Mac Mini vs. another Mac for music server

I've been getting into computer-based audio, and had been planning on picking up a Mac Mini for use as a music server. (Perhaps one of the new models, if they ever come out; maybe an older one that I could snag for a song once they've been superceded.) I'm currently ripping my CDs to a Dell laptop that is on its last legs, using a MacBook as the remote controller. I'm streaming to an Airport Express connected via an optical cable to a Cambridge Audio DacMagic feeding a Creek Audio Destiny integrated amplifier. (Speakers vary.)

My question: Does a Mac Mini necessarily make more sense than, say, a refurbished MacBook for a few dollars more? Is there a real advantage to using a Mini, sonicly or otherwise? (I'll most definitely be going with a Mac, as I'm now sold on Apple for a number of reasons.)

Is anyone using a MacBook (or an iMac or another Mac) as a server -- and doing so happily?

Thanks for your help on this.

In my own research; comparing the Mac Mini to both my other Macbook and Macbook Pro models, there has been a marked sonic improvement in both spatial and dynamic qualities via the Mac Mini. I speculate that the sonic improvement must be noise and/or packaging related as the Macbook has to contain it's recharging system, it's graphic card and the related screen in a very tight package comparably. Regardless of the actual technical reasons though, it has been a BIG surprise that the Mac Mini was the best sonically since it is the cheapest of all Mac computer solutions!

Interesting observation.

In what context are you making this comparison ie USB or Optical output.

What DAC are you using?

Per your inquiry, I am using the USB output. With a Mac (or any computer based server) you would want to AVOID SPDIF type of outputs whenever possible! SPDIF (both optical and electrical) are an "ugly tangled mess" of the clock and the digital music data. The sonic benefits of using a properly designed DAC to a Mac (via USB for instance) is many fold and can offer a HUGE jump sonically compared to anything SPDIF connected. Fro instance, Jitter alone can be reduced or eliminated in up to half a dozen areas with the USB implementation as compared to SPDIF implementations.

The D/A converters I use in my various audio systems are all from UltraFi Audio Designs.
I too am just getting into computer audio and I have to say it has revolutionize how I listen to music and rejuvenated my love for the same...

I recently purchase a refurbished MacBook White, copied my whole collection (over a months time) in Applelossless through iTunes to a Licie Ext HD.

I use the USB to a Bel Canto 24/96 USB converter, to a Cary 306 Pro DAC, through a Pass Labs X1 to my Verity Audio Parisifal Ovations.

The sound is remarkably good. I went with the MacBook over a Mini because wanted a full time screen and keyboard. I use an iTouch iPod to control all the play-lists and music selection from my listening chair.

From everything I have learned, bits is bits until it meets your USB converter or DAC. I have total silence so I don't believe the screen effects the sound I hear. The ext HD is fanless but does make a little noise that you can hear if you are close to it, otherwise, I take no issues.

Bottom Line: I recommend a Macbook and an iTouch, your life will never be the same!

Good luck, John

IMHO, I don't think a Macbook will be any better than a Mini. I don't have any personal experience with a Macbook, but I'm currently running a Mini via Toslink to my DAC. Both the Mini and a Macbook are limited to their internal audio cards, and output via USB or Toslink. I've seen posts about a Macbook on battery sounding "quieter", presumably because of reduced electrical noise but I believe the evidence is anecdotal at best.

The best setup, again, IMHO, is a Mac Pro, with a Lynx AES16e card. I'll be purchasing this setup in a week or so and can't wait to hear the improvement.

HTH. . .