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Mac Mini As A True Audiophile Source Component
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pwfletcher
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 12:47 pm    Post subject: Mac Mini As A True Audiophile Source Component Reply with quote

I am an audiophile addict! However, I love iTunes and the ability to instantly access all of my music. Accordingly, I have been playing around with components, software, and disc burning formats in an effort to create a true audiophile sound system that uses a mac mini as the main source component.

I feel that I have finally succeeded in my quest and have put together quite an amazing sounding true audiophile system based upon the mac mini and iTunes. However, I have only been using the system for one day now. And, since the new speakers need at least 200 hours to break in and the new DAC needs at least 100 hours of use until it is truly ready, I will not be able to post an in depth review until next month.

In the mean time, here is my setup and a mini review of my observations so far. A more in depth review will follow that will include my reasons for choosing each component of the system:

Computer Hardware:
- Mac Mini 2.0Ghz
- Newertech miniStack V2 500GB
- Drobo 2TB

Audio Components:
- Red Rose Music (by Mark Levinson) Model Five Integrated Tube Amp
- Woo Audio WA7 Fireflies
- Dynaudio Confidence 1 Speakers
- Sunfire True Subwoofer Super Junior
- Nordost SPM Extruded Silver Interconnects
- Nordost SPM Extruded Silver Speaker Wire
- Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

Software:
- iTunes - CDs ripped using Apple Lossless
- Indigo Home Automation Software
- iRed IR Remote Automation Software

Initial Thoughts:
WOW!!!!! This is going to work! Already it is musical nirvana and the components haven't even broken in yet. Precise imaging, HUGE soundstage, perfect highs and tight bass, and the tube amp provides a perfectly warm sound that allows the digital source to sound less "sterile" and more musical. When this system blooms later on this month, it will be a jaw dropper Smile[url][/url]
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Last edited by pwfletcher on Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:03 pm; edited 2 times in total
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gigaguy
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Impressive project. Personally if I was going for a true audiophile set up it would have to also include hi-res audio, either SACD or DVD Audio, and/or the newer formats coming with HD DVD.
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Bandit Bill
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gigaguy wrote:
Impressive project. Personally if I was going for a true audiophile set up it would have to also include hi-res audio, either SACD or DVD Audio, and/or the newer formats coming with HD DVD.


That wasn't the point Rolling Eyes (no offense gigaguy)
The point of the thread thus titled as such is "Mac mini As A True Audiophile Source Component", sure other sources can be added but getting audiophile satisfaction from a mini is was the initial goal of the project. Many of us never want to look at a CD/DVD/HD-DVD disk again.

------

I would love to see a pic of your set-up PW
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gigaguy
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well to me, it's like building a system to extract the best video out of a standard definition video tape movies. What's the point when there is 1080p and Hi-def video.
no offense taken.
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Bandit Bill
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gigaguy wrote:
What's the point when...


convenience, not having to get up off the couch/chair, 1 remote, no big stack of content.

Myself I have went for a real minimalist look in my living room. No wires to be seen. No tapes, disks etc. I have a PS3 Blu-ray player but I hide my disks and they don't get used that often. My music on the other hand is going almost full time.

To each their own. There is always a trade-off when convenience is involved.
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hackersmovie
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bandit Bill wrote:
gigaguy wrote:
What's the point when...


convenience, not having to get up off the couch/chair, 1 remote, no big stack of content.

Myself I have went for a real minimalist look in my living room. No wires to be seen. No tapes, disks etc. I have a PS3 Blu-ray player but I hide my disks and they don't get used that often. My music on the other hand is going almost full time.

To each their own. There is always a trade-off when convenience is involved.


Agreed! No disrespect to anyone but, I happen to be in the Home Electronics business and I can tell you first hand (and from behind the scenes) there is a huge push on "digital entertainment" so much so that we are really starting to see a convergence of Home audio/theater and the computer world. In the near future (during my lifetime) I am sure we'll see "hard media" such as, any type of video disc or audio disc go by the way side. I applaude PW for taking some initative now, rather than later to get a system together that he can still enjoy in a "retro" kinda way...

P.S.- His mac mini can store and play "High Def." 1080p content...Why store them on a wall when they will fit in a shoe box!!!

Kudos again PW!!
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hackersmovie
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gigaguy wrote:
Well to me, it's like building a system to extract the best video out of a standard definition video tape movies. What's the point when there is 1080p and Hi-def video.
no offense taken.


Actually, he's building a system that wil handle virtually any "future" content out there. Rather than jump on the band wagon and buy a Blu-Ray player, he can enjoy 1080p content now, with out it.

He's also not "extracting standard definition" he's ripping with Apple LOSSLESS, same as the source, only difference is now he doesn't have to:

insert a disc
wait to access it, it's instant
worry about it degrading
worry about damaging it
worry about losing it
worry about it being stolen


Thank you World Wide Web.....Plenty of HD content out there....

