Help designing mac mini music server

I want to set up a mac mini as a music server. Looking for recommendations for set up including 'cost effective' DAC, connections to external drives etc. Pointing to past posts is fair, as I would guess this has been asked before.

Have several music systems, so long term wouldn't mind being able to use multiple audio systems in the house. Main objective right now is to set up the server.
Take a look here for some good information and discussion:

It all depends on your budget - what quality you want to achieve and how many systems you want to set up and in what quality. For a single system the Mac Mini works very well for me - I use a Weiss DAC2 with the Mac Mini for example. but that may be more than you are are willing to spend.
a Mac Mini connected via Van Den Hul Opticoupler mini optical to Toslink to a Tact M or S2150 is about as simple as you can get and sounds great
Get the fastest and most RAM (4 Gigs would be nice) you can afford. Get a NAS (Network Access Server) that is Mac compatible (Buffalo Link Station is what I use and recommend). The NAS will hook up to your router. Hardwiring your mini to your router via Ethernet cable is the easiest and most desirable, but if you can't, there are wireless solutions to connect the two. Buy another USB back up drive of the appropriate drive size to back up your NAS. I also recommend plugging the NAS and back up into a Battery powered UPS. Go to to look at how to configure ITunes. The only tricky part is to learn how to point your Mini at the NAS which will be the location for your music files. When ripping and saving music you will want those files to automatically be saved on the NAS and not you’re Mini. You will also need to configure your Mini to read the files off your NAS for playback. Nothing too complicated, just something you need to be aware of and monitor.

You will need a monitor or another computer to do the initial configuring and ripping but for just controlling playback, I highly recommend using an Iphone or I touch to use as a remote control.

The benefit of the NAS as opposed to just a regular external hard drive is that you can hook up numerous computers to the NAS via the router.

Each CD is about 30 to 40 MB- so do the math to figure how big of NAS and back up drive you need.

Regarding a DAC- Would need more info. on your budget.
Lokie, I think your math is a bit off. Unless you are ripping into MP3 or AAC,
each CD will need about 250 to 350 MB in Apple Lossless format.
Gonetotc - I use Intel Mac Mini/Snow Leopard with 1TB external triple interface Fantom drive GF1000T ( $100) while I keep backup on the second identical drive (Fantom drives are quiet, run cool and have very good reputation). I use firewire interface since it uses very little of processor power. I use Benchmark DAC1 - it is jitter (noise in time domain) rejecting and Mac Mini has only optical output that inherently has twice more jitter than coax. Because of the distance (across the room) I use Airport Express and short toslink. I rip files into Itunes in Apple lossless. For ripping I use MAX (free program) with cdparanoia algoritm option set to "don't allow to skip". I use Benchmark (has volume control) to drive power amp directly.

Three comments:
1. If you think about Benchmark DAC1 get new one since old had a lot of problems (revisions) and Benchmark provides 30 day period for evaluation.
2. Front Row does not work with newer Itunes or Leopard - you need to install Airfoil application (but remote control still works with I tunes).
3. Keep backup outside of your home in case of fire burglary etc.
Oh your right Sidssp. I was thinking about the size of a song.

Thanks for everything so far....

Some more info on my situation...

I think I need:

- a server (the Mac Mini with external drives (appreciate the info on the NAS)
- an interface (haven't decided that one yet, but think my simplest option is a keyboard and monitor (hopefully the TV associated with the sound system) attached to the Mac Mini, better is a iTouch or iPhone)
- a way to convert the digital output from the server to analog (biggest area of uncertainty for me... and most variable)
- a nice to have is a way to use this on more than one sound system in the house (via airport???)

As for budget, I tend to like bang for the buck vs unlimited. Looking for cost effective conversion.

What are the range of options for digital to analog conversion including approximate cost? For quality, everything I have seen points to a DAC vs soundcard, so what are options:

In the under $300 range?
In the $300 to $500 range?
In the $500 up range?

What am I giving up at the lower range?

I had trouble with set up on Buffalo NAS, and found their support negligible. Sent it back. YMMV. John
I am using the Seaport Free Agent Go Pro 500GB external hard drive to store my music files (a 2nd Seagate for backup) for my MAC Book Pro computer. It has 4 GB RAM and the 120GB solid state drive. The Furman AC-215 power conditioner is required so the MAC does not interfere with the audio components.

See I have about 125 CD's loaded into my MAC Book Pro computer and many more to go. It takes between 3 to 5+ minutes per CD using the AIFF format. I am using the Transparent USB Cable from the MAC computer to my Ayre QB-9 USB Digital-to-Analog Converter.