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Using Mac Mini as streamer plus music server
#1
Hi guys,

I want to get feedback from who had experience using Mac Mini connected to Devialet via USB connection and can you please talk about your experience? especially sound quality wise, it would be good if you also have experience with some other streamer and tell me your comparison.

One thing I like about Mac mini is it can connect to TV via HDMI, and USB to Devialet, which means I can watch many HD Music Video/shows on Youtube, and sometimes I found it is better to have both ear and eyes enjoyed at the same time.

But I worry about the sound quality, especially the USB output power may not be clean enough and might drop sound quality, I am not sure if the EXPERT PRO have done any USB power isolation or not.

I also worry about the Fan in the mac mini brings extra vibration that can effects sound as well.

Can anyway share your experience with mac mini? especially if you had compared it with other audiophile grade streamer/music server.

Appreciated!
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#2
(31-Oct-2018, 00:06)PeppaPig Wrote: Hi guys,

I want to get feedback from who had experience using Mac Mini connected to Devialet via USB connection and can you please talk about your experience? especially sound quality wise, it would be good if you also have experience with some other streamer and tell me your comparison.

One thing I like about Mac mini is it can connect to TV via HDMI, and USB to Devialet, which means I can watch many HD Music Video/shows on Youtube, and sometimes I found it is better to have both ear and eyes enjoyed at the same time.

But I worry about the sound quality, especially the USB output power may not be clean enough and might drop sound quality, I am not sure if the EXPERT PRO have done any USB power isolation or not.

I also worry about the Fan in the mac mini brings extra vibration that can effects sound as well.

Can anyway share your experience with mac mini? especially if you had compared it with other audiophile grade streamer/music server.

Appreciated!
Had a slightly upgraded Mac Mini with paired RAM, internal SSD and Nordost power chord but this was easily beat by the first series of the Auralic Aries streamer.  The best advantage a Mini offers is the ability to use Audirvana, IMHO, the best sounding and intuitive software player extant.
ROON > i3 ROON ROCK Fanless Enclosure w. Sbooster LPS > AQ Vodka Ethernet w. Acoustic Revive Lan Isolator > D440PRO > AQ NRG Z3 PCs > 
Nordost Heimdall 2 Speaker Cables > Magico Q3  
AQ Niagara 5000 Power Conditioner > AQ Tornado PC  > AQ Edison outlet
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#3
PeppaPigHi guys,

Hi PeppaPig:

I can provide my experience with sound quality input from a LINN Majik as a streamer and Apple Mac Mini duplicating that role.

In the case of the LINN Majik, I was streaming Flac ripped music and downloaded HD music from the Mac Mini, (operating as a music server), to the Majik which was connected via high-end component cables to a Devialet Pro 250. I used J-River as an example for file management eventually moving to LINN's Kazoo to manage my library.

I was very happy with the sound but took the bait of upgrading the Mac Mini with both the UpTone Audio MMK and then adding the JS-2 Linear Power Supply.

https://uptoneaudio.com/products/js-2-li...wer-supply

I also replaced the spinning disk in the Mac Mini with a SSD drive. The MMK upgrade from UpTone controls when the fan comes on and I can say, I just do not hear it.

https://uptoneaudio.com/products/mac-min...er-kit-mmk

With Devialet's USB input, I installed Roon on the mac Mini and my controllers, (iPhone, iPad's, etc), thus getting rid of the LINN Majik. Sound was delicious!

I admit that where others had Ethernet or USB issues, I never experienced them.

I am totally comfortable wiith the sound from the Mac Mini/UpTone PSU and MMK upgrade, along with the Devialet Pro 250.

I have custom built 92db speakers and feel I miss nothing from my music which touches on Orchestra, Rock, Blues and Country.

I have the Mac Mini connected to the 4K TV for video/Youtube via HDMI, now all Ethernet to the Devialet, (like it for ease of operation vs USB but do not feel I have lost anything).

I have the 4K TV feeding optically into the Devialet in case there is something I want to play through the stereo from the TV. Again, simple and clean.

Just a note, I do run a sub with my system which adds depth to the bottom 2 octaves and I have taken time to apply sound absorption panels as my sound room is 20 feet by 40 feet with cathedral ceilings. Been tough to get under control!

I see someone has communicated their experience with one of the dedicated audio servers and I am sure they meet and maybe exceed my system. Being in the second half of my 60's, I feel I am not missing anything but again, my ears are not what they were 20 or 30 years ago.

