If you were setting up a music server today ...

I started, some years back, with iTunes, streaming to an Airport Express attached with optical cable to a DAC. I then moved on over to a Squeezebox, employing the Logitech Media Server on my Mac, with a Squeezebox Touch hooked up via coax to a number of DACs.

My question: I've been thinking of setting up a whole new server, starting from scratch, hoping to get it right from the first, ripping the CDs anew (yuck!) with better software than iTunes. I still want to be wireless.

Knowing what you know today, what would you recommend for a Mac-based server. Ripping software. Music playing software. The thing it would stream to to get it to the DAC. Anything else I'd want or need.

I haven't yet gotten into high res music, so I'm talking here about a server for my CDs, but I'd welcome a system that might allow me to progress into the high res stuff down the line, though that is not at all a priority.

What matters is good sound from a Mac-based wireless system -- and something I can live with for the long haul, as I really don't want to rip that whole damn collection a third time!

Thanks for any help you might give a boy on this complex front.

-- Howard
You did great up until you used the word "wireless". Just as necessary as having dedicated AC lines, I would recommend running high quality cat 6e or even cat7 cable and connect to your various systems using wire. Controlling the mac wireless is not an issue however. No point in spending big bucks and lots of time of you go wireless, IMO.
I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure Elescher is right. I would never go wireless. Why don't you experiment. Move your equipment closer together and connect everything with cables. See how much of a difference it makes.
Early on I used an Apple TV>DAC>integrated Amp. The Apple TV was wireless using an AirPort Extreme. It is my understanding though that ATV is not now bit perfect and converts everything to 16/48 and then of course doesn't support high res (24/88.2/96/176.4/192).

If you are going to do it right tou may as well prepare now for high res

Currently I have a Mac Mini on my AVR stand connected to a USB DAC and to my Audiogon there. I have an HDMI connection to my HDTV and can use that as monitor for the Mac. I use an iPad with Apple Remote app to control the iTunes library for playback. I have wireless keyboard and trackpad for when I am managing my library. I also have a VNC app so I can control virtually anything on the .Mac without monitor on.

iTunes is my library database manage. I use XLD to rip or transcode music and I have both Audivrana + and Pure Music as playback softwares feeling both are better that iTunes as playback softwares.
Here is the set up I just settled on:

Late 2009 Mac Mini (Snow Leopard, 120GB SSD, 8GB RAM) with external 1TB HD connected via FireWire>Audiophilleo1 with Pure Power>Lessloss DAC 2004 MkII. Alternately I eliminate the Audiophilleo and run USB direct into a Resolution Audio Cantata (dealer disclaimer). I use Audirvana for playback (iTunes integrated mode and turn off all iTunes controls so you are just using the interface) and the remote app for iPad to access my music library.

I also configured the Mac Mini using a guide published by Larry Moore. For more information I would suggest going to the Empirical Audio site and looking at some of the tips and system recommendations there.
For wireless, you are stuck with Sonos, Squeezebox etc., so the only improvements you can make are by reclocking or having a competent modder improve these devices. The advantage of reclocking is you get a separate dedicated high-quality power supply driving the reclocker, which contains the new master clock. This is difficult to do with mods. The clock is better and the power is cleaner so you get lower jitter. The Synchro-Mesh is such a device and used often with Sonos, Squeezebox, Apple TV and AirPort Express.

The downside of wireless is that you will be limited to 24/96 files.

If you want hi-res file capability, you will need either wired network or USB interface. Both can have longer connections. With USB you can use Icron USB extender to go longer than 16 feet.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Hey guys...I am not an expert by no means but why is everyone against wireless? I have been using my Sonos for over 7 years without any problems. I also have some HTPCs that I use to stream 1080P movies wireless as well. Again no issues. I am using Wireless N and I expect by using Wireless AC that throughput will be even better.
I would say as long as the music player caches the music before playback, wifi to connect storage to music server should be fine. so get a server with plenty of ram.

I am in the process of setting up a music server too. I am borrowing a 2010 mac mini to get my feet wet and I am loving it. Funny how our system evolves.

I am waiting for the new mac mini to be released this fall as it should have some nice improvements to what is an already quiet and cool running small form factor very capable machine. Combine this with a time capsule for backups and the remote control app and you got the full package. Data management/backups was one thing that scared me about a pc based hifi system but the time capsule makes this effortless. I am going to keep the mac pretty much stock except for some basic OS configurations to optimize it for a music server.

I have added:
Audiophilleo USB converter
Audirvana Plus
Wireless has many advantages. It keeps noisy computer electrically isolated and physically far from audio system. It also makes other factors like type of computer or playback program irrelevant. Instead of spending money on fast computers, a lot of memory, SSD drives, special playback programs and special power supplies - spend money on reclocker, that Steve recommended. You can use your computer for other tasks, as I do, and it won't make any difference to sound.
Agree with Kijanki. Go wireless if you can. Only downside is bandwidth might be limited in some cases with high res files and lots of network activity. I have a very active wifi network in my house and no problems with CD res .wav files.
meant to say throughput may be limited above, not bandwidth, which is not a factor in transmitting digital data result of a bottleneck resulting from network throughput would be occasional delays in playing, nothing relating to sound quality however.
As I said before increasing amount of RAM or caching music to RAM is useless with Wi-Fi. It is because computer doesn't transfer music at all, but instead transfers data compressed in packets. Data does not have timing. Timing is recreated on the other side of wireless bridge. Receiver has few second buffer to be always ahead.
Here's an alternate option to consider. I am using a Sonos connect which can go wired or wifi connected to a Synology NAS drive for my lossless files. The interface is exceptional and it supports easy access to music services like MOG and Internet radio. Their relatively inexpensive powered speakers can be added for casual listening throughout your house. I like this more than the Mac Mini it replaced the only downside for me is I have to replace my USB DAC with one that is SPDIF capable.