Probably not what you are hoping to hear, but...
I used one for years, used all the top software packages, usb cables ranging from AQ to Black Cat to the $1K Lightspeed, tried all kinds of tweak from better power supplies, ifi cable splitting filters, decrapifiers, etc. Had Lacie hard drives and tried SS drives too.
The best thing I did was replace the mac with a Sonore microRendu and a NAS. It wasn't even close.
There are plenty of threads that explain the advantages of my solution and plenty of similar approaches. Chris Connaker's online 2part review of the microRendu is a great place to quickly get up the learning curve.
If it's not too late and you aren't emotionally "all-in", consider it...Cheers,
The power supply is a big deal. If you can get a linear supply, do so. Regardless, put it on a separate conditioner outside your main power conditioner. The inexpensive Furman or PS Audio strips work really well, with LiFT and SMP, like this one:https://amzn.to/2XsjjEY
It adds filtering between your Mac and your audio. Another similar but not quite as good alternative is the PS Audio power strip, and they run 2x the price.
While I strongly suspect that your assessments & prediction [that I will eventually jump into the deep end of the pool] are absolutely correct, I am refraining from doing so at this point in time. My nature is to be pretty fastidious with purchases, so I tend to dabble in the more shallow end of the pool until I decided whether or not to expend the capital to get serious. In my mind, going Mac-mini is precisely that. I know going into it that it is not THE way to go, but I do not have enough experience with the whole music server/streaming experience to justify, in my mind, going for broke. I would be totally pissed at myself were I to drop $10~15k on a set up & then decide it was not the right choice for me. Does that make sense?
Thanks for article!
Upgraded power supply makes totally good sense! Any recommendations on where I could acquire a high-quality, linear power supply? Honestly, I do not even know what a Mac-mini requires nor how much it can tolerate.
I don't know much about your particular Mac, but here's' one interesting place to get you started.
You can find a lot of info just by googling "Mac Mini Linear Power Supply"
2018 Mac-mini w/ 6-core I-5 chip, 8gig RAM & 512gig of flash SSD - "brand new" Apple refurbished model! In fact, I am leaving in the next 5min to go pick it up from the Apple Store.
The nice thing about the Mac Mini is that if this all blows up in your face and you hate it as a music server it remains a perfectly cable little PC you can use for something else.
I am currently using an old iMac as my music server through a modestly priced DAC using iTunes and Apple Remote (very convenient). CDs are ripped to ALAC using the free XLR app.
Currently I'm perfectly happy with this super inexpensive set up and found the SQ to be very close to that of CD on a decent CDP. Sound is warmer and a little less bright that CD.....which my wife actually likes better.
I do not think my ears are as critical as some here.
Mac mini costs about the same as microRendu. A good expendable NAS will cost $400-600. Drives like Western digital Red will be cheaper than external drives that attach directly to a Mac. You won't need as expensive cabling. A linear power supply is recommended in either case.
All in, to get a far superior set up it might cost a bit more, but we are talking $1k additional or less, not $10k+.
Food for thought if you want to test the deeper waters.
With the Mac, try Audirvana+ software, best soundwise of many I tried. Cheers,
Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. I will definitely take your wisdom into consideration. I have "seen" a microRendo in my ruminations & googling...I will do some deeper reading.
Dave, I'm sure by now you're up and running with your Mac Mini, but I wanted to pass along that I have been extremely happy with my Mac Mini that I had modified by Benjamin Zwickel at Mojo Audio. I purchased a Mojo Audio Watt, external linear power supply, and a Mojo Mystique v2 NOS DAC. My music is stored on a Synology NAS and I play it through JRiver's Media Center. As I said, I have been totally pleased with the set-up.
I run Roon on a Mac Mini. Today I added a microRendu with CI power supply. It takes ethernet and outputs USB to an Ayre Codex connected to an Ayre A7e amp that drives a pair of KEF LS50s. The sound quality is excellent. Total cost of microRendu and power supply was under $1K.
I bought the Ayre components used, so the total cost of the setup was under $5K, leading me to wonder why I spent so much more on my primary setup.
here we are a year later... I see the Sonore recommendations but doesn't replace a Mini as a server if using Roon. Still need a Roon server unless I read it all wrong. Any updates from anybody? Looking at a 2018 Mini and a TeraDak power supply upgrade
I don't know how I came up with the $5K number in my previous post. I bought the Ayre Codex used for $1K and the Ayre A7 integrated amp used for $1.5K. The microRendu and power supply were a bit over $500, so $3K would have been closer. I've since replaced the microRendu with an ultraRendu and UpTone UltraCap LPS 1.2 power supply. That pair cost a bit over $1K, raising the total cost to about $3.5K. I listen to Qobuz and Tidal files via Roon.