Experience with Mach2 Music Server?


I'm looking for user experiences with the Mach2 Music Server.

Thanks in advance.
tvad
I've been wondering about the Mach2 as well. FWIW, Steve N. from Empirical Audio used one in his setup at RMAF for a day and said it sounded better than the stock Mac Mini. But it would be interesting to hear from some longer term users.

Bryon
My equipment rack is about 2.5 feet from my left ear, so one concern is audible fan noise.

Since Mach2 Music doesn't offer a trial period, all questions need to addressed before the purchase.
The Mac Mini it is based on is very quiet to start with. Their work would make it quieter amongst things.

12-19-10: 4est
The Mac Mini it is based on is very quiet to start with. Their work would make it quieter amongst things.
They install a solid state hard drive, more RAM (if requested) and eliminate unnecessary software.

How does doing this make the Mac Mini quieter (accepting that the primary self noise from the computer is the fan)?


Some of the biggest features of the 2010 Mac mini are the lack of a fan, a much better power supply (internal, instead of a brick), and the ability to shift to 64 mode instead of 32. Also it's much easier to get into the thing to increase memory. SW tweaks, such as those Eric Hider suggests in the setup of the Tranquility, are also easily accomplished.

Carefully consider your peripheral HD. I've not regretted following Eric's advice regarding the Oyen MiniPro¬ô 2.5" FireWire 800/400, USB Portable Hard Drive using the Mini USB bus to power the HD. Small, silent, fast.

:) listening,

Ed
12-19-10: Istanbulu

Some of the biggest features of the 2010 Mac mini are the lack of a fan...
Thanks. That's helpful. I wasn't aware of this feature.
SSDs are quieter, and the drives are the loudest part of the mini.
Hi Tvad,

I will try to stay out of this thread because of my obvious bias except for the occasional correction, if needed. I want you to get unbiased feedback from the thread. E-mail us at www.mach2music.com if you have any questions though.

The 2010 MacMini (and our Mach2) do have an internal fan. It is very quiet though. You need to have your ear next to the MacMini to tell its on.

By putting a SSD drive in the Mini, the system will run a little cooler and quieter, but the fan still comes on at times. Even at 2.5 feet away though, I don't think you will hear anything. I literally have to put my ear 2-3 inches away to hear anything.

Darrell
www.mach2music.com
Thanks for the fan info, Darrell.

We all have different hearing acuity, and tolerance for ambient noise. I'm sensitive to it.

I simply cannot take a $1495 flyer (actually several hundred higher after add-ons) on a unit that may be unacceptably noisy due to its proximity to my listening position.
Tvad,

Hopefully other unbiased folks will give you feedback in this (and other areas).

Happy Listening,

Darrell
www.mach2music.com
Tvad,

I have a hard time imagining that you would hear it. I am not sure what you would expect though, the mini is almost silent, probably quieter than a laptop. I can hear my external drive, but not my mini. Otherwise buy a mini, and if you like it, send it to them for their mods.
That's an option, 4est.
4est, do you also have a monitor and keyboard? I assume so, otherwise how can you configure your Mini (preferences changes, etc)?

I own only a MacBook Pro, and therefore the question about how to configure the Mini arises without also purchasing a monitor and keyboard. For example, to use a VNC app on my iPod Touch, I would need to turn on screen sharing on the Mini, and this would require a monitor and keyboard.

Perhaps, I can borrow these from a friend...
@ dmccombs and Tvad... my apology regarding the incorrect information about the 2010 Mini being fanless. I thought that I'd been told that along the way and I had no reason to think otherwise... the thing is so quiet. Again, my apology.

:) listening,

Ed
Tvad - no need for a monitor and keyboard to control the Mini. Just switch the Mini on and then control it via screen sharing with the Macbook Pro - this is what I do in my system, and it's easy as pie. Far more enjoyable IMO than using an iPod Touch, iPhone, etc.
Thanks, Cfluxa.

