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Mac Mini or MacBook Pro?


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Hello

 

I am setting out to build a music server and am looking for some advise on what platform is best either the Mac Mini or MacBook Pro?

 

I am particularly interested in which of these two platforms would be the quietest in terms of power supply noise and fan noise?

 

I will be using a solid state drive for the operating system again to keep the noise down and network attached storage to store my music files. The mac will have 8mb of ram and run either Pure Music or Amarra.

 

I will appreciate any advise.

 

Kind Regards

 

Matt Hoult.

 

 

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Matt, based on the experiences shared by other posters it appears the SQ of many DACs, especially USB apparently, varies by server platform. Chris has reported that the Mac sounds dull and lifeless on some of his DACs. Since he wasn't explicit and implicit with his comments it's hard to know what DACs and interfaces he tested when drawing these conclusions.

 

What DAC will you be using your server with and what interface will you use?

 

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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One data point - on my MBP with SSD, the fan has never yet come on, so there's no fan or drive noise. Of course it might easily be the same story with the Mini, but I've never owned one.

 

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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MacBook Pro.

 

totally silent, so is the mini. The MBP will sound better. If you use a USB DAC with class 2 HS compliant USB a Linux server can sound even better: Sonore, Auraliti, etc.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

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If you don't have a DAC yet I'd get an async FireWire DAC, a MM (which can be located close to your DAC) and an iPad to control the MM. With the MM well away from your listening position there is no way any fan noise will be an issue. Otherwise you will either need a long USB cable to your DAC (unless you are using headphones) or another device to remote control your MBP. Personally, I find it unacceptable with the current technology available that one should have to muck around with server/interface optimization (linear power supplies, SSD's, low latency processing, cables, etc.) to get outstanding sound quality from your DAC. These are the very kind of issues we've struggled with for years with AES/SPDIF based DACs interfaced to computer music servers. I think the Mytek 192 shows what is possible today and at a very attractive price point.

 

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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Matt,

 

I've got a Mac Mini set up--using a conventional hard disk--and I can't hear any noise unless my ear is within a foot or so of the unit. Even the quietest passages--as in Vaughn Williams "Lark Ascending"--are free of equipment noise. I would second others thoughts about a DAC though. They definitely sound different so you may want to try a couple to get the one you like best.

 

Ray

 

Ray[br]Viola Player| Parasound HP-850, Acurus A100, Technics SL-M3, Velodyne SPL-II, Mirage Omni 250, Musical Fidelity V-DAC

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"Personally, I find it unacceptable with the current technology available that one should have to muck around with server/interface optimization (linear power supplies, SSD's, low latency processing, cables, etc.) to get outstanding sound quality from your DAC."

 

The above issues exist with any situation in computer audio, no matter what kind of interface is used. The power supply, and noise from the server/computer will always be an issue. With every interface there is a ground connection from computer to the receiver (FW, USB, SPDIF) and noise issues on that ground will be a factor. Additionally, the power supply for the server/computer will always affect mains quality, and there is no way to completely isolate this from the audio components, even with separate AC regenerators for each component. Belt and suspenders for best sound: low noise power supplies all around, and best power conditioning possible. There is no magic bullet which can eliminate these issues.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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"Personally, I find it unacceptable with the current technology available that one should have to muck around with server/interface optimization (linear power supplies, SSD's, low latency processing, cables, etc.) to get outstanding sound quality from your DAC."

 

Barrows, my point was not these variables don't matter, but that some designers using current, proven technology have found a way to design a DAC with a digital computer interface which is sufficiently insensitive to these variables so as to deliver "outstanding" (note that I did not say "the best possible") sound quality from a stock server with inexpensive cables. Can the performance of these DACs be improved by upgrading the computer PSU, etc.? Probably, but not always.

 

For example, you made the statement that a MPB is better than a MM. Since you did not qualify I presumed you meant regardless of DAC used. This has not been my experience with my LIO-8 DAC. A MPB or MM with stock SMPS (isolated via an isolation xfer) did not sound any different in my system. My LIO-8 actually sounds worse with a linear PSU versus it's stock SMPS. I hear no difference between a stock Apple FW cable and a Gold-X with the power leg lifted.

 

Bottom line, my experience in this area is that while everything may theoretically matter, not everything is necessarily audible even in a highly resolving system.

 

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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... between a 2010 mac mini with stock conventional hard drive and power supply and 8 gig of memory, and a top-end, internal SSD 2011 macbook pro with 8 processors and 8 gigs of memory, running with or without battery power. Both were tested with halide bridge and optical out.

 

It may well be my system/ears/brain are not sufficiently resolving, but if there are differences, they aren't pronounced.

 

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I own a 2011 MBP (8GB memory) with two 240GB OCZ vertex 3 SSDs installed (2nd drive in optic bay) that I use as my "serious listening source" whan I do critical listening. I use a power out disabled Oyaide Neo FW cable to connect my MBP to my DAC (Weiss DAC 2). My music interface is Decibel.

