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PaulF

Tweaked Mac Mini Vs. Music Server?

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I'll probably be pre-ordering a rendu today.

 

Without having read reviews yet, is there any consensus on how relevant the computer becomes in sound quality with this device? Is there total isolation - meaning noise in the computer is completely irrelevant? That seems to be the point in theory.

 

But in theory USB cleansing/isolation devices do the same thing - only they don't. The computer still matters. A lot. (I was recently surprised to hear just how much better a tweaked, optimized, silent PC was than a Mini with SSD, both running HQ.)

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No Ethernet port on a mini? I thought they all had Ethernet, but I guess not...

 

You thought right. They do all have an Ethernet port. (New minis lack a Firewire port.)

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You thought right. They do all have an Ethernet port. (New minis lack a Firewire port.)

 

Yes, I'm an idiot. It's there. What's lacking is Firewire. (I'm already using a T-bolt adapter there to connect my Firewire drive.)

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I'll probably be pre-ordering a rendu today.

 

Without having read reviews yet, is there any consensus on how relevant the computer becomes in sound quality with this device? Is there total isolation - meaning noise in the computer is completely irrelevant? That seems to be the point in theory.

 

But in theory USB cleansing/isolation devices do the same thing - only they don't. The computer still matters. A lot. (I was recently surprised to hear just how much better a tweaked, optimized, silent PC was than a Mini with SSD, both running HQ.)

I think the computer still matters somewhat, even when used with a device like the microRendu.

 

I don’t think changes and tweaks to the computer affect sonics as significantly as they do in a case where the computer is directly connected to the dac.

 

But to my ears, changes and tweaks still make a difference. I would never say there is total isolation and that the computer is irrelevant.

 

Examples (which could possibly be system dependent and may or may not be true for everyone):

 

1) AudiophileOptimizer and Fidelizer (both Windows products) running on the computer make a positive difference. I would say AO makes a really significant difference.

 

2) Powering the computer’s OS SSD with a 5 volt linear power supply makes a positive difference.

 

3) Using an upgraded SATA cable for the computer’s OS SSD makes a positive difference.

 

4) I just built a desktop machine for a friend of mine to run Roon Server and HQPlayer (for use with his microRendu). He’s out of town so I have it running at my house. It sounds a little bit better than my desktop machine running Roon Server and HQPlayer. Both computers are running Windows 10, the latest beta version of AO and Fidelizer and both are being used with the same microRendu. Does his sound better than mine because the CPU in his machine is an i7-6700 (with a max TDP of 65W) and the CPU in my machine is an i7-4790 (with a higher max TDP of 84W)? Does his sound better because the RAM is different? Because the motherboard and chipset are different? Who knows???

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Clipper, all the comments above are in the context of using a microR? Interesting.

 

(If nothing else, switching power supplies put noise back into the circuit that can affect every component. So - they are probably always bad...)

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Clipper, all the comments above are in the context of using a microR? Interesting.

 

(If nothing else, switching power supplies put noise back into the circuit that can affect every component. So - they are probably always bad...)

 

Yep. All in the context of using the computer with a microRendu...

 

I found the same thing to be true when using a 2 machine JPLAY system (with control pc and audio pc). Meaning, things I did to the control pc (the computer not connected to the dac) often affected ultimate sound quality.

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Has anyone compared a µRendu against a MacMini running Audirvana+ with Intona USB Isolator and battery powered Regen or RUR in the USB output path?

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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.).

 

Would I be correct in guessing you are not willing to consider using a NAS?

 

On the way to arriving at the systems listed in my signature I tried the 'tweaked Mini' route, with JMRC and JRemote software to serve and control music playback. This all worked OK but there was a steep learning curve and it was obvious that I would need further tweaking to get really good sound quality. I therefore decided instead to sell the Mac mini, USB-to-SPDIF converter and the associated music-library disc drives and use the funds to buy the simplest server: a NAS that can run server software (I chose MinimServer on a Synology DS412+), together with an Android tablet for control using BubbleUPnP software. I've never looked back - superb sound available over our home network at 2 locations. No need for any other computer apart from the NAS on-board processor except when I wish to curate the music library. No dropouts and minimal noise/interference (I use optical isolation in the ethernet link to the renderer/DAC).


ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Nexus 7 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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I waited to reply to this until you had time to make up your own mind, but in reality, the answer is a clear yes. In fact, it doesn't even really have to be tweaked, it sounds pretty much just as good as anything out there on market at 5x - 10x it's cost.

