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firewall416

Music Server offering a significant upgrade over a Mac Mini?

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I am currently using a Mac Mini (Mid 2010) with an internal SSD drive connected to an external firewire HD holding my digital content. I am using Audirvana in direct mode to a Bel Canto Reflink USB/SPDIF converter connected to a Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Series 2. Cabling is from Nordost  (USB and AES). Standard power supply connected to Isoclean 60A3 digital designated outlet.

 

Any suggestion for a Music Server (Server only, no internal DAC) that would best my Mac Mini in a significant way?

 

I have been looking  at the Aurender N10 or Lumin U1 but not easy to find a unit locally to A/B.

 

 

Thanks

 

 

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I previously ran a mac mini with Audirvana and moved to an Aurender. No comparison from every perspective as far as im concerned. Haven't tried the Lumin to comment on, but the Aurender is first class.

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@Foxman50 Appreciate that you feel the Aurender is first class compared to MacMini... but WHY ? What would persuade me to switch in a 'significant way' ... as the OP suggested ?


NAS or QOBUZ > MacMini > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + UpTone UltraCap LPS-1 > Canare S/PDIF RCA/BNC coax > Schiit Gungnir MultiBit > PYST XLR > Schiit Mjolnir 2 > MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open

 

Office System: iMac > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + Audiophonics LPS25 > Metrum FLINT NOS DAC (DAC TWO chips) > Gilmore Lite mk2 > Aeon Flow Open

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7 minutes ago, Charente said:

@Foxman50 Appreciate that you feel the Aurender is first class compared to MacMini... but WHY ? What would persuade me to switch in a 'significant way' ... as the OP suggested ?

 

+1. I would like to know this as well. Also, which model of Aurender was compared with mac mini?

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For those on the MacMini, one thing to consider is to mod it with a better power supply. This actually cleans up the noise floor significantly.

 

If you want to change out of the Mac Mini, do consider that any music server is a computer of some sort. A properly-designed custom motherboard can help to mitigate noise, and give better playback. Also, off-the-shelf SSDs do not necessarily improve the sound of audio playback, due to the frequently changing demands on electricity (lots of things happen in the background, even when the data is not being accessed). There are a few audio-specific SSDs on the market, and they use electronics to minimize these swings in electricity demand.


The road to Hell is paved with good intentions...

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1 hour ago, foodfiend said:

For those on the MacMini, one thing to consider is to mod it with a better power supply. This actually cleans up the noise floor significantly.

 

If you want to change out of the Mac Mini, do consider that any music server is a computer of some sort. A properly-designed custom motherboard can help to mitigate noise, and give better playback. Also, off-the-shelf SSDs do not necessarily improve the sound of audio playback, due to the frequently changing demands on electricity (lots of things happen in the background, even when the data is not being accessed). There are a few audio-specific SSDs on the market, and they use electronics to minimize these swings in electricity demand.

 

My mac mini is powered by Paul Hynes external LPS and I use wtf-player which is booted to RAM from memory stick. Something else would be done?

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Upgrading the Mac Mini power supply or otherwise  is not really an option that I am considering. 

It is going on 7 years already and I feel that using the Bel Canto Ref Link does most of the work in that area.

 

I am not unhappy with the Mac Mini -  just wondering if I am missing anything compare to  an Aurender or Lumin kind of server.

 

The options are either I stay put until the Mac Mini Server having been serving me well for 7 years and still going on strong or simplify with a standalone music server that would return a decent ROI in regards to sound quality.

 

Of interest is if you have gone thru this process, how much of an upgrade in sound quality are you hearing compare to a Mac Mini Setup as described.

 

Thanks

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My mac mini was a late 2012 model 16gb ram and SSD. moved to an Aurender N100, no internal storage but has an SSD for playback.

 

What do I prefer, soundstage, detail, noise floor, bass, treble, lack of grain. As I mentioned to me the mac mini did not compare. Yes I could have spent loads on PSU's and a myriad of upgrades. But who knows how the end result would turn out, not like it could be auditioned.

 

The Aurender has the best app IMHO, basic but perfect for my needs. 

