Set up my Mac Mini audio rig today! Any mainenance stuff I should know about?

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by Warm_tunes, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. Warm_tunes

    Warm_tunes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Finally made the dive into lossless audio today, and I'm hooked.

    I pulled an old forgotten Mac Mini out of a drawer and wiped it clean and updated the OS. Picked up a Dragonfly Red DAC and plugged it into my Luxman C1010, and installed Tidal and Roon.

    So far so good - very impressed with the upgrade in sound over Spotify "Extreme" SQ.

    I have the mac running out to my LG OLED for setup purposes, but I'm planning on just leaving the mac running all the time "headless" and controlling my Tidal playlists through Roon via phone.

    But I am kind of nervous about leaving that Mac Mini running all the time... who knows what's going on in there without me peeking in on it from time to time.

    Are there any steps I should take to ensure that everything continues to run smoothly and I get the best performance out of this setup?
     
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  2. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    "But I am kind of nervous about leaving that Mac Mini running all the time"

    I too run a Mac Mini, have you thought about programing it to turn on/off at a given time point of your choosing.

    Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 9.13.18 PM.png
     
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  3. Warm_tunes

    Warm_tunes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Very cool, I just set this up - I didn't even know this was an option!

    I have Roon and Tidal set to load on startup. Does this mean if the system is "woke" I can still just start running Roon on my phone without having to turn on the TV?
     
  4. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    Unless you're worried about energy use, I've owned Macs for 15yrs and never had issue letting a desktop run 24/7. I never rebooted or shut it down unless a major update was installed. it's a UNIX kernel, let it run :D

    also you might want to try Audirvana and optimize the Izotope SRC settings.. Musical nirvana.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
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  5. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    I'm not familiar with Roon or it's settings. I run my Mini headless and I have iTunes set to load on start up I would assume Roon could do the same.
     
  6. human1138

    human1138 Kwisatz Haderach Subscriber

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    Yep, my Mac Mini has been on 24/7 for the past few years with no problems.
     

     

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  7. Warm_tunes

    Warm_tunes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Cool, I guess I always left it on as a desktop so there shouldn't be any real issues. Was just worried about weird updates or notifications happening that are invisible without a regular monitor. Honestly though, I've been screwing around with Roon on the LG display all evening so it's likely I'll be using the monitor more than I had anticipated anyway.
     
  8. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I traded my old 2007 "1st of the black backs" 23" iMac to my local Experimac store for a late 2009 Mac mini to use as dedicated a headless server. I maxed out the memory at 4gb and installed a 1tb HDD. First up I'm using the Volumio OS which sounds very good through my Bifrost Uber. Having the whole computer just playing music via the most direct path makes a huge difference. It blows iTunes out of the water on SQ, but it is only a player so ripping CD's, down loading HiRez, library mgmt will still be done on my MBP. The interface is excellent and works on tablets, phones or computers. I'm now coping my FLAC library over an ethernet cable from my MackBook Pro to the Volumio server formerly know as a Mac Mini. 40gb down and 310gb to go. Should be about an hour vs. 7 doing it over wifi.

    I also want to try the Daphile OS but I can't seem to get the .iso file written to a bootable USB stick to save my life. I will have to gain access to a Windows machine and try it again. Daphile is more mature and has full functionality so it will be worth the effort - I hope. The Mac mini running Volumio headlessly isn't doing very much at all so it stays pretty cool.
     
  9. kray

    kray HE>i Subscriber

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    I've not used Roon, but Audirvana has a iOS app you can run from iPad/iPhone to control your desktop app (being on the same wifi network)
    That way you don't need the monitor to play music, discover, search, etc. I'm sure Roon has the same, might want to look into it.
     
  10. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    You can adjust your updates & notifications so that it won't do what you're worried about. If you're not familiar you can go to Apple menu > System Preferences, then click App Store.

    @elcoholic

    Is it just an audio player or an OS w/an audio player?
     
