Your Computer Based Transport Setup

I am on the verge of moving to a Mac or Windows based transport setup but I am not sure which route to go.

I am pretty good with computers so a custom pc setup is what I have decided because of:

1. economically better than packaged music server
2. ability to experiment and change settings and software

However, I do not see a lot of info or thoughts on peoples computer based transport setups, (or ones that or pretty recent considering how fast the computer landscape changes so fast)

I will be going through a Chordette QuteHD dac to a Bryston 4b SST amp.

So, what is a good looking and performing computer setup?
Do you like mac mini's, big macs, windows 7 or 8 and any pro's and cons?

I am leaning towards a mac mini with something like audirvana. The mini is a nice looking small format and the OS is pretty solid and it runs quiet and cool from my experience.

Thank you fellow computerphiles.
Think you'll likely find nearly as many opinions out there as there are options. Expect that the bottom line is that you'll be able to make whatever you choose work for you.

Personally, I went the Mac Mini route. I like it and it works for me -- but it is by no means the final word or only option. Running Snow Leopard on a 2009-era Mini, iTunes for archiving, Bit Perfect for playback, out USB 2.0 to an Ayre QB-9. I have been toying with getting a new Mini, maybe even with a power upgrade from the likes of Mojo Audio (which you can find here or on the web). A newer Mini (with Mountain Lion, faster processors, and 16GB of RAM) would likely be an upgrade. But I haven’t bothered, and am in no rush.

If you’re looking for a total glut of info, check out the “Music Server” forum over at Computer Audiophile. Probably more than any one person could want or need in terms of information. The first variable you may want to address is which ecosystem/OS do you want to play in – ie., Apple, which is swell, but can limiting and controlling, or non-Apple, which may be less plug-and-play but probably more flexible in the long run. What seems to be the main non-Apple option that has been picking up steam, and about which you’ll find a lot over at Computer Audiophile, are the various iterations of the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server (“CAPS”). They look real interesting, but I know next to nothing about them.

From there, the decisions tend to become more obvious, once pick the ecosystem. You probably don’t need a whole lot of grunt (RAM/processing power) to make even high-def files run fine, but more is certainly better – particularly if you’re going to end up with a software front end that buffers into RAM for playback, which many do these days. In order to run above 24/96 files, if you’re outputting via USB, you’ll need at least USB 2.0. On any new-ish computer, this will be a non-issue. But on mine, for example, you need some more aggressive configuring to ensure you’re using the high speed v. the lower speed USB output, as the OS has both and assigns randomly.

Finally, think the only hard and fast rule is back things up. The only certainty in computer anything (which certainly includes audio) is that your drive will fail. Don’t let that be your only copy. Enjoy.
I have almost 3TB of digital files housed on a Seagate 3TB USB drive, cost was about $120. I religiously back those up to 2 Seagate 1.5 TB drives. Cost on those was about $65 each.

For backups, I'm using a very nice free program I found on SourceForge, it's called Create Synchronicity. You can schedule the backups to occur unattended any time you like. The interface is dead-nuts simple to use and it works perfectly.

I play the files back using my Oppo BDP-93. This is hard-wired to my router using an Ethernet cable. I can play them back using the Oppo's interface (a little bit clunky, but serviceable) or any DLNA capable software like Foobar 2000 - also a free program.

Including the cost of the Oppo, I have about $750 invested. It sounds terrific and is very easy to use. And one of the nice things about the Oppo is that I can playback movies (NTSC and PAL) in hi-definition (1080P or 720P) as well as music files (multi-channel, up to 24 bit, 192 kHz) , giving me a total home theater solution for a very easy to swallow price...

One thing I forgot to mention is that I am using a 4 year old Toshiba laptop (Satellite, A505-6980) which has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.2 gHz. I am running Windows 7, the latest version.

It has 8GB of RAM and a 500 GB drive built in. The cost on that was about $700 when I bought it. Newer models from Toshiba are blazingly fast and cost about the same.

