New Mac Mini Outputs

I was thinking about a Mac Mini as a first step into PC Audio (24/96), but I see the new one has only USB, HDMI, and Firewire. Would it be better to buy a used Mini with S/PDIF, or not, and if so what model? Thanks.
It also has optical digital output, mini Toslink, through the headphone jack, just as on the Airport Express.
The Mac Mini never included S/PDIF. You need to use optical (Toslink) or Firewire or USB. If you have an existing S/PDIF DAC that you want to keep, you can convert USB to S/PDIF with a product like the M2tech Hiface.
Drubin, I believe the mini Toslink outputs an S/PDIF signal.

Ah, my mistake. I though Mcondo was thinking of a traditional RCA S/PDIF output. Is Toslink not included on the new Mini?
Don't forget wireless. I use Mac Mini - Airport Express - Toslink - Benchmark DAC1.
Yes, as I said, Toslink output is available on the new Mini, as it has been on all of the Minis.
I'd use USB output with an asynchronous USB based DAC (if you can afford one).
Wow, thanks for the responses. I guess I was mistaken about the Toslink. I want to do 24/96 without the need for an adaptor. Thinking about a YBA Design wd 202 DAC for among other things, the headphone output. Have been running various YBA products over the past 10 years and have always been impressed by their many unique design features.
I just bought a Mac mini and so far I love it,I am typing on it now.
anyone have thoughts on the sound quality of toslink over usb. i am buying a used maci mini as a dedicated server. found an old msb link dac in my basements 24/96 pre usb of coarse but it does have toslink which I always was not the connection of choice. I'd run it into my Mcintosh mx132.
Have been buying hdtrack hi-rez files.
I prefer optical, but I'm a minority.
Famoej, I haven't listened critically to the mini-Toslink vs USB, but I have used both of them on the same computer. I switched to USB because my toslink connection at the computer became unstable and would frequently result in a transient static-like sound with minimal movement of the computer or Toslink cable.

Again, I haven't done a critical A-B test, but to my recollection they sounded at least very similar, save for the little glitch with the Toslink connection itself.

Since your DAC can handle both, it won't cost you much to hook up both and see what works best for you.

Hope that helps.

IME, Optical with a good cable will beat USB unless you are going into a very good USB DAC or into a very good USB-SPDIF converter. Toslink out of a Mac will do 24/96 if your DAC will, but the USB inputs on most DACs will not accommodate the hi-rez stuff.
thx all- my dac does not have usb- i am trying to cheap out on this one with a used mini. ill buy a better dac down the road but my experience, at least when i bought it from MSB years ago was +. the dacs in my old Ovation 8 and my mcintosh sounded better to me so I banished it to the basement. Ill bring it back into service until the time comes when my wife does not notice me spending money on stuff. the link dac is 24/96 so if toslink allows that level of signal, it will be a good start
You do get very reasonable SQ out of Toslink but I would suggest to use a USB-SPDIF converter whenever possible. I am using the Wavelink through my MM and it a hugh upgrade from my Optocoupler toslink cable.
The M2 Tech Hiface provides excellent USB to SPDIF conversion. I have gone a different direction using the Toslink (headset outlet) out to a Pop Pulse that converts to SPDIF. Gives me great sounding 24/96 in the pre/pro. The Pop Pulse was about $150 - same as the Hiface unless you go for the modded version from John Kenny. His mods are well worth the investment IMO.
This string was about when mack releaseed the unibody Mini MC270LL/A 2.4GHZ 2GB 320GB HD...
Now that is the old oen and they just released the new ones: MC815LL/A and MC816LL/A (both with no drive built in anymore). I have spare outboard drives, so the question I pose now is Mini MC270LLA OR newer MC815LL/A?
This string was originally about when mac releaseed the unibody Mini MC270LL/A 2.4GHZ 2GB 320GB HD...
Now that is the old one and they just released the new ones: MC815LL/A and MC816LL/A (both with no drive built in anymore). I have spare outboard drives, so the question I pose now is Mini MC270LLA OR newer MC815LL/A?
Also, assuming I do the MC270LLA (June 2010), what are the setup steps you can do yourself cost effectively instead of sending it to Mach2music?
I would pick up a MC270LL/A if you can find one rather than the 2011 version. The reasons are: (1) the 2011 version has 4 USB ports ( like the 2010 model) but only 2 USB buses and the 4 USB ports are shared with internal devices, so there is no way to have a dedicated port for a USB DAC. This is the situation with all the i5 and i7 Apple notebooks as well. On the otherhand the 2010 model has 4 seperate USB buses so it is easy to find an empty (non-shared) port for the USB DAC. (2) The 2011 also run Lion and it seems that most users prefer the sound from Snow Lepoard and there is no way to go backwards on the new products. There is a thread over on the Asylum where there is more info on this. (3) the 2011's run considerable hotter than the previous generation. Who knows but there is a chance there maybe problems in the future like in some of the Apple laptops that were being fried! I saw where some users were putting their new Mac mini on a cooler pad to help prevent this. There is no need to have an i5/i7 processor for a dedicated music server. Another negative for the Lion operating syatem is that there are more background processes running that can not be easily shutdown.
The new minis sound better according to mach2music and most forums plus they have thunderbolt..... So in the future you will have a high performance thunderbolt ext hardrive or for now a FireWire 800 hd...... With the apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse I only use 1 usb out of the 4 to the dac anyway...... Unless ripping using the SuperDrive....... External SuperDrive is also better as it is unplugged when not in use (less computer noise and resource use)...... And if it breaks...... Not problem.

