trying to idiot-proof my MacMini music server setup

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by RShackleford, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    257
    No, I am NOT calling the wife an idiot. But maybe not that tech-savvy. And I myself do not want to have to screw around excessively when I just want to listen to some damn music :)

    So here's the setup: MacMini computer with all my CDs ripped to it. USB connection to Emotiva XDA-2, and DAC outputs to "vintage audiophile" stereo system (VanAlstine, Dynaco, McIntosh). HDMI output of MacMini to Sony Android TV (just as a display when needed, not for sound). MacMini controlled via various methods: Finder sidebar screen-sharing from my Macbook AIr, iTunes remote app on her iPad.

    Current problem: Setting up the MacMini, I went to SystemPrefs->Sound and set the output to be the USB connection to the DAC. But once everything is powered-down, and trying to bring it back up (in idiot-proof fashion), the MacMini decides, since the DAC was off, that it should switch the sound output to the HDMI output to the TV. So I've got to open screen-sharing (on my laptop), then open SystemPrefs and change the sound output back. It shouldn't even be necessary to turn on screen-sharing at all, when running the MacMini in "headless" mode. She should be able to fire up the music from her iPad. Hardly idiot-proof. More PITA. Is the some way to instruct SystemPrefs to LEAVE the sound output on USB ?

    It looks like installing BitPerfect is a smart idea, and evidently it has its own Preferences settings, including audio output:

    https://www.psaudio.com/ps_how/how-to-build-a-music-server/

    Could I hope that the audio output setting in BitPerfect is "sticky", that it doesn't adopt the Mac's annoying habit of thinking it knows what best ?
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2018
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  2. enginedr

    enginedr Well-Known Member

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    I leave my Mac mini on all the time .
     
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  3. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    I think the problem is turning the DAC off. So if I do that and DON"T power the Mini down, the Mini switches the audio output to HDMI. I guess I could just leave the DAC on all the time too. But we have pretty crappy line power here too. I'd really like stuff to come up cleanly after power glitches too. Maybe I'll try BitPerfect.
     
  4. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

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    When I get a chance later I'll check my settings and let you know how i have it set up. A great source of all things Mac and audio is @uofmtiger . If he checks out this thread and replies heed his advice he's helped me in the past. I'll catch up with you later.

    Edit: I copied and pasted here from Bitperfect's website

    http://bitperfectsound.blogspot.com/p/manual.html

    "Audio Output Device



    

This is the device which will be used by BitPerfect to play your music, and this is one of two places where you can make that selection. Any selection you make here is independent of any selection you might make in OS X’s System Preferences or Audio Midi Setup. In fact, it will over-ride any selections that you may previously have made there. When BitPerfect is using its selected Audio Output Device it puts it in “hog” mode, sometimes also known as “exclusive” mode. This means that no other App - including OS X - can access it. You can easily tell when BitPerfect is “hogging” the Audio Output Device, because its Menu Bar Icon will change from black to some other colour, depending on the audio format being played.

    The audio output device can also be selected directly from the Audio Output Device setting in the Menu Bar drop-down menu."
     
  5. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

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    Linux and Window don't have that issue - I turn my DAC on and off. Must be some setting that can change that in OS X.
     
  6. Donal64

    Donal64 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    You should be able to go to the menu bar, across the top of your screen, on the right side, click on the speaker icon, and change your sound out put there. Just two clicks. I think your other choice would be to not power off the output source.
     

     

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  7. RTally

    RTally Speaker addict Subscriber

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    You should have your Mini and DAC plugged into a UPS, particularly since you know you have power line issues. Those power glitches can fry your equipment.
     
  8. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    Thanks. The issue of course is, even though BitPerfect's audio output setting overrides OSX's, will it be sticky - or will it do the same thing and go "oh, that selected DAC is no longer online, I better pick a different device". My guess is, it won't: This means that no other App - including OS X - can access it. It sounds like I want to install BitPerfect regardless of if it fixes my problem, so we'll see.
     
  9. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    257
    Thanks, but this still requires you to open a window on the MacMini (using screen-sharing of some kind). My idiot-proofing goal precludes that. For example, I want to be able to control it from an iOS device like her iPad.
     
  10. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    You're right. At least I got one of those TrippLite power strips - supposed to be a lot better than the cheap ones.
     
  11. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

    Messages:
    3,528
    I remember having that issue too. I need to dig out my iPad which has "Splashtop" on it I'm pretty sure that's what I used to change the Sound Output from HDMI to Dac and vice versa. There are other apps that will do the same thing.

    https://www.splashtop.com/personal

    Holding down Shift + Option when clicking on Speaker icon is a faster way to change the output as opposed to System Preference > Sound however I don't remember if you can do the former on Splashtop so it might be you just have to do the later.
     

