Apple vs PC for Music System

I'm pretty familiar with XP owning both a desktop and laptop. But I want to put together a similar system to the Apple TV Setup featured in the Absolute Sound and PS Audio.

However when looking at PCs at a local store they had a windows media computer that looked really interestesting that I'm considering purchasing for just audio into my Levinson DAC. I was told I could use an iPod Touch to control this system just like I could an Apple TV.
Also this system included a BluRay Disc drive. The setup looked very cool and very hi tech.

So to do this system right, should I stick with Apple only like the Absolute Sound or a combo of Apple w/PC to do the ripping, or all PC with Sata drives like the computer store would customize for me w/I-Tunes/iPod running the show?
From experience, I would go for the HTPC. The Blu ray drive is a God sent! Make sure you have a good video card. Something like a Nvidia 8800GT or similar. Also check to make sure the tuner card is HDTV capable. This way you can get HD channels OTA on the PC and record them if you want too.

It cost me $340 (Sony BD drive + Zotac Nvidia 8800GT 256 bit 1Gb video card)total to upgrade my HTPC to Bluray. You can rest assured though, there's not a stand alone Blu ray player on the market that can embarrass it on the picture quality. Definitely not one in the price range. My load times are around 5 seconds..not bad for an almost two year old PC! Some of the stand alone take for ever to load a BR disc. Even on the action packed scenes it runs as smooth as butter. No dragging, chipping or ghosting artifacts.

The cool thing about the PC it will also upsample all the other content you play on it as well(regular DVDs).So no stand alone upconverting player is needed. Oppo need not apply.

Even if you don't use it for'll have it when you want too.

My buddy has a Mac Mini and wanted to do the same thing. Only problem is his Mac Mini isn't capable of 1080P resolution. He has opted for my brother and I too build him a custom HTPC instead.

Oh and don't forget the audio card. Get one that has atleast 7 channel 24 bit /96 khz or better analog output along with the spdif outs. This way you can run uncompressed HD audio out to your preamp or processor..even if it doesn't decode HD formats. I wish I had this..probably my next upgrade.

Good luck..I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
HTPC takes a lot of tweaking to set up correctly. A lot of work around is required. Check out AVS forum for more details. It's very ann

Apple solution is simplier, more expensive and most likely less powerful than most HTPC at the same price point.

Depending on the time factor, if you are willing to spend hours tweaking, HTPC is a perfect hobby. Otherwise, get an Apple.
A PC is the far superior choice for audio for the simple reason that you can order an Auzentech Prelude with a pair of OPA 637SM installed on the front L/R channels for $470 including shipping. There's nothing on an Apple to compete with that. (You ought to get a PC Power and Cooling PS, too).

ATI will give you better colors than Nvidia if you are using a Trinitron or prosumer flat panel.
I forgot about software -

You can by a resampling plugin for Winamp, Audioburst FX. It makes a huge difference.

The Dolby headphone modes on PowerDVD sound far better than on any other implementation of Dolby Headphone I've tried (including Winamp).

PowerDVD even does a good job of playing DVD-Audio. It's got a few quirks but they do it better than WinDVD ever did. WinDVD gave up on the feature.

I'm relatively new to PC audio and HTPC and trying to keep up with you guys.

Are you saying that the Prelude sound card (and its' op amps} is the superior choice for 2 channel PC audio in general (ie better than outboard DACs or reclockers etc.) or that the prelude is the best choice for an HTPC?

The Prelude will not beat outboard DACs and the like. It's the best for HTPC.

Your missing the point... 93% of all recording studio's use MAC's for a reason. They sound better... ask any of my now converted dealers. They were all PC before, now none of them are!

Also 7 minutes out of the box and your up and running. So far the fastest I have been able to get a PC to anywhere near that preformance was a couple of hours.

Matter of opinion I suppose, I've already compared a Mac to my PC system last year at home. I for one prefer PC. More software and flexibilty for my needs..different strokes for different folks...nothing wrong with that.

Look I design PC motherboards and computers for years. I have over 5.8M PC's in the field. I have more computers in my lab than most software companies. I have written bios code in assmbler since 1981 and have more than 135 commercial software packages written since then.

I don't know what you are listening too if you are using a PC or your just bull headed but really common guys. Your nuts, macs always sound better.

I sell some of the most expensive computer dacs in the world and can use any computer and os at my disposal. Heck I even have a motherboard I designed for a company specifically for audio. It does not have switching supplies on it at all. It uses super regulators and single oscillator so the emi and rfi is all tuned. Not even close...

Look a mac mini is less than most of your CD players. Try thank me.

Gordon I'm well aware what you do. Nothing wrong with the just doesn't work for me.

Now I'm nuts because I have my own preferences? Is your word the gospel now? I suppose all of us that do not own your Dacs are nuts?

Thanks but no thanks I like my PC. Those who prefer Mac enjoy!
The Mac mini has garbage video resolution. I use my computer for more than just audio.
Cool, a bare knuckles slug fest between two heavy weight A'goners. Maybe it will evolve into an interesting and useful dialogue.

