Next Step -- Upgrade from Mac Mini to ?

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by louisjames, Jul 21, 2018.

  1. louisjames

    louisjames The "real" Louis James Subscriber

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    I'm thinking about upgrading from my 2012 Mac Mini to another source device. The Mac Mini, running Audirvana works just find and sounds pretty good. But we're listening to more and more digital now and I'm wondering what folks here have tried or recommend that might up the game? My Audio-gd DAC is still fine and one day I'll upgrade that as well. But for now the source device is the question. Budget is around $500 used or perhaps a bit more if a unit presents itself that is considerably better and worth pushing the budget somewhat to get.

    Thanks
    Jon
     

     

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  2. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    Odd, I just bought a 2012 quad-core i7 Mac mini 16GB, 512GB SSD (and in your price range) to co-ordinate delivering my digital music to its various targets. "Works just fine...but...", but what? You get tired of silver or something...?
     
  3. louisjames

    louisjames The "real" Louis James Subscriber

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    No, not tired of silver. Though I do like the idea of swapping out the drive for a SSD or adding an external SSD now that the prices are much more affordable. Basically I was thinking of a network music streamer like a Cambridge Audio CXN or an entry-level Bryston BDP1 if I can find one in my price range. Or perhaps a Bluesound Powernode. Not sure if any of these will do a lot more than my present setup given I'm running the Mac Mini into a DAC I like. But that's why I posted the question.
     
  4. RTally

    RTally Speaker addict Subscriber

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    Why do you want to replace a functional music server? I can only think of two reasons to swap out equipment:

    1) the equipment is not meeting my needs and better stuff is available

    2) I have the AK bug to always get more stuff and swap it out.

    I use a Late 2009 Macbook as my dedicated music server. It has an old, mechanical drive with sufficient capacity and speed for my library. I am happy with the software (Plex). Unless you are doing video transcoding, a music server does not need a fast hard disc nor a TOTL processor. Lots of memory is good, though.

    I do not foresee replacing it any time soon because it is doing everything I need it to do. I focus my replacement activities in other areas that would benefit more from changes.
     
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  5. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    Guess I'm not clear on how "listening to more and more digital" indicts the MM. What comes out of the MM other than digital into your DAC? That's why I was twitting you a bit; seems like you've got everything you need working just the way it's supposed to. Something lacking in the quality of the music the system produces or with metadata content, searching, and display or in the control aspect in actually playing a tune (too complex, too many remotes, too much walking)?

    P.S. The Samsung EVO 860 SSD in mine was a complete surprise; I thought I was buying a MM with the venerable 1TB 5400RPM spinner.
     
  6. Sound Dragon

    Sound Dragon Yawns and sets his couch on fire! Subscriber

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    I get it. I removed my Macbook from the audio chain this year. Well, kind of. It is still the Rooncore and acts as the server for my streaming. It just no longer lives in the audio rack connected directly to my stereo. I use a Bluesound Vault 2 and Node 2 in my systems. They are both incredibly simple and very easy to operate. I may actually go back to a Mac mini as I like the idea of running it headless but I certainly do not have too.
     
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  7. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    So were you using your MB for both music data storage and DAC or were you running the music data into your receiver/pre-pro digitally for it to DAC or using a standalone DAC? The OP, I believe, has the more "traditional" standalone USB DAC setup. From what I gather from various online sources, it's best to remove your music server (PC/Mac) from close proximity to your analog audio gear in order to minimize noise from the computer's noisy SMPS degrading your audio signals. Instead, the music server should transmit its digital music data over Ethernet (or WiFi in a pinch) to a network attached adapter (NAA) which then formats the data and ships it over optical, coax, or HDMI to the device containing the DAC (an NAA may also contain its own, usually inferior, DAC).

    The point is to separate the music data access, storage, and maintenance functions (done by a computer) from the NAA and DAC functions best performed by other dedicated (and thus easily upgradeable) gear. Either a Mac or a PC can be used for the data server and, as long as the computer's hardware will support the operating system versions necessary to run the music server application software, it's more cost-effective to seek system improvements in SQ, flexibility, or ease of use elsewhere.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
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  8. twiiii

    twiiii Addicted Member

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    If you were streaming video I would suggest a new mini and the latest Apple TV. But for audio you are doing just fine. It will take more knowledge than I have concerning Hi rez audio. But sounds great with my 2012 Mac Book pro via my Apple TV. Now if you are concerned bout Mac servicing your mini, well thats a big concern because once it gets to be close to the end of the 6 th year they won't provide service . California residents get an additional year. You'll have to depend on a third party or on the graciousness of the Apple rep on the phone. I have High Sierra which guarantees updates in programming and security. But if the hard drive crashes or something else happens, third party is your only choice. My iMAC 24" is approaching 10years old so Monday I get to visit my Apple Store. I had to replace the toshiba burner with a Pioneer last year. So I will keep this machine to burn CD's . I also have a Marantz CD recorder, but its easier to make custom CD's by programming them on the computer and then burning the CD.
     
  9. prisoners

    prisoners AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I made the leap from a Mac mini -> USB DAC -> preamp to using a Sony HAP-Z1ES. I explain it as a giant iPod that holds 1TB of files including hi-rez and can stream Spotify. No buggy wi fi/software needed and it keeps the computer out of the playback chain. Not cheap but three years of heavy use and it’s never even hiccuped.
     
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  10. louisjames

    louisjames The "real" Louis James Subscriber

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    The Sony looks very interesting. Out of my current price range but something I will keep an eye on. Thank you for posting about it.
     
  11. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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    The Sony HAP-Z1ES is a computer. Though Sony has engineered it so the power supply is isolated from the playback section.
     

     

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  12. awillia6

    awillia6 Super Member

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    As are most gizmos of any stripe these days. From what I've gathered, the mix of an inherently noisy (read: engineered for lowest cost) SMPS and unpredictable and widely varying power demands (as is the nature of the beast in general-purpose computers) presents the opportunity for SQ issues due to EMI interference and voltage/current fluctuations in sensitive and proximate audio circuitry.
     
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  13. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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    You're right. My refrigerator and car are computers too.
     
  14. prisoners

    prisoners AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Point being I no longer have a monitor, computer, or even a DAC in the system and far fewer cables. Less clutter, far easier to use, and improved sound means I spend more time listening and almost no time adjusting anything.
     
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  15. crn3371

    crn3371 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Other than a case of upgraditis, I can’t see any reason, or benefit, to switch from the mini. That being said, not a darn thing wrong with upgraditis.
     
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  16. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    It is a balancing act to determine when the cons of aging computer software override the cons of system replacement. A working, debugged system that does what you want it to do is valuable, and sometimes very problematic to replace. Sonic improvement is unlikely, unless your current system has a hidden flaw.
     
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  17. ldatlof

    ldatlof We are all steak Subscriber

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    All good things. Headless is the way to go. 2 out of 3 of my digital rigs are headless.
     

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