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Mac Mini or Sonos?


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I am about to set up a NAS for my music files and then to play these on my current analogue Hi Fi system. As usual, I want to keep the NAS out of my living room, in the study next to my current Mac Pro. I have been researching the option to connect these. I have CAT6 cabling around the house so I could hook up a Sonos ZP90, then to a DAC, then to my current Amp. The ZP90 has an ethernet connection so I can then use it to remotely access my iTune on my Mac Pro. But I was also wondering if I can use a headless Mac Mini to do the same thing? And which of the two options would provide a) better sound quality b) flexibility?

 

One of the main resaons to choose a Mac Mini over Sonos is its USB out which enables me to connect to an Ayre QB9 - the DAC currently on top of my list. The Sonos only has optical, analogue and coaxial out. That would mean going for another DAC like a Benchmark. Can anyone comment on the realtive merits of a USB vs optical interconnect?

 

Mac Mini (iTune) + ALAC on Synology 409 NAS > Transparent USB cable >Benchmark DAC1 >Neutrik XLR >Jeff Rowland Continuum Integrated Amp >B&W 802 speakers

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Optical

-electrically isolates the dac from the computer

-lots of dacs have an optical input or spdif equivalent

 

USB

-has the capacity for less jitter if done well

-allows less format conversion going from computer to DAC chip

 

Sonos vs Mini

Mini can be more customizable via software/hardware

Sonos does one thing only/designed to do that

 

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I have used a SONOS ZP90 with my PS Audio DL III DAC and compared it against my MAC Mini with iTunes. The sound of the MAC was significantly better, so I sold the SONOS. Upgrading the MAC with a good player software like Pure Vinyl improved the sound even more. So definetely a thumbs up for the MAC.

 

With regards to optical versus USB. I've also tried both on the MAC and clearly got much better sound through USB. No doubt about it.

 

Hope this helps...

Cheers

Christian

 

Equipment: Macbook Pro / Amarra, Pure Vinyl / DAC: Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Pre: Classé SSP 300 / Amps: Antique Sound Lab Hurricane (Tube-Monos) / Speakers: ELAC FS 609 XPi / Cables: Sun Wire Reference , HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, Audience Powercord / Power: PS Audio Power Plant P5

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Thanks for clear answer! It definitely helps as it is what I suspected and was trying to fast forward a couple of steps :-) I live in Hong Kong and pain to try to test things.

 

Do you have a monitor with you Mac Mini in your listening area? Trying to avoid this and planning on using my Mac Pro in the study to "remote monitor" the Mini, then use iPhone as remote.

 

Cheers

Wai yee

 

Mac Mini (iTune) + ALAC on Synology 409 NAS > Transparent USB cable >Benchmark DAC1 >Neutrik XLR >Jeff Rowland Continuum Integrated Amp >B&W 802 speakers

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"I have used a SONOS ZP90 with my PS Audio DL III DAC and compared it against my MAC Mini with iTunes. The sound of the MAC was significantly better, so I sold the SONOS. Upgrading the MAC with a good player software like Pure Vinyl improved the sound even more. So definetely a thumbs up for the MAC."

 

Yay! I've been waiting for a straight up answer on this for ages! I have been fip flopping between the two siding toward the Sonos mostly although I really wanted something I could shove a CD in to rip right away.

I was even tempted at one stage to use the Mac Mini AS the NAS using a larger internal or usb external.

Then AEX to the hifi :)

 

 

 

 

PS3 60bg (160GB installed + Native music Browser)-AVI ADM9.1-Klipsch SW12 Subwoofer-Belkin Power Board- Custom power cables-Supra Sub Cable- No Name Toslink Cable - PROUD NZer

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yes something simple answers are hard to come by.

 

Thanks to the earlier reply I am inches away from pulling the trigger except...how do I work my Mini without a monitor? Don't want a screen permanently in my listening area so hoping for another simple answer...

 

Can I use my Mac Pro on an ethernet network to manage the Mini? If not can someone suggest some ideas?

 

Mac Mini (iTune) + ALAC on Synology 409 NAS > Transparent USB cable >Benchmark DAC1 >Neutrik XLR >Jeff Rowland Continuum Integrated Amp >B&W 802 speakers

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You should be able to remote in to your mac mini via either apple remote desktop or the built in screen sharing feature in ichat. This would be for ripping and general maintenance. Otherwise you should just be able to use the remote iphone app to control things (although I'm not sure about something like amarra and the remote iphone app).

 

PS Audio Quintet > Powerbook (iphone with apple remote app) > HRT Streamer II > Kingrex Pre-amp > Kingrex QS-01 > Devore Fidelity Gibbon 7.1\'s

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Thanks guys for the info - just what I need.

Although just checked the remote desktop apps on the Apple web site, it says $299 for 10 users - is this the software? Seems a bit steep?

