MacBook Pro or Mac Mini as music server

Currently have apple extreme server. Also using the Olive Media Olive 4HD and Olive 2.
Thinking of adding either the latest Macbook pro or the mac mini as a music server for my cd collection.
Which of the two would be better suited to my task ?
I'm leaning towards the macbook pro 13" with 2.3 GHZ but then at almost half the price the Macbook min 2.4 is a steel but i wouldhave to add keyboard, a monitor and a mouse so cost would be close to the macbook pro.
Anything else am missing here ?
For the Dac, i plan to use either an I-Nova or a Bel canto designs dac 2.5. An esoteric D-07 is also not far fetch.
Would greatly appreciate some advice as i'm just starting out on this hobby (computer audio) just now.
Thanks guys-
some claim the mac mini is a better choice, since it doesn't have the monitor integrated (which may cause jitter issues). Can't confirm from experience. Likely more cost effective though, since you can pick up a cheap monitor and keyboard.

Personally, I'd go for the mini.

I'm using an imac myself, for tunes and other stuff and am very happy with it. But just for tunes, as I said, I'd go for the mini.
I'd go MacMini. You can use an iTouch or iPhone with the right ap software to run it "headless" on a wireless system.
iTunes has its own software remote ap, as does Fidelia.

The Mini is perfect server for USB DAC music in my experience. Consider upping the RAM to at least 3GBs with 2007-2008 (aka 2,1) Minis, or 8GBs with the 2010 which is really an exceptional music server imo.

And get yourself a good USB cord!

:) listening,

Get the Mac Mini server, $995' has 2 500 gb drives and 4g of ram. I have one with an external 2TB FireWire drive connected an Antelope Zodiac Gold, couldn't be happier and it has worked flawlessly.
I'll add my vote for the Mac Mini. I have a MacBook Pro I use for general computing, but got a Mini to use a music server. The Pro is way more expensive, even if you purchase a monitor to use with the Mini (you don't need anything big or fancy -- I bought a used monitor for $40.00 from a pawn shop that works fine), and the MacBook brings nothing extra to the table as a music server. IF anything, the Mini is better because is is quieter (the MacBook fan gets pretty loud sometimes) and has a much smaller footprint. And if you are using it as a dedicated server. you can set it up to automatically rip CDs you insert into the SuperDrive. And if you happen to have an iPhone, iPad or Touch and a wireless network, the Apple Remote app is a joy to use.
Thanks for the response.
How about the I-mac unit ?
My local dealer recommends the i-mac over the mac-mini.
Would appreciate your comments! thanks in advance.
Your dealer might be thinking about the simplicity of an all-in-one computer, but you have to consider whether you really want a full-sized screen in your audio rack? The Mini is tiny in comparison and can run without a monitor. You'll need one to set it up, but it can run headless after that for everyday use. The "Remote" app on an iphone or itouch gives you full control of iTunes. Or, if you have a laptop, you can connect to it via Screen Sharing (VNC) using a web browser on a Mac; or TightVNC, UltraVNC or RealVNC if you're on Windows. The Mini is an amazing little device.

As a side note, if you have a flat panel tv in your audio room, you can connect the Mini to it and stream movies from Netflix, Hulu, etc. It adds an extra value to the situation if you've ever wanted that functionality.
thanks for all the help replies! mac Mini might be it...
I'm giving it some serious thoughts.
I use a 5 year old MacBook for my server....have used the Mini as well, could detect no difference in sound quality and I'm not comfortable with "headless" operation.
Which monitor do you guys use with the Mac mini? I just need 15inches or 13". Any specific output the monitor have to be? Does monitor have to have USB?
Btw, might be very worth looking at a Mac2Music modified Mini, if it's in your budget.

