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MAC Mini or Dedicated Streamer?


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Anyone found an obvious winner out of the aforementioned digital transport formats for playing music?

 

A computer based transport like the MAC Mini would probably need an excellent USB to SPDIF converter as opposed to a neat all-in-one dedicated streamer like an Auralic G1.

 

But the advantages of the computer based transport might be the processor speed or better equipt music software like Audirvana or JPlay which makes all the difference (is JPlay still kicking around?).

 

I read on an older thread where it was mentioned that generally speaking a computer based front end is superior to other digital based transports (including CD players) in quite a considerable way - but that thread was way back in 2011. Well it's now 2021 so... maybe a dedicated streamer is better?

 

This is all based on hooking up an external DAC to either one of them (dedicated streamer or computer).

 

Computer example - MAC Mini to Audiophilleo to DAC

Dedicated example - Auralic Aries to DAC

 

 

 

 

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I used a Mac Mini for years, stripped down to eliminate excess processing, then beefed up with all sorts of USB decrapifiers.  Now with a Naim purpose built server.  If you are short on cash and you already own an extra computer, it's a great way to get started.  But a few thousand dollars on an Auralic, Naim, Aurender, or similar is money well spent to get better sound on a more stable platform.  You will not find any users of these systems switching to Mac.

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That’s a big win for a dedicated streamer - a better sound on a more stable platform.

 

A Mac Mini with Audiophilleo 1 combo is probably on par with a few thousand dollar streamer price wise!

 

interesting that you are from the states and like our UK gear Naim.

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I was in this position previously and 2 weeks ago, I took a leap of faith to purchase myself a Sonore opticalRENDU. Today after receiving the necessary stuffs (optical fibre cable, LPS, etc), it is the first time I hear the new setup. Indeed, there is a jump in performance with the streamer (opticalRENDU). There is more presence, more nuances, smoother sound, deeper lower ends, etc. Do note that I have a Uptone etherREGEN paired with the opticalRENDU. 

APPLE Mac Mini | UPTONE etherREGEN | SONORE opticalRENDU | LKS MH-DA002 | iFi iPurifier | iFi iTube | CLASSÉ CAP-80 | RAIDHO X-1

DENON DP-300F + NAGAOKA MP-110 • NAIM Muso QB • YAMAHA YSP-2700

oyaide R1 • acoustic synergy hercules power cable • acoustic synergy monster powerline 400 signature power cable • acoustic synergy black mamba speaker cables • furukawa pure silver xlr + ic • belden gold usb • belden optical fibre •.finisar ftlf1324p2btl sfp • weiduka ac8.8 power conditioner • lhy audio 7v lps • ifi ipower 9v • isoacoustics gaia iii

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On 1/10/2021 at 6:13 AM, xllms said:

I was in this position previously and 2 weeks ago, I took a leap of faith to purchase myself a Sonore opticalRENDU. Today after receiving the necessary stuffs (optical fibre cable, LPS, etc), it is the first time I hear the new setup. Indeed, there is a jump in performance with the streamer (opticalRENDU). There is more presence, more nuances, smoother sound, deeper lower ends, etc. Do note that I have a Uptone etherREGEN paired with the opticalRENDU. 

 

You did not state what streamer you have installed, only the networking devices like Sonore. 

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I don't have an absolute opinion on any of this but will add I've been using various Mac computers for some 20 years as a dedicated music server mostly with USB and Toslink outputs to a variety of different DACS. It is convenient, it can be a PITA at times with typical computer based issues or wonky USB ports and other gremlins. Of course this doesn't even begin to address computers going out of date in such a way they will no longer work with existing software and hardware. I've lost count but by now I am up to either 4 or is it 5 different Macs to keep things going and you have to add this to the cost of maintaining a computer based music server. 

 

At the end of the day after fooling around with this crap, I still obtain better performance and often by a large margin by spinning disc, CD's at that. This past year I have been using an inexpensive (by most peoples account) Emotiva ERC-4 using AES outputs to my R2R Ladder DAC acquiring significantly better performance than my Mac Book Pro. As often as not I can downsample high res files using DB Poweramp, burn a disc at the slowest write speed and even those will outperform streaming high res files from the computer in at least 9 out of 10 categories. I'm not making this up either. One has to wonder what improvements would occur with a dedicated CD transport vs all of the shenanigans implemented with computer or server/streamer audio. 

