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Macbook Pro Sound Optimization - Chasing the noise gremlins


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After getting my Chord Mojo and Curious cable for Christmas, I invested some time to see how much I could get out of my setup before exploring more expensive options.

 

I only have my Macbook Pro 2011 i7/6MB L3, to use a Music server, so this had to do double duty as my work machine, and late night music server. My MBP has an SSD, so that helps.

 

Yesterday I made the following changes which yielded superb results, and gave me the most wonderful music I have heard from I have heard from any of my previous audio systems to date.

 

1. Unmount Second Internal Hard Drive (formally used as Music library) (Spinning and vibrations are not good)

2. Unplug Ethernet cable, run wireless (Noise from Ethernet creeping in)

3. Unplug other usb devices, only USB being used is to the DAC (Keep the USB bus dedicated to the audio only)

4. Unplug power cable to the MBP so only running on battery (Isolation from mains noise)

5. Point Audirvana at Thunderbolt RAID Music library (Advantage of not using the USB bus and being on it's own power)

 

With those changes, the music took a huge leap in quality, and musical engagement. I was really amazed just how much better it sounded. Music tracks that I had listened to many times before suddenly became much more musically involving and with layers and layers of nuances.

 

Next I plan to see if the Thunderbolt might be any source of noise - So I will load some music tracks onto a Ram disc to see if unplugging the Thunderbolt, in addition to the other changes yields any better results?

 

Not sure how much noise is made by the MBP Display when it's in sleep mode, as I have read some have chosen Mac Mini as the preferred Music Server because it's headless and does not have noise coming from display. Makes me wonder if Mac Minis with DC power mods + LPS are less noisy than the MBP running on battery?

 

In any case, perhaps the above information might help someone whom is using a similar setup.

 

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HD-PLEX LPS > SLK (Chinese) DC Power Cable > Mac Mini 2012 (Uptone MMK / SnakeOil OS) > LPS-1 > UpTone ISO Regen > USPCB > Chord Mojo > WireWorld Nano-Silver Eclipse > AudioEngine A2+

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This thread more or less confirms my suspicion that a properly setup MBP should sonically beat a Mac Mini. I guess the tests would need to be repeated with a uptone mods, but then your talking about a big price hike just to make a mini sound better.

 

Mac Mini vs. Macbook Pro as a server

HD-PLEX LPS > SLK (Chinese) DC Power Cable > Mac Mini 2012 (Uptone MMK / SnakeOil OS) > LPS-1 > UpTone ISO Regen > USPCB > Chord Mojo > WireWorld Nano-Silver Eclipse > AudioEngine A2+

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  • 2 weeks later...

Uncovered this tip today, if you have a multi USB port Macbook, Macbook Air, or Macbook Pro, the USB ports might not all be of the same speed or noise.

 

MacBook USB Port Inequality - DJ TechTools

 

Will be testing my other USB port tonight as I was using the to the front of the MBP which according to the article is not the better of the two.

HD-PLEX LPS > SLK (Chinese) DC Power Cable > Mac Mini 2012 (Uptone MMK / SnakeOil OS) > LPS-1 > UpTone ISO Regen > USPCB > Chord Mojo > WireWorld Nano-Silver Eclipse > AudioEngine A2+

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Just wanted to say thanks for the thread and for sharing your findings. I am running a Quad Core i7 MBP Retina with the stick type (m2) SSD instead of the 2.5" SSD found in some models. The sticks are supposedly faster but I have no idea of it's impact on sound. I hear no difference with the display asleep vs running. In contrast to your findings, my sound actually gets worse when running on battery vs plugged in. I have heard before that the extra circuitry inside a laptop to make it run on battery or plugged in is what makes them sound worse than a desktop like a Mac Mini or NUC. I have thought about pulling out this circuitry and going to a linear supply if the retina ever dies.

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What I got from that article is that different model years perform differently when it comes to the USB implementation. Supposedly the multi-port USB intel models are reverse of the earlier models. Earlier model the USB port furthest from the screen were better. On the later models the port closest to the power adapter were better.

 

Tonight I did some testing, which I will need to repeat again tomorrow to confirm but I believe in my setup the port closest to the power adapter is providing a more focused presentation.

 

I'll probably be pulling the trigger on a USB product to clean up my USB, but these were a good exercise to see how far I could get it before spending any $$ on aftermarket solutions.

HD-PLEX LPS > SLK (Chinese) DC Power Cable > Mac Mini 2012 (Uptone MMK / SnakeOil OS) > LPS-1 > UpTone ISO Regen > USPCB > Chord Mojo > WireWorld Nano-Silver Eclipse > AudioEngine A2+

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