Are Mac and PC equal?

Can a PC be just as good of a music server as Mac if set up properly? Can a PC with foobar2000 or Jriver work just as good as a mac setup with iTunes or whatever storage and streaming options exist? My portable external hard drive has flac and mp3 files, and I will stream spotify or tidal, pandora, Internet radio, etc.
Can I buy a PC tower or laptop (and if so what features/system requirements do I need for a great system) and get results equal to a mac? Digital files & streaming will go to an external DAC then an integrated amp and tower speakers. Thanks.
4342b7d3 d980 4bec aac0 282f8da1ee60labguy
There are +/-'s to using both. I suggest going with the platform with which you are most familiar, you can get great sound with either OS. Plug-ins and multiple software are available on both platforms to get great sound. I have seen both platforms used at RMAF over the past few years, but Mac is more common at this show. That said, I'm a PC and I'm very happy with my sound.
I will say that Mac's are kinda set up already to support high end audio, that was one of Job's priorities. But I'll never use one because the OS annoys me. To each his own.
Have both 21" iMac with iTunes / Audionirvana plus and a PC specifically built for music playback.

For ease of operation and the way everything works together the Mac setup is vastly superior, everything works together seamlessly, theres no noisy fans remote control is easy from either iPad or iPhone

Th PC is set up with JRiver, and when properly configured it sounds very good. To me its not as easy to operate and the whole PC thing with noisy fans etc just makes it less attractive to use.

Sound quality from both setups are great with maybe a slight nod towards the Jriver/PC setup.


Good Listening

If you don't want to get a mac mini or mac book, then look for a Lenovo T-510 or 520 or 530 laptop i5 or i7.
It was given as an advice to me from a computer nerd that also likes audio.
For audio, I use Windows and Linux. But I wouldn't buy a pre built PC. In most cases, the parts they use are very low quality. Its easy enough to buy the parts and put it all together yourself. Then you know its done right.
Either or will do the trick so long as you pair them with a good dac/amp/speakers.

It really comes down to what operating system and software you are most comfortable with, because you'll likely upgrade the hardware so that the computer will really one be a storage and or interface device.

Tidal is awesome, by the way. It's interface and usability is behind Spotify at the moment, but their is no comparison with regards to sound quality. I dropped my Spotify and Digitally Imported subscriptions after about 30 minutes of previewing Tidal. I imagine that all of the major players in streaming will soon offer hifi, which will make the decision kind of like the one you face now: the sound quality will be mostly equal, but the interface and usability will be the deciding factor.
I am sorry for asking this,but what exactly is Tidal?
I see it mentioned a lot,perhaps I am behind times.I imagine
It's probably like an Internet radio service, that has customized playlists but with high bitrate playback.Correct?
"04-01-15: Yioryos
I am sorry for asking this,but what exactly is Tidal?"
Since you are planning to use external DAC, I suggest you get a Mac and try both OS X and Windows yourself to see what you like best. It is because you can run Windows on a Mac but you can't run OS X on a PC. All you need to do is to run an application call Boot Camp which came with your Mac. It will guide you through step-by-step installing Windows on your Mac. I have done it many times. It is very easy. You will need to buy a copy of Windows of course. After that, you can choose to boot into OS X or Windows and switch between them.
I have been using Mac/OS. Have both a Macbook Pro and a Mac Mini with Pure Music installed for playback. CDs are ripped as AIFF files using itunes error correction. I have found this to be an easy and reliable path to computer audio. The sonics seem compatible with my remaining equipment. Somewhat better than a my Arcam DVD137 used as a transport into a Bryston DAC-1. I do use a USB?SPDIF converter between computer and DAC.

What computer operating system do you currently use ?