I am an audiophile from all the definitions I have read, maximize the quality of cabling for you analog signals, (speaker and component cables), just get the best you afford, everything that uses digital wires, (USB, Ethernet), forget the snake oil, it's packaged digital bits. Error correction fixes 99.999% of it. Jitter on our short cables just does not impact the signal. I have the USB Regen and do not use it as I did not hear any difference but then, at the same time, I moved to Ethernet data delivery to the Devialet so cauion that my testing was short term only.

Lastly is control. I run everything from my mobile or my iPad or when the wife comes in and wants to turn down the music, she goes for the controller. For when I am wanting to control the Mac Mini to play Youtube stuff, I have RealVNC loaded on a Macbook Pro and can sit on the couch playing what ever I can find on YouTube, audio to the Devialet, video to the 4K TV.

Sweet!

Ease of use is important, confidence/quality in audio playback is maximized. I'm happy!

Hope this helps in your research.

Cheers

Bob
250 Pro Master, Siltech Anniversary Silver Interconnects and Speakers cables, LINN Majik Streamer, Arcam D37 SACD, Mac-mini with Kazoo, JRiver and tested Roon, Speakers, custom build, SEA Exotics, Chord Hugo, HifiMan H1000's. (home is Vancouver, Canada)
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#4
(31-Oct-2018, 02:27)Wdw Wrote:
(31-Oct-2018, 00:06)PeppaPig Wrote: Hi guys,

I want to get feedback from who had experience using Mac Mini connected to Devialet via USB connection and can you please talk about your experience? especially sound quality wise, it would be good if you also have experience with some other streamer and tell me your comparison.

One thing I like about Mac mini is it can connect to TV via HDMI, and USB to Devialet, which means I can watch many HD Music Video/shows on Youtube, and sometimes I found it is better to have both ear and eyes enjoyed at the same time.

But I worry about the sound quality, especially the USB output power may not be clean enough and might drop sound quality, I am not sure if the EXPERT PRO have done any USB power isolation or not.

I also worry about the Fan in the mac mini brings extra vibration that can effects sound as well.

Can anyway share your experience with mac mini? especially if you had compared it with other audiophile grade streamer/music server.

Appreciated!
Had a slightly upgraded Mac Mini with paired RAM, internal SSD and Nordost power chord but this was easily beat by the first series of the Auralic Aries streamer.  The best advantage a Mini offers is the ability to use Audirvana, IMHO, the best sounding and intuitive software player extant.

Thanks. I should take a lot of Audirvana, never heard it. Does it integrated with Spotify and TIDAL?

Have you compared the Aries and your mac mini, and you found Aries much better? I think the USB output of mac mini might be a worry.
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#5
(31-Oct-2018, 05:33)boba2013 Wrote: PeppaPigHi guys,

Hi PeppaPig:

I can provide my experience with sound quality input from a LINN Majik as a streamer and Apple Mac Mini duplicating that role.

In the case of the LINN Majik, I was streaming Flac ripped music and downloaded HD music from the Mac Mini, (operating as a music server), to the Majik which was connected via high-end component cables to a Devialet Pro 250. I used J-River as an example for file management eventually moving to LINN's Kazoo to manage my library.

I was very happy with the sound but took the bait of upgrading the Mac Mini with both the UpTone Audio MMK and then adding the JS-2 Linear Power Supply.

https://uptoneaudio.com/products/js-2-li...wer-supply

I also replaced the spinning disk in the Mac Mini with a SSD drive. The MMK upgrade from UpTone controls when the fan comes on and I can say, I just do not hear it.

https://uptoneaudio.com/products/mac-min...er-kit-mmk

With Devialet's USB input, I installed Roon on the mac Mini and my controllers, (iPhone, iPad's, etc), thus getting rid of the LINN Majik. Sound was delicious!

I admit that where others had Ethernet or USB issues, I never experienced them.

I am totally comfortable wiith the sound from the Mac Mini/UpTone PSU and MMK upgrade, along with the Devialet Pro 250.

I have custom built 92db speakers and feel I miss nothing from my music which touches on Orchestra, Rock, Blues and Country.

I have the Mac Mini connected to the 4K TV for video/Youtube via HDMI, now all Ethernet to the Devialet, (like it for ease of operation vs USB but do not feel I have lost anything).

I have the 4K TV feeding optically into the Devialet in case there is something I want to play through the stereo from the TV. Again, simple and clean.