 

Like the OP, I am also going through the handwringing analysis of computer audio vs a streamer and a boat load of other expensive gadgets and cables implemented in a highly complex setup vs the beauty and simplicity of a CD transport. The thing is, for over 20 years I have chased through digital rabbit holes based upon others "expert" opinions only to find out, well that did work quite as well as promised and now we have another one one to explore the dedicated streamer. There is some suspicion and doubt on my part to buy into this hook line and sinker.

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Need to look at the streamers for security of your internal house network. Many don't have any security, kind of like IoT appliances. That means a nefarious person or persons can infect them for their own purposes. That is what I worry about with streamers.

Current:  JRiver 26 on Win 10 PC (AMD Ryzen 5 2600 with 32 GB RAM) or Daphile on an AMD A10-5700 with 8 GB RAM

DAC - TEAC UD-501 DAC 

Amplification - Bow Technologies Wazoo Integrated (great amp - silly name)

Speakers: Wharfedale Linton Heritage - KEF LS50 - ELAC unifi UB5's - Linn Tukans - others......

Cables: Tara Labs RCS Reference speaker cables and DiMarzio Interconnects

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52 minutes ago, routlaw said:

At the end of the day after fooling around with this crap, I still obtain better performance and often by a large margin by spinning disc, CD's at that. This past year I have been using an inexpensive (by most peoples account) Emotiva ERC-4 using AES outputs to my R2R Ladder DAC acquiring significantly better performance than my Mac Book Pro. As often as not I can downsample high res files using DB Poweramp, burn a disc at the slowest write speed and even those will outperform streaming high res files from the computer in at least 9 out of 10 categories. I'm not making this up either. One has to wonder what improvements would occur with a dedicated CD transport vs all of the shenanigans implemented with computer or server/streamer audio. 

 

Our experiences are very similar.  I was not specific before about my Naim--it is the Uniti Core, a CD ripper and server.  It does not stream.  I have not tried a high end streamer--only the Mac and a Bluesound Node 2i, to a Schiit Yggdrasil in both cases--and I have never been able to get streaming sound quality to match the ripped CDs.

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I have with either JRiver on Win10 or Daphile to my TEAC UD-501 which is connected to my Audio Research SP-16 then to my Pioneer M-22 to my Revel m126Be speakers.

Current:  JRiver 26 on Win 10 PC (AMD Ryzen 5 2600 with 32 GB RAM) or Daphile on an AMD A10-5700 with 8 GB RAM

DAC - TEAC UD-501 DAC 

Amplification - Bow Technologies Wazoo Integrated (great amp - silly name)

Speakers: Wharfedale Linton Heritage - KEF LS50 - ELAC unifi UB5's - Linn Tukans - others......

Cables: Tara Labs RCS Reference speaker cables and DiMarzio Interconnects

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3 hours ago, botrytis said:

I have with either JRiver on Win10 or Daphile to my TEAC UD-501 which is connected to my Audio Research SP-16 then to my Pioneer M-22 to my Revel m126Be speakers.

Pioneer M-22 and a Wazoo?  You must have an interesting cellar.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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9 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

Pioneer M-22 and a Wazoo?  You must have an interesting cellar.

 

I have a few sets of Royd Audio speakers there too, 6 sets to be exact and the AV77 center channel which weighs 55 lbs because it is a steel lined wooden box. I also have a nice set of Rogers LS2's 😁

 

I forgot I have a pair of Kenwood L-07M's too....

Current:  JRiver 26 on Win 10 PC (AMD Ryzen 5 2600 with 32 GB RAM) or Daphile on an AMD A10-5700 with 8 GB RAM

DAC - TEAC UD-501 DAC 

Amplification - Bow Technologies Wazoo Integrated (great amp - silly name)

Speakers: Wharfedale Linton Heritage - KEF LS50 - ELAC unifi UB5's - Linn Tukans - others......

Cables: Tara Labs RCS Reference speaker cables and DiMarzio Interconnects

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On 1/12/2021 at 1:02 AM, routlaw said:

 

You did not state what streamer you have installed, only the networking devices like Sonore. 

Pardon my ignorance, as I was assuming that the Sonore opticalRENDU serves as a streamer. If it isn’t, then I do not have one. Currently all my music is still played via the HDD from Mac mini through Roon.

