 

You would still need a PC, of course.

 

See SONORE microRendu.

 

You mean PC or Mac, right? I could run HQP on either and feed the signal to the microR? (I already have a new Mini with 16 Gb RAM, SSD, etc., so this would be an especially economical route for me.)

 

That is, if this is possible with a Mac: "Digital signal processing is performed by HQ Player and then asynchronously streamed to the Network Audio Adapter (NAA) output." I'm not sure it is.

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You mean PC or Mac, right? I could run HQP on either and feed the signal to the microR? (I already have a new Mini with 16 Gb RAM, SSD, etc., so this would be an especially economical route for me.)

 

That is, if this is possible with a Mac: "Digital signal processing is performed by HQ Player and then asynchronously streamed to the Network Audio Adapter (NAA) output." I'm not sure it is.

 

Yes.

 

You run HQPlayer on a computer (Windows, Mac or Linux).

 

Instead of connecting the HQPlayer computer (which is working hard, especially if you're doing PCM to DSD conversion) to your dac, you send the audio over your network to another device (the NAA device) that is connected to your dac. This NAA device can be (and ideally is) a low powered machine doing essentially very little other than receiving audio and sending it to your dac. It runs special software (Network Audio Daemon) developed by the HQPlayer developer. There are some significant sonic benefits to be had in splitting up the work this way and not having an electrically noisy hardworking machine directly connected to your audio chain.

 

I have tried Windows, Mac and Linux machines as NAA devices, on everything from full fledged desktops with special USB cards to NUCs to single board computers like the Wandboard and Raspberry Pi. To me, none of them sound nearly as good as the microRendu (which runs Linux) does as an NAA device.

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Thanks. Two things on my mind now:

 

- I see no option in HQP on my Mac for output to Ethernet. Perhaps this is setup elsewhere.

 

- My Mini has no Ethernet port - I believe the remedy here is a Thunderbolt->Ethernet adapter.

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Thanks. Two things on my mind now:

 

- I see no option in HQP on my Mac for output to Ethernet. Perhaps this is setup elsewhere.

 

- My Mini has no Ethernet port - I believe the remedy here is a Thunderbolt->Ethernet adapter.

 

1) In HQP settings, set Backend to NetworkAudioAdapter. If you have everything set up correctly and networkaudiod is running on the NAA machine, you'll then be able to see your DAC under the Device setting.

 

2) No Ethernet port on a mini? I thought they all had Ethernet, but I guess not... If that's the case, yeah, a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter would do the trick.

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Here's my issue right now. I find HQPlayer sounds far better than any of the other Mac players. Further, I found my DAC sounds far better having HQPlayer resample redbook to DSD128. A music server cannot make use of HQPlayer.

 

HQP is a big fav right now. With NAA and/or microRendu you are able to put another level of noise separation from the sensitive DAC.

 

Seperation using optical network is also beneficial.

 

It is somewhat DAC dependent as my ladder DAC did not benefit from HQP, but that might be one of the few exceptions.

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Thanks. Two things on my mind now:

 

- I see no option in HQP on my Mac for output to Ethernet. Perhaps this is setup elsewhere.

 

- My Mini has no Ethernet port - I believe the remedy here is a Thunderbolt->Ethernet adapter.

 

I still have one I used once to test if you are interested.

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