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Mac Mini: i5 or i7?


hytechrednek
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Among the many versions of the Mac Mini, is there one model in particular, or a ranking as to which one gives the best results in sound quality? Presently I'm driving a 2010 Mac Mini 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo and considering an upgrade. Any experience with this that you might care to share is appreciated. Thanks!

Hytek

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I have a couple of i7s, though in Windows PCs and gaming rigs, but using them for the past few years I can certainly say that there is very little an i7 can do that an i5 cannot. For a home setting such as a media PC or server, HTPC, NAS, etc. both will perform on par, probably an i3 will suffice for the most part. Even in the setting of a gaming rig, and i7 processor does not give any additional performance boost.

 

Go for an i3 or an i5, and spend the savings on a better GPU for anything video/gaming related.

 

For sound quality, an i3 should not perform any less than an i5/i7.

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

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Among the many versions of the Mac Mini, is there one model in particular, or a ranking as to which one gives the best results in sound quality?

 

Not exactly SQ, but (suprising to me) relative performance: Mac Mini processor comparisons

 

Useful Mini model specification charts: Mac Mini Specs - Wiki

 

 

Presently I'm driving a 2010 Mac Mini 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo and considering an upgrade. Any experience with this that you might care to share is appreciated. Thanks!

 

I am in the process of upgrading* from a 2010 Mac Mini too. I chose the Late 2012 (gotta have Firewire), 2.5gb I5 Mini with 4GB ($261 on eBay), and added 16GB replacement memory ($65 on eBay).

 

Compare eBay 'Sold Items' prices for; "2012 Mac Mini", I5's and then I7's. Hard to find many I7's under $1000, but lots of cheap I5's. That's how I made my decision. And that left money for maxing out the RAM - a proven performance helper.

 

I wouldn't sweat the possible effect of the computer model on the SQ. There is a lot one can do, hardware and software) within the range of Mac Mini models that have the potentional for some real, and cumulative, SQ improvements, as discussed in 3 big threads (with very long titles :) by Alex Crispi in his Uptone Audio forum here on CA.

 

 

If money is no object...

 

See above eBay price comparisons :)

 

 

 

* the new one is on my bench right now, impatiently awaiting surgery for the new memory, a SSD, 2 drive capability, Uptone Audio MMK fan and power kit. Then I can hook up the low noise LPS, and start playing with new software too.

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I could never figure out why my old i5 setup today still sound better then any new setup I build with the fastest i7 CPU and motherboard. The same with y mac mini, my old generation seem to sound smoother then the newer one. I did move to the newer one because to upsanmple everything to DSD128 I needed more cpu power. If one read the Roon website, they suggest faster CPU may generate more noise and may not be best for Audio. I wish I had more insight on this topic!

Mac Mini with Teradak supply running Audirvana+. Also have several PC based system running JRiver

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It depends also on what player you plan to use. HQP demands some resources for upsampling, for example.

 

Likewise I'm also thinking to use HQplayer desktop for 24/192 up sampling, (the limit of my Dac ) (on a Mac or PC possibly) but seems hard to find any reference or opinion on the processor that would be enough for what is needed.

 

I'm curious if anyone has opinions/experience on this which would be gratefully appreciated ie if an i3 would be sufficient?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Patrick.

 

 

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ATL DC Blocker > Topaz 2.5Kva Isolation Transformer > Sine SA5 Cryo 5 power strip > EtherRegen switch powered with Ciunas Supercaps 7.5v LPS > Laufer Mini Memory Player> EC Designs U192 USB Transport plus Fractal DAC > Decware SE84UFO3 Mono Amps > TNT UBYTE-2 Speaker cables > Omega Super Alnico Monitors. PH SR4 & Ian Canada UConditioner Ultracap 5V power supplies. 

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Likewise I'm also thinking to use HQplayer desktop for 24/192 up sampling, (the limit of my Dac ) (on a Mac or PC possibly) but seems hard to find any reference or opinion on the processor that would be enough for what is needed.

 

I'm curious if anyone has opinions/experience on this which would be gratefully appreciated ie if an i3 would be sufficient?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Patrick.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

An i3 should be fine for doing CD>24/192. My Celeron machine did so, no problem.