Interested now in suggestions for converting USB to RCA. I was considering the M2Tech HiFace, but have read some things that give me pause about it's user friendliness. I want plug-n-play.
No problems Istanbulu. Its an honest mistake. The thing is so quiet most people would assume these is no fan.
Tvad - I assume you mean USB to s/pdif - I haven't heard the M2Tech HiFace, although I know they it appeared to have some performance issues when it was initially rolled out. I've heard very good things about the Blue Circle USB Thingee when used as a USB-to-spdif converter. A pricier option would be the Bel Canto 24/95 USB link.
I've heard very good things about the Blue Circle USB Thingee when used as a USB-to-spdif converter.
Cfluxa (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Thanks for reminding me about that unit.
I'm currently using a Blue Circle USB Thingee and have owned a M2tech HiFace and to my ears, in my system, I find the Blue Circle superior. It had a more organic presentation. I found the Hiface slightly tipped up in the high frequencies which eventually I found tiring. The Blue Circle is also more accurate in terms of instrument timbre.

One drawback to the Blue Circle Thingee is that its limited to 16/44.1 - Blue Circle does make a pricier model called the USB Tunnel, which handles up to 24/96 I believe.
Another issue for me with the HIFace was that when I matched movies on my Mac Mini there was an lag in the audio which I could never solve. M2Tech acknowledged this and basically said the only fix was to use dvd software which could adjust for this. Not sure if this is relevant to you but I thought I would throw it out there.

Good luck in your search. I recently dove into the whole computer/audio world with a Mac Mini/Pure Music and USB thingee and couldn't be happier.
Thanks for the info Tooter.

I noticed John Kenny suggests an attenuator for use with the HiFace, and I wonder if this is in response to the tipped up presentation you heard in the high frequencies?

What DAC are you using?
If I already have an 1 TB external hard drive with 2000 Cd's, will the Mach 2 work with this hard drive?
Or do I have to re-rip again?
For USB to S/PDIF, you might also consider Empirical Audio's Off Ramp.

Bryon
Bryon, I considered that.

It's likely the USB>BNC adapter (or USB>spdif adapter) will not be a long term item. I can see at some point moving to a USB DAC, so for the present, I'm not allocating much money on SOTA USB conversion, which is more the goal of the OffRamp.

My goal at present is to keep the cost down.
Ozzy,

The short answer is yes, assumming the 1 TB drive is either USB or Firewire, and you ripped to a popular music format.

The Mach2 will work with USB or Firewire drives. We recommend that you keep the drive and DAC on seperate interfaces (1 on USB, the other on Firewire).

We setup iTunes and Play which play most of the popular formats, so you shouldn't have to re-rip your music.

Darrell
www.mach2music.com
Having now owned the Mach2 for a couple of weeks, I have some basic observations.

First, a learning curve existed for me, and I consider myself reasonably savvy when it comes to Mac computers. There were a few roadblocks along the way involving "headless" set-up with my home network that I solved on my own.

Second, careful attention must be paid to the sample rates configured on the Mac, and in the playback software. Make certain the rates match the capability of your DAC and of your USB>spdif converter (if applicable).

Third, the MacMini does not make noise. However, the external hard drive on which the music files are stored does quietly whir, which can be heard a few feet away during quiet music passages.

Fourth, the computer and/or hard drive can vibrate a good deal at times; particularly during ripping of CDs. The vibrations travel through my rack and into my components despite the fact the components are are placed on various vibration control footers (Stillpoints and Synergistic Research MiGs). I placed 3/8" sorbothane pucks under the MacMini and hard drive and mass loaded them with brass weights. This has reduced the transfer of vibration to the rack. I would not recommend hard footers. They do nothing to stop the transfer of vibration to the rack.
Hi Tvad... and the music? What was the contribution of the Mach2 to your experience of music after using it for a couple of weeks? Improved? Less so? About the same? What were some of the significant changes (or lack thereof)?

:) listening,

Ed
I've only been listening to the Mach2 for two days. The other 12 (or so) days was spent trying to get the system up and running.

Also, I'm spending most of my time ripping CDs, and not listening critically.

However, I would say that thus far it's about the same as my Esoteric UX-3Pi...perhaps a little less harmonically rich...but that may or may not have anything to do with the Mach2 (could be USB>spdif conversion, etc).

No conclusions can be drawn at this point.
Tvad,
The external hard drive making noise would be an issue for me. Dead quiet back ground is very important with music. Can the external hard drive have a long firewire cable so the external drive could go in another room? This would be very inconvienent for many. Firwire is high speed, so would it degrade the music?

