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mini or macbook?


musiciseverything
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Thanks in advance for your help. I have had great advice from all of you so far. My old G4 powerbook hard drive is dying fast. My music is stored on 2 mirrored 500 GB RAID 1 external drives via USB and stored as Apple Lossless. My DAC is PS Audio DLIII. I am deciding between a Macbook and Mac Mini. The quality of the music is of paramount importance. I will continue to upgrade in the future but will be conservative with money for now. My questions:

1. Do I or will I need Firewire in the future? Mini has it, laptop does not). Will USB 3.0 replace it?

2. What has been your experience regarding the quality of sound: USB out into USB DAC vs mini-optical out to DAC vs wireless AE optical to DAC vs USB>M2Tech>coax digital to DAC?

3. Does using a USB hub matter in all this? The mini has 5 USB connections and the macbook only 2 thus necessitating a hub.

4. I am only using the computer for music and plan nothing else at this time.

5. I am using iTunes and Airport Expresses throughout the house, controlled by iTouch (which I love).

6. The mini will require purchasing a display but is still cheaper. I have an old mouse and keyboard.

 

Again, thanks for your help. I am back to spinning CDs!

 

Tom

 

"Information is not knowledge,

Knowledge is not wisdom,

Wisdom is not truth,

Truth is not beauty,

Beauty is not love,

Love is not music and

Music is the best" -Frank Zappa

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since you mentioned you wanted to conserve funds, I would opt for a mini. You can keep an eye on the apple store refurb section, as mini's come up from time to time (although not as often as macbooks). As I wrote this, there was a mini refurb available at the apple store. But some of the macbook refurbs at the apple store do have firewire, so keep that in mind. dealmac.com is another site to keep an eye on various sales.

 

You could run the mini as a headless mac, if you just borrowed someone's monitor. there is a nice thread here at this site, plus others, on how to set that up. pick up a cheap firewire drive, and use that as a boot drive for the old powerbook-- with screen sharing on the mini you could easily control the mini from the powerbook without having to keep a monitor around.

 

And if you *really* want to conserve funds, keep an eye at your local craig's list. You can at times find some nice deals.

 

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I appreciate the reply. I only speak PC so speaking Apple is new to me. Things were coming along nicely until the hard drive began to fail! I knew it would at some time. I am still loading CDs onto the hard drives. Those are great ideas. Any and all thoughts are welcome.

 

"Information is not knowledge,

Knowledge is not wisdom,

Wisdom is not truth,

Truth is not beauty,

Beauty is not love,

Love is not music and

Music is the best" -Frank Zappa

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Hi, I just got one of each, Mini to use at home, MacBookPro for travel. Have had a little time to compare, but first impressions are that the Mini has vastly more drive and bass oomph. And cleaner mids and highs.

 

Given that they use identical (?) component sets, my guess is that the differences are due to power supply reserves.

 

In the past I have found huge differences in performance when using beefier/cleaner power supplies, it could be that this is the case here as well.

 

So, if good sound directly from the output of the Mac is important to you, my vote is for the Mini. In standalone form, no fancy outboard dacs, it sounds pretty impressive.

 

Yes, i intend to to try USB dacs and firewire when time and money allow it, but I could live fairly happily with the direct audio output from the Mini.

 

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This will be the minority view, but I went for the macbook and would buy another if I were choosing again. I use 13" MBP perched on top of my Cambridge 840 cdp on isolating feet (to limit the HD vibration from getting to the cdp). Connected via toslink to the cdp, ripped music sounds exactly the same as sticking a silver disc in the cdp. I don't mean close; I mean exactly the same. The mbp is quiet and I use sleepless to be able to operate the macbook in clamshell mode which makes the whole thing visually unobtrusive too.

 

(The unibody white macbook is better value btw but the aluminium color of the mbp looks better on a hi-fi rack. Matters to me, ymmv).

 

- John.

 

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Santiago53 and John, Thanks for your thoughtful replies. I am not looking for a consensus. Differing opinions are more interesting, and the reasons behind them are the most interesting. I can see reasons for each one. So, again, all opinions are appreciated! Any other thoughts?

