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Is a Mac Mini a SQ upgrade from a MacBook Pro?


wwaldmanfan
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I’ve been wrestling with a SQ issue with my rig for some time now. I get very detailed resolution, but edging into unpleasant grain and sibilance on some recordings (for example, Alison Krauss). Through an arduous process of elimination, I have concluded that my 2012 MacBook Pro is the culprit, despite efforts to optimize the OSX, eliminate external connections, etc.

 

It is often claimed here that the Mac Mini sounds better than a Mac laptop as a USB music server. I want to stay with the Mac platform, so my plan is to purchase a refurbished 2012 Mac Mini i7 2.6gHz/16gb RAM/SSD, then control it remotely with my MBP from the couch. Assuming that I stick with the Mini's stock configuration (power supply, etc.), am I to expect a meaningful improvement in SQ, or am I chasing my tail?

Please refer to my profile, if you wish, so you can see the rest of the equipment in my main system. Thank you for your insight.

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I’ve been wrestling with a SQ issue with my rig for some time now. I get very detailed resolution, but edging into unpleasant grain and sibilance on some recordings (for example, Alison Krauss). Through an arduous process of elimination, I have concluded that my 2012 MacBook Pro is the culprit, despite efforts to optimize the OSX, eliminate external connections, etc.

It is often claimed here that the Mac Mini sounds better than a Mac laptop as a USB music server. I want to stay with the Mac platform, so my plan is to purchase a refurbished 2012 Mac Mini i7 2.6gHz/16gb RAM/SSD, then control it remotely with my MBP from the couch. Assuming that I stick with the Mini's stock configuration (power supply, etc.), am I to expect a meaningful improvement in SQ, or am I chasing my tail?

Please refer to my profile, if you wish, so you can see the rest of the equipment in my main system. Thank you for your insight.

 

No. Wrong way based on what you are expecting:

 

I have a 2015 MacBookPro, a 2011 MacBook Air and a 2014 MacMini. And that is also the order in which they sound good out of the box. It was actually my MB Air that brought me to computer audiophile just because I tried it as a source out of curiosity and because my hard drive streamer was in repair and that time.

 

The MacMini requires a lot of upgrading to sound really good, including Uptones MMK and so on. I have not tried if the MacBooks still sound better because the reason I have a macMini integrated into my stereo is purely the size, form factor and the convenience.

 

Chris

Software > Roon Server & HQ Player4 on Windows 2019/AO & MacMini MMK (plus Audirvana 3.5)  > Netgear GS105EV2 > Meicord Opal > Naim NDX 2 > Naim SN2 + Lyngdorf CD-2 + Rega RP8/Aria >  > Harbeth SHL5 plus

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In addition, if you buy a Mac Mini, get one with a standard harddrive that you will disconnect or better rip out. You don't need it. Get a mini with a lot of horsepower from the CPU and at least 8GB RAM, better 16GB RAM.

 

Boot OS X from an SD Card, get an external Thunderbolt drive for the music or a NAS.

 

So you see, even I would buy different today. I would go for a 2014 I7 3.0 Ghz with 16GB and the 1TB standard drive which I would not use and rip out, put the MMK kit in, boot from SD-Card and be happy with one of the external music storage solution. Note: No USB drives for music, only output from USB.

 

Chris

Software > Roon Server & HQ Player4 on Windows 2019/AO & MacMini MMK (plus Audirvana 3.5)  > Netgear GS105EV2 > Meicord Opal > Naim NDX 2 > Naim SN2 + Lyngdorf CD-2 + Rega RP8/Aria >  > Harbeth SHL5 plus

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When I upgraded a while back, I chose this configuration of Mac Mini:

 

i7 3Ghz

16 Gb RAM

256 Gb PCIe-based SSD

JS-2 lps with MMK fan control

Firewire 4Tb external drive through Thunderbolt adapter

 

This is CAT6A attached to a Macbook Pro used for control (and as a desktop computer). Usually the wireless on the Mini is off unless using TIDAL (but I really do not hear a diff if i leave it on).

 

As I use HQPlayer to upsample/convert into a NOS DAC (Holo Spring L3), the computational power of the highest end processor was needed. I can upconvert easily to DSD128, though DSD256 seems just above the limit as it will eventually stutter at that rate). I mostly run USB into a Mutec which is 176.4/192 PCM output with DSD conversion, so the highrate DSD matters less for now.