I have tried both and the 2010 Mac Mini kills the Macbook pro. I have a 2010 Mach 2 Music mac mini and it is the best transport I have ever had especially with the Mach2 Music Modifications. I now have a Mac mini where the internal switching power supply has been removed and now runs on a battery. The battery is a huge improvement. It has come very close to my turntable. I cannot convey how deep and wide the soundstage has gotten,how perfect the tonal balance and did I mention the detail stuff I have never heard in the digital domain . I am very happy. You should check out
Can you say battery powered 2010 Mac Mini.
On the subject of monitors -- I'm just using an HP 13 inch VGA monitor that's at least a couple years old (I'm not completely sure because I bought it used at a pawn shop) --I got a dvi-to-vga adapter from Apple for the mini and plugged the monitor in. Apple's OS automatically recognized the monitor and offered up a variety of possible screen resolutions. I just fiddled with the different resolution options until I found one that I thought looked good. I had a spare wireless keyboard and mouse sitting around, so that was no expense -- I do keep the monitor in place all the time, althought it is often turned off -- I find it easier that way to deal with software upgrades and new music purchasing.
Mac mini and a used or refurbished ipad. That combination should cost less than the Macbook Pro and will allow you to run the mac mini headless. Rowmote, itunes remote and Wyse PocketCloud VNC (free edition) will allow you to control everything you need on the Mac Mini.
Thumbs up on the Mac Mini from me!
you don't need a monitor for the mini. mine is headless and i use my ipad or iphone to vnc into it or i use screen sharing from my other macs to install or do maintenance on it like updating Pure Music.
thanks guys! some clarifications.

Where do i acquire VNC ? how does one do screen sharing ? does this involve software, cables ??
is it worth doing the Mach 2 Mini for $1500 ?

I have an Ipad..

Between Amarra or Puremusic, which route ?
I was very nervous about "headless" until I tried it. I still bought a monitor and keyboard/mouse. I have an itouch, but an ipad or iphone will do the same. I took the itouch and went to apple's store and search for VNC. I got Chicken on the VNC for free. You have to have your itouch and mini on the same network. When you log into the network with both your itouch will appear under the apple itunes on the left side. When you click on it you will have to input the numeric code that shows up into both devices. Then they are "married" to each other. Then turn on the VNC by doubleclicking it. You will see your mini screen on the portable device and can control it from there. Alternatively, on the portable device go to the itune's store and search for the "remote" app. Download it and when you connect it your mini itunes will show up. Then you can control your mini itunes from your portable device.

I tried Amarra and Pure Music and thought the sound was slightly better but a pain to get it to play on the systems remotely connected in the other rooms. Also, Pure music gets alittle better with each upgrade so I am waiting for all the bugs to be worked out. Same with Fidelia. I tried Amarra and think its over priced.
Thanks Tgrisham. I downloaded Pocketcloud, will this work as well ?
I think puremusic will be the one for me as amarra is a bit pricey.
are the sonic qualities of either amarra and puremusic "better" than the stock i-tunes ?
Thanks for the replies !
I use pocket cloud on my iPad and droid to control my mac mini. Tried a few different vnc apps and the pocket cloud app seemed to be the best free one I tried.

Check out audirvana before purchasing pure music or amarra. More info can be found on
1. If you can budget it, the Mac2Music for 500-600 more than the stock Mini seems to me good value by the standards of this hobby. Had it been available when I bought my Macbook, I would have done it. You will need to budget more for storage, I think.

2. I think PureMusic, at 100 bucks, is very good value; pretty hard to spend 100 bucks an get that much audible improvement, IME. Newer versions much less twitchy.

3. excellent resource.