 

APPLE Mac Mini | UPTONE etherREGEN | SONORE opticalRENDU | LKS MH-DA002 | iFi iPurifier | iFi iTube | CLASSÉ CAP-80 | RAIDHO X-1

DENON DP-300F + NAGAOKA MP-110 • NAIM Muso QB • YAMAHA YSP-2700

oyaide R1 • acoustic synergy hercules power cable • acoustic synergy monster powerline 400 signature power cable • acoustic synergy black mamba speaker cables • furukawa pure silver xlr + ic • belden gold usb • belden optical fibre •.finisar ftlf1324p2btl sfp • weiduka ac8.8 power conditioner • lhy audio 7v lps • ifi ipower 9v • isoacoustics gaia iii

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On 1/14/2021 at 6:14 AM, xllms said:

Pardon my ignorance, as I was assuming that the Sonore opticalRENDU serves as a streamer. If it isn’t, then I do not have one. Currently all my music is still played via the HDD from Mac mini through Roon.

 

Thanks, you're not ignorant, in fact I might be. Lets face playing music digitally is a complex venture these days and there are a bewildering array of ways to accomplish the end result. Too many in my estimation. 

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3 hours ago, routlaw said:

Thanks, you're not ignorant, in fact I might be. Lets face playing music digitally is a complex venture these days and there are a bewildering array of ways to accomplish the end result. Too many in my estimation. 

No worries. Indeed, playing musically digital is a complex venture. I’m still trying to figure out how to stream music from an online music app (non-western, eg. Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc) through the oR at this moment. Taking a leap of faith may yearn some positive effects and forego other options and conveniences. I supposed in your case, you are trying to figure out all the parameters before making the decisions. 

APPLE Mac Mini | UPTONE etherREGEN | SONORE opticalRENDU | LKS MH-DA002 | iFi iPurifier | iFi iTube | CLASSÉ CAP-80 | RAIDHO X-1

DENON DP-300F + NAGAOKA MP-110 • NAIM Muso QB • YAMAHA YSP-2700

oyaide R1 • acoustic synergy hercules power cable • acoustic synergy monster powerline 400 signature power cable • acoustic synergy black mamba speaker cables • furukawa pure silver xlr + ic • belden gold usb • belden optical fibre •.finisar ftlf1324p2btl sfp • weiduka ac8.8 power conditioner • lhy audio 7v lps • ifi ipower 9v • isoacoustics gaia iii

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I have a question to seek advices from experts here.

 

After added the eR and oR into my audio chain, the mac mini no longer connects to the DAC directly. Due to this reason, there is an online music playing app (netease cloud music) in the mac mini cannot be played through the audio system. As I have yet to figure out how to have this stream via the oR, may I know what are my options to play through this app on the mac mini? Can I connect another USB cable to a DDC or interfacing component to allow connection to the DAC via available inputs (eg. i2s, spdif, etc)? 

 

symon

APPLE Mac Mini | UPTONE etherREGEN | SONORE opticalRENDU | LKS MH-DA002 | iFi iPurifier | iFi iTube | CLASSÉ CAP-80 | RAIDHO X-1

DENON DP-300F + NAGAOKA MP-110 • NAIM Muso QB • YAMAHA YSP-2700

oyaide R1 • acoustic synergy hercules power cable • acoustic synergy monster powerline 400 signature power cable • acoustic synergy black mamba speaker cables • furukawa pure silver xlr + ic • belden gold usb • belden optical fibre •.finisar ftlf1324p2btl sfp • weiduka ac8.8 power conditioner • lhy audio 7v lps • ifi ipower 9v • isoacoustics gaia iii

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I've been using a mid-2011 mac mini server for many years now (https://everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_mini/specs/mac-mini-core-i7-2.0-mid-2011-server-specs.html). I use it both from streaming from Qobuz/Tidal or with local files on the mini SSDs.

Great improvements came from power supply update, BT and wifi disconnect, and software tuning (system optimization and using Audirvana+)

But, there is a but.

You should improve everything around the mac mini.

I use my mini somehow as a server : Audirvana does the encoding (oversampling to 2x/32bits) and streaming to a SOtM SMS-200 Ultra. Network is optimized with good ethernet cables and optical seperation between network switches : one on the general side, another on the music streaming side. The SOtM streamer is hit in UPNP and outputs USB to a SOtM reclocker, etc.

 

In conclusion to my little experience, yes the mac mini can be a great server, but it would need a great streamer for greater audio. I really love my music at home. It is really good, it took me years and years of trial and errors, and little steps to have what I like.

So whatever you choose, you'll have to work on the surroundings of whatever solution you choose.

 

Mac mini server mid 2011 w/ Audirvana+ 3

SOtM SmS-200, SpS-500 and tX-USBhubEX

W4S DAC2 DSDse

Audia Flight FL2

B&W CM10 S2

(and several very good or excellent cables... Lessloss, Actinote, Atohm, Furutech)

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