Best USB port on a late 2012 Mac mini

Hi guys, got me a late 2012 Mac mini with 16GB of ram, a 500GB ssd and a 1TB normal HD. I am running the OS and Roon from the ssd, my music library is on a 2TB ext HD connected to the mini with FireWire 800.
My question is this, when connecting my dac to the mini, is there, between the 3 USB port, one that is better sounding ? Like it used to be on the old Mac Book Pro ?
Most likely yes and my best advice to you is to find a track you are really familiar with and play about 20-30 seconds of it across all the ports. Listen for the best presentation. This is what I literally do with everything, ifor me it’s the only way to know for sure. Some people may laugh but I use Enyas “On Your Shore” LOL. It is a seemingly simple piece of music but the detail, harmonies and overtones are quite special. You will know when it is right, I use it a great deal when I’m fine tuning the VTA on my TT’s. I also use it for evaluating dacs. When it goes from sounding ok or good, to wow, you’re there.

I’ve been running Mac mini’s as music servers since ‘07. Trust me in this, the addition of an iFi iUSB 3.0 and the USB Purifier will remove the hash from the USB port. USB ports are notoriously noisy and it manifests itself in the music as a cool, flat presentation.
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Hello GryphonGryph,

 I do not have a solution for your question, but a question myself. May I ask for your expertise and guidance? ow can I connect my music collection on a FLAC USB to my pre-amp listed here? My sound system is an early 80s ‘stack’ system.

None of the components are digital: Bryston 2B solid state amp, Conrad-Johnson PV-11 pre-amp, MIT 330 interconnects, MusicWave phase-equalized speaker cables, California Audio Labs CD Alpha and Delta drive, Dual 1129 turntable. B&W 803 speakers.

I would appreciate your suggestions and guidance on the matter.Thank you.

Mark Saracino

Hi mark, you would need a usb dac, a server/computer to send the files to the dac, then analog out from the dac to your pre amp..
I also use the Intona USB isolator between the computer and the Dac. so far i haven't had any problems.
I’m using a MBP and have Thunderbolt for streaming Ethernet, USB out of the MBP to the DAC. trying to keep streams of data separate as much as possible. Putting the MBP in clamshell mode, removing extraneous software, etc has yielded a great server platform.
I run all my ripped music off Jriver from the built in SSD.  couldn’t be happier with the results.. 
Looking at some of these high dollar streamers.. nothing but game boards and a hacked OS..  Wanting to try the new Mac mini as it has a new USB controller.. Wondering if it helps Sonics any..  but quite happy for now..
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Except that my Mac Mini is a late 2016 the setup is the same as gryphongraph’s. But I use Ethernet to deliver the Roon stream to an ultraRendu with LPS 1.2 and Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC. Could I get the same sound quality by going direct from the USB port of the Mini to the Ayre DAC, perhaps with a UBC isolator although I think Ayre USB DACs are thought to deal effectively with jitter? Mini USB direct to Ayre DAC would be neat if it works.

I think my Mac Mini is actually a late 2012, with SSD and external HD. I moved the USB cable to the Ayre DAC from the ultraRendu to the Mini. Roon immediately displayed the DAC as the output device. The setup is balanced analog from the Ayre DAC through a Parasound JC 2 preamp to a pair of JC 1 monoblocks that drive KEF LS50s augmented by a pair of KEF KC62 subs. Audio quality with this setup is excellent.

The list is given below

  • Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps)
  • FireWire 800 port (up to 800 Mbps)
  • Four USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps)
  • HDMI port.
  • SDXC card slot.
  • Gigabit Ethernet port.
  • Audio in/out.
  • IR receiver.

Probably the best thing you can do for your Mac Mini is to upgrade it to a linear power supply.  This does require some modification to the unit.  Here's a very good option:

Then get a linear power supply of your choice, but make sure that it's a 12V linear power supply that provides at least 4.5 amps of current.  Many of the popular linear power supplies are limited to 2 or 3 amps.  The Keces P8 is an excellent choice.  Or you can go for a Teradak from ebay/china.

+1 on LPS. I use the Uptone MMK with JS-2 LPS, also only critical services enabled. Modded mac mini in entirely different league from stock mini. Do thunderbolt to ethernet conversion for direct ethernet out for another nice improvement, much better than usb out.

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+1 on the Intona USB

How to determine, which USB is best for connection to DAC:

  • Plug in your device
  • Choose Apple Menu → About This Mac
  • Click More Info
  • Click System Report
  • Click USB (from the hardware list),
  • Off the various USB Ports, ensure you are using a Hi-Speed one, that is not shared with anything else.

That's it!

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I use one and will not change. A 2012 Core i7 2.3 GHz machine with 16GB of RAM is an amazing music server when running dB Audio Labs software.

The USB port on the opposite end of the IEC power inlet is the one to use.

If you have not tried this simple, no cost SQ hack, do this:

listen to your favorite reference track.

shut the mini down and invert the polarity of the IEC C7 connector.

reboot and listen to that same track again without doing any system changes other than the PC polarity inversion.

report back with your findings.

other, no cost Mac mini tweaks may well be forthcoming if you all are interested.

What we don't know or understand about how to achieve the most gratifying musical enjoyment could fill a book.  Most of it doesn't make sense. It just IS.

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I'll repeat no usb out of motherboards is optimal, usb renderers such as Innuos Phoenix or Uptone usbRegen will help, but doing thunderbolt to ethernet conversion and adding  FMC (otherwise known as optical conversion) and separate streamer (something like SOTM SMS200 or Sonore OpticalRendu) will be far superior to usb out, even with an added usb renderer. One can do the two FMC for less than $100, add the SOTM at $450 or used for less and have far superior sound than any usb port on mini.


Following link supplies directions and evaluations of this mod for minis,