I am also interested in how it sounds with critical listening. At RMAF, one room sounded very good and another sounded OK. Also, is the program installed using an equilizer in the program to tweek the sound or is it flat out of the Mac Mini? Being a purist (using no tone controls), I have found several with computer based music systems are using tone controls. Some call this room correction, but is it not just tone controls?

The Mach2Music Server is marketed as plug and play. What issues are there with networking?

Thank you for the information.
Can the external hard drive have a long firewire cable so the external drive could go in another room?
I don't know. I suspect if one's component rack is farther than six feet and not in direct line of an ear (mine is just behind my left ear and about three feet away) the noise won't be an issue.

is the program installed using an equilizer in the program to tweek the sound or is it flat out of the Mac Mini?
iTunes has some tone controls, but they're user configured. As configured by Mach2 (and straight out of the box on any Mac), the tone controls are set flat.

The Mach2Music Server is marketed as plug and play. What issues are there with networking?

Thank you for the information.
Elsneb (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I am using mine without a hardwired monitor or keyboard. I control the Mini using my MacBook Pro via either Screen Sharing or VNC. I also can control the Mini with an iPod Touch via VNC. Configuring the Mini to recognize my home wireless network was not plug and play. It took some time to figure out. Each time the MacBook Pro goes to sleep, I have to open a new window, enter the name of the Mini and a password to get the MacBok Pro to share the Mini's screen. Now that I know what's required, it's not difficult, but it's also more steps required than would be the case if the Mini were used with its own monitor and keyboard.

Now, everything is working as it should, but IMO it is not plug and play. For example, playing a CD from beginning to end without stopping after the first track requires clicking several buttons in iTunes before playing the music. It's possible I haven't found the secret yet. Those who work every day with computers, hardware and software may consider the Mach2 plug and play, but as someone who just wants to pick an album, press play and listen, I don't find it so. It's certainly not as simple or as fast as inserting a CD into a CD player and pressing Play.

Regardless, I'm getting the hang of it, and I'm ripping lots of CDs that will be put into storage, thus saving some shelf space. I'm keeping the CD player, though, and I'm keeping most of my CDs handy.

IMO. YMMV.
I'd just like to point out that the headless network configuration that Tvad describes would, of course, be necessary with any machine run headless. Using a machine without IO devices requires that it first be setup to connect to a network which isn't really something that can be done 100% by anyone but the owner.

(I use a Mac Mini server which I also setup headless, a few years ago. I hope to get a Mach2 server at some point in the future.)

(And from 10' away I have never, ever heard the thing except when it's ripping a CD - in which case no music is playing anyway.)
Paul makes good points. The issues I had with the Mach2 were not unique to the Mach2 server but are common to all Mac computers running headless on a wireless network.

(And from 10' away I have never, ever heard the thing except when it's ripping a CD - in which case no music is playing anyway.)
Paulfolbrecht (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Are you referring to the Mini? If so, I agree.

In my case, it's the external hard drive on which the music files are stored that causes the noise.

I have a different brand external drive connected to my MacBook Pro that makes sound equal to the external drive supplied by Mach2.

As I wrote very early in this thread, I'm sensitive to extraneous, ambient noise...perhaps more so than others.
Tvad - there's no reason you should be having to re-enter passwords every time the Mini goes to sleep, that's simply a matter of changing your network settings. Also no reason for playback to stop after the first song - a matter of iTunes settings. Darrell could likely take you through the process to fix those issues. I have a headless Mini with no keyboard or mouse that i control wirelessly with my MacBook Pro, and have neither of those issues.

If you prefer to enable the sleep function on the Mini, I find it's easiest to wake it up by pressing the start button on the back of the unit. If this is impractical with your configuration, consider that most folks simply leave theirs on all the time. I myself tend to turn it on and off once a day. Hope this helps - no reason you should be experiencing the hassles you describe - this setup is VERY plug and play!
Cfluxa, I have the Mini configured not to sleep.

Is your network password protected?

Mine is. If my network was not password protected, I would not have to re-enter a password (at least that's my understanding), but I choose to have it password protected.

iTunes plays the entire "CD" if I select gapless play. That process takes six clicks of the mouse to accomplish.

