Why Mac Mini Over Slim Systems Products?

Here are my thoughts. Please let me know if they make sense:

1) Using a Mac Mini for a music server is superior to slim systems duet or squeezebox if you are interested in playing high resolution files (I am).

2) Mac Mini and the Transporter both do high resolution, but Mac Mini would likely provide more universal access to things out there on the web.

3) Now with the ability to use the itouch as a remote control, the Mac Mini has just as much remote functionality as the slim systems stuff. You will still need a screen and keyboard for startup though.

4) It is better to use the USB out of the Mac Mini than the optical mini plug (I don't know why this is true, it may not be true, I've just seen it several times).

IF all these statements are true, then I want to go the Mac Mini route. I have a spare monitor and keyboard. Now I would just need to figure out the DAC question. Please advise re the above. Thanks, Peter
Tagging on to get read from those who know.
5) You can connect the Mini to a LCD TV and watch your favorite shows and movies downloaded from the internet.

6) With a big LCD display or a LCD TV you can have the beautiful album artwork displayed while playing back music.

I tried all, Squeezebox, Transporter and Mac Mini at home and decided the Mini route. In the end it came down to the user interface - I could not stand the user interface for Slimserver and the fact that Slimdevices is now Logitech (which is really just a personal preference ;).

I did prefer the Mini via USB sonically to the Transporter, Squeezebox, and Mini Toslink out by a small margin (using the Benchmark USB DAC).
The ability to playback high resolution files would still be a question for me. I know the Duet and SB# don't pass high resolution but the Transporter does.
What is the highest resolution file that the mac mini will pass via toslink or USB?

Another point for me is that I would not want a screen in my two channel system but that's a personal point.

I currently am running with the Duet and really like it with an extrenal Dac.
I have had the Mac Mini via USB output with either a Wavelength Cosecant or MHDT Paradisea + DAC for a couple of years now. I have had zero trouble and it sounds great, better than any CD player I have owned. I have almost 2 TB of rips at this point and it is so nice to have all that music at my fingertips.

My friend who also started his music server setup at the same time went the PC route and used Slim Server and Squeezebox. He has had nothing but trouble and has never gotten his setup working completely.

The combo of Mac Mini with itunes and the Paradisea + DAC is a no brainer and has to be one of the best bargains in all of audio in my opinion.
I am also using a Mini as a music server with the toslink output to a CAL Alpha DAC with the 24/96 board upgrade. I as of now have no way to try the USB option maybe in the future ? I am looking at getting a better toslink cable maybe the Van Den Hul it is a glass fiber , I now have a plastic toslink cable.I will live with this setup for a time and maybe a jitter device or reclocker or a DAC upgrade sometime down the road.I have about 400 CD'S, 200 + GB on a external hard drive all in AIFF and I like it .I also have a I Touch I use as a remote sometimes work's very well . Marc
If you're interested in playing high resolution files, how do you get files like the Reference Recordings 176.4 kHz/ 24-bit digital masters out of a Mac Mini to your DAC?
i also have used the mini as a music server with great results. i now use an imac. if you want to use the mini, you don't need a monitor. you can actually take over the mini using leopard and remotely do what you want. we have all mac's in the house and i can take control of any of them and execute an application, move files, etc...

most of the info i have read indicates to stay away from usb for music. i use toslink cables going from my mac's or airport express units into jitter reduction devices, then quality coax cables going to an external dac, then quality balanced or unbalanced cables to the preamp.

also using a toslink connection, you have your choice of many different dac's, from $100 to $30k. the benchmark is a decent dac but if you go the usb route, you will be limited to this quality dac. and in reviews that i read about the usb benchmark dac, the reviewers liked the sound from the other connections over the usb. when i auditioned different dacs, i preferred others over the benchmark (personal choice) but some of them cast 2 to 4 times as much. the point is, you have options going with toslink.

also, i would suggest going with some kind of jitter reduction device between the mac and your dac. the jitter device could use toslink or if you can find 1 a usb connection, then use coax or aes cable to the dac.

also, there is a new remote program from the itunes site that lets you control itunes from an ipod touch or iphone, and it is free. i use it on my touch.
It would seem to me that using the USB output from the computer and using a USB DAC that uses Asynchronous USB mode would be the optimal setup. I know there are not yet many DACs on the market that use asynchronous USB communication, but they would seem to lower jitter to a minimum without the need for an additional jitter reduction device.

I'm only familiar with Wavelength and UltraFi USB DACs that uses asynchronous mode, but I'm fairly certain there are a few more. I've heard the Async UltraFi DAC and it was very good using a Mac w/iTunes as the transport.