Lion is a work in progress for audio ........ I'm sure 1yr from now snow leopard will be forgotten.

Not sure about the heat thing....... Mine never gets hot unless converting digital video..... Then the fan comes on every now and again..... Fan is noisy
The biggest issue I have with the new mini is that the installed iLife 11 didn't come with IDvd........ so I had to re buy the retail CD of iLife11 to get it (what a con)..... Apple don't sell the retail packs anymore, the iLife app doesn't have it........

They're pushing this iCloud to replace optical drives....... So if you burn digital camera videos or pics to DVDs look out.......
"The new minis sound better according to mach2music"

Not what was just post a couple of days ago here by Darrell of Mach2 Music. See this thread:

"We prefer the Snow Leopard sound quality overall, but Lion can sound very good with lots of work to the OS."

Their web site may say something different, but they are selling products there.

You are missing the point about the USB bus, there is not an unused port regardless of how many or few external devices are plugged into the Mac mini. Check "About This Mac", then select "More Info" tab, then under Hardware select the "USB" you will see your USB DAC sharing something like the IR receiver, or Bluetooth, etc. This is not the case with the 2010 version as there are at least 2 unshared ports that can be used for the DAC.

Also Gordon Rankin of Wavelength (also in a thread on the Asylum) recommended getting a 2010 Mac mini while they are still available for the reason mentioned above.

My recommendation is to get a 2010 Mac mini while you can, if one needs a Mac mini with thunderbolt that can always be purchased later.

Thunderbolt hard drives will be of little use in a dedicated music server (at this point) application as even Firewire 400 on an external HD is more than fast enough for loading songs into main memory (eg. Memory Play with Pure Music, as well as others).

Noisy fan in a listening room??? No thanks, not for me.

Lion may someday be cleaned up to where it is equal to or better than Snow Lepoard, but that is in the future. Then again maybe never.

Just to clarify a couple of Mach2 related quotes, some taken from a few months ago, and some recently. Our opinion is:

1) 2011 Mac Mini > 2010 Mac Mini
2) Stock Snow Leopard > Stock Lion

We just released a Lion Mach2 but we had to do much more to Lion to make it sound good, more than most people will want to try on their own.

Mach2 Snow Leopard is similar in sound to Mach2 Lion, but not exact. Overall, I personally prefer the Mach2 Snow Leopard, but this decision could come to system synergy. They both sound excellent.


If you have a 2010, I recommend you go with Snow Leopard. I think Lion does better music playback when it has the i5 core processor and Sata III speed behind it. Snow leopard sounds great on the 2010 (and 2011 for that matter).

I wasn't clear, the new minis sound better using snow leopard. So USB sharing mustn't be too bad......... It depends on how the harware handles muliple tasks , i5 and i7 chips are far better at this, Lion enables hyper-threading so the second cores can be fully utilized.

Fan doesn't come on when playing music, only when converting video or something that can actually stress an i7 chip, mini is only slightly warm otherwise.

We shall see what happens with thunderbolt, it's more than data transfer if you can run the new display from it at those resolutions and still use FireWire/USB.

It's a mute debate as thus time next year there'll be something else!
@Alan49 regarding Thunderbolt hard drives will be of little use in a dedicated music server at this point"

At this moment you are correct because Magma and others haven't yet released PCI expansion via thunderbolt. When that happens, you could use a SOTM PCI USB card and power it with a linear or battery PSU. Dedicated/Unshared USB with independent PSU and the ability to disable the 5v output over USB would be a big deal for some folks.