I wouldn't go with a Mac or PC either. Computers, with all the capabilities they entail, are prone to a lot of problems from a sound quality perspective. More dedicated pieces on the audio side will sound better and will be easier to use as well. If you're looking for something that includes storage, you can get something like a Bluesound Vault 2. Alternatively, you can also get something like the Auralic Aries Mini and install a SSD in it. To go higher, you can get something like the Melco N1A which is a very high quality audiophile NAS/Streamer. If you have a DAC with USB input, you can stream from the USB of the Melco to the NAS. Any of these choices will be superior to a Mac option. These are just a number of the multitude of excellent options available.
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Another happy Auralic Aries Mini user coming from a MacBook Air using USB out to MF VLink 192 to Schiit Gungnir. ALAC files on external hard drive played by BitPerfect. Haven't upgraded the power supply on the Aries yet. It did let me get rid of the long USB cable from the MacBook and I don't have to keep the MBA running. The Lightning DS app on my iPhone is pretty neat. Most useful that phone has ever been to me.
SQ is at least as good as it was from the MBA when playing the same ALAC files on ext. hard drive (USB out from the Aries Mini into V-Link and then coax into the Gungnir). BUT I also think I might finally be hearing what people have been saying about Tidal streamed from the Aries (1 yr subscription included in the current Mini's US purchase price). Before the Aries, Tidal HiFi did not sound significantly better to me than Spotify Premium. Now, it sounds better than it did before....at least I think it does.
Yes sbank, a NAS and streamer into a DAC as you're suggesting works very well. It can also come down to how technically savvy someone is as well. The problem I have with Macs or PCs is the knowledge and tweaking it takes to sound their best. To get great sound out of a computer, you often need specialized software to shut down system processes and maybe jitter reducers/reclockers to get the best out of the USB signal. Then you're still dealing with a computer in the room, etc. Many other approaches simply sound better without all the tweaking.
You don't have to tweak the computer. Istream Tidal and Classicsonlinehd from a MacBook Pro and it is superb. I eliminate the long cable by using WIFI. I get rid of all computer noise by using an Intona Galvonic Isolater. I use a Singzer USB converter and send to my dac via HDMI I2S. Control the laptop from an IPAD using VNC.Had an Aries Auralic and this is much better.
Go with a MacBook Pro; ease of data management for multiple formats, choice of playback software (I use Fidelia) and iTunes/Apple Music (now streaming at 96kHz, sounds great!), portability, graphics, all make this my streaming digital source of choice for the past 4 years. Plus, it's all about the DAC employed (I use a Wyred 4 Sound DAC II SE) that really matters for the audio quality and how it manages and filters the data stream. External backup/increased storage hard drives are cheap and small too. Definitely a MacBook.
I switched from a top of the line Windows based laptop and Wyred4Sound DAC-2 DSD to a Sony HAPZ1ES (my second one) with absolutely no regrets and to my ears, the Sony blows away the former set up. I got tired of the endless software updates and security patches with the laptop. I am a very happy camper.
Another vote for the Sony. Great user interface, sounds great on both native 44.1 and upscaled to DSD 2X, can be modded to go that extra step (the Modwright mods are awesome). Sounded better than my Devialet. Only downsides are no Tidal integration (has Spotify though, but...) and there's no digital input. I prefer not to have a noisy Macbook pro in my listening room... they can be made to sound good and be quiet but requires a lot of effort.
Aurender 100H is far better then the Sony ,snd No computer period is as good as s dedicated music server way too much noise .
For example the Aurender I bought for in the $3-k and under none better IMO.
A 2Terabyte internal drive , with a 120 Gigabyte solid state hard drive buffer.compare the 120 gigs for a buffer to Q music with competition
With a very low noise power supply it's Linux based server is very fast and quiet.
When playing music use your iPad to just choose the music and play
With a 1Gig plus Ether net port your music is always in Q on a SS drive no waiting as long as your router being the latest dual band with speeds over a 750 mps
If I want yo use the Tidal audio library it is already built in with s free month free trial 120 million songs.the Conductor App to operate the music library with album art is one of the best out there. the upper tier 10 and 20 model even better. my Schiit Multibit dac run through thd Aurender is a noticeable improvement with a warmer balance.
It has auto update and if a problem email help desk they run through all programs
If software related they fix remotely . I owned Auraliti,bryston friend has Sony
Check if out it has won more awards then any other music player server.
I took 2 months of testing listenjng and speaking with others betore purchading.you can buy
For around $2300 with discount, $2700 retail..buy a good digital power cord for player and dac
Good aftermarket fuse also count to get the most out of it. with its powerfull processors Dual heat sinks and weighs 12 lbs. The Auralic I looked at for $1700
Decent but light and all plastic for the other $600 the Aurender,100H.
The specs on the sony mentions it re-samples compressed music to DSD http://www.sony.com/electronics/audio-components/hap-z1es
Fine. But how does it handle files that are not compressed? I not sure I would be interested in any kind of conversion of many of my flac files that are 24/96, albeit not DSD.
I am new to computer audio. My DAC (Lampizator 4) with my macbook sounds better than my older Meridian CD player. Very cool.
One of the things i love about using my Mac is Pure Music and JRiver's plugins for tone equalization and other acoustic/room effects.
In considering a dedicated server such a Aurender I understand there is no way to adjust bass and treble. I understand the sonic improvements to be expected with a dedicated unit, but is there any way to get my EQ back with an Aurender or other such server?