Jump to content
IGNORED

Mac based system, Any weak links?


Alan B

Recommended Posts

I am close to finalizing a hardware platform for my music server, but I do need some further ideas/clarifications. I have never used an Apple computer in my life. I have been a PC user since the early days of DOS now up through XP. I have built intel based PC’s from scratch so I do understand PC’s just not Apple products.

 

From what I have read so far, Apple seems to be the PC of choice even though there are less software choices. I am fully aware of all the problems associated with kmixer, etc. So that is why I will make the move to Apple.

 

Of paramount importance: I do not want any hard drive storage in my main listening room or any type of permanent display. I do not mind have in a Mac Mini in the room but all storage will need to reside in the basement. Fortunately, all of my other computers, switches, routers, cable modem, etc. all reside in the basement right below my main listening room so I have hardwired an Ethernet cable extending from the basement to the first floor where the audio cabinet resides.

 

The Mac Mini in the audio cabinet would output to my Benchmark USB DAC1 (via USB), Balanced out to my Marsh Sound Design MSD2000b preamp, balanced out to the Bryston 4Bst power amp.

 

In the basement I would like to locate the 2TB LaCie 2big Network (2-disk RAID) NAS storage device to be used in a RAID1 configuration via Ethernet connection to the 8 port switch where the MAC Mini will also be plugged in.

 

Control of MAC Mini will be via iTouch (16GB?) or used mac book.

 

I would also the connect my squeezebox (SB3) via coax to the coax input on the Benchmark USB DAC. This is used only for internet radio. Sadly I do not know of another way to access internet radio through the Mac Mini. If there is please let me know.

 

My questions are:

 

1. Is there a problem first of all in placing the NAS storage device in the basement? Is the LaCie a good choice, or is there a better solution?

2. Which MAC mini should I get? Is it worthwhile to spend the additional $200 to get the MB139LL/A over the MB138LL/A?

3. Control question: I do not own the iTouch as of yet, if I decide to go with a used mac book instead, which used model would you suggest? (I could also use the Mac book to do web research, read email, etc). I do have a D-link wireless N router in the basement as well.

4. I already own the Benchmark USB DAC1, so that will be the USB DAC I will use, outside of that are there any limitations in the proposed setup? Any other ideas to consider?

 

This is a great site that has been enormously helpful so far. Thanks to many of you already!

 

 

Alan B

Link to comment

Hi Alan - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. It's always refreshing when readers, like yourself, do a little homework before asking questions. Some people don't know enough to do homework so i give them a pass :-)

 

Don't worry about using a Mac for a music server. It sounds like you know your way around Windows / DOS :-) very well, so you won't have issues on a Mac. As long as you know what needs to be done you'll figure it out. For example if you want to give your network card a static ip address I'm sure you could do it in about 30 seconds on a Mac.

 

 

My questions are:

 

1. Is there a problem first of all in placing the NAS storage device in the basement? Is the LaCie a good choice, or is there a better solution?

 

No problem at all. This is exactly what I do. I run a Thecus 5200B Pro NAS in a totally separate room. Works flawless. I don't like LaCie drives because I think they use inferior hard drives in their enclosures. I recommend purchasing a NAS enclosure and putting in your own hard drives. It's pretty easy and we are all here to help should you run into trouble.

 

2. Which MAC mini should I get? Is it worthwhile to spend the additional $200 to get the MB139LL/A over the MB138LL/A?

 

The only advantage to the more expensive one is the SuperDrive. It can write DVDs. But, if you have a DVD Writer on another PC you can always move files over to that computer and burn them. Other than the drive I see no advantage to the more expensive unit. In fact the cheaper one with a slower CPU may run cooler and quieter.

 

3. Control question: I do not own the iTouch as of yet, if I decide to go with a used mac book instead, which used model would you suggest? (I could also use the Mac book to do web research, read email, etc). I do have a D-link wireless N router in the basement as well.

 

Get the cheapest one you can find. Screen sharing, email, and Internet won't tax the Mac in the least. I actually use a MacBook Air and an iPod Touch off and on. Love them both.

 

4. I already own the Benchmark USB DAC1, so that will be the USB DAC I will use, outside of that are there any limitations in the proposed setup? Any other ideas to consider?

 

No limitations other than lack of 24/176.4 and 24/192 support via USB. The SB is the way to go for Internet radio for sure.

 

 

Let me know if this only raises more questions or you want to continue the discussion. We're hear to help.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

Link to comment

Thanks Chris for your reply.

 

I just read your excellent article on the Thecus 5200B Pro NAS. Maybe this is the way I should go. I have nearly 1000 CD's to be ripped and I only want to do this once. What 1 TB drives do you recommend for the enclosure?