Setting up a PC-based playback system is really quite easy to do and the cost for the performance you get is really quite low. If you have not looked into PC-based playback, perhaps you owe it to yourself to look into it. I think you will be quite pleasantly surprised...

I bought a 21" iMac specifically for digital playback and nothing else . I run Audioniorvana Plus then via USB into my own DAC. User interface is easy with either iPhone or iPad via the remote software. I use iTunes for my library.

I'd state the this is better sounding than any transport system based I've ever owned, and I've had some pretty heavy ones, including the big Wadia, dCS and the big Esoteric stacks.

Good Listening

Initially started with PC then switch to Apple. Macbook Pro>USB>Ayre QB-9 DAC>MF6I. Using Decible instead of ITunes. Firewire 800 from EHD to Macbook Pro. Really enjoy the setup and sound. Decible major step(s) above ITunes and can play FLAC. PC was a suped up desktop but older and was using Vista for OS. I like Mac though a newer PC might be just as good. Vista was the main problem. I agree you have to back up drives. I small price to pay for security of digital music collection.
Well I am up and running on my maiden voyage into the world of PC playback. I am doing a quick proof of concept test this weekend before I take a monetary plunge. So I borrowed a mini mac from work with OS 10.7, 2 GB ram with duo core processor.

Ripped about 7 cd's with XLD in AIFF format

Loaded Audirvana + and the QuteHD driver and voila!

I have not done any optimizations to the Mac OS.

I am remote controlling the headless mini via my Linux laptop VNC connection. So cool to control from my couch.

First impressions are "It works and it sounds like music" but I cannot tell whether it is better or not than my CDP setup.

What remote app do you use on your ipad?

I use the laptop I had on hand + Stellu U3 + Benchmark DAC-1 (as preamp direct to power amp using balanced). I took the battery out of the laptop.

JRiver for player. Memory playback.

Its called REMOTE and is available free from the app store

works like a charm

Good listening

I too use the remote (Apple standard, on App Store) app to control it all. And if you're scratching your head, wondering if it's "better" than CD, then it's working....
I recommend Oct. 2009 Mac Mini with SSD and 8 gigs DRAM. Put Amarra on it and rip CD's with XLD. Use the USB port next to the one centered on the box. You can add a Hynes Mac Mini power supply later at $900 to improve dynamics. I have won several best of shows with this configuration.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I have a late 2012 Mac mini (quad core i7, 16G RAM, 256G SSD) feeding a QuteHD via USB or via my SOtM dX-HD USB to S/PDIF converter. Like Steve, I use Amarra. The mini is a joy to use. It's stable, fast, and dead silent. The SQ is simply gorgeous. BTW the QuteHD is a great DAC right out of the box but seems to like a good linear ps by all accounts (I use a King Rex PSU MK2) and many favor the coax input. I don't have a clear preference as both sound great. Best of luck whatever you decide.
I am loving this computer setup and feel stupid for not exploring pc transports sooner. I actually am beginning to like the sound better than my CDP at this point as I have been going back and forth all weekend between cdp and mini.
Its almost one of those "love the one you're with..." things. You just get acclimated to the sound and all things being equal, the convenience of pc server is awesome.

For backups I will dust off my time capsule and fire it back up as that should take care of that!

I am hoping the new mac mini's due to be released this fall with the Maverick OS will follow the fanless design of the new mac pro's tower setup with a convection "chimney" to dissipate the heat. Even my current mini with fan is dead silent already.

I might have to explore the linear ps too for my qute but just wish I could try it out first.

I will try amarra too once my audirvana trial expires.

thanks for all the inputs!
The Mini really needs a new DC linear supply. Makes a huge difference. You can either mod a new one to remove the SMPS and put a connector on it or just get the 2009. 2009 is easier and actually sounds better. I have compared them, both with linear supplies.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio