Replacing a MAC Mini with new one...

I have been using a MAC Mini dedicated to my audio system. I run it into a Bryston DAC-1 via the Audiophilleo 2 with Pure Power. I am happy with this setup however need to replace the MAC Mini. I am looking for advice on which Mini to purchase and on how I should have it configured. Thanks in advance.

These guys know how to get the best out of a Mini I am completely satisfied with mine and the support that I have received.
You don't say why you need to replace the Mini.  If you are happy with the current setup, then replace it with exactly what you now have.  Used Minis are plentiful and relatively cheap.  You could even swap the hard drives between the old and new to avoid any changes in configuration.
suggest a used mini with the quad core set and a minimum 8gB ram and install a all your music on an outboard harddrive. you probably know all this so no offense intended

Onhwy61, My current mini has a 0.5 TB drive and I am not sure it will even take a larger one. The thought of getting a used one I would entertain. 

Tuberist, no offense taken. I know some, or at least think I do, however that can be a trap. Looking for that beyond what I think I know, and verification of that I do.  I was thinking I would want a 1 TB SSD drive and the 8 gB ram. By store on outboard drive, I believe you mean as backup. Am I right there?


Mesch, nearly everyone would recommend that you store the music files on a separate hard drive than the system drive.  The 500Gb hard drive on your current Mini is more than sufficient for your system files.  Alternatively you could install a smaller SSD drive for an increase in loading times, less heat, less noise and greater reliability.  An quality external 1Tb drive for music files with a second one for backup are available for under $200.  8Gb of RAM is nice, but 4Gb is sufficient.   What I'm saying is that your current Mini with some additions may be all you need.
Onhwy61, My issue is that my Mini was owned by my place of work and I may now be asked to return it. I have not yet found a server that I think would be better without incurring to great an expense.

I am thinking that a mini with a smaller SSD for system files with 8GB ram and two external SSDs  for music storage. Now, given that I use USB for output I should use external HDs that mate with alternative inputs, thunderbolt or firewire, correct? 

I have a 2010 headless Mac Mini and replaced the HDD with an Agility 3 SSD Drive. Since 2010, it is my understanding the HD Drive is located in a position that is much easier to replace...plenty of tutorials for swapping out the drive with SSD. You can save $200-$300 getting a high quality SSD elsewhere rather than ordering your Mac Mini with an SSD from Apple. 8GB of RAM is recommended.

Additionally, I use the OWC 4TB Mercury Elite Pro Dual Drives loaded with SoftRaid to manage the Raid array for playback and back up. When engaged in critical listening, will load albums on Mac Mini SSD and will shut down the two 4TB Drives; then will transfer to Amarra or Audirvana playlist. Current versions of Mac Mini will require a seperate disk drive for downloading future CD's. 

Mesh, Since your asynchronous USB/Spdif converter is shielding your DAC from any noise or timing issues computer becomes irrelevant. Any MAC will do with any amount of memory, any hard disk and any playback program.  I'm in similar situation being shielded by WiFi connection.  I got new Mac Mini since my older Mini refused to load any OS higher than Snow Leopard.  The new one had Yosemite and currently I upgraded for free to El Capitan.  My Mini has 250GB SSD and 16GB of memory plus external 1TB HDD.  I got 16GB since in it is not up-gradable in new Minis while it is also my main home PC.  External HD can be of any type - I use Firewire with Thunderbolt/Firewire converter but only because I had Firewire before and I like it.  USB HD would be perfectly fine.  Get at least one more for the backup.  Don't trust RAID alone. 
Kijanki, Since I will use this Mini as a dedicated music server I am thinking I will purchase one with the 250 GB SSD, 8 GB memory, and what ever OS that comes standard. I forgot to mention that I also use Pure Music for playback.  Is it your thinking that the use of the USB converter negates concern over using an external USB HD for music storage and USB for playback?  

Another thought, will use of a USB converter negate concern with using an internal HD for music storage?

Thanks for your thoughts on this!
Recommend getting the max amount of memory. If you later decide to try a different software package such as HQ Player, you will be glad to have as much memory as possible. Also, as file sizes and your library grow, loading art etc. will be faster with more memory. 