 

Also I would like to rip the CD's to wav files for permanent storage. Then off load the hard drive for permanent storage. But I would like to use AIFF (for playback) as I have heard that it supports better metadata, album art, etc. Is this to much of a belt and suspenders approach?

 

What about clasical music? I believe that that has been a problem for some individuals.

 

Alan B

Link to comment

As I mentioned before I am not to savy on Mac notebooks, so if I do go with a mac notebook for control is this overkill?

 

15 Inch PowerBook G4Home

Certified Pre-Owned Aluminum PowerBook G4/1.33 GHz

1024 MB of RAM

60 GB internal drive

internal Combo Drive

internal 56k modem

Airport Extreme and Bluetooth installed

15" display

Used Mac with 90 day warranty

OS CD is not included

OS 10.3.9 installed

Item Number: c-u63796

Vendor: Apple

Price: $829.00 (used, 90 day warranty)

 

Any help/comments is appreciated!

 

 

Alan B

Link to comment

I recommend Seagate of Hitachi drives. This is based on years of experience with all kinds of drives. The place to get them is newegg.com . You can get the OEM version without the retail packaging for much cheaper than any place else.

 

AIFF and WAV are virtual the same thing. Audibly there is no difference because they are both uncompressed. You are 100% correct about AIFF being much better with metadata and album art etc... I only rip to AIFF and don't see any advantage to ripping WAV.

 

Classical music can be a headache for many people. The online databases like CDDB, AMG, Grace Note, etc... all have problems fitting the correct information into the standard album form like artist and album.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

Link to comment

The hardware would be totally fine for this, but the operating system probably won't cut it. You'll want the newest version of iTunes and OS X. This hardware is pushing it even though it does meet the minimum requirements.

 

 

 

I should have clarified this a bit. I would get the cheapest Mac with an Intel chip set and processor. The next version of OS X called Snow Leopard may not support G4 or G5 systems.

 

Also, $829 seems a little high for that PowerBook G4.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

Link to comment

Hi Alan, it really sounds like you've got a good grasp of the situation.

 

I'm not sure you need to have both wav and aiff versions. If you're thinking of wav as the backup, as you know these don't include the most of the metadata. So if you lose the disk with the aiff, you'll be confronted with the unfortunately task of resorting all of the album art, composer names, etc.. I've been there, and it is tedious, though simple in nature. Anyway I'm not sure if that's what you were planning for.

 

For what it's worth, I find I do quite a lot of fiddling around with playlists and making annotations as I'm listening to music. I've got my G4 Cube in my music room and I often get the idea of comparing the Aria across recordings of the Goldberg Variations, or setting up a custom evening of Bach works spontaneously arranged. It's nice to have the full iTunes interface with mouse to hand. And then I add notes, making sure that the track titles in the Perahia is the same as in the Egarr. And so on.

 

Also I do a good deal of exploring of new music titles, so for me I like having the computer with keyboard and monitor in the room with me. I've got the computer on a different AC circuit and it's by my listening seat rather than with the amp and speakers. I think you've got a more pure approach in mind, and one that is less likely to introduce noise.

 

But I must say that the computer is changing my listening habits and I'd miss having the entire interface at hand. If you are thinking of having a laptop in the room with you... consider forgoing the mini altogether.

 

Just some thoughts.

 

Steve

 

2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

Link to comment

Thanks Steve. How do you make your changes to the playlist, metadata, etc., through a wireless keyboard and mouse to the Mac mini or through a seperate Mac laptop? For that matter could one use a Vista based laptop for this? Sorry about my Mac ignorance.

 

 

 

Alan B

Link to comment

A couple more questions that come to mind as I get ready to place the equipment order:

 

1. While I would like to get the Thecus N5200PRO, I think it is more than I need at present (need to save $ somewhere if possible without compromising sound quality ?). In your recent music sever system you also recommended the N2100. After reading many of the posts on the Thecus forum some have commented on the very small fan on the small enclosure that is very noisy and the hard drives still run hot (50 to 60 degrees C). Without doing an extensive modification like one owner did, I thought that by moving up a notch might be better (see Thecus Forum) One individuals suggested going with the N3200 as it has a larger fan and case (will hold 3 drives, but I suppose one could go with only two drives and a RAID 1 configuration) with better cooling. What do you think? It is only about $50 more than the N2100.

 

2. On the HD Compatibility Test Report for the N3200 they list the Seagate Barracuda ES.2 (model # ST31000340NS) that sells for $240. Seagate also sells the Barracuda 7200.11 (model # ST31000340AS) for $190 (not on compatibility list). Do think this will work? I am not sure what the real differences are between them. Both have 32MB of cache. What are your thoughts? Chris, you also mentioned Hitachi products as being preferred products. The N3200 compatibility list also shows the 1TB Hitachi (HDS721010KLA330). However, that drive is even more money being about $270 each.