 

As always these are my opinions so you would need to do your own comparisons. 

 

Yes the Aurender or any off the shelf unit lacks flexibility, but it's been running three years without a hitch. Honestly how many mac mini owners could say the same.

 

To me the whole Aurender user experience has been flawless. See if you can loan one and see what you think.

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@Foxman50 The Aurender sounds impressive and at the price I would expect nothing less... you're right that a MacMini based setup needs a bit of hand-holding but nothing traumatic IME. I guess, I prefer being able to update things in a chain more easily (cheaply ?), if I want to, as new technology arises and makes sense to me ... that's the  appeal in having a separates approach, e.g. in my case... MacMini > Audirvana > microRendu > Eitr as I have done fairly recently. But, for a setup and forget, I can see the attraction as well.


NAS or QOBUZ > MacMini > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + UpTone UltraCap LPS-1 > Canare S/PDIF RCA/BNC coax > Schiit Gungnir MultiBit > PYST XLR > Schiit Mjolnir 2 > MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open

 

Office System: iMac > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + Audiophonics LPS25 > Metrum FLINT NOS DAC (DAC TWO chips) > Gilmore Lite mk2 > Aeon Flow Open

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if you use WiFi or optical somewhere in the chain from a Mac Mini then I don't see why any other storage or playback device would improve the SQ


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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19 hours ago, Charente said:

@foodfiend I did consider the MMK power conversion kit for the MacMini after a conversation with UpTone ... at the time I was using USB out ... and that looks like a neat solution. However, now, I'm using a renderer via Ethernet on the network, rather than USB. I presumed that modifying the power for the MacMini would be not be worthwhile in these circs. The renderer and its PS is not a cheap solution, but probably about the same cost as a good quality server. Apart from the music going across Ethernet, rather than 'noisy' USB, a good renderer with clean output signal qualities can produce very good overall sound improvements.

Well, I would say that using a renderer then shifts the majority of potential tweaks to that box. It is not really using the MacMini as a player anymore.

 

There has been some talk of "the benefits of cleaning up your network" when it comes to Ethernet. Do you have any experience on this?


The road to Hell is paved with good intentions...

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@foodfiend Yes, my MacMini has only one role now ... it runs Audirvana 3.1 which streams to the renderer ... and that's it. I suspect it will remain in that role 'forever' !

 

No Ethernet cleaning done to date ... there appear to be many ways to skin that cat, I don't know where to start, or even if I want to go there.

 

What I have done tho' it to clean my mains power ... using a Balanced Power Supply from Airlink has yielded a much cleaner overall presentation to the soundstage for £290 ... that is worthwhile.


NAS or QOBUZ > MacMini > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + UpTone UltraCap LPS-1 > Canare S/PDIF RCA/BNC coax > Schiit Gungnir MultiBit > PYST XLR > Schiit Mjolnir 2 > MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open

 

Office System: iMac > Audirvana > Schiit EITR + Audiophonics LPS25 > Metrum FLINT NOS DAC (DAC TWO chips) > Gilmore Lite mk2 > Aeon Flow Open

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On 9/18/2017 at 7:57 AM, firewall416 said:

I am currently using a Mac Mini (Mid 2010) with an internal SSD drive connected to an external firewire HD holding my digital content. I am using Audirvana in direct mode to a Bel Canto Reflink USB/SPDIF converter connected to a Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Series 2. Cabling is from Nordost  (USB and AES). Standard power supply connected to Isoclean 60A3 digital designated outlet.

 

Any suggestion for a Music Server (Server only, no internal DAC) that would best my Mac Mini in a significant way?

 

I have been looking  at the Aurender N10 or Lumin U1 but not easy to find a unit locally to A/B.

 

 

Thanks

 

 

 

I recently assembled a C.A.P.S. Carbon renderer with the SOtM USB card.  Whether I use Audirvana 3, HQ Player or just plain UPNP/DLNA, the difference is tremendous.  If you don't want to go the DIY route, perhaps one of the renderers you mention.  I think it will be a significant upgrade.  My playback is now significantly cleaner and more transparent compared to my 2014 Mac Mini.