If you know another way around these issues, then please be specific rather than just telling me there should be no reason it has to be so. That's not particularly helpful.

Darrell and Kevin have devoted a good deal of time answering questions and offering advice.

Glad to hear for you it's very plug and play.

As I said earlier, YMMV.
Yes, Tvad, referring to the Mini on the noise. I use the internal HD which I guess might be quieter than some external ones. But as you pointed you you sitting only 3' from it makes quite a difference.
I also have to re-enter my password to the Mini for Screen Sharing after my *laptop* which I use to control it remotely goes to sleep. As with Tvad, the Mini never sleeps, which is how it should be setup.

There's no way around this but it is really not a big deal.


01-08-11: Paulfolbrecht
I also have to re-enter my password to the Mini for Screen Sharing after my *laptop* which I use to control it remotely goes to sleep.
Exactly.
01-08-11: Paulfolbrecht
Yes, Tvad, referring to the Mini on the noise. I use the internal HD which I guess might be quieter than some external ones. But as you pointed you you sitting only 3' from it makes quite a difference.
The Mach2 server uses a solid state drive. No spinning disc. There is no noise from the Mini unless the DVD drive is being used to rip a CD.

The external drive would probably not be audible from 10' away during music playback.
I can relay my experiences at RMAF in 2010. I was using for 2 days a Mac Mini 2009 version with Amarra 1.2 (not 2.1). I prefer 1.2.

The Mach2 music guys offered to swap-out my Mini for the Mach2 Mini, so we tried this on Saturday night. The difference between the two was significant and not subtle. And this was using an async 192 USB interface. As a result, I left the Mach2 in the system for Sunday show. Sounded more detailed and more live. Now I want to replace my Mini with one of these.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Tvad - go to Network Preferences and hit advanced and see whether the box "remember networks this computer has joined" is checked. If it isn't checked, check it and see whether that fixes your problem. To answer your question, my network is password protected and yet I don't have your issue. I hope this fixes it for you.

As for the iTunes playback issue, I imagine there are a couple of settings you need to fiddle with on iTunes, and I'd guess that a kid at Apple tech support should be able to help you fix that pretty easily.

01-08-11: Cfluxa
Tvad - go to Network Preferences and hit advanced and see whether the box "remember networks this computer has joined" is checked.
I think there was some mis-communication an an earlier post.

The re-entry of a password is needed to reconnect Screen Sharing, or to initiate VNC.

The re-entry of a password to connect to the network is not required...for the reason you mentioned.
Tvad - you shouldn't need to re-enter a password to reconnect to screen sharing, either. Have you checked the status of your Mini's preferences under "sharing"? Again, one would theoretically hope Apple tech support could help with this.
Cfluxa, see Paulfolbrecht's post on 1/08. He experiences the same.

The need to contact Apple tech support bolsters my argument that in comparison to a CD player, the MacMini source is not plug and play.

I'm one who believes computers should be like telephones. You don't have to study a manual to use a telephone, and you don't have to spend any time configuring a telephone to use it. You plug it in and dial. Same thing with a CD player. I don't think any of us ever had to read a manual to operate a CD player. The telephone and the CD player are plug and play.

In my dictionary, computers are not plug and play.
01-09-11: Cfluxa
Tvad - you shouldn't need to re-enter a password to reconnect to screen sharing, either.
Screen sharing does not require a password, but it does require entering the name of the host computer when starting Screen sharing.

VNC viewing does require a password. I use both methods to connect with different devices (VNC with an iPod Touch).
Tvad - you're quite right, of course, and I have no interest in an argument here. My plug and play comment was more in reference to the experience of using the setup once the kinks are all worked out. But IMHO, all the pain in suffering of dealing with Apple tech support and whatnot is worth it - once properly configured, I think the experience is a lot easier than using a CD player in many key respects.