Just a note, I do run a sub with my system which adds depth to the bottom 2 octaves and I have taken time to apply sound absorption panels as my sound room is 20 feet by 40 feet with cathedral ceilings. Been tough to get under control!

I see someone has communicated their experience with one of the dedicated audio servers and I am sure they meet and maybe exceed my system. Being in the second half of my 60's, I feel I am not missing anything but again, my ears are not what they were 20 or 30 years ago.

I am an audiophile from all the definitions I have read, maximize the quality of cabling for you analog signals, (speaker and component cables), just get the best you afford, everything that uses digital wires, (USB, Ethernet), forget the snake oil, it's packaged digital bits. Error correction fixes 99.999% of it. Jitter on our short cables just does not impact the signal. I have the USB Regen and do not use it as I did not hear any difference but then, at the same time, I moved to Ethernet data delivery to the Devialet so cauion that my testing was short term only.

Lastly is control. I run everything from my mobile or my iPad or when the wife comes in and wants to turn down the music, she goes for the controller. For when I am wanting to control the Mac Mini to play Youtube stuff, I have RealVNC loaded on a Macbook Pro and can sit on the couch playing what ever I can find on YouTube, audio to the Devialet, video to the 4K TV.

Sweet!

Ease of use is important, confidence/quality in audio playback is maximized. I'm happy!

Hope this helps in your research.

Cheers

Bob

Thanks Bob. Have you tried to compare your mac mini with another other audiophile grade streamer? 

And you didn't found the USB Regen/ISO Regen help a little bit? I thought Mac mini's USB is quite noisy and should be benefit a lot from a regen.
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#6
(31-Oct-2018, 13:31)PeppaPig Wrote:
(31-Oct-2018, 05:33)boba2013 Wrote: Hi PeppaPig

Yes, as mentioned, I have an excellent streamer in the LINN Majik. That was my initial streamer into the Devialet. I fed the LINN from a Synology NAS, (Ethernet and DLNA) and then into the 250 from the LINN via Interconnect cables. This allowed me to both play my FLAC music library as well as Internet based streams like Radio Paradise. LINN had an excellent audio library software product that was free and easy to use.

Obviously, the Synology had to be placed where the fan noise could be minimized and I ended up deciding to replace it with the Mac Mini. By that time, we were playing with JRiver and other software based library systems that would allow me to choose a input on the Devialet and then stream audio to it from that source.

Many software testings later, with products like ROON, I ended up taking the LINN out as a source and going directly from the Mac Mini into the Devialet.

I was able to compare initially USB, (with the Regen), from the Mac Mini which was my main feed into the Pro250 with the ethernet. Due to simplicity of running everything over Ethernet and hearing no reduction in quality of sound, I went that way actually quite soon after setting up the USB connection thus, will let others who have much more experience with USB argue their side.

For me it simplifies cabling and does away of the controversy of the USB Isochronous Audio Stream vs TCP packetized data streams over the Ethernet connection. USB Isochronous audio streams are able to do large data moves but the receiver only knows that a data packet is incorrect, (from jitter or other reasons), and cannot request a resend, vs in TCP, data streams are fast enough while providing error correction if needed.

I want to add that I have a single 8-port Ethernet switch connecting all the stereo equipment together and it is connected to the house router. All of the audio, TV and switch products are connected to large power conditioner which is intended to keep feedback/noise to a minimum. It allows me to control to some degree, grounding between all the electrical devices which I feel is important.

Let me ask you a question, why are you considering USB when you have excellent data transfer capabilities using Ethernet? Is there something that you feel is better served with a USB connection?

One last comment is that I feel the money I have spent on cables, over the years has delivered excellent sound for my enjoyment. I use Siltech Silver interconnects and speaker cables and do not feel I am losing anything in sound quality. There are those that would not spend the money these cables demand so I am not going to argue against investing in what you think it is best for you. If anything, it is the road we each travel to get to audio nirvana that is so much fun....and our Devialet's allow us a range of options for source data delivery!

Best of luck in your search and solution. Let us know what you end up going with!

Cheers

Bob

Thanks Bob. Have you tried to compare your mac mini with another other audiophile grade streamer? 

And you didn't found the USB Regen/ISO Regen help a little bit? I thought Mac mini's USB is quite noisy and should be benefit a lot from a regen.
250 Pro Master, Siltech Anniversary Silver Interconnects and Speakers cables, LINN Majik Streamer, Arcam D37 SACD, Mac-mini with Kazoo, JRiver and tested Roon, Speakers, custom build, SEA Exotics, Chord Hugo, HifiMan H1000's. (home is Vancouver, Canada)
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#7
Thanks @boba2013 The reason I want to use USB only because from my google research it appeared USB has best sounding, I think the best quality MQA also only available on USB connection when using TIDAL?