 

I also have a synology NAS that runs Logitech Media server to feed my Squeezebox Touch in a wireless manner. It also is attached to Weiss DAC 2 via S/PDIF interface (element cable, digital). This set up is for convenience and "non-critical" listening.

 

There is an easily palpable difference in the dynamic range between these set ups. Again a multitude of factors/differences are at play here. And Mac Mini can not be compared to a Synology NAS.

 

But I find MBP set up to be a superior choice between these 2. That is the scope of my own experince, if it helps.

 

 

 

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Caner, it doesn't surprise me that a DAC with a well designed synchronous or asynchronous digital interface would sound better than a SPDIF interface. I have also read from other Weiss owners that FireWire cables seem to matter more than with other FW DAC's.

 

Have you A/B'ed your MBP versus a MM for example....both going FireWire to your Weiss? Thanks for sharing your experience.

 

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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Would very much like to help but haven't heard the MM with FW implementation (or anything comperable to what I have at home) really.

 

I should avoid saying this, but, with all the best intent, I can very enthusiasticlly advocate the set up above for a very transparent listening experience. I value dynamic range and transparency a lot and this set up will not let you down.

 

Please let me also add that I have no financial incentive a/w these products, I am a physician.

 

 

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One other point is that my decision to purchase the Oyaide Neo was based primarily on the cable length that they provided (0.6m) since I hate cable clutter. Most other FW cables I found were at least 1m or more in length.

 

I have no experience with other FW cables on this particular set up, and if they make a difference, I doubt I will be able to recognize it (I have tin ears :^)

 

Best

 

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I am currently using the DCS Elgar DAC with the Purcell up sampler and the Verona clock.

 

I have recently ordered the MF V-Link 192 to interface between the PC and DAC as my Elgar does not have a USB input.

 

The DAC will feed a Gryphon Sonata Allegro pre-amp and the Gryphon Colosseum power amp with Rockport Ankaa speakers.

 

Your thoughts please.

 

Matt.

 

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Data Point

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

This is interesting to hear that your fan has never come on and with the use of a SSD this should be a very quite environment for the audio signal to pass through.

 

I guess you could improve this by pulling out the power plug so the MBP is running on batteries only, this could not be done on the Mini?

 

Matt.

 

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Caner

 

Thank you for your reply.

 

It is interesting that you have found large differences between your different set ups but I will consider the MBP as my starting point.

 

I guess the best way to find out what is best is to try both platforms and let my ears make the decision for me

 

Thanks Matt.

 

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I guess you could improve this by pulling out the power plug so the MBP is running on batteries only

 

That's how I listen, with two exceptions:

 

- Burning in a new component or cable

 

- Parties

 

Then I keep the AC power connected and have the player on shuffle/random.

 

I haven't bothered to determine if I hear a difference between AC power and battery, because we don't usually keep the charger by the stereo, and I've assumed battery power would sound as good or better.

 

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Rob from Channl D recommends not using battery power, as he suggests this might invoke throttling in the computer...

Personally, I have run my MacBook on battery and with the AC brick, and with much testing I have not been able to hear a difference. I usually can hear differences with tweaks fairly easily (USB cables, etc). I suspect that the internal layout of a laptop may be such that the batteries actually act as large capacitors when the laptop is plugged in like this and if this suspicion is correct, the battery itself may act as a pretty good filter of incoming noise from the power brick.

A Mac Mini, on the other hand has no onboard battery pack (OK, yes it probably has a tiny battery to maintain memory, but thta is another thing) so it may be better to do supply mods for the Mini.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

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Rob from Channl D recommends not using battery power, as he suggests this might invoke throttling in the computer...

 

Interesting thought (CPU throttling when on battery power to prolong battery life). Another tweak for enterprising users and authors of software players to try out! (One would want to be able to toggle back to normal easily and/or automatically so as not to absent-mindedly run out of power on that plane flight/railroad trip.)

 

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Barrows

 

The mains high voltage (100-240v ac) will supply a switch mode power supply and this in turn will generate a low voltage (24v dc) this is all done externally to the MBP in the small rectangular brick so I guess the MBP is free from harmful nasty mains pollution?

 

This is probably the reason why you can not hear any sound difference with the mains plugged in or the running on the battery?

 

The MBP does seem the ideal platform solution for a music server this can be run on battery power isolating it from harmful mains contamients, the operating system can be installed on a SSD this will reduce internal noise as ther is no moving parts but can the MBP remain on with the screen in the closed position?

 

Your thoughts please.

 

Regards

 

Matt.

 

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The power brick is a switch mode power supply. These typically have much more noise on their output than well designed, audiophile quality linear supplies (such as I would build into a DAC). What I wonder is that if the SMPS is actually filtered through the onboard batteries, essentially using them as/like a bank of capacitors.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Steve. It would be important to unplug the power supply when testing battery vs external supply to have a true test.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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I chose the MacBook Pro over the Mac Mini simply because I did not want to run headless. I tested all kinds of VNC clients (iPad) and I was not a 100% satisfied with any of them. Sure, I could add a display/mouse/keyboard to a mini, but I also wanted to keep the footprint as small as possible. Being able to run off battery is an advantage too.

 

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