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An i3 should be fine for doing CD>24/192. My Celeron machine did so, no problem.

 

Thanks Norton

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

ATL DC Blocker > Topaz 2.5Kva Isolation Transformer > Sine SA5 Cryo 5 power strip > EtherRegen switch powered with Ciunas Supercaps 7.5v LPS > Laufer Mini Memory Player> EC Designs U192 USB Transport plus Fractal DAC > Decware SE84UFO3 Mono Amps > TNT UBYTE-2 Speaker cables > Omega Super Alnico Monitors. PH SR4 & Ian Canada UConditioner Ultracap 5V power supplies. 

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HTrednek - Had same 2010 Mini that you had. Fell in love with HQ Player as it turned all 2,000 CD rips into hi rez sound through my Mytelk DSD 192...but was limited by processor to DSD64 and experienced some infrequent stuttering.

 

Replaced with a law 2012 Mini with Quad Core i7 2.6 processor with 16GB of RAM and 240GB SSD, bought NOS through eBay seller about a year ago. Now playing all files at DSD128 and loving the sound, very solid and stable.

 

For some reason, Apple "went backwards" on newer Mini versions, deciding folks didn't need the extra computational power of a Quad Core in the Mini package. As a general observation, Apple has seemed to lose its edge...the insistence on dropping stuff folks used like FireWire and lack of new product introductions other than multiple versions of the iPhone is perplexing...

Tone with Soul

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I don't remember where I read it but some expert said that the amount of L3 cache is more important than processor speed. With that said I believe the i7 has more L3 than the i5 or at least it did on the 2012 models.

 

I believe it was Ryan over at Core Audio Technology who wrote a white paper regarding this. His site is down right now or I would give the specific quote. If I recall correctly, he said the larger the L3 cache, the better the sound, because there is less jitter from latency. The i7 2.3 / 2.6 Ghz from Late 2012 have the most L3 cache with 6MB. The next closest model has only 4GB / 3GB.

 

Thanks for the many responses so far. I'm hoping to hear from someone with experience to corroborate this L3 Cache assertion about the Mac Mini and any perceived improvement in sound quality.

Hytek

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I believe it was Ryan over at Core Audio Technology who wrote a white paper regarding this. His site is down right now or I would give the specific quote. If I recall correctly, he said the larger the L3 cache, the better the sound, because there is less jitter from latency. The i7 2.3 / 2.6 Ghz from Late 2012 have the most L3 cache with 6MB. The next closest model has only 4GB / 3GB.

 

That site is highly amusing, but not a word they say is true.

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lack of new product introductions other than multiple versions of the iPhone is perplexing...

 

That's true. Apple is now mostly known as an iPhone maker. Company's focus has been diverted, unfortunately. All they care about these days are just iPhone and iPad.

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That's true. Apple is now mostly known as an iPhone maker. Company's focus has been diverted, unfortunately. All they care about these days are just iPhone and iPad.

 

Hm - my employer has rolled out over 100k MacBook Pros / MacBook Airs over the past few months, and plans on a couple hundred thousand more - so there's still quite a market for the laptop / workstation products. I don't think they're going away any time soon.

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi wireless > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > iFi Audio xDSD + iFi Audio xCAN > Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Pioneer Elite SC-81 > MartinLogan Motion series home theater speakers + M&K subwoofer

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If I recall correctly, he said the larger the L3 cache, the better the sound, because there is less jitter from latency.

 

Intel tends to put the most L3 Unified cache into its most powerful processors. Picking that one thing as the important one out of the latency processing pipeline has to be a correlation only error for the subset they looked at. That by itself certainly doesn't cause the difference. Some of AMD's chips with a positively giant L3 cache have terrible latency, because they added it trying to make up for deficiencies in the ram<=>L3 interface of the hardware.

 

I look at the max transfer rate between RAM and the caches before I care about the L3 size itself. The cache misses are where the real latency spikes are at, and those are being delivered by RAM.

 

I suspect a good bit of the subjective sound quality differences people here between computer hardware come from the vast quality difference in the output circuits. If you're taking a USB output from your PC, you already have a latency issue so large your CPU cache one is barely worth noting. There's a lot of variation in USB chipset quality.

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