Definitely, the Mac Mini is a go!!! now thinking of the Mach 2 package. The $1495 is a reasonable price, what upgrades can you recommend ? bang for buck ? I'll probably have at most 300-500 songs in that storage. Will their stock 40gig SSd be enough to fit those songs ripped in the highest res ?
Would appreciate some advice. How about the RAM, should the 4 be upgraded to 8 and what benefits does it give ?
Thanks in advance.
You should not use the internal drive on the Mach2music to store music. I found out that degrades the excellent sound of the mach2music server. One of many tweaks that is done to the Mac Mini is lowering the CPU processing. The 40 gig hard drive inside the Mach 2 server does several things. It reduces vibration, lowers power consumption, allows the operating system to access operational files quicker which lessens usage of the processor chip, and lastly it lowers the noise floor by great amount. If you put music on the internal drive during playback you end up using more of the computers internal resources to retrieve music files at the same time running the music player and operating system. You should go to for all the info. It has been the best digital I have ever had.
Nolitan, people who say that solid state drives sound better do not store their music files on the solid state system drive. They use an external drive for the music files.
Onhwy , The Sound House - thank you for the clarification on the ssd. I see!! Is the stock 40gig of Mach 2 enough? Between adding another 40gig of the ssd and adding 4 g of ram to 8 gig which is a better upgrade?
Is 320gig of external drive enough for about 200 CDs worth ripped in best possible format?

Thanks guys
Of your choices, go with the increased RAM. A 320Gb will hold around 400 CDs in their native format. If you later out grow the drive you simply copy clone the drive to a larger drive.

At the level of DAC you're considering I think the "upgraded" Mac Mini with the SSD and maxed out RAM is overkill. If I were you I'd get a stock Mini and put the savings somewhere else in my system/music collection.
the 320gb is good enough for my cd collection. I got about 200 as I also have a vinyl system.
For the Upgraded Mac Mini w/ SSD and max out RAM, what Dac would you recommend to match that performance ?
Are we looking at the Berkeley Dac ? or the Weiss ?

Thanks again.
My mach2 Mac Mini, has the following mods. 1 Mach2 software tweaks. Next 40 vortex 2 40gig ssd internal hard drive. 8 gigs of ram, 4TB oyen raid 0 external hard drive w/ oxford chipset, there recommended FireWire and USB cables, an additional external 2.5" SSD vortex 2 in another oyen digital enclosure w/ oxford chipset. I do most listening from the big drive but I copy files for serious listening from the big drive to the small external SSD drive and all this of course all on a battery except for the big drive.
Nolitan sorry about the militant name my freaking IPhone thinks it is smarter than it really is. While typing my last post I corrected that militant 7 times and it still messed up
The Zodiacs, Wyred, Benchmark, Berkeley and Esoteric are all very good D/As. When you get to the $1,500 and up level your choices increase rapidly. I'm not saying that the loaded Mini is not better than the stock unit, it's just that unless you are going for an SOTA type system your money is better spent on other components. Just my opinion.
Those DACs you mentioned are only as good as what is feeding them ie the Mach2 Mac mini.
True, but then again the Mach2 is only as good as what follows it. It goes round and round in a circle as a never ending chain. In the end different people decide differently where to spend their scarce resources.
I've never heard a Mach2 mini, but they apparently add some top secret adjustments to your computer for optimum sound quality in addition to the hardware mods. For a turn key product, go Mach2. If you like to tinker or save some money, build your own. If you still aren't happy, send it to Mach2 for their OS optimization.

If you are the diy type you can try installing your own ssd drive in the mac mini. It shouldn't take you more than an hour for your first time and there are some helpful guides on the web to walk you through it. I installed a 60gb OCZ vertex 2 and it is more than enough space for my OS, software and apps. 40gb should be fine too if this will only be used as a music server. Take your time and it is very easy to swap the hd. I use my oem 320gb hd in an external firewire enclosure for my music files.

The ram upgrade is as easy as it gets. Unscrew the bottom, remove oem ram, install new ram.

There are also some OSX optimization guides such as turning off spotlight, etc. etc.

If you need itunes integration, go with Pure music or Amarra for a player. I use Audirvana and prefer it to the other players I've tried. Audirvana seems to be getting better with each new update and it's a free open source player.