Check out computeraudiophile.com. Great website-very sophisticated and informative. They do reviews on everything from DACs to different storage
solutions. Also have reviews on canned music servers.
The site also walks you through the whole setup, whether it be Mac or PC based.
By the way, Bryston just came out with a USB DAC.
The Mac Mini will give you longer longevity than a Slim device. As you pointed out, having a fully functional computer will give you far more options that a 'network appliance'. Along with all the various software options you have to choose from.

USB as an interface is good. However, I find the Firewire interface far more intriguing. RME has a line of Firewire digital audio interfaces (both AD and DA conversion). Specifically the unit I am using, the Firewire 400 model, you can choose between power supplies: wallwart or Firewire interface to power the unit. If you choose Firewire, you will be off the grid if you are using a laptop. At this point, you are miles ahead in terms of audible noise from the power supply.

I started down this path for other reasons, but the RME equipment sounds so good, I don't mind using it in my big rig for digital. Before I owned the RME Firewire 400, I was using the Apogee Digital Ensemble. I did a/b comparisons of the two and the RME with the Firewire selected as the power source really is in a completely different league than the Apogee Digital Ensemble hands down.

I use the RME Firewire primarily for recording my albums over to digital at 192kHz sampling rates. I also use the Firewire with Logic Pro software. It doubles as an excellent headphone amp too.

I'll start with a ditto....

I did a vista based mini-pc from Aopen (same footprint as a mac mini - basically a laptop computer in a desktop case). Ran the digital output through the mini toslink (van den hul - nice cable) to a Bel Canto Dac3.

All my rips are either full resolution or ALAC ripped with EAC.

Sound was great (into krell/wilson).

Control was great.

The PC was on the network, and as i sit at another computer in the room, i can take control of the music server and make it do whatever i want.. Including taking advantage of internet radio broadcasts in HD.

I think a dedicated device for a music server, other than a computer (Mac or PC) is short sighted and destined to be outdated faster than the computer.
tagging on too..... thanks
Surfing this post while listening to music ripped to my mac mini (apple lossless thru itunes) Just ripped the songs I like off disks (and downloaded) and have 6 days worth of greatest hits

I have been following the AG PC Audio Threads for a little while now and I would admit that a bunch of this is over my head at the present. However it would seem to me that most if not all of these systems you guys have assembled could be characterized as fabricated by early adopters.

Wouldn't you think that in the not too distant future there will be at least several high end "all in one components" that will accomplish what you guys are doing and possibly for less ? I am really trying to decide whether to jump on the Mac Mini bus or not.

Not to take anything away from you guys. I'm in awe of the systems you guys put togther.
I had a Transporter, but because of the slimserver interface and the sound (inferior to my old DAC), I decided to sell it.

I tried the Mac Mini + Macbook as the "remote" (and other things), and I am really pleased with this combo. Never thought I would use a Mac, but well ... even a PC guy can change. Mac are more expensive but they work without any major tweaking. In the end, I have good sound, ease of use, nice design and a reliable laptop (MacBook) / music server (Mac Mini).
Audio Research has a new DAC out, their DAC7 will connect via USB to Mac or PC.


Ultimately you do want a good DAC to listen to audio. I do not know what this Audio Research DAC is priced, but I'm sure it sounds good.
I use a mac mini for all of my music these days. I used to keep around good CD players ($1,000-$2,000 range) but no longer do. I did blind test of my CD players and mac mini and failed. At that point it was just easier to use the mac mini. I like to keep things simple. I use iTunes, rip with apple Lossless, and use my TV as my monitor (which I typed this post on).

I give the mac mini and apple a BIG thumbs up.

James63 I agree entirely... what are you using for a DAC? And your connection to your Mini...? Music sharing between minis and systems is pretty cool too. As well as using an iTouch with Remote or VNC.

:) Listening


A BIG thumbs up here also for the Mini and a Bel Canto DAC.So convienent,cheers,Bob
One of things I learned from this forum is that the playback software matters. Is Itunes really the best sounding for playback on the MAC? It isn't on the PC (jriver jukebox is the best I found). I'm using Vista going to a ESI Waveterminal to an EAD dac.

I may try a mac mini if itunes or other playback software is as good as jriver jukebox on the PC.

Slightly off-topic... does anyone know if there is a difference in audio quality between the earlier Mac Minis (G4) and the newer dual core models which I have? Will one of those early puppies run OS 10.5?

Mainly interested in audio quality.


:) listening


I run 10.5 on a first generation Mac Mini. Works fine. I just wish I could get rid of the "unmounting cd" issues with iTunes.
What stinks is not being able to use an IR remote with it though.
When using an iPod Touch as a remote, can you see iTunes on the Touch or do you still need a monitor? It would be great to be able to search, scroll, etc right on the Touch and not even have a monitor in the room.
Ecruz - you can see iTunes on the Touch.
I guess I'm going to have to hook my mini up to my system and compare it head-to-head with my Bolder modded Squeezebox. I'm very interested to hear the results.
Will you be going into a DAC? My experience thus far has been that the Squeezebox digital out beats Toslink out of the Mac Mini. If you are going analog out of both devices, I have no doubt that the Squeezebox will win easily.