 

 

BTW, I am putting together a music sever party to be held in mid-August to invite some of my audiophile friends over. I have asked them to bring their favorite CD's and CD transports over and lets compare music server sound against their favorite transports/players. Even if sound quality was equal (in most cases if not all, it is better) the ease of finding what one wants to hear is worth every dime spent! Chris, your site is excellent, I really appreciate the absence of back biting that is so common on other high end audio forums. You and your contributors have raised the bar!

 

Alan B

Link to comment

Alan - have you thought about a Macbook? Having a screen handy when you need it makes things easy, plus you can flop in a chair and connect wirelessly when you need to work on tags or putting compilations back together. It's worth consideration at least.

 

Link to comment

Yes, but only as a way to connect to the Mac mini. I prefer to have a dedicated Mac mini (in upstairs audio cabinet) connect via CAT 6 ethernet to my basement below where the noisy hard drives will be located. I do not want a permanent display in my listening room (it is also our living room, and my wife would not approve of that). But a separate Macbook for working on tags, email, etc. would be nice to have if I can connect wirelessly to the Mac Mini.

 

Alan B

Link to comment

I was sort of suggesting the Macbook can spend it's life closed and even hidden. It's not very big, but when you do need a screen you have it. But I know how important WAF is too. Actually, my wife is now pretty hooked on cover flow. Course she liked our KHorns too!

 

Link to comment

curious_george:

 

No, I have not considered their products because I believe that they are more expensive option. The enclosure has to reside in the basement (for noise reasons) and the Drobo only comes with a USB or USB/Firewire connection unless one adds the DroboShare (additional $199). So for a 2 TB configuration it would be about $1076 ($499+$199+370 (HD's)). Verses the Thesus N3200 and 2 HD's being about $710, unless I am missing something.

 

The Drobo video on their website seems overly simple, but maybe that is what one is paying for. I just do not know enough about Drobo. Thanks for your suggestion, I will read the reviews on this site.

 

Alan B

Link to comment

Hey Alan - First, thanks so much for the kind words about the site. I'm glad you recognized that we have something good going here and CA is not your standard site that takes the fun out of an enjoyable hobby :-)

 

Now down to business.

 

1. I think the N3200 would be a really good choice for only $50 more. I rarely listen to other people's opinions about how loud a component is if they are from a forum based on something other than audio. I'm not being snobby, just honest because many people outside the world of high-end audio don't know exactly what we are looking for and probably think we are a little crazy.

 

 

2. Virtually any Seagate or Hitachi drive will work. I have two different models of Hitachi 1TB drives and both work great. Only one of them is on the list of compatible drives. The main difference between the regular Seagate drives and the ES.2 models is the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure). The ES.2 drives last much longer than a standard drive. I don't use ES.2 enterprise SATA II drives because they are expensive.

 

 

I am jealous of your music server type of party you will host coming up! Sounds like a blast!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

I have a question that's been rattling around my head and hopefully fits into this general system configuration thread. It has to do with RAM. I know the general consensus is the more RAM the better, but for, say, a Macbook being used pretty much exclusively as a music server, would an upgrade from 2GB to 4GB do anything? Assuming I don't mind the cost, would it improve anything?

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

Link to comment

Hi Tim - This is a tough question and you may have to do a little monitoring to get the best answer. I'm working with a couple people right now who are moving up to 6 GB in their desktop machines because they have some situations where is ay be needed. They want to have everything loaded into RAM thus avoiding all disk swapping. This means loading the OS, the music playback software, andy misc. software, and the big kicker is they have some classical high resolution albums that are one huge AIFF or WAV file. 24/192 material can be around three to four GB if it's one huge file. So, 6 GB is going to help them presumably.

 

You can use the app called iStat Pro (free $$) to monitor your RAM usage and many other things as well. It's always a balance though because more RAM will likely add more heat, but the amount of heat is probably very little.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

Link to comment

Thanks Chris. I downloaded the iStat Pro widget (very slick!) and took a look. On my new-ish Macbook Pro with 2GB of RAM I played AIFF music through iTunes while having a couple of web pages open doing various tasks and at no time was my unused RAM any less than 1.25GB according to iStat. So I would think that for the average user like me 2GB is more than plenty. I might buy a regular Macbook black to use as my server and free up the Pro for travel, etc., and was trying to make the RAM decision. I think it's made, and might be helpful info for others. Thanks again.

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

 

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...