Not to derail your original thought process but have you also considered alternatives to the MacMini approach including keeping your library on a NAS in another room and going with a low powered streamer/renderer to play the music on the NAS (and online if interested too)? There are many products to consider and my experience using MacMini for years is leading me down that path. Computeraudiophile site has the detailed threads on most of the pros/cons to this approach and specific recommendations.
Have fun either way you decide, Cheers,
Mesh, your USB/SPdif converter strips timing from the data.  In asynchronous USB data is delivered in packets at its own timing that has no connection with clock used by D/A converter.  Furthermore, Pure Power prevents jitter induced by noisy computer supply.  Pure Music is fine, since you already have it.  8GB is not necessary now (I run El Capitan on notebook with 4GB), but is probably a wise choice for the future.  Yes, you can use the same USB, since at this point only data (and not the music) is delivered to your converter (slight delays are not important).  Situation is different on SPdif side where timing is crucial.  I believe that your converter has both Toslink and coaxial outputs.  Normally coaxial should be better but try both if you can.  It is system thing and in some cases Toslink works better.  If you use coax, try to buy or build one, that is very short, less than 12". The shorter the better.  If you cannot do it then get 1.5-2m.  In first instance you won't have reflections in the cable (from the end of the cable) affecting transition while longer >1.5m cable will delay reflections making them miss original transition.  Try different digital cables.  It is characteristic impedance matching and more expensive cable is not necessarily better.

Get the least expensive slowest new MAC.  SSD is not required but it is quiet. Use power filter for your DAC if you cannot use different outlet (different phase) for computer. 
Sbank, I have and continue to consider other options. Would consider a basic server that could read AIFF files off a HD. 

Kijanki, thanks much for your input. I am using BCN connection between converter and DAC, direct connection w/o cable. I have 3 dedicated lines, one for digital.

In my household I have a Mac book pro which I use for general computer use and to serve music to my secondary systems, and the mini for my primary system.  What are thoughts in usng the MAC pro to burn CDs  and transfer file to HD and then using the HD with the Mini?  
Mesch, that's same as my setup. I started using the macbook instead of the Mini to rip and download files that I store on the NAS. My plan is to sell the Mini when I receive my Sonore microRendu which will be available soon. Aside from concerns that the slide out drawer on the macbook is a little flimsy, no problems. As more of my new files arrive via download vs. disc rip, this will be even less of an issue.
The only real quirk I've had to deal with going to NAS from HDD connected to the Mini is that if I let my Macbook "go to sleep" overnight rather than shutting it down, sometimes Finder's ability to see the NAS gets lost overnight as I have the NAS automatically hibernating during the night. Rebooting the Mac in the a.m. fixes it. Cheers,
Thanks for the confirmation Spencer! 

As I have time prior to making a move, I plan on continuing my research on this, and looking into the possibility of a server.  There is a Bryston BDP-1 for sale here on AG. May look into that as an alternative if it will play AIFF files from a HD. Would compliment my BDA-1.

Lots of good advise already posted. If you look at the online Apple Store, Mac Mini page, you will find at the latest MM do not have user upgradable RAM memory. Any future OS software upgrades could adversely affect performance over the long run. Also, if you’re looking to save a few bucks the online Apple Store has a (not to easy to find) Refurbished Product page. All the computers come with a standard apple warranty. Good Luck!
No need to change anything. Just buy usb-reclocker ( Regen or mc3 + usb smart) and improvement on soundstage and realism will be there!


Reclocker will do nothing to improve asynchronous USB connection that he has.  Since async USB timing is not important then improving on this timing makes no sense.
The new Mini’s are hard to upgrade, so get one with the max amount of memory you will possibly use over the next 5 or 7 years (roughly the feature-lifespan of a computer these days). Second, it makes more sense to get a relatively small internal SSD for just the software (OS and whatever audio applications you would run). That drive will be fast (SSD) and you won’t really need to back it up as frequently as you would back up a growing media library.

Keep the media library on an external RAID device to minimize the need for backups every time you change the library, but nonetheless figure out a reasonable backup of the RAID, a fat drive for that purpose can be very inexpensive. I always keep at LEAST three copies: The original operational library disc, and two backups that I rotate between. I have had disc failures, I know of many people who have had disc failures — it just makes sense to have this insurance. (One issue with a RAID stack is noise, so factor that into where you physically locate the music hw stack.)

If you can afford the price differential, go with Thunderbolt to RAID, it’s more but performance benefits. Do some research on the best digital interconnect between your Mini and your DAC... I am using optical to my DAC, but it’s really not the best. My Mini also serves up high resolution files to a Cambridge Audio Azur 851N — via Ethernet, on a separate segmented network in my home (again for performance benefits due to no network congestion).