My 2 cents...
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pwfletcher
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just on a side note ... I already have all of my daughter's dvds ripped to the mini located in my office (about 50 of them). She is almost 3 and watches the same stuff over and over. The mini was originally serving movies and music to an AppleTV located at in my Home Theater setup. However, I have since replaced the AppleTV with an XBOX 360 (using connect360) so that I could download HD movies from Microsoft's online rental service as well.

Now, that same mini serves movies and music to my HT setup in the family room, music to four zones in the house, and now Audiophile quality CD rips to the high quality two channel setup listed above located in my office.

As for SACDs and DVD audio, yes they provide better source content. However, there is not that much material as of yet. AND, as soon as someone comes up with a way to rip it to a hard drive, it will go right to my mini and get added to my content.

Trust me, I have had the perfect $150k audiophile system with room treatments and everything. However, I now need to create as good of a system that I can ... THAT IS WIFE AND KID FRIENDLY. I don't need my daughter pushing in the silk dome tweeters on my $80k Dynaudio Evidence Masters and I need to be able to access all of my music from a hard drive that is continuously backed up via time machine to a Drobo. I think that I am almost there ... now I wait one month until my currently system blooms and then continue with another tweak that I have in mind if it is needed. However, any suggestion that you think will improve my system while staying within my parameters will be greatly appreciated.

Smile
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- Indigo Home Automation Software
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- iPhone as a WiFi Home Automation Remote
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gigaguy
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your audio project seems great. good luck.

I like convenience and use digital media too. My Mini is a HTPC to a 46" HDTV, w/ bluetooth mouse and kb, 2 HDTV DVRs with 500gb each, 1 DVD recorder w/ 160gb for std. def. and a high-res audio (SACD & DVD audio) set up.
All equipment is hidden behind mesh grills in my AV cabinet. all you see is the Sony 'floating glass' flat panel. Love the Mini on HDTV.
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herbg
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's one hell of a setup you got there. Now you have me wondering what would happen if I took the mini's optical out, pumped it into my DAC and fed my big rig. I'm sure your Benchmark sounds damn good. It's USB right, what does the mini see it as, a sound card?

I for one think it's a great idea. You have a good selection of components and it should sound wonderful. A good two channel setup can still sound sweet. Post some pictures if you can, I'd love to see that minimalist setup.

I have a pair of Wharfedales driven by a T-amp on my mini right now. Maybe I'll get the tubes for my old Eico integrated and fire that up...it is getting cold now!

Herb
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pwfletcher
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

herbg wrote:
t's USB right, what does the mini see it as, a sound card?


Yes, the Benchmark DAC has balanced, sdpif, optical and usb inputs. Using the usb input actually sounds a bit better than the optical. The mac mini sees it as a Benchmark sound card without needing any drivers. I have to say that the DACs that it contains are pretty amazing. You could plug any $200 transport in to this thing and it would sound like a Theta.
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- Hack-a-Mac Mini Intel 2.6 GHz i7, 16GB
- Indigo Home Automation Software
- iRed Remote Control Software + irTrans
- iPhone as a WiFi Home Automation Remote


Last edited by pwfletcher on Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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barnz
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gigaguy wrote:
Impressive project. Personally if I was going for a true audiophile set up it would have to also include hi-res audio, either SACD or DVD Audio, and/or the newer formats coming with HD DVD.


Keep in mind that a lot of true audiophiles still consider ALL of these "hi-res" formats as too new and unstable to invest in. The vast majority of my music collection is still (and will remain) on Vinyl LP, and my mac mini based system is going to store digitized versions of those.

(I don't live under a rock, mind you, HDTV is definitely part of my world, but it will be awhile before you see me ponying up for any serious SACD, DVD A or HDDVD/BR equipment.)
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radar2886
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, I use my Mini for all of my digital media, whether it is cds ripped to itunes, dvds or stuff that I have downloaded over the years it is all played from my mini which feeds a dac in the back of my AVI ADM9's and it sounds awesome. I even send my xbox sound through the mini to my dac via a free program from Rogue Ameba. My prefered medium is still vinyl, so I can hookup my tuntable to the analog inputs in the back of my speaker and I have my turntable along side the mini. It was hard trying to find a good dvd player and cd player and still trying to listen to all of my downloaded files, but now I can just use the mini as a transport for my dac. I think eventually this is the way things will move going forward, and I must say that it is nice having a great hi-fi system with only five items including the speakers.
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Bandit Bill
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

barnz wrote:
it will be awhile before you see me ponying up for any serious SACD, DVD A or HDDVD/BR equipment.)


The PS3 is a SACD player. I'm not too sure how good it is though.
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pwfletcher
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Using ripped SACD files now ... player is no longer necessary.
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- iPhone as a WiFi Home Automation Remote
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