 

Which, I know, is against all audiophile logic. But it is apparently still true. The DAC you attach to it has far far more effect on the music than the source computer ever will, and that is especially true if the Mac Mini is running the OS off a SSD and the music files off the network, which does provide a bit of a sonic boost.

 

Oh, by the way, an equivalent PC, manufactured with care, also is very competitive sounding with anything out there, Bryston, Auralic, etc. At least in the testing we have done here, it turns out that changing the computer/OS does have an audible effect, and some will prefer one more than other. But only slightly, and the preferences are not intuitive at all. A $100 RCA Cambio running JRiver seems to be a killer value combination.

 

Long and short of it - spend the money on the DAC, not the computer or player. (Unless, in the case of things like the DirectStream DAC, it is also the player. I understand that with the Bridge II card, it is also Roon ready. ;) )

 

Now given that, a really poorly put together computer of any kind can adversely affect the sound, but you won't find that with any Apple computer or product. Lenovo used to be good when IBM owned it and controlled the quality. HP has some nice machines, as does Dell. But in both cases, the nicer machines are the smaller one that use less power, and/or the integrated models that have very efficient electronics.

-Paul


Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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DavidL, I am experimenting with the DLNA server, controller, renderer setup. What equipment are you using for the ethernet optical isolation ?

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d_elm

 

The parts list of what I'm using are given in the comments to this blog:

 

https://andreweverard.com/2015/06/08/high-resolution-audio-now-with-added-fibre/

 

Some points to note:

1) I use MC100 converters which are compatible with 10/100 Mbps ethernet and many (most?) renderers or DACs having a renderer. You may be OK with MC200 converters but you need to check the renderer/DAC specs. Naim and Sonore need MC100 converters.

2) It's worthwhile getting linear power supplies to replace the switch-mode ones supplied with the converters. These should be easy for you to source locally.

3) You won't need a switch downstream of the 2nd converter if you only wish to isolate a single DAC.

 

Cost of these items is not large so this isolation approach is worth trying - for my setup there was a subtle but definite improvement in sound quality.


ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Nexus 7 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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Has anyone compared a µRendu against a MacMini running Audirvana+ with Intona USB Isolator and battery powered Regen or RUR in the USB output path?

 

I have not (I can't order a Rendu - sold out again!) but I can offer a couple comments here:

 

- First, HQPlayer sounds unquestionably better than A+ for me - thought I should mention that

 

- I have an Intona and while it (and other USB regen/cleaners) helps, it gives nothing like the massive difference I detect the Rendu gives from what I've read

 

I base the above partly on this: I quiet, purpose-build audio PC sounded much better than my Mac Mini with SSD, even when the latter had the Intona. IOW just a well-built PC with no Wifi sounded better than the Mini + Intona.

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Would I be correct in guessing you are not willing to consider using a NAS?

 

On the way to arriving at the systems listed in my signature I tried the 'tweaked Mini' route, with JMRC and JRemote software to serve and control music playback. This all worked OK but there was a steep learning curve and it was obvious that I would need further tweaking to get really good sound quality. I therefore decided instead to sell the Mac mini, USB-to-SPDIF converter and the associated music-library disc drives and use the funds to buy the simplest server: a NAS that can run server software (I chose MinimServer on a Synology DS412+), together with an Android tablet for control using BubbleUPnP software. I've never looked back - superb sound available over our home network at 2 locations. No need for any other computer apart from the NAS on-board processor except when I wish to curate the music library. No dropouts and minimal noise/interference (I use optical isolation in the ethernet link to the renderer/DAC).

 

Not unwilling, but not thrilled about the prospect. :)

 

As I just posted above, I agree that a Mini - no matter much what you do with it probably - is not gonna sound that good.

 

I was fooling myself in trying to believe the digital (even with good PC) competes with the vinyl - it really does not. Not on acoustic music recorded in analog. So vinyl is not going anywhere and thus I am pretty limited on both space and, for the time being, funds.

 

I intend to try the Rendu as a next step when I'm able to buy one. Now that I know what a huge difference a quiet PC can make logic would dictate that a purpose-built, minimalistic "audiophile computer" is going to be even better.

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DavidL, I am experimenting with the DLNA server, controller, renderer setup. What equipment are you using for the ethernet optical isolation ?

 

I've a similar setup, MinimServer running on Synology NAS. I achieve galvanic isolation via wireless streaming to Chromecast Audio connected to DAC via Toslink glass cable.


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

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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.).

