Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Music from PC, iPOD, MP3 etc
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Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:27 am

I've got a lot of m/c SACDs which I've ripped for playback via my cheap eMachines HTPC (with JRiver as media player), but because of it's low spec, it can only play the stereo layer of ISO files smoothly; when I try to play m/c files, the PC just buffers from here to eternity. Basically, the eMachines just isn't up to the task of playing m/c SACD rips.

I'm thinking about buying a Mac Mini for this purpose and wonder whether there's any reason why I shouldn't or what tips you can give to help me optimise it for m/c ISO file playback. Or, is there a better option than a mac mini at the same price (£569)? Fwiw, I'd need the Mac to be able to output SACD ISO file audio as 24/176.4 PCM via HDMI (or even 24/88.2) so my Marantz NR1504 can process it in my 4.0 setup.

Fwiw, if I'm buying the latest model, it would probably be the medium spec one with 1TB of storage, but I know older models are more user upgradeable.

Oh, I'd probably use the Mac Mini for Netflix too, so hopefully it would be up to that job too.

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby MevDinc » Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:28 am

Hi,

I switched from a powerful PC based system to a Mac Mini based system as you can see from signature.
My Mini is a late 2012 which is Quad Core.
I was using JRiver + Jplay as my music player on the PC but on my system I'm using Audirvana+ 2 which is excellent!
I use my system for both music and multichannel without any performance problems at all.
For movies I use XBMC.

I replaced the original hard disk with 256GB SSD which makes a huge difference, much faster! I also upgraded the RAM to 16GB, a bit excessive maybe but Audirvana needs a lot of memory for memory playback, and hi-res files gobble up a lot!
I also bought a thunderbolt drive (very fast) to store all my music.

I would suggest you get your mini with a SSD too and with at least 8GB of RAM, and you should not have any performance problems at all. It's small and runs very quite too!

Good luck.

Mev
Audirvana+3.0 - Mac Mini, Lindermann Musicbook 20 DSD, ATC EL 150ASL (with the ATC tweeter!)

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:40 am

Thanks for posting MD,

I hadn't thought about just putting an SSD under the hood and storing all files in a HDD (connected via USB 3 or Thunderbolt), that seems like a good idea if it allows the Mac to devote more energies to processing the SACD ISO images smoothly

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby tw99 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:56 pm

£569 seems like a lot of money for a headless Intel PC... If you aren't already in the Apple ecosystem, then there are a lot of much cheaper options available.
NACD3.5 | SBT / DSpeaker anti-mode 2.0 / SIA2-150 / SCM40 + C1

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:10 pm

Is there an alternative that can easily facilitate m/c SACD ISO playback via HDMI? Please do recommend something if you know of a cheaper option in a similar form factor I.e. something that can sit on a hifi rack.

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Fri Feb 06, 2015 9:42 am

My plan to use a computer as source for stereo and m/c SACD ISO playback has finally materialised because I bought a Mac Mini and after installing JRiver 20, m/c audio was up and running via HDMI to my AVR without any issues whatsoever. It was literally plug and play! Admittedly I had to set the audio to output as 24/88.2 because the Mac Mini won't output anything higher than 24/96 (that's for both stereo and m/c content) and select m/c content in Jriver, but this took all of 10 seconds, so it's almost plug and play :)

I can easily recommend the Mac Mini as a small-form media source for m/c audio if you're planning on hooking it up to an AVR via HDMI and unless there's a big uptake in support for m/c audio via Async USB by AVR manufacturers, I think I've pretty much got stereo and m/c music using a computer as source sorted.

Fwiw, I bought a 2012 Mac Mini refurb from Apple in case I wanted/ needed to increase the RAM from 4GB to 8GB or even 16GB (2014 Mac Minis are sealed units with the RAM soldered on, so that's not an option on the latest version), but 4GB seems perfectly adequate because there haven't been any issues with excessive buffering or such like, just plain smooth playback :)

My setup is now...

Digital (2.0):
Mac Mini (JRiver)>Marantz NR1504>Teddy Pardo i80a>ATC SCM7

Digital (4.0):
(f): Mac Mini>Marantz NR1504>Teddy Pardo i80a>ATC SCM7
(r): Mac Mini>Marantz NR1504>ATC SCM7
(c): no centre
(s): no sub

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Tue Mar 29, 2016 10:46 am

Fwiw - the sequel... I finally solved the HDMI handshake issues I've been frustrated with when using Jriver via HDMI to my AVR. Admittedly it's more of a work around than a solution per se, but it works nonetheless.

Playing music via HDMI works fine until the TV is turned off, whereupon playback stutters for a few seconds before resuming, and the same goes when the TV is turned on during playback. I used to turn off my TV's display (without turning off the TV) to negate this issue, thereby ensuring the handshake remained active, but my new TV has the Display Off option buried deep within its settings menu, which is somewhat inconvenient when I simply want to press Play and listen to music.

The solution I stumbled upon last night however, is to set Jriver to launch on computer start up and use Jriver's Gizmo Android app to navigate within Jriver and control playback ... without even turning on the TV once. It's that simple.

My mac mini (running Windows 7 thanks to Bootcamp) is a dedicated HTPC and all it does is play music, so unless I'm ripping new music or want to watch visual content, there's no need to turn on my TV. For extra convenience, I've set it to hibernate/resume when the power button is pressed.

Although I'd like future AVRs to support multichannel audio via async USB, there's nothing to indicate that's going to happen anytime soon, so this solution will tide me over until then and hopefully you too if you're in a similar situation :)
Derek

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:58 pm

It seems I was premature when I said I'd discovered a solution via Gizmo because doing so brings about another problem: Gizmo doesn't seem to show multichannel content of SACD ISO rips. It recognises 5.1 blu-ray audio and DVD-A rips no problem, but it will only play the stereo portion of stereo/multichannel SACD rips. I'm sure it would be able to identify multichannel DFF files, for example, but ISO files are a no no it seems, so it looks like I'll need to turn on my TV to play multichannel SACDs lol. Close...but no cigar :)

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Re: Mac Mini as hi-res music source?

Postby windhoek » Mon Apr 04, 2016 6:42 pm

It seems I was premature when I said I was premature because Gizmo does indeed list the multichannel versions of stereo/multichannel SACD ISOs; all I had to do was scroll down to the bottom of the stereo version of whatever I'm listening to and hey presto, the multichannel track list is right there in plain view, doh! :)

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