I'll admit my bias up front. I'll never buy another PC again. I have owned many PCs, and am required to use one at work every day. They all need constant restarting and updating, and clearly grew old and slow quickly with expanding bloatware in the OS. While both systems will need periodic software updates, the PC will need them a lot more often. Just to keep it safe and running.
I am running a 7 year old Mac, need to restart it only a couple of times per year for major software updates, and it never crashes. Ever. There is a reason that 5 year old Macs sell for well for several hundred $s on eBay. 5 year old PCs can be acquired for nothing. For good reason.
Can you make a PC sound as good as a Mac. Sure. Why? Buy a used Mac mini on eBay if you're wanting to set up a server and have a machine that will last another 10 years.
I bought a 4 year old Mac Mini on eBay for $365 as a dedicated server. It's spec'd the way I want. The OS software updates from Apple were free and easy to install. It's completely current and will outlast anything running windows.
I wouldn't be so anti PC if they actually worked well over time and lasted. They don't.
If you want a blazing fast gaming machine that will last a year, buy a tricked out PC. If you want a computer that is safe and reliable and will work for a decade (and still be worth something), buy a Mac, new or used, without fear.
The end game is absolutely equal these days (though mac will not be as prone to malware and virus'). You get out of both what you put into them, and you will be limited by your knowledge and ability to research, learn and teach yourself about the platform you choose. I have found Mac to be more stable, but less tweakable and much less online resources to get in and figure things out when there are problems. I believe Mac would be easier for a new user, and almost configureless so more plug and play than windows plug and pray. Though, windows 7 leaps and bounds over prior windows os. I am a windows guy for life but I am not limited on doing dumb things by just that.
I like Mac's myself, but for audio I cant bring myself to use one. If you compare the quality of components that you can hand select for a PC build, a Mac is a hard purchase to justify. I do understand that a Mac is more robust and reliable, but if you're just using the PC for music, you shouldn't have any problems. Not only that, once you install Windows, its a very simple matter to install a Linux distro that boots along side it. When you need to go online, just use Linux instead of windows.
I've actually found (one of) the bigget problem with windows is its integration to IE (or lack of). It just kills it. Google Chrome runs much better than IE BUT, remember, windows can't run "unmaintained" by the user effectiently or even just decently. It REQUIRES malware detection and removal (as well as virus) on a constant basis. If you go into your window services, most uses will find hundereds if not thousands (yes, thousands) of problems. Thats what slows you down, gets you booted off sites, slows down downloads, etc. (needed a new hard drive lately???) Your puter is like your car or home...needs to be serviced.
03-31-15: Zd542
For audio, I use Windows and Linux. But I wouldn't buy a pre built PC. In most cases, the parts they use are very low quality. Its easy enough to buy the parts and put it all together yourself. Then you know its done right.
+1. I would add that when you buy a pre-built PC, or at least those made by the major manufacturers, they will inevitably come with huge amounts of performance degrading "crapware" installed. And in many cases also anti-virus programs, security "suites," and other programs that are known resource hogs. Although even if you buy a pre-built PC you can reformat the hard drive, purchase Windows separately, and install it and all necessary programs from scratch. That is what I have done with my two laptops (an Asus and a Sager in this case). And I build my own desktop PC's, so of course I am installing all of their software from scratch.
04-24-15: Mgrif104
I'll never buy another PC again. I have owned many PCs, and am required to use one at work every day. They all need constant restarting and updating, and clearly grew old and slow quickly with expanding bloatware in the OS.
Many and perhaps most Windows users seem to have this kind of experience, but it needn't be so. I currently have 3 desktops and 2 laptops in my house, ranging from 4 to 8 years old. Most started out with Windows XP, and all now run Windows 7 (I've made a point of avoiding Windows 8, based on what I've read about it). All of them work as fast and reliably as the day they were built or purchased. And I have never had to reinstall the operating system, aside from when I replaced XP with 7.

I suspect that the following are among the reasons many Windows users have experienced performance degradation and slowdowns over time:

1)Crapware installed by the manufacturer.
2)Failure to regularly defragment the hard drive, if it is a mechanical drive (SSD's don't have to be and should not be defragmented). In some cases, failure to ever defragment the hard drive.
3)Resource hogging anti-virus programs and security "suites." I use NOD32 (just the anti-virus program, not the full suite).
4)Failure to deselect free add-ons that are installed by default when things like Adobe Flash and Java Runtime Environment are updated. Sometimes those add-ons are anti-virus programs, which can result in two anti-virus programs running on the computer at the same time, which will almost guarantee poor performance.
5)When a new program is installed, choosing "express install" rather than "custom install," thereby losing visibility into and choice of what is actually being installed. The result often being installation of unnecessary and potentially resource hogging software.
6)There are certainly other reasons, but I suspect those listed above are among the most common.

I certainly understand that for many users a Windows PC will not be the right choice, but my point is that the performance degradation of Windows computers over time, that is often reported, is often explainable and in any event is avoidable.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
Al - good points all. And, those are things I have typically done with my PCs to make them last longer. I just refuse to go through the hassle anymore.

Most users will experience the degradation we're referring to here. Further, I would submit that windows updates are likely to degrade performance anyway, even if you avoid the crapware.

To ZD542's fair point that it's hard to justify the expense of a Mac I would say fine for those who don't mind going through the exercise to build and maintain a PC. Yes, you can get better performance than pre-built. But, I doubt that better performance on the bench translates into better sound when using it as a server with an outboard DAC.

But, the OP is wondering whether a PC can be as good as a Mac. Certainly - and perhaps even better if it is as a dedicated machine. That said, I'm skeptical of claims about the sound of one OS or platform vs another, believing it has more to do other cummulative factors that are not easily isolated or tested.

However, if Labguy's question is can the machine serve a dual role as working machine and music server, then there's going to be other software and process drains on resources.

If budget is a concern, I go back to suggesting buy a used Mac mini and be done with it. Less expensive than building or buying a new PC, and likely to last longer and perform better over time. And, still have some value after years if he wants to upgrade.

My $.02
Used to think Mac OS platform/software was superior. Now am not so sure with right Windows platform/software. I have been using a Mac since middle '90s.