I may be mistaken but over the last year or so of reading, experimenting, listening to other systems (some of them high end) I've concluded that it's the equipment upstream of the computer that is really important.

Also, over the 25 years or so since I've been using desk top computers I've noticed that Microsoft and Apple, while using different operating systems, tend to converge towards one level of performance in a general area of applications (ie. word processing, spread sheets, internet support) I suspect that MS and Apple have reached a point of convergence in consumer level audio and I suspect they will soon meet a point of convergence in consumer level Home Theater computing.

In the near future discussions about differences between MS and Apple audio and video applications might be as interesting as discussions about competing word processing applications.

In the mean time, let the games begin.

I am primarily a PC guy. I really enjoy building my own. I purchased my 1st Wavelength Audio DAC over two years ago. I stubbornly held out using a Mac as per Gordon's recommendation.

Today I own 2 Macs and many PCs. The Mac just sounds better for music. I have an iMac and MacBook Pro, and would never want to go back to XP Pro or Vista for my music.
Help me understand how this could matter? If one is sending data from either pc or mac to a dac (I'm using pc to Benchmark DAC1 USB), should they not both be sending the same data and then the dac is doing the work. I can understand if one is using an internal soundcard out to an amp but not with a dac.
Many people will tell you that the quality of your digital cable can influence what you hear and see too...

but I think this discussion is directed towards digital conversion occurring inside the computer, rather than using a Mac or PC as a server for raw digital data to an external DAC. Correct?
The operating system, USB drivers, and the way iTunes deals with Core Audio makes the difference. Vista is not bad; in fact it is quite good. I just prefer Apple OSX. Either you can hear it or it doesn't matter. You just have to try it.

It's not about sound. It's about politics.

How many Republicans work in recording studios?

Politics... schmal-itics... I've A/B the same USB DAC with the same USB cable and ICs and my MacMini to USB DAC sounds far better on my systems (tube & SS) than my Vista 'puter to USB DAC on the same audio systems...

As my Mom used to say... what's next...?

...before we make an audio decision.. we'll be asking how many thus-and-suchs and such-a-muchas are in recording studios or on-stage... audio is crazy enough without adding in the other crazies.


Happy listening...



I was in the process of selling all my digital gear and focus only on analog playback. I only had my Benchamark DAC1 left when I decided to try hooking up the DAC1 to the Apple TV. I have to say that I was impressed at the potential that the Apple TV had with my DAC1. The sound is bit on the lite side, but I knew it could be improved.

I got rid off the cheap tosslink cable I was using and connected a new Audioquest Optilink-5. I also gave the DAC1 the Stereovox Reference BAL-600 treatment. This combination is the best digital sound I've had in my system. What first tipped the scale toward enjoyable digital audio was the Audioquest Optilink-5. Once this cable was in, the sound was more solid, more crystal clear and had more depth. Adding the BAL-600 was the ice on the cake.

The fact that the Apple TV is so affordable does not mean that it doesn't compare well with the best media servers or transports. I consider it a gift. Of course, I'm not implying the this combo sounds as good as my analog rig, but it makes a decent digital recording sound quite pleasing.

I forgot to add that if you have the iPhone or the iPod Touch, you can download the "Remote" application onto the iPhone or iTouch and control the Apple TV remotely via WiFi. So you only need a tv monitor for initial set up and for updates.

The "Remote" application has the exact playlists, artists, etc. as your Apple TV and it has all the playback controls of iTunes at your fingertips.


You can also use Mocha VNC (downloadable from the Apple iTunes website) and web surf from your iTouch or iPhone... you can control Rhapsody or Pandora, etc. as well... you need a wireless gateway/modem to do that.

Gordon Wavelength, your experience is irrelevant. Unless you have used the correct hardware and softare on a PC then you have no idea what you are talking about.
As I'm starting to set up a music server I'd like a "real" answer to this as well. My plan is to store music files on a NAS and feed analog to my preamp with a Benchmark DAC1 USB but am struggling with my choice of "middle tier". Sound quality and the ability to access my library with reasonable ease are my primary objectives.

To those who assert that one platform is better than another, is it a question of how the ones and zeros are retrieved and sent to the DAC? Is it a question of jitter? Are there more "artifacts" (e.g. noise) sent from a PC than from a Mac? And is this the fault of the OS, the audio software or something with the hardware itself? If any of these are the case is it better to go with a dedicated appliance (Sonos, Slim or whatever)?

I am a PC guy and work with Wintel boxes as part of my job as a data architect but if a Mac Mini would SOUND better than a PC or appliance and I could fit it into my network and I don't have to use a monitor or laptop to control it, I'll use one. But I'm still searching for a technical reason why one is better than the other.