 

Mac Mini (iTune) + ALAC on Synology 409 NAS > Transparent USB cable >Benchmark DAC1 >Neutrik XLR >Jeff Rowland Continuum Integrated Amp >B&W 802 speakers

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You don't need the Remote Desktop app from Apple's website ... that is for administering a big network.

 

All you need comes with Leopard or SnowLeopard.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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What I've done is to use the Mac Mini as a headless device (i.e. without monitor). During configuration, I've certainly plugged in a monitor. I've configured the system to automatically launch Pure Vinyl (the player software), which then starts up iTunes. In addition, I use ROWMOTE, which enables better control over the system from my iPhone (using the Apple REMOTE-App to control the music), for example to shut down the mac after listening.

 

Setting up such a system is not rocket-science :-)

 

Cheers

Christian

 

Equipment: Macbook Pro / Amarra, Pure Vinyl / DAC: Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Pre: Classé SSP 300 / Amps: Antique Sound Lab Hurricane (Tube-Monos) / Speakers: ELAC FS 609 XPi / Cables: Sun Wire Reference , HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, Audience Powercord / Power: PS Audio Power Plant P5

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Thanks again! It may not be rocket science but for someone who is taking the first step, succinct info is what the doctor ordered.

 

Now most of the questions answered, will take the plunge and report results when it is running...altho still flip flopping between the Benchmark DAC1 USB and Ayre QB9 (which has a 6 weeks wait - major drawback)

 

Wai Yee

 

Mac Mini (iTune) + ALAC on Synology 409 NAS > Transparent USB cable >Benchmark DAC1 >Neutrik XLR >Jeff Rowland Continuum Integrated Amp >B&W 802 speakers

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...I just wanted to encourage you that setting up such a MAc Mini system is not that complicated. You've found the right forum in case you need help :-)

 

With regards to the DAC decision however, I cannot comment. I encourage you to read Chris's review of the Ayre, which I believe to be a more advanced device compared to the benchmark.

 

Cheers

Christian

 

Equipment: Macbook Pro / Amarra, Pure Vinyl / DAC: Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Pre: Classé SSP 300 / Amps: Antique Sound Lab Hurricane (Tube-Monos) / Speakers: ELAC FS 609 XPi / Cables: Sun Wire Reference , HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, Audience Powercord / Power: PS Audio Power Plant P5

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just want to say thank you for all the help from you guys. From a total newbie, I am now proud owner of the set up as below. Music quality far exceeds my expectation - I am still a vinyl addict and this set up is for everyday listening :-).

 

Now I am on the first step, all the possibilities awaits me....AIFF files, Amarra or similar, better DAC and that's before playing around with power and cables!! BTW what would you say will be the first tweak that will improve the 'musicality' most?? I am most interested in the results rather than the technology.

 

Wai Yee

 

Mac Mini (iTune) + ALAC on Synology 409 NAS > Transparent USB cable >Benchmark DAC1 >Neutrik XLR >Jeff Rowland Continuum Integrated Amp >B&W 802 speakers

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Congratulations,

 

now you have a nice basic setup which you can enjoy...I am glad that it exceeds your expectations....

 

My suggestion for a next step to take your equipment to the "next level" is to install a new dedicated player software. If you're a vinyl addict (ie. like a "rich warm sound") I suggest to try "Pure Vinyl" from Channel D Software. I considered this a significant step forward in my setup. You should also try Amarra which also has many supporters here in the forum. I tried both and consider Pure Vinyl superior with regards to my personal taste. There a test versions available for both programs free of charge.

 

Have fun...

Cheers

Christian

 

Equipment: Macbook Pro / Amarra, Pure Vinyl / DAC: Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Pre: Classé SSP 300 / Amps: Antique Sound Lab Hurricane (Tube-Monos) / Speakers: ELAC FS 609 XPi / Cables: Sun Wire Reference , HMS Gran Finale Jubilee, Audience Powercord / Power: PS Audio Power Plant P5

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I don't think anyone clearly stated how to get the Remote app. If you just pull up the App Store on your iPhone and do a search for the word "remote" it will be the very first app that pops up. A post above says that everything you need is built into Snow Leopard but not the actual app that you'll need on your Touch or IPhone.

 

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  • 10 months later...

Good tips Christian, I also based some decisions on tour experience. Mac mini with USB into the Dac of my mf m6i. It's great. I tried pure music, also from channel d. Not sure about the difference. It is subtle. Is pure vinyl à different product?

 

Cheeta steven

 

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Like someone already suggested. Use the inbuilt VNC or Screen Sharing function. You can use an iPad (recommended) to control the music. Use the screen sharing function to setup and configure the system. I do this with no problems. You will need a monitor to initially enable screen sharing though. I just got a basic MacBook instead of the Mini. The 13" Pro has the same specs as the Mini. They seem to be the same machine in different form factors. In the US the cost differential is small.

 

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