Mac Mini setup advice (seeking)

Hello -
I’m working out the details of my late 2012 Mac Mini set up and looking for input from the group here.
Late Mac Mini - 16GB ram, 1TB hybrid drive - Dedicated as a music server for my 2.0 (stereo) system. I’ll be running it headless and using the internal drive for music storage only (I have a huge lossless library)
Output: Thinking of using USB rather than optical - Thoughts? I’ve read a lot of negatives about optical.
My integrated receiver is an Onkyo tx-rz810 - it has both optical and coaxial digital inputs - this Onkyo has a very nice sounding DAC on board (Asahi Kasei 384khz / 32bit)
Here’s where I’m looking for input:
Two possible connections from the Mini to the receiver

  1. USB plugged into the M2 Tech HiFace Two and take advantage of it’s “LOW JITTER, LOW PHASE NOISE, HIGH STABILITY OSCILLATORS” - This would then utilize the Oakyo’s onboard DAC.
  2. USB into a Topping D-10 Dac (that does all processing) and then into the Onkyo by either of the Topping’s outputs: Line out (analogue) or S/PDIF (the Topping is a great sounding DAC as well - (ES9018K2M SABRE 32bit, etc)

I’m assuming it’s a long shot that anyone would have direct experience with my exact options but I am looking for feedback and opinions.

Thanks in advance :smile:

I don’t have any of the mentioned gear but I guess your configuration would depend on your priorities (sound quality vs. price) and the equipement you already have.
From cheapest to most expensive:

  1. Connect Mac to Onkyo directly via toslink + adapter (a few bucks)
  2. M2 Tech
  3. Topping D10

For sound quality it will be probably the opposite.
I expect the you will get the best sound using the Topping D10 (either as USB to Optical or analog will depend on your taste. Both DACs are great I think.
The direct toslink should be the weakest solution since it can only handle 44K.

If you don’t have any of these components yet, another cheap solution is a Raspberry PI + HifiBerry Digi+ Pro as transport between your Mac and the Onkyo with the choice of USB, ethernet or even wifi connection. I had one of these with a Denon receiver and the sound was great!

Plenty of choices and as usual, your wallet will be the limit… :slight_smile:

I have a similar setup to yours, except that I have an internal 512GB SSD and an outboard 16TB Thunderbolt RAID 5 array. My music collection is nearing 3TB, but the RAID array is admittedly overkill. I use a USB connection to an Oppo BDP-105, connected to a pair of Halo A21 amps powering a 4.1 surround sound setup (no center channel). Just keep in mind that the lack of a connected monitor automatically disables the GPU, which may or may not be a problem. Because my TV is part of my overall setup, I’ve connected a separate HDMI cable to the Mini - mine still has one, but USB C to HDMI cables work quite well - and I turn the TV on when starting the Mac up. Otherwise, the TV can be either on or off. The Onkyo has a respectable DAC and I’m not sure the Topping’s Sabre will result in much improvement. It’s too bad the current Mini’s lack a Toslink output - mine’s old enough to still have one and it’s capable of 96k/24 bit output. Frankly, it’s doubtful you’ll ever be able to differentiate between 96k and higher sampling rates, in spite of all the hype. USB to Toslink adapaters are hard to find and of questionable accuracy. Some USB and Thurderbolt docks have a Toslink output, but they tend to be expensive. A cheaper option might be an HDMI audio stripper - just be sure to get one that has a Toslink output and not analog. If you already have the Topping, it might be the better way to go.

I have a Mac Mini running Audirvana Plus with USB output going in to a DAC (in my case a Chord Mojo) and then the analogue output from that in to the line level inputs on my amp.
For me this sounds great & using a USB DAC will probably be your best best (I picked Mojo up on eBay for a good price & it sounds wonderful) as you can get a model that decodes the highest quality digital file you have.
(I’m using an external FireWire drive to hold my music & haven’t really had any issues with that, so an SSD will be great)

I’ve used all three methods with a 2009 Mac Mini. It is currently running El Capitan. All three work - I’d recommend a glass mini toslink --> toslink cable if you go that direction. It worked flawlessly, and really didn’t sound poor. You may be limited to 24/96 with this method though.

I spent a few years with a HiFace Two - it worked as well but would drop out on occasion and need to be re-inserted.

