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I built an HTPC/music server/server a few years ago using a mid-2010 Mac Mini and I love it. Elgato's EyeTV and Turbo.264 record and transcode all my tv as 1080p that I can easily stream across the LAN, etvcomskip marks all commercials for automatic skipping, I have an extensive iTunes library that can be streamed to multiple rooms with airplay, and I run my own mail/calendar/address/web/VPN/VNC/LDAP/Profile Manager/file/etc. personal cloud server using Server.app. I've configured it with 8 GB memory (boy do I wish the 2010 models supported 16 GB), and have replaced the original 1/2-TB dual drives with 1 TB drives, all fast. The mini sounds good -- I run a mini-tos audio cable into a very nice dac -- but I've never pushed the audio envelope on the mini because I'm fortunate to have a really good transport that I use for serious, rather than passive listening, which is what I really use the mini for. I'll pop a cd into a Linn player if I want to sit down and listen to it, or a blu-ray into an Oppo if I want to watch a good movie. Otherwise I'll let iTunes (or EyeTV) play or stream and accept the good, but not excellent, audio that comes with these. Though I am happy with the mini's audio -- it's as good as (even better than) I expect it to be -- I'm wondering if it's reasonable to expect any more from it. What would people recommend to improve the audio that comes out of the mini? A few relevant questions: Has anyone configured a mini's audio and achieved what they consider a rival to a decent high-end system? Is there anything to internet rumors that the quality of the mini's digital output was improved in the 2011+ models? Anyone actually listened before and after? Listening experiences on lossless flac or equivalent versus 256 kbps AAC? I created my iTunes library using the cdparanoia ripper and OS X's afconvert command with AAC at 256 kbps. I arrived at this decision by performing my own listening tests on CDs I created by transcoding from WAV->AAC->WAV at various bitrates and confirming that 256 kbps is indeed excellent. On several very nice sounding systems, my fellow enthusiasts and I had difficulty distinguishing the re-transcoded 256 kbps AAC tracks from their originals, though this test is admittedly a little different from decoding AAC on-the-fly. In practice, my iTunes AAC library sounds good, but not really superb like the same track out of a Linn transport. Is there any hope that lossless compression would improve anything? Would using the mini's USB perform any better? I hear good things about Bel Canto's USB-S/PDIF converter. Any experiences pairing this with a mini? I'm sure this is a high-performing unit, but I'm honestly a little skeptical that it could do anything to turn the mini's water into wine, and hesitant about the price of a converter that's the same as the base mini itself. Any direct experiences improving the audio above that provided by toslink on 2010 or later models?