How to replace my Macbook pro: your help is needed!

Dear all,

Following the quasi death of my MacBook Pro (Failure of the Ethernet card, but not detected using the AHT), which I used as the Aurdivana server, I need to find the best strategy for its replacement.
To be noted that I’m using Audirvana to stream audio files from a NAS to a DAC via UpNp. I give you here the results of my thoughts:

  • Keep my MacBook pro with Wifi: risk of performance issues?
  • I have an old iMac that needs to be replaced soon: use the new iMac for Audirvana but there two network switches between iMac and the DAC, and the iMac will be used also for other purposes.
  • Buy a Mac Mini and connect it as close as possible to the DAC: expensive option and Mac Mini is hard to upgrade later (adequate RAM size should be better installed initially and 16GB is probably a good choice for future expansion)
  • Non Audirvana solutions:
    • ROON on the NAS: expensive and ROON system requirements are high (NAS processor, RAM size, SDD to store the DB)
    • Buy a dedicated server such as a Melco N100 that allows direct connection to the player: expensive and not maybe at the same quality level of my DAC (TotalDac).

So, if any of you has some advice on this, I would be glad to hear from you.


For what it’s worth here’s my set up…
Mac mini (also used as main pc) sat on my desk and wired to local network.
Music resides on a Synology NAS in a cupboard in same room.
Ultrarendu on local network sat on my hifi rack next to my Brooklyn Dac+.

Streaming over upnp to rendu (x2 upscaling) mainly Tidal plus some local stuff off the nas.

Mac mini I picked up off a well known auction site and then upgraded my self with 16gb and 256gb ssd. Played with direct usb connection from mac to dac before going down the ultrarendu route. Not cheap but was a hifi itch I needed to scratch and very please with sounds currently.

Dear Ade,
Thanks very much for this. You have finally a very similar setup where the Ultrarendu is replaced on my side with a TotalDac streamer. It seems that Mac Mini is a good choice and the idea of buying a second hand model before upgrading it (something rather difficult on 2018 models) is a good approach.
Just for curiosity, since the Mini and the NAS are not located in the same room as your Hifi rack, do you use multiple switches?

How big is your music collection? Do you use streaming services, and which?

@ patifr You have a wonderful streamer, using a Totaldac Player would be the most coherent choice if you can afford it, … but also very expensive :wink:

Hi bitracer!
How big it is? Hummmh, I don’t know, I would say something around 2000 albums and counting!
At this stage I’m not using any streaming service as my internet connexion is so slow (5Mb/s at most). Fiber Optic is coming, possibly next year, so I will maybe change my mind. I’m using Qobuz but not for streaming, sometimes to buy some HD audio files.

Hi Alain. The DAC is wonderful, and so is the streamer but TotalDac almost ruined me :wink: Anyway, that’s an option I could also look at.
But, again, it’s true that the TotalDac products are great! I started with a DAC, just as a try, and now I’m totally contaminated. With the DAC, you hear everything in your records, and you immediately hate those where the sound engineer was either sick or forgot to buy some kind of hears!! Then, I bought the USB filter cable and then you enter into the kitchen of the composer, understanding each intention and the whole musical message. And then, with the streamer (And the reclocker), you hear more than everything, you can ear each imperfection, every sign of human presence in the making of music as each use of a key on a piano is unique.

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Audirvana is the best option for direct attached DACs (not over network). For UPnP it works, if the hardware is supported. There are other options though, like NAS running MinimServer and using Control Point software.

Roon is interesting option, especially if you have multiple zones around the house. I use Roon for zones playback (more casual listening) and Audirvana for headphones playback.

I would suggest to go for a dedicated MacMini. Also have a look at the
Innuos hardware.

Yes, I have multiple switches. The cupboard where the nas resides houses the main switch, nas, backup drives etc and is where all the ethernet comms come together. I wired the whole house with network cable when we moved in (old house). I have a second switch on my desk which is where the Rendu is connected. Not ideal sonically but practical.

Mac mini is great. I replaced my windows pc (giant noisy tower) with the mini. It’s a 2012 model with the i7 cpu. If you get the ones with twin drives then it’s easy to replace with ssd’s as the cable is already there. Memory and drive upgrade is straightforward if you take your time.