 

"Information is not knowledge,

Knowledge is not wisdom,

Wisdom is not truth,

Truth is not beauty,

Beauty is not love,

Love is not music and

Music is the best" -Frank Zappa

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My previous comments were meant to offer some idea of the differences between the MacMini and the MacBook Pro when using the internal DAC and audio outputs.

And I would agree, when you use external DACs it is possible to get really top notch sound, mostly depending on the DAC you connect to the digital output.

 

One IMPORTANT point is that the MacBook PRO, like the MacMini, has the firewire 800 output and the regular MacBook does NOT have firewire. This may be important as new firewire DACs show up on the market (e.g. the Weiss unit).

 

Also, to further bolster why maybe get the MacBook Pro: one of the possibilities the MacBook Pro offers over the MacMini is full battery powered operation. If you combine it with something like the RedWine audio or Virtue Audio gear (both are spectacularly good), all battery powered, you could very well end up with state of the art sound.

 

The power supply issue IS an important one, and the battery operated gear sounds so very good, it makes me wonder if there is a way of putting together a good battery supply for the MacMini too... The improvements I have heard on the Virtue when running on batteries compared to even the "best" (super high quality) switching or linear power supplies are so huge that it makes me think this is worth exploring.

 

SO, especially if you hope to run on batteries AND use an external USB or Firewire DAC, then yes the MBP makes a compelling choice, albeit at a 600USD premium.

 

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I have been playing a little with my M2Tech Hiface and my wife's Thinkpad, and by coincidence I discovered that I got better sound when the Thinkpad was hooked up to the power supply, compared to pure battery operation. Another member on a Danish forum had the same experience with his netbook and the Hiface.

 

I suspect that a factor in this may be that all notebooks, when on battery, cut down as much as possible on all processes in order to save power, and that this somehow may have a negative influence on the Hiface. So the suggestion of building a battery supply for the MacMini may actually be a good way to go. I would also be interested in hearing if anybody knows how to do this ...

 

All best,

Jens

 

i5 Macbook Pro running Roon -> Uptone Etherregen -> custom-built Win10 PC serving as endpoint, with separate LPUs for mobo and a filtering digiboard (DIY) -> Audio Note DAC 5ish (a heavily modded 3.1X Bal) -> AN Kit One, heavily modded with silver wiring and Black Gates -> AN E-SPx Alnico on Townshend speaker bars. Vicoustic and GIK treatment.

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  • 3 months later...

I'm thining of replacing my Mac mini for two main reasons: it's an older model that is maxed out at 2GB of RAM and I'd like to try a SSD for my OS given the seemingly overwhelming opinion that this offers better performance than a standard hard drive.

 

While the Mac mini is not available stock with a SSD, I realize one can install one (or have one installed by someone who knows what they're doing ;-) ). Looking at the latest MacBook Pros I see that these can take up to 8GB RAM and that you can now get up to a 512GB SSD.

 

Putting aside the expense (MacBooks being obviously more expensive than Mac mini's and a whopping $1400 for the 512GB SSD), we're talking about a local SSD that is big enough for some folks' entire libraries, or at least a heck of alot of music, even uncompressed. And if memory serves, I believe the consensus at the Computer Audiophile Symposium last year was that not only did using SSD for the OS sound better, but music files that were actually stored on/playing from SSD sounded better.

 

Not to mention the advantage of being able to run the MacBook on battery power.

 

So I'm wondering: aside from expense is there another disadvantage to using a MacBook Pro? What about noise? Other factors to consider?

 

Rance

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Hi rance - Your memory is serving you right :~) OS and Music on SSD was the favorite at the Symposium.

 

I prefer the MacBook to the Mini mainly because of the built-in keyboard, mouse, and monitor. The ability to run on battery power is very appealing as well.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris (or others)-

 

Do you use your MacBook with the lid open/screen up or closed? Is there a built-in setting to prevent the MacBook from going to sleep with the lid closed?

 

Also, I vaguely remember reading something about heat buildup problems when running with the lid closed. Is this a problem?

 

Rance

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