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  11. elcoholic

    elcoholic AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    It’s an OS that’s only an audio player. It does nothing else so there’s no contention for internal resources or background processes to get in the way.
     

     

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  12. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    ^
    Thanks for the reply, quick question where on Volumio does one store their library? Most of all my music is CD ripped ALAC files, as a matter of fact I just picked up the 7 CD Frank Zappa "Roxy Box" and I need to rip them soon.
     
  13. willyrover

    willyrover Super Member

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    If you have another Mac, you could set up the Mini for screen sharing and control it from your other Mac. There is probably a way to do this from a Windows machine, but I've never tried.

    This "might" require at least macOS Sierra (not sure).

    With my current set-up, my Mini runs 24/7. I can access the desktop from my Macbook Pro and completely operate the Mini from there.

    https://support.apple.com/kb/PH25554?locale=en_US
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2018
  14. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    Good call! I do that too, I also use the "remote" app on an old iphone and ipad
     
  15. willyrover

    willyrover Super Member

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    Yes, for controlling iTunes, the remote app is great!
     
  16. olson_jr

    olson_jr AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    ROON operates just as you mentioned. I have it running headless on a dedicated Small Green Computer and control any of the 4 zones (endpoints) I have set up with phone or laptop or my desk computer. Quite a convenient set up for a lazy man.

    Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 2.24.32 PM.png
     

     

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  17. Warm_tunes

    Warm_tunes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Since I don't have a library of ripped FLAC files, etc, the Tidal/Roon application seems to be working pretty well.

    The Roon phone app basically works as a remote control for the Roon stored on the Mac Mini (the "core"), so turns out it's not essential to turn on the monitor at all. In theory I should be able to just open the Roon app on my Note8 and pull up a Tidal playlist and go to town.

    Earlier today I did this and it didn't work that way for some reason. It said the song was playing, but no audio was coming out of the Dragonfly Red. I did have to turn on the LG and go into the Roon app and for some reason the volume had reset all the way down to zero.

    So still some tweaking and exploring to do but overall I'm pretty happy with the convenience and really happy with the sound.

    Some other observations... I'm finding my hearing needs to adjust a bit to the lossless file vs what I'm used to hearing with Spotify's 320 kbps Ogg format. The sound is more transparent and brighter, and I'm finding a lot more detail in the mix which is good in a lot of songs, but some songs end up sounding "brittle" or lacking presence.

    A good example is Phil Collins' "I Don't Care Anymore," which in Spotify 320kbps, still packs a serious wallop on that final kick drum in the drum pattern. The Tidal version sounds clearer, but not as much punch on that thump.

    However, the Tidal version is also their MQA "Master" version (96kHz/24 bit) which I understand is still a compressed file, so that may not be a good apples/apples comparison.
     
  18. olson_jr

    olson_jr AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Why not just try the non MQA for that album, TIDAL has them both.

    Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 3.05.02 PM.png
     
  19. Warm_tunes

    Warm_tunes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I'll definitely do this. When I first set up my Tidal playlist I was just copying song titles over from my Spotify playlist and thought, "Hey, there's an MQA version of this!" and popped it in there.

    When you get to Roon, there is no indication if it's an MQA file or not, so I'll have to go back into the Tidal app and find the specific non-MQA version and add that to the playlist.

    Since you use Roon, do you find yourself making playlists in Tidal and using Roon just as a playback device, or are you primarily listening to your own files, or do you use Roon playlists?
     
  20. Warm_tunes

    Warm_tunes AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    OK I took your advice and did a direct comparison of the MQA file and the regular lossless file.

    No scientific measurements here but the MQA file of "I Don't Care Anymore" sounded inferior to the uncompressed FLAC version of the file.

    The MQA sounded "dead" in comparison. It lost a lot of the overtones of the drums, etc. Don't know if this is the case for other MQA songs on Tidal but I definitely noticed the difference.
     

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