Damn Apple..a fence sitter's dilemma

Almost ready to make the'move'...Buy the Mac mini, go with a firewire dac (seems to make more sense to my computer illiterate brain), decided on a simplified Raid backup, still worrying over format to rip cd's....And now Apple introduces a new connectivity mode : Thunderbolt. A zillion times faster than USB 2 and Firewire 800, single connectivity with audio, video, data, etc., and a whole lot of other things I don't understand.
Sure, it's only in the MBP's introduced this week, not the Mini; but trickle down is their modus operondi. Sure, I should get off the fence and make a move 'cause there will always be the next great thing coming down the pipe, but I sure hate to spend my pennies and be obsolete in 16 months. Whaddya' think?
I wonder how or if this will impact USB Dac's?
The truth is that you can never catch up or hit the perfect nexus of newest computer technology and universal application. It just doesn't work that way in the real world.

If you want the longest duration of compatibility, then buy the newest computer offering and buy the peripherals that presently work with it and plan to upgrade peripherals later as compatibility catches up.

Eventially, USB DACs will become outdated and be replaced with newer DACs tat will also become outdated within a couple of years. It's just the nature of computers and peripherals.

The truth is that you can never catch up or hit the perfect nexus of newest computer technology and universal application. It just doesn't work that way in the real world.

If you want the longest duration of compatibility, then buy the newest computer offering and buy the peripherals that presently work with it and plan to upgrade peripherals later as compatibility catches up.

Eventually, USB DACs will become outdated and be replaced with newer DACs that will also become outdated within a couple of years. It's just the nature of computers and peripherals.

How come Internet forums are so full of abbreviations I don't understand? What's an "MBP"? Thanks.
Mac Book Pro that is.

While the achieved speed is very appetizing, I am not very thrilled with the "single connector" approach that sounds so much like Firewire. Interestingly enough, for example, Apple will have all the internal HDD and CD/DVD drives on SATA controller, and then will give you USB and Firewire for external devices? Where is the sense, because I don't see it? Where is the eSATA port on Apple products? And now we have Thunderbolt? I surely hope they have the internal HDD and CD/DVD drives on Thunderbolt, and then give you an external Thunderbolt port too so all of those devices can interfere with each other while being daisy-chained. Blows my mind!

Alex Peychev
Firewire and USB are both more than fast enough to handle the highest resolution audio currently available. Any additional speed isn't needed. The current high end Firewire and USB DACS sound excellent. If you are ready to make a move do so now. The technology is very mature and faster speeds don't matter. Waiting to buy for the next best generation of data transfer, or speed, or price drop, or whatever will mean you will be waiting forever. While nothing is obsolete in 16 months, everything will be surpassed in that time.

You answered your own question, move now or wait forever.

Yeah that makes a lot of sense. "Move now or just wait forever"
My Mac Mini is six years old, and it works fine for audio. YMMV, but I've always felt that waiting is more exhausting than doing.
Get off that fence and get the mini. I also had paralysis by analysis, but once I jumepd in , Ive been happy ever since. I made a few mistakes but after a few tweaks, PC audio has been a lot of fun.

My advice is to go used, cheap, and simple to start out with.
MBP=Mac Book Pro
MacRumor's Buyer's Guide. Tells you where a Mac product is in it's cycle and if now is a good time to buy.
Here is how to plan for a timeless system.


Fantastic Tube Preamp
Fantastic Tube Amp
Great Vinyl setup
High efficiency speakers

All you will ever have to upgrade is your SECONDARY source, be it a CD player, DAC, whatever, the other elements if they are good, will not be obsolete any time soon.

Apple has also introduced Airplay which is very cool. But again as long as the above list is good, you will never need radical system changes...

What is the rest of your system??
This article provides a good overview of the background and prospects for Thunderbolt. The bottom line: It will not be obsoleting anything in the foreseeable future.

-- Al
It will be a while before Thunderbolt becomes a reality. For that matter it may not become any more widely used than Firewire. But then something will replace Thunderbolt after that. So you should probably just give up, since anything you buy will eventually become out of date. ;)

I'm sure I'm going to catch a lot of flak for this next part from Mini owners and Mac lovers. The Mac mini is a pretty limiting option (but is also cheap). I have done a lot of testing and a correctly optimized PC sounds better and more dynamic than a properly optimized mini. I suspect a big part of that is better player options. If it were my $ I'd look at a PC or an Apple desktop so that future upgrades can accommodate new technology.
Leskem, remainder of system (primary)

Sony SCD-1 modded
Van Alstine Ultra Dac
Hovland hp-100
Bel 1001 Mk. V x2 in mono
Meadowlark Blue Heron II floorstanders
Audience Au 24e IC's; Zu Mission speaker cable

Hesson11....As you saw later MBP is MacBook Pro.

Two further ??'s: Do the users think that changing a Mac Mini HD to SS hard drive is audibly beneficial? What format seems best to rip CD's at this time (Probably using Amarro or Pure Music with Itunes)?

Thanks for link, Almarg
Look at some other 'wars' which have been waged over tech.
VHS handily beat BETA and now both are in museums. CDs killed 8trk and cassette while eventually being seen to be at the end of THEIR life cycle. I suspect that like Vinyl, CD will always have some fans.

