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Thread: Mac Mini vs. MacBook for music server

  1. #1

    Question Mac Mini vs. MacBook for music server

    Dear experts:

    I've been getting into computer-based audio, and had been planning on picking up a Mac Mini for use as a music server (perhaps one of the headless models).
    Planning to have it connected via an optical cable to an external DAC feeding a Marantz PM8005 amplifier.

    My question: Does a Mac Mini necessarily make more sense than a MacBook? Is there a real advantage to using a Mini, sonically or otherwise?

    Is anyone using a MacBook as a server -- and doing so happily?

    Thanks for your help on this.

  2. #2
    Addicted to Best!
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    I have used a macbook, macbook pro, an old mac mini and Dell laptops as severs. They were all fitted with a ssd. They all worked fine running Jriver, the mac mini running on Linux was marginally the best, the dell was the worst.

    There are members using Mac Minis successfully although they have had them moded with special power supplies etc.

  3. #3
    Thank you vey kindly!

    I see the SSD is a must-have.
    Mac mini bested MacBooks... Did you use Mac mini with its stock internal PSU, please?

  4. #4
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    yes it just had the standard PSU. I have found that linux helps - it is only an old duo core cpu (low power seems better) it struggled to upsample with OSx, ran better with linux - I think it sounds better as well.

    have now built a dedicated itx linux server which is better again.

  5. #5
    Member Sponsor [WBF Founding Member] rblnr's Avatar
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    I've been using a dedicated Macbook Pro w/SSD for years w/o issue having ran/running Jriver, Roon, iTunes, Bluesound etc. Anytime I've A/Bd it to a 'high-end' audio server, I frankly haven't heard any improvement.

    At the moment I'm using Roon (on the MBP) feeding the PS Audio Directstream DAC over the network, works/sounds great.
    -- Bob

    Industry participation disclosure: dealer for Paradigm, Anthem, NAD, Scaena, The Clue loudspeaker, AMR/iFi, Hegel, Bluesound, PS Audio, Artnovion acoustic treatment, Storm Audio (best AV prepro on Earth IMO) www.outreachav.com

  6. #6
    Thank you very kindly, dear experts!

    Ergo, there is no need to spend $$$ on the likes of LUMIN or Aurender: just use the stock Mac mini or MacBook and Bob (sorry Bob, no pun is intended) is your uncle!

    Will you please be so kind to recommend me a modern DAC (no preamp, no headphone amp, and good for both PCM and DSD) to use in conjunction with Mac?
    If possible, please give your recommendations for three price ranges: up to 1K, 2K, and 3K: one DAC is intended for my main system, and the other one will be used in my office setup.

  7. #7
    I've been using MacBook Pro as a server for years. And it's got a SSD inside as you can see in my signature. I'm planning to move to MacMini and a linear power supply with the help of a DC conversion kit from UpTone Audio.
    Triangle Magellan Cello 2 < AudioQuest Everest < BAT VK-600SE < AudioQuest Hurricane High-Current < AudioQuest NRG-1000 < AudioQuest WEL XLR < exaSound e22 DAC w Paul Hynes SR3-12 LPS < Squeezelite w Logitech Media Server < UpTone ISORegen w USPCB A-B & UltraCap LPS 1.2 < AudioQuest Diamond USB < MacMini w UpTone DC-Conversion Kit < Stillpoints UltraSS < Omicron Harmonic Stabilizer & Gold SE < IsoTek Sigmas GII w Optimum EVO3 < Furutech FT-SWS < HiFi Tuning Supreme 3 < Solid Tech Hybrid