Did you also found noticeable improvement with or without the mac mini upgrade kit? What do you think about a stock Mac mini without any modifications?
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#8
Why not use ethernet rather than USB?

I currently use a Mac Mini as a server/streamer, connected via ethernet to my Devialet, and rely on Roon. I haven't had any drop out problems since switching from wifi to ethernet.
Devialet 1000 Pro Core Infinity, Magico M3, Nordost Frey speaker cable, PS Audio P3 Power Plant,  Mac Mini running ROON.
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#9
(31-Oct-2018, 23:16)PeppaPig Wrote: …The reason I want to use USB only because from my google research it appeared USB has best sounding, I think the best quality MQA also only available on USB connection when using TIDAL?…

I've seen comments in favour of USB and comments in favour of ethernet. I don't think it's clear cut and I think it  may depend in part on what source you're using but it may also depend in part on personal taste. Before I bought my own Devialet I had a friend who used USB for years and then tried ethernet, thought it was better, and swapped to it. Since getting my 130 (now a 140) I've tried both, both before and after it got the CI board upgrade and following some of the firmware updates after the CI upgrade. Each time I end up preferring ethernet, even though Antipodes recommend USB. I think you need to try both and see which you prefer rather than relying on Google research which provides lots of reports, most from people who aren't using a Devialet, many/most who won't be using the same source as you are, and very very few who are using the same source as you and a Devialet.

MQA relies on 2 "unfolds" to use their term. The first can be done by some software and by MQA capable DACs while the second seems to be only possible with MQA capable DACs. Devialet's can't do either but Roon can do the first unfold in software. I've tried comparing the Tidal non-MQA version with their MQA version without having Roon do the first unfold and also having Roon do the first unfold quite a few times. Each time I try the comparisons I end up preferring the non-MQA version. I have heard Tidal MQA with a DAC doing both unfolds but only on a very different system to mine (MQA DAC with a different amp and speakers) but I haven't heard a comparison between MQA and the non-MQA version on that system. From the many comments on MQA I've read over the past year or so it seems that some people prefer it, some don't, and personal taste seems to be involved in at least some of the differing assessments.

I don't know whether USB can deliver better results with MQA than ethernet but if you're using a Devialet I think basing your assessment of USB vs ethernet on the belief that USB will be superior without making your own comparison is a mistake. Since your Devialet can't do either MQA unfold, the quality of the MQA stream is going to depend on the MQA processing done by whatever source you use and you are then going to be limited by whatever options that source provides for connection to your Devialet so your first decision is going to be what source you're going to use and there and the merits of USB or ethernet may not be the most important factor in making that choice. If your choice provides both USB and ethernet output then you should compare both for yourself. If it only provides one of those outputs then you don't have a choice and the best one will always be the one you have, whether that be USB or ethernet.

I don't know if there's anything available which will do both unfolds and provide both USB and ethernet output and the question will be totally irrelevant if you choose a DAC which only provides analog output and doesn't provide digital output. I know you can find options which will do the first unfold and provide both of those outputs because I'm using one and there are others but arguably none of those are going to provide the best quality MQA because they're not doing both unfolds, just the first one, so you're missing out on some of what MQA offers. Whether you use something which does one or both unfolds and provides digital output there's still going to be the question of whether you are one of those people who prefer the MQA version or the non-MQA version of the music you play.

My advice is:

1- first choose a source and deciding whether or not you prefer MQA should be part of that process but that is unlikely to be the only relevant factor you should consider. If you already have a source then your options in regard of USB and ethernet connection are already determined, you either have one or both. If you only have one connection option, whether or not it's better than the other in theory is irrelevant because the option you have is always better than the option you don't have, irrespective of what theory says.

2- if the source you have or choose offers both USB and ethernet connection options then try both and see which one you prefer rather than relying on Google or any other source of opinions. One may have a theoretical advantage over the other but there's also the question of the respective quality of the 2 outputs on your source device, the respective quality of the USB and ethernet inputs on the Devialet, and there's then the issue of personal taste. You should not assume that one will always be better than the other regardless of the equipment involved.
Antipodes DS, Devilalet Expert 140 Pro CI, Focal Sopra 2, PS Audio P12, AQ Vodka ethernet, Kimber Select speaker cables, Shunyata Alpha NR and Delta EF power cables power cables, Grand Prix Audio Monaco rack, RealTRAPS acoustic treatment.

