Maximizing Sonos and Mac Mini


Question regarding maximizing use of a Mac Mini with Sonos. I am seeking info regarding top performance with these two products and outboard DAC. I searched but found little in regards to this topic.

I understand that Sonos is compatible with a Mac Mini. I assume I can use them "parallel," that is, a streaming audio such as Rhapsody via Sonos, as well as iTunes via the Mac mini.

I am looking for setup guidance to maximize this combination. I understand that it is advantageous to have a solid state drive in the Mini. I also believe that there is software which can maximize the efficiency/sonic quality of the Mini's operation.

I plan on getting an iPad for headless operation of the Mini. Also, an info on potential use of the iPad to control the Sonos as well as iTunes playback would be appreciated!

TIA
douglas_schroeder
If you are using Sonos, then all of the computer "tweaks" you have read about are not applicable. These are primarily for USB and Firewire, not Ethernet/WiFi. With Ethernet you dont have to worry about sound quality with the computer, only the Sonos.

The Sonos has fairly high jitter on its digital outputs compared to Squeezebox touch, so a reclocker is the solution. Here is one:

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/empirical4/1.html

The input of the reclocker can be driven from Toslink or coax with a cheap cable from the Sonos. The output cable from the reclocker to DAC is critical and should be the best you can afford. This will make all the difference.

iPhone, iPod and iPad can all be used to control Sonos. Sonos is the most popular device of this type world-wide. Very easy to use and makes music listening fun.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve, good to hear from you; thanks for the clarification.

It seems you have outlined an approach where the Sonos and Mini would operate on parallel paths, not convergent in the Mini. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that.

A few more questions to perhaps get more clarity on this; I envisioned that Sonos may receive an improvement in sound quality if I ran it through the Mac Mini. My thinking was that all Sonos play would be shunted to the Mini, and the computer tweaks to the Mini would affect the Sonos as well. Is this off base? I am assuming when set up correctly the file play back from the SSD of the Mini would be superior to the streaming audio of the Sonos.

I assume I would get a USB drive to back up the files on the Mini.

It's great news to hear that both can be operated by the iPad or similar, which I intend on doing.
"It seems you have outlined an approach where the Sonos and Mini would operate on parallel paths, not convergent in the Mini. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that."

Yes and no. The Sonos is definitely improved with reclocking, but because it involves upsampling it will probably never be quite as good as Async USB when using optimum playback software.

"My thinking was that all Sonos play would be shunted to the Mini, and the computer tweaks to the Mini would affect the Sonos as well. Is this off base?"

Afraid so.

The two playback scenerios, networked using Sonos and wired using USB are completely different. The networked playback is just like sending a file to a network disk. The computer does not know whether its audio or a print file. Computer does not use the audio stack.

The USB or Firewire output is streaming audio. The computer knows this and uses the audio stack.

It is the use of the audio stack, streaming protocols and the USB or Firewire hardware in the Mac that changes everything. This mode is improved by tweaks to the hardware and software of the computer. Making these changes to improve Sonos will probably have no effect. A waste of money and time.

Because the reclocker upsamples and the USB or Firewire solutions do not, this makes the USB and Firewire solutions potentially better. They do require a lot more hoops to jump through to get there however.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve, again, thanks for the additional clarification!