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.

Showing 2 responses by alan49

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"

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.