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by johndoe21ro View Post
    I've been using MacBook Pro as a server for years. And it's got a SSD inside as you can see in my signature. I'm planning to move to MacMini and a linear power supply with the help of a DC conversion kit from UpTone Audio.
    Hi johndoe21ro
    I have used my 2013 Mac Mini as a music server for 5 years now, originally as base, then with SSD, more RAM, and using Audirvana+. Then I did the Uptone Audio mod (fiddley to do), and bought the HD Plex 100 LPS, which also feeds my ext drive. Later I ditched USB output and went Ethernet to a Rednet 3 which clocks it and outputs SPDIF. The last 2 upgrades were HUGE. No digital sound anymore, pure music and dead smooth, like vinyl in fact. Maybe we should all go back to vinyl? But I agree, the Mac Mini set up right can be a top transport / source feeding a DAC for sure. All my files are output as resident resolution, no up sampling, no messing. It sounds best for my NOS DAC.

    Don't forget to strip it back, no USB devices connected, no internet access, no email, auto updates etc. Kill anything not used to play music basically. Open Activity Monitor and watch for memory usages, and drill down that, get out switched off. Good luck!
    Mac Mini Server with 12V DC Upton Audio MMK Mod and LPS feed , SSD and 16 GIG RAM, Audirvana V3 & Tital | Aries Cert Kassandra Ref II NOS DAC, Audio Note UK DAC 5 Special V2 Gone | Passive pre-amplifier | Plinius SA-103 150W Class A / AB switchable | Zingali Client Name EVO 1.2 Horn Hybrids | Velodyne DD10[/B] Sub | Metrum Aurix Headphone Amplifier | Audeze LCD4 2018 | PS Audio P10 Power Regenerator | Dedicated Mains | Audio Note DAC 4.1 heavily modded with AN UK parts | Audeze LCD2 Classic.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by astrostar59 View Post
    Hi johndoe21ro
    I have used my 2013 Mac Mini as a music server for 5 years now, originally as base, then with SSD, more RAM, and using Audirvana+. Then I did the Uptone Audio mod (fiddley to do), and bought the HD Plex 100 LPS, which also feeds my ext drive. Later I ditched USB output and went Ethernet to a Rednet 3 which clocks it and outputs SPDIF. The last 2 upgrades were HUGE. No digital sound anymore, pure music and dead smooth, like vinyl in fact. Maybe we should all go back to vinyl? But I agree, the Mac Mini set up right can be a top transport / source feeding a DAC for sure. All my files are output as resident resolution, no up sampling, no messing. It sounds best for my NOS DAC.

    Don't forget to strip it back, no USB devices connected, no internet access, no email, auto updates etc. Kill anything not used to play music basically. Open Activity Monitor and watch for memory usages, and drill down that, get out switched off. Good luck!
    Thanks! I'll do that!
    Triangle Magellan Cello 2 < AudioQuest Everest < BAT VK-600SE < AudioQuest Hurricane High-Current < AudioQuest NRG-1000 < AudioQuest WEL XLR < exaSound e22 DAC w Paul Hynes SR3-12 LPS < Squeezelite w Logitech Media Server < UpTone ISORegen w USPCB A-B & UltraCap LPS 1.2 < AudioQuest Diamond USB < MacMini w UpTone DC-Conversion Kit < Stillpoints UltraSS < Omicron Harmonic Stabilizer & Gold SE < IsoTek Sigmas GII w Optimum EVO3 < Furutech FT-SWS < HiFi Tuning Supreme 3 < Solid Tech Hybrid

  10. #10
    [Industry Expert]
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    I've been using a Mac Mini for many years with superb results. Many years at trade shows I used it. I have a LPS on it as well as increased DRAM and SSD disk for the OS and apps. Local RAID1 is attached for my music files. These are all easy to install yourself on older Minis. Background apps should be killed, like spotlight. If you are using USB, which you probably will in your DAC price range, the Mini is a great choice. It has at least one really good USB port. I would never do a headless version. Always make sure you can see the screen on the mini for software installation and configuration.

    For USB I would recommend Amarra for best sound quality. I have tried them all. For Ethernet playback, I recommend Linn Kinsky with Minimserver. Beats all others.

    Steve N.
    Empirical Audio

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