Ultimately, I am looking for a Mac Mini solution for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the Remote app on the iPod Touch, which is truly special. I think the Squeezebox can be beat with USB out, but for me it's still a work in progress.

FYI, I have always found the Squeezebox digital out to be slightly inferior to playing the original CD on a transport into the same DAC. But I don't think it has to be so. In fact, I think the Mini or any other hard drive-based system should be able to beat the transport, but there are some remaining pieces to the puzzle I still need to solve.
My reasons for wanting to use a Mini are similar. I can't stand the display on the SB3, but I don't want to give up the convenience of a server.

I will be going into a DAC, but not a USB DAC. Also, my Squeezbox has the Bolder digital mods and the Bolder power supply. If you are finding the stock SB3 is better than the digital out of the Mini, my modded unit should sound a lot better.

What DAC have you tried them with? What's the rest of your system?
The DACs I have used are a Lavry DA and an Audio Note DAC1x Signature. My electronics are Gamut driving Dynaudio Confidence C!s.

I have just ordered a well-regarded Toslink cable to see if I can improve the performance of the Mini's digital out
I stopped at the Apple store on the way home, thinking (wrongly) that they would have a mini to toslink digital cable. Apparently the only place I can get one of these is online? So it will be a few days before I'll be able to do any comparisons.
"In fact, I think the Mini or any other hard drive-based system should be able to beat the transport, but there are some remaining pieces to the puzzle I still need to solve."

The answer could be the new PSAudio Digital Lens:

I recently had an opportunity to hear Mac Mini for the first time. It was connected to Bel Canto DAC3 via USB cable(brand escapes me...but I think it may have been Ridge). I was amazed. i actually preffered it over a Denon DVD player driving the DAC3 via Virtual Dynamics Master 3.0 digital coax cable. It is really a good sounding combo with the Mac Mini and DAC3. I think to beat it you would probably need to spend at least twice as much on the DAC and transport. it was just crazy good.
I now use a Mac Mini. I tried the the first Squeezebox without great results. The Mini with Hagusb to Musical Fidelity Tri Vista has all but replaced my Esoteric DV-50.

I use the Mini to easily access over 650 gigabytes of music, record DVD-A, DVD-V, SACD from the Esoteric and record vinyl.

A very versatile device.
if you use a mac or an airport express as a music server and you are going into a jitter device or an external dac, get a good quality toslink cable and then go out and buy the adapter that connects onto the cable to plug it into the mac. i purchased a few of them at fry's for $3 each. much better alternative than the apple or monster options.

Any recommendations for a "good quality toslink". I don't even know where to begin looking or what to look for.

Take a look at:


before you spend a lot of money on a Toslink cable.
Van den Hul makes Toslink cables with mini jacks on one end and standard on the other, which is perfect for Mac Mini or notebook applications. Unfortunately, my Lavry DAC has what appears to be a slightly non-standard Toslink input and the VDH's is a bit large and wouldn't fit. I now have one from Wireworld on the way. I'm not convinced that Toslink straight out of the computer is workable for me sonically, but I want to see if a better cable will make a difference.

In my system, I would describe the Toslink sound as having a smaller sound stage than USB, less apparent clarity, and whereas USB has a "black background" (perhaps too much so), the Toslink is, uh, not-black.

As I experiment with this stuff, I am finding that you need to give it a good long listening session and not just a back and forth comparison. Some configurations appear to produce listener fatigue. Unfortunately, I don't remember which. (Memory loss may be another side effect.)
How can the background be "too black"? Do you mean, kind of lifeless?

I'm starting out with an inexpensive "glass" toslink and a mini adapter. They should be here early next week. That should tell me if I'm even in the ball park. If so, then I can go from there. If not, then I'll start looking at a USB option.
Here's what I mean by "too black." When the music sounds as if it is being performed in deep outer space, where there is no atmosphere and it is cold and sterile. In contrast to music being made in a performance hall or even in a studio. Hmmm....not a very good explanation, is it? But I do think there is such as thing as a background that is "too black."

Let us know what you find. When using Toslink out of the Mac Mini, open the application called "Audi Midi", choose the external output and set it to 24-bit and 96KHz. You don't have this option with a USB output (at least not with mine), which is limited to 16/44.1.
Let us know what you find. When using Toslink out of the Mac Mini, open the application called "Audi Midi", choose the external output and set it to 24-bit and 96KHz.