I think you may be correct about VNC viewing - I tried it briefly a while ago and found it cumbersome. I'm sorry I'm not able to tell you precisely how I arrived in my current state of password-free, screen-sharing bliss - I'm no techie and got help getting there and it has been a while since I fiddled with it. That said, I would urge you to check the preference settings for Sharing and Network for both your Mini and your MacBook Pro. At any rate, I can testify that there is an a better way - I hope that being able to tell you that at least gives some hope. If all else fails, I would encourage you to gather your resolve and dial 800-MY-APPLE.
I'm sorry I'm not able to tell you precisely how I arrived in my current state of password-free, screen-sharing bliss -
Cfluxa (Answers | This Thread)
Again, I also don't require a password to begin Screen Sharing. If what you mean to say is that you also don't have to enter the Mini's host name after opening the Screen Sharing application and clicking "New" in the Connection menu, or that you don't have to make a couple of other clicks to enable Screen Sharing with the Mini (e.g. by opening a new window in Finder, clicking on the Mini under the "Shared" heading, and clicking on Share Screen in the upper right of the window), then I don't know how you got there, and I've studied the Networking and Screen Sharing Preferences very carefully.

I have no interest in spending time on the phone with Apple tech support.

01-09-11: Cfluxa
My plug and play comment was more in reference to the experience of using the setup once the kinks are all worked out...I think the experience is a lot easier than using a CD player in many key respects.
Here, I think we'll have to agree to disagree.
Tvad - I don't ever open the Screen Sharing application, clicking "New" or any of that - I follow the latter procedure, going to Finder and clicking on the Mini under the shared heading and then clicking on Share Screen in the upper right, as you say. Just a few clicks - no typing of passwords or host names involved, and I find the process pretty painless, but I guess YMMV.

Sorry to hear the setup isn't floating your boat. Sounds like you're a man who doesn't have a whole lot of romance with the Apple scene and whatnot, and I can certainly synpathize and respect that.
Cfluxa, we're doing the exactly same thing to initiate Screen Sharing. No password is required. If you were to launch the Screen Sharing app and click on "New", I believe you would be prompted to enter the address of the host computer.

I have stated several times now, if I use VNC on the MacBook Pro, a password is required. However, no password is required using the same VNC app on my iPod Touch.

Sounds like you're a man who doesn't have a whole lot of romance with the Apple scene and whatnot...
Cfluxa (Answers | This Thread)
That's simply a wrong conclusion. I've been an Apple owner/user for over 20 years. However, I hold the opinion that computers in general, including Macs, aren't as user friendly as they should be...or will be in the future. They're getter there, though.

My comments here have been from the ease-of-use perspective between the computer-as-source and CD player-as-source, and my conclusion is that the CD player (or iPod) is easier.

Consider this...how many threads have you seen with a lengthy back-and-forth exchange about how to play a CD? I haven't seen *one* in seven years.

Obviously, I'm open to a computer-as-source, and I'm moving forward with my set-up, but the concept's execution is still in the geek realm. Several companies have developed one-box servers, so I'm sure the day is coming soon when a really excellent, simple-to-operate solution will be introduced. The MacMini (and similar) set-ups are temporary stops on the way...reserved for geeks like us willing to futz with them.

IMO, FWIW, YMMV...and any other disclaimers I've missed.

Kumbaya.

:)
Tvad - fair enough, and I agree that getting the whole thing set up was somewhat painful - in addition to all the geek stuff, there's the initial process of ripping one's CD collection, which can easily take a week if one does nothing else.

On the flip side, I also have mixed emotions about how scandalously easy it is now to navigate my entire CD collection, scrolling and clicking on an album in an instant, as opposed to scanning my racks of CD spines, searching for a misplaced title - a relatively "old-school" ritual that was the best I had after giving away all my vinyl years ago... Not that I don't dig my Mini setup at the end of the day, but I do think I'll be in the market for a turntable again soon...
I guess I'm fortunate not to have thousands of CDs. Also, my CDs are arranged according to genre (rock/jazz/classical) and alphabetized. It's easy to find a CD.

I bought a turntable about four years ago (then changed tables four times...) to re-enter the vinyl realm. I had sold almost my entire LP collection fifteen years earlier. I retained maybe 20 LPs from that collection. After buying the turntable, I purchased about 40 more LPs. Sold it all a little over a year ago, but it was fun for a while.

There are dozens of new USB DACs coming out this year, along with quite a few servers and CD/DAC combo players. The future looks bright for the computer audio arena.