 

I am pleased, all in all, but still thinking about the next machine....

 

 

Back in the day, I tried Superdad's SD card boot option (on another Mini with SATA SSD) and didn't feel it improved the SQ of the system tested on, so have not retried, especially as I have PCIe-based SSD on current Mini.

You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star

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own a mid 2012 retina MBP ; best upgrade I got was a bootcamp install of Windows 2012 : instead of booting on a sd card I now boot the Windows partition of my Mac.... much better + HQP and even Corning cable prove more stable

I’ve been wrestling with a SQ issue with my rig for some time now. I get very detailed resolution, but edging into unpleasant grain and sibilance on some recordings (for example, Alison Krauss). Through an arduous process of elimination, I have concluded that my 2012 MacBook Pro is the culprit, despite efforts to optimize the OSX, eliminate external connections, etc.

 

It is often claimed here that the Mac Mini sounds better than a Mac laptop as a USB music server. I want to stay with the Mac platform, so my plan is to purchase a refurbished 2012 Mac Mini i7 2.6gHz/16gb RAM/SSD, then control it remotely with my MBP from the couch. Assuming that I stick with the Mini's stock configuration (power supply, etc.), am I to expect a meaningful improvement in SQ, or am I chasing my tail?

Please refer to my profile, if you wish, so you can see the rest of the equipment in my main system. Thank you for your insight.

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  • 1 year later...

Interesting thread but too bad it ended so soon. I am also planning to possibly use MacBook Pro as music server. Currently I have a MacAir which is now being the digital music server. I just happen to have the 7 yr old Mac Air, using audirvana, works fine but then I don’t know how much dedicated music server can improve. There are debates as to whether PC is better than Macor vice versa. Most servers are PC based and more programs for PC.  But Mac now also has many programs that can be used including Audirvana Which has been just for Mac but I see that the PC version is coming up. It is supposed to shut down unneeded Mac background processes that helps a lot with the sound. it sounds much better than J media Player for eg. Intersting I see some member here uses Windows in Mac to run HQplayer, not sure why, since there is now HQplayer for Mac. perhaps it is due to Mac not able to do DSD 256 in the past ? But it appears Audirvana can do DSD256 but as DoP. Windows apparently can (could?)do DSD better than Mac natively? Whatever..

there is also theory that a simple less noisy/powerful process works better and most ready made music server seems to use low power icore processor. However some also pointed out that high power processor has advantage of doing upsampling/format conversion e.g DSD to PCM or vs. So it seems that a powerful Mac can have great advantage in doing these things. Also I do M-ch 5.1 and only few commercial music servers do that. I suspect it requires a more powerful processor and 8 or higher Ram.

 

There is also advantage of running Macbook ? on battery alone, thus saving the need for LPS, and it seems running on battery is better than with Ac for macbook. 

 

Downside is is it cannot have Spdif or AES or I2S output. There are ways to do that for PC but as far as I know, not for Mac- so one needs DDC 

 

so so it leaves me to conclude that I would forget a $3000 music server or mod Macmini, and  get a $3000 MBP instead - since it has the most Uptodate processor. Does m-ch, can run windows if needed, And uses only SSD. USB 3 output which supposedly sends data fAster and more effectively. Also I actually need to replace my old MacAir as a laptop computer so it will serve as regular computer as well. 

That is my take anyway. 

 

 

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Unless you need the Macbook for something else you can get a lot of pretty good stuff for 3 grand - but as you want to replace your Air it might work for you.

 

However, my Pro sits on my lap while I am listening to music. I only control Roon and HQP with it and go surf the internet, read/write emails etc. because it is my working machine and I love listening to music while working. Therefore I would not consider your conclusion for my setup.

 

Chris

Software > Roon Server & HQ Player4 on Windows 2019/AO & MacMini MMK (plus Audirvana 3.5)  > Netgear GS105EV2 > Meicord Opal > Naim NDX 2 > Naim SN2 + Lyngdorf CD-2 + Rega RP8/Aria >  > Harbeth SHL5 plus

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And it integrates much nicer with the rest of my equipment, both size and looks.

Software > Roon Server & HQ Player4 on Windows 2019/AO & MacMini MMK (plus Audirvana 3.5)  > Netgear GS105EV2 > Meicord Opal > Naim NDX 2 > Naim SN2 + Lyngdorf CD-2 + Rega RP8/Aria >  > Harbeth SHL5 plus

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