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MMMSA-10

Headless Mac Mini (2018) and Grounding - audio drop-outs

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I trialled my MacBook with Audirvana, with an external Samsung 1TB SSD using a USB-C/USB3 hub, as a server to my DAC (SA-10). This worked well, except for QuadDSD where I experienced drop-outs - whether the file was fully loaded into memory or not. Was not able to get anyone to tell where the problem definitely was, so considered grounding issues a possibility - prompted by the not unusual 'sparking' when plugging the USB-C hub in to the MacBook.

 

Now set up a new Mac Mini (2018) as a headless server, and I experienced the same dropouts again only on QuadDSD. The drop-outs were causing the USB-DAC to click in and out of connection - suggesting that the actual comms between the two was being interrupted (as opposed to a glitch in the stream).

 

Have installed an iFI nano iGalvanic3 isolation unit and the problem is gone with the 3-position switch in the DC-RF position (which iFI claim is for hum loop situations). It reappears in either of "ISO" (full isolation) or "RF" (for non-grounded things like the Mac Mini) positions. 

 

I have tried adding a ground connection from an unused Mac Mini USB3 port (pin 4 and shield)  to the system earth on the pre-amp. Makes no difference to the drop-out behaviour.

 

So, although I am 'sorted', anyone experienced this, and or have a full explanation for the reasons behind my success? 

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