 

quite happy with my setup (details in signature) but... you all know, I believe, about this #&%@# audiophile illness, right? :P

 

so, after seriously considering the mRendu, I opted instead for a "femto" Aries that should be here in a week or a little more

 

opted for the Aries, instead of the mRendu, because my (probably unrealistic) hope is to completely remove any computer from my system and... I'm not ready/willing to fiddle with a Linux OS running on an SD card, sorry :D

plus my DAC doesn't do DSD and I'm extremely happy with it :)

 

if things go the way I hope then there won't be anymore a computer in my system

if not... I'll give Roon another go using the Aries as "output device" and running just Roon core on the Mini

(already tried Roon core/bridge on two separate Minis with optical isolation in between vs A+ and found the latter to sound better)

 

will report ;)


Qnap HS-251+ NAS (powered by an HD-Plex 100w LPS) > 2012 Mac mini 2.3GHz quad core i7 (Roon Server - powered by an UpTone Audio JS-2 LPS) > Lumin U1 Mini (powered by a Vinnie Rossi Mini Pure-DC-4EVR LPS) >  UpTone Audio ISO Regen (powered by an Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2) > Metrum Acoustics Adagio NOS digital preamplifier + First Watt J2 by Nelson Pass power amplifier (or Don Garber Fi "Y" 6922 tube preamplifier + Don Garber Fi "X" 2A3 SET power amplifier, both powered from an Alpha-Core BP-30 Isolated Symmetrical Power Transformer) > Klipsch Cornwall III

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Aries with Vega just might be a great plan.

 

As I said I want a solution that allows me to use HQPlayer to resample everything to DSD as I've found that there are DACs such as the Gustard that are not at all expensive but still sound quite good using this method.

 

However, the Vega is a superb DAC and does not require any kind of external conversion or upsampling to sound great. Especially in Exact clock mode it is really good. And my experience was with the good ole Mini feeding it (with a USB regen).

 

Since the Aries gets you, I would assume, a transport that should sound much better than a Mac Mini (no matter what you do with it) that could be a great soln.

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(grin) $1600 for a quad core ARM Cortex-A9 computer running at 1Ghz with 1GB of RAM and 4GB drive... running a version of Linux. :)

 

I'm just teasing you a little bit, I bet it will sound great. :)

 

 

 

quite happy with my setup (details in signature) but... you all know, I believe, about this #&%@# audiophile illness, right? :P

 

so, after seriously considering the mRendu, I opted instead for a "femto" Aries that should be here in a week or a little more

 

opted for the Aries, instead of the mRendu, because my (probably unrealistic) hope is to completely remove any computer from my system and... I'm not ready/willing to fiddle with a Linux OS running on an SD card, sorry :D

plus my DAC doesn't do DSD and I'm extremely happy with it :)

 

if things go the way I hope then there won't be anymore a computer in my system

if not... I'll give Roon another go using the Aries as "output device" and running just Roon core on the Mini

(already tried Roon core/bridge on two separate Minis with optical isolation in between vs A+ and found the latter to sound better)

 

will report ;)


Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I know, I know :(

as an excuse... I actually got a much better deal than full retail ;)

also... if the Aries alone proves to be anywhere close to the Mini I might re-use the JS-2 LPS, Regen and Audiophilleo with it :)

 

though... getmecoat.gif

 

 

:P


Qnap HS-251+ NAS (powered by an HD-Plex 100w LPS) > 2012 Mac mini 2.3GHz quad core i7 (Roon Server - powered by an UpTone Audio JS-2 LPS) > Lumin U1 Mini (powered by a Vinnie Rossi Mini Pure-DC-4EVR LPS) >  UpTone Audio ISO Regen (powered by an Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2) > Metrum Acoustics Adagio NOS digital preamplifier + First Watt J2 by Nelson Pass power amplifier (or Don Garber Fi "Y" 6922 tube preamplifier + Don Garber Fi "X" 2A3 SET power amplifier, both powered from an Alpha-Core BP-30 Isolated Symmetrical Power Transformer) > Klipsch Cornwall III

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ok, the Aries is here

 

I'm not doing him any favour so... running on its stock LPS and connected, via a Wireworld Starlight 7, straight to my DAC's USB (which is pretty good)

 

so far... sound signature is closer to my Sonos Play:5 than to my Mac mini running Audirvana =:-/

(obviously quality is significantly better than Sonos, though...)