Upscaling on A+ to 256 will make the fan run for a while especially if you try and do other stuff at the same time. Playing redbook standard or MQA from Tidal and it doesn’t break a sweat.

Broadband is Sky unlimited (not fibre) plenty fast enough for streaming.

The number of switches doesn’t matter, it’s actually the last switch to which the endpoint is connected that counts. For best performance go for Fast Ethernet (10/100 Base-T). Switches provide already decent isolation, even those that are not “audiophile” grade. Couple that with a nice and relatively short Cat 6 cable.

I would not be so sure as it really depends on the traffic at the switch level. On my side, the best choice is to connect the new Audirvana server (most probably a Mac Mini as many of you suggest it) to the same switch where the streamer and the NAS are connected to. In terms of network traffic, the server will get data from the NAS and send it back to the streamer, which means to go through the switch twice. If I add another switch to the route, that will add two more passes through a switch. Regarding the cables, I’m using Cat6 and I saw some significant improvement in terms of audio quality, and I can’t explain it clearly.

Thanks for this. It’s good to know that Mac mini from 2012 can work in such a configuration. I understand that Mac mini from 2014 are not a very good choice and are still expensive. Mac mini 2018 are powerful but hard to upgrade at RAM level and of course much more expensive.
The plan is to use the Mac Mini for Audirvana only, not to be polluted by other activities. It’s a costly set up but it could be worth.

Thanks. Yest I know that Audirvana is the best option for direct attached DAC and this was my previous setup. But, as already reported in another post, I experienced some problems with USB link with distorted sound produced by the DAC. I was not able to fully understand the problem but TotalDac owner told me to switch to network connection with UpNp or using ROON. I found ROON a bit expensive and demanding in terms of computer resources, so I still use (or planned to after my Macbook pro almost died) Audirvana. In the meantime I’m using the Mconnect App which is, when compared to similar apps on the market, very flexible and reliable.

Switches operate at Layer 2 (OSI model) and it’s all done in hardware, so there is very little overhead.

Sure but traversing two switches several times (Server->Switch1->Switch2->NAS->switch2->Switch1 and then again to reach the streamer and the DAC will induce a delay and will compete with other trafic. Although it may work as some people confirmed but I would prefer to use a more efficient network architecture.

The best way to set the home network for audio would be: NAS -> Router/Gigabit switch -> Fast Ethernet switch -> Streamer.

Thet way all other devices benefit from the Gigabit Ethernet speed going to the NAS and the Streamer benefits from lower electrical noise of the slower Fast Ethernet (10/100 Base-T) switch. From the NAS to the streamer it’s wire speed since it’s switched all the way. There is also very little contention, as there will be few devices attached to the slower switch (probably just the streamer).

If your NAS is dedicated for the music playback, you can attached it to same (slower) switch as the NAS.

Some routers allow you to select slower (10/100) speed on some ports. That could also be an idea how to connect the streamer without additional hardware. Also managed switches allow you to select the speed on per port basis.

Thanks. I did not know the trick about reducing the level of noise when using lower bit rate on the port. In my case, I have basic switches and port configuration is automatic after auto-nego and check of the maximum rate on the other side of the cable. I checked the port status on the second switch and all used ones (NAS, Streamer, first switch) are configured in Gigabit. So, I could buy a slower switch to connect the NAS and the streamer but thing is that the NAS is also used to broadcast video streams to another device (media player) and this set up will limit the throughput.
That’s a big debate and a complex question this network configuration thing…

I am using my MacBook Pro Mid 2010 always with Wifi, no problem.
Tidal MQA and HirRes from a Samba Server(Little cubox-i with arch Linux and samba) are working fine. As upnp player I have Audiophile Linux with installed
upmpdcli (makes the connection to mpd) on a Zbox or a cheap Acer Laptop. I am very happy with this. The router could make problems, meanwhile I have a FritzBox and no more problems.

Just buy a another used MBP from
The last two Macs I bought were used. All my external HD’s are FireWire.