Brisbane, Qld, Australia
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#10
(03-Nov-2018, 01:14)David A Wrote:
(31-Oct-2018, 23:16)PeppaPig Wrote: …The reason I want to use USB only because from my google research it appeared USB has best sounding, I think the best quality MQA also only available on USB connection when using TIDAL?…

I've seen comments in favour of USB and comments in favour of ethernet. I don't think it's clear cut and I think it  may depend in part on what source you're using but it may also depend in part on personal taste. Before I bought my own Devialet I had a friend who used USB for years and then tried ethernet, thought it was better, and swapped to it. Since getting my 130 (now a 140) I've tried both, both before and after it got the CI board upgrade and following some of the firmware updates after the CI upgrade. Each time I end up preferring ethernet, even though Antipodes recommend USB. I think you need to try both and see which you prefer rather than relying on Google research which provides lots of reports, most from people who aren't using a Devialet, many/most who won't be using the same source as you are, and very very few who are using the same source as you and a Devialet.

MQA relies on 2 "unfolds" to use their term. The first can be done by some software and by MQA capable DACs while the second seems to be only possible with MQA capable DACs. Devialet's can't do either but Roon can do the first unfold in software. I've tried comparing the Tidal non-MQA version with their MQA version without having Roon do the first unfold and also having Roon do the first unfold quite a few times. Each time I try the comparisons I end up preferring the non-MQA version. I have heard Tidal MQA with a DAC doing both unfolds but only on a very different system to mine (MQA DAC with a different amp and speakers) but I haven't heard a comparison between MQA and the non-MQA version on that system. From the many comments on MQA I've read over the past year or so it seems that some people prefer it, some don't, and personal taste seems to be involved in at least some of the differing assessments.

I don't know whether USB can deliver better results with MQA than ethernet but if you're using a Devialet I think basing your assessment of USB vs ethernet on the belief that USB will be superior without making your own comparison is a mistake. Since your Devialet can't do either MQA unfold, the quality of the MQA stream is going to depend on the MQA processing done by whatever source you use and you are then going to be limited by whatever options that source provides for connection to your Devialet so your first decision is going to be what source you're going to use and there and the merits of USB or ethernet may not be the most important factor in making that choice. If your choice provides both USB and ethernet output then you should compare both for yourself. If it only provides one of those outputs then you don't have a choice and the best one will always be the one you have, whether that be USB or ethernet.

I don't know if there's anything available which will do both unfolds and provide both USB and ethernet output and the question will be totally irrelevant if you choose a DAC which only provides analog output and doesn't provide digital output. I know you can find options which will do the first unfold and provide both of those outputs because I'm using one and there are others but arguably none of those are going to provide the best quality MQA because they're not doing both unfolds, just the first one, so you're missing out on some of what MQA offers. Whether you use something which does one or both unfolds and provides digital output there's still going to be the question of whether you are one of those people who prefer the MQA version or the non-MQA version of the music you play.

My advice is:

1- first choose a source and deciding whether or not you prefer MQA should be part of that process but that is unlikely to be the only relevant factor you should consider. If you already have a source then your options in regard of USB and ethernet connection are already determined, you either have one or both. If you only have one connection option, whether or not it's better than the other in theory is irrelevant because the option you have is always better than the option you don't have, irrespective of what theory says.

2- if the source you have or choose offers both USB and ethernet connection options then try both and see which one you prefer rather than relying on Google or any other source of opinions. One may have a theoretical advantage over the other but there's also the question of the respective quality of the 2 outputs on your source device, the respective quality of the USB and ethernet inputs on the Devialet, and there's then the issue of personal taste. You should not assume that one will always be better than the other regardless of the equipment involved.


Thanks mate, appreciate your response, it’s very helpful.

Currently I use two source, one from my Synology NAS, another one is online music service such as Spotify/Tidal, when I play I use SpotifyConnect or AirPlay.

I have been looking around streamers but I have found a good one within my price range. Some of the high end one are way too expensive and looking and it’s internals I cannot accept it worth the money. So I am thinking to use Mac Mini.

If I use Mac Mini connect to Devialet via Ethernet, and run Roon on Mac mini, will the Devialet and Roon both accessible from my mobile?
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