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I was using a Mac book pro feeding a Ultrarendu outputting into a Bel Canto Ref Link.  While the sound was good I felt it could improved upon so I decided to experiment.    I bought a base model Mac Mini (4GB of RAM/none SSD) and Uptone Audio’s MMK and JS-2 power supply.  My music player is Roon with my music mainly sourced from Tidal.  The Ultrarendu’s Ethernet is connected directly to the Mini via a network bridge.  Doing so bypasses my router for an improvement is sound quality.  I realized a big step up in sound overall compared to the Mac Book Pro with the biggest improvements in naturalness and dynamics.  So, yes, improving the source makes a difference no matter how good your down stream components are.

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Just giving my impressions with respect to replacing Mac Mini with a streamer: I was a long-time MacBook Pro fan running Audirvana+ via USAB into my DAC (Aqua La Voce S2). At one point I felt the whole procedure of connecting my MBP to my audio system, having to connect an external HD that keeps my library and starting Audirvana+. Too clumsy. So I was looking for a one-box solution and a year ago, I bought an Aurender N100H. I transferred all my music files onto the Aurender, had it connected via ethernet to an Airport Extreme, and I quite liked what I was hearing. The Aurender's soundstage is a little dark, a bit too bass heavy (at least to my taste), but it does sound really, really fine. Most importantly, I had my one-box solution, no computer hassle anymore, and, as i said, a very pleasing soundstage!

 

As it goes, I also have a Roon subscription, and from time to time, I re-connected my MBP and had Roon running my library. And to my total surprise, I started to like the sound better coming from Roon-fed music than from my Aurender. The difference is not night and day, but in comparison, the Aurender sounds a bit veiled in the highs, and the Roon-driven system is more revealing and clearer. But, to me, it is just a tad bass-shy. Nevertheless, I am thinking of going back to a computer-driven system with Roon as the core. BTW, I use Roon's internal up-sampling device. 

 

I guess my dream system will be Roon's long-awaited Nucleus feeding my hardware.

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Guess I like what it is you are saying, and I moved back to a mac running roon. This one mac is now dedicated to roon, can use any resource on it exclusively, so adjusting the quality for the better is done by Roon settings. Lots of playing around with it.....but eventually I will find the optimal settings...IMG_2694.thumb.jpg.04a1f94e40c34a48d8e19e7a72280bf4.jpg

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On 9/18/2017 at 4:57 PM, firewall416 said:

I am currently using a Mac Mini (Mid 2010) with an internal SSD drive connected to an external firewire HD holding my digital content. I am using Audirvana in direct mode to a Bel Canto Reflink USB/SPDIF converter connected to a Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Series 2. Cabling is from Nordost  (USB and AES). Standard power supply connected to Isoclean 60A3 digital designated outlet.

 

Any suggestion for a Music Server (Server only, no internal DAC) that would best my Mac Mini in a significant way?

 

I have been looking  at the Aurender N10 or Lumin U1 but not easy to find a unit locally to A/B.

 

 

Thanks

 

 

The Magna Mano seems an interesting alternative to a Mac Mini + USB to SPDIF interface but I do not have any first hand experience with the device. 

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1 hour ago, nbpf said:

The Magna Mano seems an interesting alternative to a Mac Mini + USB to SPDIF interface but I do not have any first hand experience with the device. 

 I can work on optimising output from a Raspberry by myself, less expensive and more fun!

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20 minutes ago, franz159 said:

 I can work on optimising output from a Raspberry by myself, less expensive and more fun!

How would you proceed towards improving the SPDIF and i2s output of a Raspberry Pi?   

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3 minutes ago, nbpf said:

How would you proceed towards improving the SPDIF and i2s output of a Raspberry Pi?   

 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, franz159 said:

 

 

 

Thanks! I am currently comparing the Allo DigiOne to my current setup (a fitPC3 connected to an M2Tech hiFace Evo, both on Teddy Pardo linear power supplies), to the Schiit Eitr and to the Mutec MC-3+ USB. I should be able to post my findings in a couple of days.

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