The SSD and extra memory do not make a night and day difference in sound quality. You can also drive yourself crazy trying to find the differences between the different players. I would agree that the components (speakers, dac, amps, cables) would make a larger difference than a solid state drive and more ram in a mac mini. Every little bit counts though if you're striving for better sound quality.
At the end of the day, I'm a bit curious whether computer audio as a source or transport e.g. Mac Mini or the Mach 2 Mini would be better than a $1000 or a $3000 cd player unit connected to a dac ?
if it is, or better that's a big bonus because of the convenience of being able to access it instantly compared to swapping CD's.
For those who have maxxed out computer audio based system, do you feel its as good in the Sound quality to your vinyl rig ?

thanks again for the replies.

Soundhouse or others
Do you use the mach2mach mini into a dac or as its own digital Source?
Is it good enough to use without a Dac?
In response to Onhwy61 the mach2 mac mini is the best transport I have ever owned. I have had tried over 32 different CD set ups over the years from DCS to highly modified Marantz SACD players and I currently own a HRT Music Streamer Pro. I have had hooked up the many different DACS with a standard Mac Mini and with the Mach2 the big bang for your dollar is the very front end before it gets the DAC. I have tried the following DACs; 1)Wyred For Sound DAC-2, 2)The Zodiac,3) Ayre QB 9, 4) the Audio Research DAC 8, 5) Benchmark, 6) Berkeley, 7) Arcam rdac, 8) PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC & Transport, 9)Cambridge Dac Magic 10) The Burson, 11)Music Streamer II+ and 12) Music Streamer Pro. I kept the cryo treated music streamer pro. If I where to rank these DACS I have tried in my system. I would say they all do different things but the keep in mind the Music Streamer Pro that is dual differential balanced with asynchronous USB input using the highly regarded Texas Instruments Burr Brown PCM 1794 and additionally gets its power from the Mach2 mini which is battery powered which kills the other DACS. But to be clear the Mach2 Mini even with the using only the headphone jack as an output did somethings better the standard mac mini with the most of DACS on the list. The output was a little lower but it for surely had better tonal balance and deep and wide sound stage. The sad thing is I can have any digital front end I want and I think what currently I have in my system is the best I have heard in my system. Is it better than my vinyl rig? It is scary to say this but now it comes down more to the recording than the format. With all the previous digital setups a so so vinyl recording recordings always sounded better than my previous digital set ups, but now I have some recordings that can sound better either way depending on mastering of the recording. Do not get me wrong when Two of the same quality pressing and recording on CD or Vinyl, vinyl still sounds better to me.
I use Amara Pro and Pure Music. The Amara sounds a little better than the Pure Music. I have tried as many music players as I could get and those two sound the best. Pure Music is a bit more stable and not buggy like Amara.
Between the amarra and puremusic, i feel the amarra is more fuller sounding, amarra is more lively. Although amarra is placed on macbook pro while the puremusic on a normal macbook.. whats your take ?
if you are setting up a music server, you will need 2 large drives. i have 2 external 2TB disks linked to my mac mini using firewire. also, when you rip cd's to this server, you need to use xld or max, much better than itunes. why 2 drives? because you will need a backup of the 1st drive. i actually use 3 disks. the 3rd disk is a copy of all my macs in the house including the music server. every qtr i back all the machines up to this disk, then store the disk in a vault so if something happens to my house (fire, etc...), i have all of my info on my 3rd disk.

also, you will not hear any difference in sound using ssd. i deal with ssd's everyday and they are mainly used for speed and you don't need this kind of speed for music. plus, the ssd drives for PC/macs are of the cheaper set.