I finally had a chance to mess around with this a little. I connected my Mac Mini to my TacT RCS 2.0 via optical (toslink) connection. I listened to just the Mini for 15-20 minutes before doing any comparing to other sources.

At first listen, the Mini actually sounded pretty good. Good detail and extension, smooth and decent soundstage. My thoughts were, "not bad, I could live with this".

Then I compared it to my SB3 with Bolder digital mods and a Bolder power supply. It wasn't even close. The SB3 had a larger, deeper soundstage, the lows were deeper and tighter and the highs were more extended, with more air/space around them. The SB3 sounded all around fuller, tighter and smoother. The Mini, in comparison was very thin sounding.

My next step will be to try the Mini via it's USB outs, but that won't be for a while, as I don't have a DAC with USB inputs.

I really enjoy the sound of the SB3, but I don't like the interface. The Mini, being controlled by an iPod Touch would be perfect. If I can get it to sound better.
Set the Mac Mini's Audio Midi application to 16/44, not 24/96, unless your files are actually 24/96.

The Remote app from Apple for controlling iTunes from the iPod Touch is superb. There is a shareware application to control the Squeezecenter (and thus your Squeezebox) from an iPod Touch. I haven't tried it, but you can find it here. The one key element that is missing from computer audio is liner notes. You've got to be able to find things such as recording dates, performers, song authorship, and so forth. Someday, I'm sure.

Oh, and in case anyone has Apple's ear, I'd like to see the ability to create ad hoc playlists via the Remote app. As I sit on the couch and browse through my library via the iPod Touch, I want to select songs to queue up for listening. Great idea, don't you think?
If I can use a Touch to control the SB3, that may be the solution I'm looking for.
Whatever happened to fans of Olive Severs?For $1700 you can ge a Terabyte built in and have 4.5 " screen and easy to group buttons.I need to see a Mini in action but don't know anybody who has one.Can you configure the screen for unlimited groups with easy to use controls?The one hesitancy I have is I know Olive has output (USB?) to back things up but I guess it would be somewhat limited if you can get a few USB's and get a Terabyte for $150 going into each one.Any opinions here?Is Olive as dedicate music serve much easier to use?Can you daisy chain more HD's?
I previously had an Ipod Classic hooked up to a Wadia 170i transport. Couldn't believe the sound. It was hooked up with a good coax cable to my DAC. Due to screen size and convenience I just bought a mac mini and have it connected to my DAC via optical out. I have a glass toslink cable attached to my DAC

Soundwise right now it's not as smooth. The highs are a bit harsher right now. I'm trying to figure out whether it's the cable or the jitter or whether I should switch to coax or USB???
run Mac Mini via USB cable into your DAC. I am doing just that and the sound is very nice. As a matter of fact it's very smooth and not harsh at all. I am not missing a conventional transport. I rip all the music I care about in AIFF and stuff I am listening to casually in Apple Lossless. Very cool stuff. I am controlling all Mac's functions with my Dell laptop(WiFi) and if I want a super cool remote just for iTunes when I play music, my iPhone does just that(artwork and all info is displayed right on the iPhone). I am very happy with the Mac Mini's sound and convenience can't be beat.
Unfortunately my CI Audio VDA2 DAC has only coax/optical input. It was very good sounding with the Wadia transport through coax. I am using a glass optical cable, however am using a mini toslink adapter which I think might be compromising the sound. The rest of my system is an Arcam AVR300 hooked up to MA RS6 speakers. I was thinking of getting a HagUSB or BC Thingee to see about converting the USB to coax
I think you will find the HagUSB disappointing. The BC thing may be great (haven't heard it), but another thing you could try is the Van den Hul Toslink cable, which comes in a version with a mini toslink connector at one end.
Or just get another DAC. MHDT Havana has USB input.
I did try contacting the distributor in Canada for Van Den Hul but they will need to order it in. In the meantime, I took out my Sound Professionals glass optical cable and substituted the Belkin optical cable that came with the mini toslink adapter. Better improvement. Actually more musical. There might be synergy between the two versus a different cable. Definitely a better combo now. Less fatiguing on the ears. Strange though. I didn't think the Belkin would be better.

I might try the BC Thingee so I can try my Luminous Audio Allegro Sig. coax cable. Great copper cable
merlocpm - get a jitter device and put that between your computer and the dac. i use them in all my connections and you will get a big jump is musical quality by using a jitter device, plus you can go out coax to the dac. i would stay away from usb connections at this time. i did hear the new audio research dac at rmaf with a usb connection. i liked the dac (i have owned other audio research dacs in the past). the audio research rep told me they worked out some of the usb issues in their dac and they feel it is equal to the other connections. if that is true, IMO, that would be a first for a quality dac.