Configure the Mac OS to cut-out applications or startup items that you do not use in headless server mode, and those CPU cycles and memory won’t compete with your music applications. You can search for terms like "minimal processes for Mac OS" or "minimal set" or "only necessary processes for Mac OS". Take the same approach with cases you plug in, a dedicated music server should have few.

As far as the model to buy, I would aim at the latest model/chipset because I would not want to do the same thing again within say 5 or so years... It really should serve well for at least that long. ...and get a UPS for the Mini and RAID, I consider UPS basic insurance for computer electronics (analogous to power regenerators for audio gear).

I like the idea of specialized music servers, but I prefer to roll my own using a Mini because I am quite happy with the open source audio software and do not like vendor lock-in for dedicated commercial music servers. My mini does everything I really need, and when I don't like some aspect: I can change it by swapping server software or adding other software. This means I have far more flexibility at a time when these devices quickly become eclipsed by other devices -or- when I can't tolerate some user interface nits all software seems to have...
vicweast, Thanks much for your advice. I have been happy with the use of the mini as a server for the points you have mentioned. 

Please forgive me for butting in. When software such as Pure Music or Audionervana loads the music from the hard drive into RAM, doesn't it make sense to get as much RAM as possible and worry less about the type of storage or connection to the computer from the hard drive? The music will stream from RAM to DAC. This is what I do from USB RAID drives to 2009 MacMini to DAC. Am I missing something?
You might consider a newer mac mini with the fusion drive option as a less expensive alternative to a large SSD or SSD + conventional hard drive. The OS sees the fusion drive as a single drive but it combines a large-capacity conventional drive with an SSD section that serves as a high-speed buffer. In my experience the SSD section keeps audio streams moving w/o interruption and to accelerate downloads of high-res files. This has worked well in my audio-only system.

My mac mini connects by ethernet to a remote Classé CP-800 pre with built-in asynchronous DAC, an external drive for backups, and an ONT (similar to a cable modem) for fast downloads via a gigabit optical fiber internet service. I run JRiver Media Center on the mini, with the JRiver remote app on an iPad in the listening room.
Tgrisham, music doesn't "stream to DAC" in his asynchronous USB, but is downloaded as data in packets.  It doesn't make any difference if it comes from small or large buffer memory.  I might make a difference with synchronous USB or SPdif.
Thanks to all for their advice! Once I decide on an approach I will get back to you.

Hi Mesch, hope I am not too late in responding.

Just my take on the Mac Mini as a music server since my last 3 servers were based on Mac Mini. My first was based on the 2009 Mini that the power supply built into the power cord. Then subsequent version that had the power supply built in. Now I have battery powered Quad Core Mac Mini server from dB Audio Labs by Eric Hider. I know there's a lot of controversy as to which is better, Mac vs PC. I have not had extensive personal experience with PC based servers, just what I heard at audio shows and dealers. None of them really impressed me. What I can say about the dB Audio Labs Mac Mini server is that it is a revelation, unlike all the other versions of Mac Mini servers I've auditioned and heard. According to Eric, he and his software engineer basically rewrote and optimized the OS code that deals with audio and got rid of code that degraded the audio signal. He installed ultra fast RAM, SSD, and added battery power supply. Many of you may not realize how good construction of Mac Mini is to begin with as a server. Eric just took it to level no one else has. 

As for the sound quality, it was akin to jumping from a $2-3k DAC to a $10k+ DAC. What I immediately heard was clarity and transparency. The high frequency was extended, detailed, and not etched. It was like going from a soft dome tweeter to the finest ribbon tweeter. There was a jump in midrange openness and transparency. Sound stage and imaging went up another level. The sound was faster with better microdynamics. I didn't hear a significant improvement in bass extension, but base was clearer and more tuneful.  

In case you're wondering about my reference system, I have the Lampizator GG DAC with Takasuki 275B rectifier tube and Elrog 300B tubes as the source. My speakers are the Raidho D2, rebuilt Quad ESL 57, and Ridge Street Audio Design Sason (2-way speaker with Duelund CAST caps and resistors, scatter wound inductors, silver ribbon wiring weighing 240 lb each). My amp amps are Bob Carver Cherry 180 tube mono block amplifier (pi wound OPT, Vcap coupling caps, and built in Goldpoint attenuator), Bedini 1 Meg 25/25 Class A amp, and vintage Pioneer M22 class A amp. I have a dedicated audio room with extensive room treatments and dedicated AC lines and line conditioning. Yes, the dB Audio Labs Mac Mini Server is good enough to feed this system.

Most of all, it is very affordable, and you get a money back guarantee. Just call Eric hider. His costumer services is second to none. I am just a very happy customer.