 

this is streaming hi-res from Qobuz. still fighting to add my music library fron a NAS share (looks the Auralic can only use UpnP or DNA instead of a direct path, but hope I'm wrong on this :-/ )


Qnap HS-251+ NAS (powered by an HD-Plex 100w LPS) > 2012 Mac mini 2.3GHz quad core i7 (Roon Server - powered by an UpTone Audio JS-2 LPS) > Lumin U1 Mini (powered by a Vinnie Rossi Mini Pure-DC-4EVR LPS) >  UpTone Audio ISO Regen (powered by an Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2) > Metrum Acoustics Adagio NOS digital preamplifier + First Watt J2 by Nelson Pass power amplifier (or Don Garber Fi "Y" 6922 tube preamplifier + Don Garber Fi "X" 2A3 SET power amplifier, both powered from an Alpha-Core BP-30 Isolated Symmetrical Power Transformer) > Klipsch Cornwall III

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I've a similar setup, MinimServer running on Synology NAS. I achieve galvanic isolation via wireless streaming to Chromecast Audio connected to DAC via Toslink glass cable.

 

One more way is to use a very affordable optical LAN setup for additional isolation and buffering. I use both so my NAS is far away and on another AC circuit from the audio gear.

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ok, managed to load my music library on the Aries from a NAS

 

as before:

-Mac mini as in my signature (JS-2LPS, Regen, Audiophilleo), Audirvana Plus

-Aries "femto" (stock LPS, USB straight to DAC)

 

the Mini wins hands down!

from every point of view: noise floor, finest detail along all frequencies. it sound much more neutral, airy, natural. less... "hi-fi shop" (actually not at all :) )

 

Aries does very well indeed but... sound signature is "darkish/warmish", bass is a bit boomy, mids a little laid back, highs not that crystal clear

 

tomorrow I'll try powering the Aries from the JS-2 and using the Regen and Audiophilleo

though I worry sound signature will still be there :(


Qnap HS-251+ NAS (powered by an HD-Plex 100w LPS) > 2012 Mac mini 2.3GHz quad core i7 (Roon Server - powered by an UpTone Audio JS-2 LPS) > Lumin U1 Mini (powered by a Vinnie Rossi Mini Pure-DC-4EVR LPS) >  UpTone Audio ISO Regen (powered by an Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2) > Metrum Acoustics Adagio NOS digital preamplifier + First Watt J2 by Nelson Pass power amplifier (or Don Garber Fi "Y" 6922 tube preamplifier + Don Garber Fi "X" 2A3 SET power amplifier, both powered from an Alpha-Core BP-30 Isolated Symmetrical Power Transformer) > Klipsch Cornwall III

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been experimenting further with the Aries yesterday and this morning

 

in the end I found SQ becomes equivalent to my Mac mini/Audirvana setup after adding both the Regen and Audiophilleo to its USB output :|

 

at present I'm comparing this setup (Aries USB > Regen > Audiophilleo) using Lightning DS vs Roon (Aries in Roon ready mode)

can't hear any meaningful difference

 

what I'm still not happy with, but I understand it is probably only a matter of personal preferences, is that dark-ish/warm-ish sound signature (always there even in Roon ready mode, so I guess it's definitely Aries' own)

 

Mac mini was more... "sparkling" :)

 

last enhancement I have yet to try is using the JS-2 LPS to power the Aries


Qnap HS-251+ NAS (powered by an HD-Plex 100w LPS) > 2012 Mac mini 2.3GHz quad core i7 (Roon Server - powered by an UpTone Audio JS-2 LPS) > Lumin U1 Mini (powered by a Vinnie Rossi Mini Pure-DC-4EVR LPS) >  UpTone Audio ISO Regen (powered by an Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2) > Metrum Acoustics Adagio NOS digital preamplifier + First Watt J2 by Nelson Pass power amplifier (or Don Garber Fi "Y" 6922 tube preamplifier + Don Garber Fi "X" 2A3 SET power amplifier, both powered from an Alpha-Core BP-30 Isolated Symmetrical Power Transformer) > Klipsch Cornwall III

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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.).

 

I just booted up an i7, 3.0 ghz Mac Mini with 1 TB PCIE (no SATA anywhere). Set up Audirvana, OS on 32 g SD card. Music files on PCIE drive.

 

Um, wow, folks...

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How are you connecting PCIe to a Mac Mini?

I just booted up an i7, 3.0 ghz Mac Mini with 1 TB PCIE (no SATA anywhere). Set up Audirvana, OS on 32 g SD card. Music files on PCIE drive.

 

Um, wow, folks...


Forrest:

Win10 i7 3770k HQPlayer>Win10 NAA

DSD512>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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