i have setup pure music to play the song from memory so it takes a few seconds for pure music to load the song in memory before playing the song.
good luck
When setting up the Mac-Mini as headless, do you guys leave it on standbye when not in use ?
At somepoint, especially in initial setting up, is monitor needed ?
Considering that route rather than going w/ a Macbook PRO.
If you are using the MacMini as a server, how does one disable the other functions not useful for music making ?
Also, is it possible to have Amarra and Puresound on the same computer ? Doesn't it conflict w/ each other ?
Thanks again..... its been an interesting thread !
do you guys leave it on standbye when not in use ?
This is a matter of personal preference. I leave mine running all the time. Energy Saver is set to never sleep. If you don't use it everyday, you might want to shut it down and power up only when you need it. You don't need a monitor for this. You can power down from your remote device (ipad, laptop).
At somepoint, especially in initial setting up, is monitor needed ?
This will be the easiest way. When you're done with set up, you can remove the monitor and use your ipad or laptop to remote in and do everything you need. Here are instructions on how to set up screen sharing:
If you are using the MacMini as a server, how does one disable the other functions not useful for music making ?
Instructions to disable Spotlight:

You'll want to have some sort of backup system in place. You'll get plenty of advice for different routes to take. IMHO, the easiest approach is Apple's built in software called Time Machine:

how to set up Time Machine to perform backups

You'll need an external hard drive for this. In my experience, smaller 2.5" USB and Firewire drives are significantly quieter than 3.5" drives. They get their power from the cable connected to the Mini. 3.5" drives have a separate power supply with fans which makes them inherently louder. Sizes and pricing on 2.5" drives is not as good as 3.5", but you can find 500gb for $60 and 750gb for $80.
Hello Mingles,

I tried this procedure using my IPAD:

This will be the easiest way. When you're done with set up, you can remove the monitor and use your ipad or laptop to remote in and do everything you need. Here are instructions on how to set up screen sharing:

but for some odd reason my Ipad can't read or open my Macbook. Do i need some sort of VNC viewer ?

Thanks again for the helpful insights.

My question is, if the Macmini is off, i definitely need to turn in on, correct.After that can the ipad already access it ? do i need to put a mouse or keyboard on the macmini to do some functions, etc ?
if you have your mac go to sleep after a while, make sure you set "wake for network access" under system preferences/energy saver. because i use screen sharing from my imac to the mac mini, i also use the WakeOnLan program that points to all the ip addresses on your network so you can wake any 1 of them up.
Thanks for the helpful tip Rbstehno.

So which is better, using pocket cloud or using the VLC on the mac to access a headless mac-mini ?
Neither please
Toshiba laptops are best
Esata port
i5 processor
Dedicated video card
And you are set
I see a lot of votes for the Mini. However, I think one big advantage the MacBook Pro has, is that you can add the 512GB Solid State Drive, and 8GB of RAM. Which is a big plus in my book.
Rutgar, you can do the same with the Mac mini. I have 8gb of ram and an ssd in mine and it works great. You can do this yourself or have Apple do it if you're worried about warranty.
Ah, okay. The Apple web site doesn't show that as optional on the mini.
Okay, I went back and took a closer look. I did find the 8GB option on the 2.66GHz model. But not the 512GB SSD option. But you're saying that the SSD can still be added?
Rutgar, I don't think Apple offers a preconfigured mac mini with a 512 SSD option, but you can easily add your own or have an Apple approved tech do it for you. I can assure you it would be much less expensive then buying a mac mini preconfigured with an SSD. You may be able to ask the Apple store to instal the oem 512gb SSD and maintain the warranty, but it would be ridiculously expensive.

I installed my 64gb SSD and it is working great. The SSD is for the operating system and apps only. I use the oem 320GB hard drive in a bus powered firewire enclosure for my music files. The music player (Audirvana) loads songs into memory before playing them, so I don't need a large capacity SSD for my music files. This is much more cost effective than buying a large capacity SSD and there is no audible hard drive noise when the music file is playing since they are loaded into memory first.

Apple made it very easy for the customer to upgrade ram in the new mac mini. It is as simple as rotating the bottom base a few degrees and inserting the new memory. No screws to remove and can be done in a couple of minutes if that. I paid $100 for 8gb of ram compared to $400 from Apple. Considering the premium you pay for ram from Apple, I would definitely buy the base version with 2gb ram and install your own sticks of ram. This is a no brainer since it does not void your warranty according to Apple.