Lastly, I tried a Topping D10, which I purchased to have as a spare DAC. It worked fine as a DAC but I liked the result with it best when oversampling PCM to 352.4 or 384 respectively using Audirvana. You also get some DSD capability if that is of interest. It was also good as a usb converter, and I would probably use it instead of the HiFace if I needed to go that route again.

In my case the D10 was actually a cheaper option than the HiFace, both had been bought new.

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Don’t have experience with the D10 but i am using a D30, very pleased with it .
Personally i didn’t like the look of the D10, and don’t need the display.
As it is incorporated in my whole AV setup i’m using
Toslink from tv (box) to dac
Coaxial from blu-ray player to dac
Usb from mac mini (late 2012) to dac
Analogue outs to (stereo) amp
My library is not that big (about 650 cd’s - ripped)
and use the 500 Gb SATA, system is running on a 256 Gb SSD .
Bought the mac mini second hand with 16Gb RAM, but it turned out (after some crashes) that one of the plastic RAM holders was broken .
So now i’m running it with 8Gb RAM and works just fine (streaming a lot on Qobuz these days).
I run the mac mini headless, controlled by my (2013) Ipad and use the Remotix app.
No problems at all and runs very smooth.
Kind regards

Which is the better sonically (including quieter) if I can choose a dedicated device?

  1. Windows (Intel NUC) or
  2. Mac Mini

Either would be same configuration/sizing (thinking about an i3 or i5, 8GB RAM, 256SSD) connected to my Bryston BDA3 DAC via USB (Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7) to get native DSD and highest resolution PCM. I have a NAS device with about 1TB used for to hold my music and listen to Tidal, but may switch to Qobuz.

Thanks in advance for your recommendation!

MacMini, not because it “sounds better”. It’s more robust solution and requires less fidlling. Especially if you use it as a dedicated solution for audio playback.

Thanks bitracer. What does more robust mean? It’s a single purpose device.
@Antoine, any recommendations on hardware? I’m leaning towards Mac given history of Audirvana vs Windows, but am more concerned about sonic performance with my equipment (and direct DSD / high resolution PCM capability).

Hello @Idrachman, I can’t give you recommendation about hardware because Audirvana is the same software for both architecture. In fact the only thing you have to keep in is that we recommend to have 8 Go of RAM in your computer. Depending of your habits/feeling about MacOS or Windows, all i can say it’s depend only of you.

Thanks Damien. So, based on this the ability to manage the environment (the hardware, OS and associated processes running on the box) is the same in reducing noise and providing optimal performance and capability?

A computer with 12Vdc power input connector could be the best choice. Make shure that the connected 12Vdc powersupply can deliver easely the current (Amps) needed. Preferable is a non switched and regulated power unit (BOTW or KECS) or a high quality switched version like a iFi 12Vdc-3.5Amp (very low noise)
Both are even upgradeable with a ifi DC purifier 2.
This unit will pull down the noiselevel by ca 40x
Succes, mollie

@mollie That sounds like solid advice, given the MAC/Windows decision is neturalized with Damien’s feedback. I also have a USB REGEN by Uptone (with upgraded power supply) that made quite a difference in lowering the noise floor. Thanks!

As an Uptone Audio customer you are aware of their Mac mini kit that removes the switched power supply in order to connect the Mac to an external linear PS.
This kit will make a big difference , I am not aware of such a kit in the Windows world …

You’ll get better result by investing the money in a better DAC with clean PS then in a clean PS for the Mac.

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ok guys @AlainJ and @bitracer, Seems like we have two perspectives, and I’m going to throw in a 3rd. Buying a PC (not a NUC) that has PCIexpress expansion slot(s) and buying this (see below) with a linear PS may offer me the best performance, coupled to my existing path to the DAC through the Uptone Regen. I also have all of my audio gear plugged into a power regen unit - Panamax for clean power, which has dedicated digital vs analog outlets. I’m sure there are others that are better/different, but this works for now.

Yes, that could be a solution. A nice mini-ITX board and just enough powerful CPU, no Wi-Fi on-board, Intel based Ethernet controller.

Could be an overkill for Topping DAC though. Ehh, what a hell, overkill is good in audio.

@Antoine admit you prefer Macs. :wink: Audirvana was born on a Mac after all.

Hum, no comment about that :sweat_smile:


one other question. Does Audirvana play well with Audiophile Optimizer on Windows? If so, this maybe a better approach coupled to the self powered USB, etc…