I have spent a little time in recording studios, mostly at the business end of the microphones. My impression as to why Macs are more common in music is that for so long they were the only game in town and so much easier for non-geeks to use.
What? No takers? There seems to but a fair amount of passion on the topic. Surely there's someone who knows why one is a better sonic platform than the other.
What I don't understand is, how can there be so much jitter? I have a HTPC and I can watch 1080P files using a 10$ HDMI cable and it comes out crystal clear... No artifacts anywhere. Now that requires MUCH more bandwidth than CD's 48k/s... Digital is digital, right? Why for video, but not more audio?
Toufu - jitter is jitter, but looking at artifacts at a 60hZ or 120Hz framerate on video is really not as critical as the brain-ear function. If you were to look really close with a magnifying glass at each pixel, you would probably see differences in clarity even with video. Just like digital audio however, there is built-in jitter in the raster-scan of the display and other contributors. Just changing the cable may not be enough to make it really low to see a significant improvement.

The eyes can tolerate more jitter in the video signal than in the audio signal I believe. People are used to looking at non-HD video with fuzzy displays. It's what you are used to.

People are also used to audio jitter from CD's. Once the jitter is eliminated, it is obvious what you have been missing. If you have never heard this, then you probably dont miss anything.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
M3pilot - Both Mac and PC can be great using USB, particularly with Vista. However, not all USB devices are the same, and not all USB ports on a give computer are the same. The S/W driver and how the USB protocol works is critical. The clock in the USB device is critical as well as the overall design. USB can also support both 44.1 and 96, depending on the USB device.

For WiFi devices, it does not matter whether it's PC or Mac. They are identical. Both bit-perfect data delivery. Just a matter of personal preference for the GUI. The problem is in the jitter of the end-point devices. Most of them only support 16/44.1.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I can transfer a 1 gig file cross my wireless network bit perfect in a minute, surely they can use the same technology to etoufulimnate jitter?
I meant elimanate...
Toufu - sending data without errors and playing it back real-time with low-jitter are two very different challenges. If it was so easy to eliminate jitter, why would CD's be plagued with this for 20 years?

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

Thank you(!) for the clear response. I want to use USB into my DAC and it seems that mandates the use of some type of computer as opposed to an appliance. I'll probably go the Windows route since I have more experience with them and all my other machines are Windows-based.
Right now I'm using an XP PC. Can I use it to rip my discs into Apple ITunes lossless, then transfer everything to an Apple TV, connect it via toslink to a Genesis digital lens, then to my Levinson DAC, and finally use my IPod Touch to run everything? Or have I wasted my time since many insist that the PC will contaminate my files somehow and not sound as good as if I purchased an Apple computer to rip the disks? I really don't want to purchase a new PC if I don't have too.
I've been a PC guy forever but I bought a Mac Mini a few weeks ago and I'm hooked. It's so much easier to use. Everything is included (built-in wireless, bluetooth for the wireless keyboard and mouse, digital audio out, remote control, ipod interface, DVI to connect to the HDMI of my TV, etc.). I'm still working on the sound quality but it's pretty good already and I believe that ultimately there is little difference between a Mac and a PC in sound. It's simply a matter of how much effort is required for that sound.

I've worked measuring jitter for several years. (I'm not talking about too much coffee). Think of jitter as noise in the time domain. The DAC relies on the timing of the digital input signal. Timing noise (jitter) causes problems with the DAC timing. The result is audible. I think that virtually any computer output stream needs to be reclocked to get the best audio out. That applies to both Mac and PC. Ultimately, I think that someone will come out with a DAC focused on the PC audio market which will take care of the jitter problem.
Ok, been reading subject line for the last two/three months. Never would go with a PC based system. Use mac's at home. Just got my mini in and was up and running in a couple hours. To me it sounds great, running from the mac mini to a stereo link DAC, into my NAD 175 and into the NAD 975 and picking enhanced stereo on the 175 as output. Speakers are all Maggie, with 1.6's for the main speaker. May not be the highest system but gives nice sound in the room.

Will most likely update the AD unit later, but am thinking the a combo A/D/A unit so there is only one unit to power and be able to covert records over.

The mini makes a nice size system unit.

Pmi_guy... USB DACs have solved the jitter issue... e.g. Larry Moore's Ultra Fi iRoc... and others. The future... the some day... even sum-day... is here.

:) listening,

Istanbulu... But can I run Itunes on my Mac Mini with a USB DAC? I'm hooked on the Mac (the remote control alone is heaven).
If I download the most current version of ITunes onto my PC, can I SHARE the Apple LossLess files with an IPod Touch and Apple TV through my current Belkin WiFi connection? Will I-Tunes make the PC and Apple TV talk to each other through my Belkin, or should I purchase an Airport Express?
Will the PC ITunes sound as good as all AppleChain Itunes lossless? Thanks for your replies!


sure you can run iTunes on your MacMini with a USB DAC... I do it with a peripheral HD for ripped discs and dls.

You can do this on line wirelessly or wired. The iTouch remote is the best.

Also Rhapsody and Pandora roll along just fine.

:) listening,