     

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  12. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

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    Thanks, but my issue is not how to control the MacMini from another device, nor how to change the sound output once I get to the MacMini. The issue is that the sound output switches back to HDMI or built-in whenever the DAC is switched off. Again, the goal is to have the thing come up ready to roll, only needing to be controlled from the iTunes remote app on an iOS device, without having to do ANYTHING.
     
  13. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    But I'm happy to report that installing BitPerfect appears to have fixed the problem. I can now literally pull the plug on the MacMini, and turn off everything else including the DAC; then, plug the MacMini's power cord back in, let it boot up, and then turn on the DAC. Then go to the iOS iTunes remote app and play music without doing ANYTHING else. Hooray !!!

    (One thing I see failed to see mentioned in discussions of BitPerfect is that when you open it, nothing happens - it doesn't open any window, it just puts a little icon on the right-hand side of the Finder tool bar. Also, you need to add it to "login items" in SystemPrefs->Users&Groups, otherwise you have to fire it up manually whenever your machine reboots).

    Now I'm just left with the random distortion problem discussed here:

    http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/distortion-with-macmini-usb-connection-to-dac.816142/

    BitPerfect did not help with that.
     
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  14. Dswankey

    Dswankey Super Member

    Messages:
    3,528
    I understood that, thus why I posted the BitPerfect info in post #4 in response to your 1st post, however it looks like installing BitPerfect sorted that issue out for you. Enjoy and hopefully you'll get your Dac issue resolved too.
     
  15. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    Thanks, yeah I'm about to send the DAC back to Emotiva and am confident they'll fix at least the power-cycling issue, and it sounds like the screeching sound can be addressed by using different USB ports and/or cables.

    I'm still not at my "idiot proof" goal. The selection of audio output device is solved (thanks). But still, if I simulate a power-line glitch by pulling and re-inserting the Mini's power cord, I have to screw around with it before I'm getting sound. It appears to be playing iTunes (progress bar), yet there's no sound (and the DAC and everything downstream from it is working properly). It's various reasons such as a dialog box that iTunes crashed (do I want to ignore, report, etc), or there's an update available. Or, even though I put BitPerfect in my account's "login items", it doesn't appear to be running (icon should turn blue for the bit rate I'm using). Does it matter the ordering of the items in login items ?
     
  16. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    Even if the Mac Mini has not been rebooted, simply left alone (presumably sleeping) for a few hours, it is not possible to play music using the iTunes remote app on her iPad; it is able to connect to the Mini, and you can select music and start playing it as shown by the progress bar - but no sound. So I connect using Finder sidebar sharing on my laptop and see the song supposedly playing (according to the progress bar). But there's still no sound and the BitPerfect icon is not blue (as it should be for 44.1Khz). It's necessary to explicitly select some music in the iTunes window (on the laptop). After that, iTunes remote on the iPad works fine.

    I'm at wit's end. This using the MacMini as a music server should not be this fraught with these issues, at least according to what I read on this site and at various linked articles. I'd appreciate any further insights folks may have.

    Searching around a little, it looks like people have advised not upgrading to HighSierra (which was what my Mini came with), so I wonder if it's worth trying to revert the machine to SIerra.

    I'm starting to think I just need to get a Bleutooth keyboard - preferably one with a built-in trackpad, if such a beast exists that will work with a Mac (which a little searching suggests it does not).
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2018

     

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  17. RTally

    RTally Speaker addict Subscriber

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    Maybe it is time for you to consider running a music server app instead of relying on iTunes. I don't use iTunes. I have a late 2009 MacBook running Plex Server and the Plex Player. I store all my music files (FLAC and MP3 on the MB HD. I can access and control the MacBook's Plex Player from my iPad and my iPhone easily. I can play my music on the direct connected amp and speakers, or I can use Plex to send music to my living room HT receiver via airplay from my mobile device.

    Others prefer JRiver as a music server. Plex is free, mostly, and works fine for me.
     
  18. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    It's a thought, but seems like maybe opening up a whole new can of worms. Seems like lots of people are running ITunes+BitPerfect on their Minis and not having problems. But I'll keep it in mind if I can't get this working any better.
     
  19. RShackleford

    RShackleford Active Member

    Messages:
    257
    You were suggesting this for the issue of audio output selection changing spontaneously, which installing BitPerfect solved. But maybe it'd also help this issue of not being able to play music from iOS iTunes remote after long idle periods. I'll set Computer Sleep to Never and see if it helps. Shouldn't be too profligate of power, since the thing has no display.
     
  20. enginedr

    enginedr Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    854
    Location:
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    I had the same issue as you . I wanted my wife to be able to use the system at will . As my Mac mini is using Pure Music as the player software . and a AOIP solution shutting down required resetting the sound output in the Mac as well as the Dante controller I use. I just leave all my digital gear on . I installed 2- 12 volt triggered outlets for my tube mono blocks . One button turns it on pick up the I pad using apple remote and you are ready for tunes . I encourage my wife to use the system as it is the centerpiece of my living room .
     

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