USB? FireWire? Maybe....but maybe the new protocol will NOT replace them. Sounds like the new protocol is aimed directly at HT integration.
Unless you worry about the video stuff, don't worry about it now. Support for the new connector? near ZERO and likely to stay that way for a couple years. I still have trouble finding FireWire stuff. The overwhelming majority of outboard drives are USB.

The real question? Why in the heck would anyone consider RAID? Even Raid 5 is obsolete as are all the rest. You might as well be looking for a SCCI drive! Get a couple outboard drives, do regular backups and keep one off-site. OR try online storage.
8 gigs of ram and 60 gig SSD is the TOL. Probably overkill but not an overly expensive "tweak" considering the costs of some other stuff around here.
Regarding the format to use when ripping CDs, go with Apple Lossless. Not only will it sound the same as FLAC (because both are lossless), but the resulting songs will integrate easily with iTunes (and an AppleTV, if you decide to purchase one).

If you have existing FLAC files, you can use XLD ( http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/23430/x-lossless-decoder ) to quickly convert them to Apple Lossless. I used it to convert 1000 CDs worth of music from FLAC to Apple Lossless, and it was done overnight. Also, if you decide later to switch to FLAC, XLD can convert the songs from Apple Lossless to FLAC just as quickly.
8GB of ram and SSD using Snow Leopard has been the best in our experiments with the mini. We also strip off non essential OS. That helps too but probably makes more difference in the older Macs. We're on our 3rd iteration using the new one with 2.4 processor.

I'd burn to Aiff is using Mac, or Wav if using PC.
Bob; Dont feel bad, I've seen YMMV a plethora of times on A/Gon and havn't a clue what it means...
Um, what's to wait for. In addition to Thunderbolt, you need a Thunderbolt capable DAC. I can see getting the MBP (Macbook Pro) instead of the Mini as a home machine simply because it's nice to have a screen without turning on the huge Plasma, but I wouldn't wait for a Thunderbolt DAC. You'd miss out on at least a year's worth of enjoyment.
Some of the later posts illustrate my confusion...two contributors, both of whom probably understand Macs/computers by a factor of 100 better than I, offer two different formats as the best for ripping cd's to a HD: Aiff vs. Apple Lessloss. Browsing computer audiophile sites, discussion groups, etc. the dicotomy of opinions is rampart; and I remain confused (since I am not very computer literate) about which format to use. I would hate to spend the time/energy to rip 600 cds only to find it is the lesser of formats to use.
Lossless formats can be converted other lossless formats. There is some debate is Apple Lossless is really lossless. Wav or Aiff are bigger files because there is less compression and therefore are a safer choice.
Well, that's helpful, and succint.

Thanks, Mmike84
BOTH Apple Lossless (ALAC) and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) can reconstruct a bit-accurate copy of the original file....so in that sense there should be no difference between them.
Decoding / CPU overhead? Perhaps an un accounted for factor.

My I-Mac sending Lossless thru an Airport Express makes good music. No Wires! Yeah!

Hi-Fi is one of those areas where fact and opinion mix and in some cases are interchangeable. 'In My System' has become code for IMO (In My Opinion). It is a pure opinion zone where few absolutes exist.
Even talking about how much power speakers like my Maggies take is grounds for feverish debate. MORE! shouts one group. Tubes! shouts another. Less is MORE! yells somebody else. Every possible variety, combination and permutation of gear has its fans.

IOW (In Other Words) take everyones advice, except mine, of course, with a grain or so of salt. Find out whatever actual facts are out there and try to winnow thru the reams of opinion to find the germ of truth you can make work in YOUR system.

Your original combo? Mac Mini and Firewire DAC? Sounds fine in concept to me. But what do I know? Later, if you get the urge to add Video, shell out a few more bucks for an APPLE TV. This'll give you the video option and also be wireless.

Thinking forward is always a good idea, but in this case, I've never even heard of this new interface and am certain almost nothing exists to service it....let alone audiophile grade equipment and some of the 'fringe' stuff it'll take a couple years or so to get thru the pipe.
I use an Apple TV w/160 gb storage, connected to a Peachtree Nova via optical cable, controlled using an iPod touch. It makes beautiful music (to my ears). I have 6000 plus songs at my fingertips. What a kick! Forget CDs, they are a thing of the past. Go for the Apple and use Apple lossless format. You won't regret it.
YMMV = your mileage may vary
ROFLMAO = rolling on the floor laughing my a$$ off
IIRC =if i recall correctly
LOL= laugh out loud
Nice system.

Here are my recommendations:

Under $1000 for a Dac, buy the Marantz NA7004 or the Wavelength Proton

Over $1000 the Ayre QB9

You can pick up a used Mac Mini on Craigslist for about $200-$300.
Mmike84, can you elaborate on the diff SSD vs. hDD in the Mac Mini?
Still you need to load up the music you want to play on the SSD from somewhere since it cant hold all you music?
I cannot really comment on that accurately anymore but the conclusions are sound. In testing it was also decided that it is best to keep music on an auxiliary drive, preferably a firewire drive.