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JPete9

Optimising my MacMini system?

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Posted (edited)

I have Vinyl -> LesBoxed M22b or MacMini -> Topping D50. Both go to my weston topaz.

 

I have been lazily listening to digital for a long time, but now i am holidays i dusted off some records and it's better than my hires stuff (i have a bit of DSD and FLAC etc).

 

I need to lift my digital game, but i am very keen to keep the MacMini as it's super flexible and i already have it. I was going to add a Klein 3 or similar - what else is considered essential kit in this scenario? eg USB regen, fancy USB cables?

 

I have love the flexibility of Spotify Premium - but i would switch to Audirvarna and Tidal - when i get a new DAC i will test this out.

Edited by JPete9

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If records sound better than digital you do need to improve your digital playback. 

 

Records in very good condition should sound excellent, but not better than digital, unless you prefer the Analog sound effects. And it's ok if you do.

 

If your digital is sounding digital you do need to improve that!

 

I personally prefer multibit or R2R DACs. They tend to not sound digital. Actually they sound way better than records. Same smoothness and details, just without the annoying accompanying noises. 

 

The AKM velvet sound DACs are good but still sound digital to me. 

 

Perhaps check out Schiit DACs. (They do multibit)

Or any other multibit DAC.

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12 minutes ago, eltech said:

If records sound better than digital you do need to improve your digital playback.

Sacrilege!

 

I do find it a little odd that when you compare the two formats you dislike certain dac's as they "sound too digital"? The writings on the wall.

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I was really trying to illustrate that listening to something i haven't used in a while, the vinyl system, highlights that my digital system has some deficiencies and i want to fix them.

 

First with a new DAC. But what else...cables, usb regen, software? Whats optimal in the mac mini scenario?

 

Thanks i will look into those DAC ideas.

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1 hour ago, kelossus said:

The writings on the wall.

What does this comment mean in the context of your reply?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, kelossus said:

Sacrilege!

 

I do find it a little odd that when you compare the two formats you dislike certain dac's as they "sound too digital"? The writings on the wall.

Well do you dislike certain phono cartridges? Or turntables? Is a Crossley turntable adorning your listening room?

 

Is my point made?

 

Yes, there is a difference in sound between DAC typologies. Some sound better than others. Clearly it is not so strange.

Edited by eltech

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Posted (edited)
47 minutes ago, JPete9 said:

First with a new DAC. But what else...cables, usb regen, software? Whats optimal in the mac mini scenario?

 

Thanks i will look into those DAC ideas.

 

A Mac mini is a PC like any other. The same rules apply.

 

If the DAC you get or use has a good USB input and you like the sound, the job is done. 

 

If not, then you'd investigate a good USB to spdif interface. 

 

Software tweaks may gain some improvements. USB cables make a little but not much difference, hardly worth worrying about.

 

USB regen things are a bottleneck. They are there to fix problems with USB circuits. It's better to get a DAC with good USB circuit, or a good USB spdif converter. 

 

But most importantly get a good DAC which actually plays good music that doesn't fatigue you and brings you great enjoyment long term.

Edited by eltech

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, eltech said:

 

Oops double post

 

Edited by eltech
Oops

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8 hours ago, eltech said:

 

But most importantly get a good DAC which actually plays good music that doesn't fatigue you and brings you great enjoyment long term.

IF some one could name that exact model for me and my system tastes and room i would be very grateful :)

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1 hour ago, JPete9 said:

IF some one could name that exact model for me and my system tastes and room i would be very grateful :)

Check this forum has dac advice topic     Lot of good dac were discussed. 

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2 hours ago, JPete9 said:

IF some one could name that exact model for me and my system tastes and room i would be very grateful :)

Ok, how about a Gielser Klein III or Fein II depending on budget. If your budget can stretch further why not give a Directstream or Denafrips Terminator some consideration.

 

If you use a Mac Mini with a well designed DAC I don't think a USB regen is  necessary.

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You have many many options. 

 

You don't mention which model Mac Mini you have?

 

Anyway

There are many improvements you can make to a mac mini, e.g.: Uptone power mod, using a ssd, booting from a ram disk, etc. 

Software: I use Audirvana and Foobar (there are many others)

Streaming: I prefer Tidal (don't have access to Qobuz). For general listening I use Spotify.

(My dac only has spdif input and I did find the more I spent on usb/spdif converters the better it was.)

 

I have no idea re Topping dac's. Many members here reckon it is very good value.  I am not an expert, but IME / IMO you need to get a dac that has a RRP of more than $1,000 (Gieseler products are an exception - very good value for money.)

 

Once you have the computer and dac sorted out you can start worrying about cables and other add-ons, as the law of diminishing returns kick in.

 

Unfortunately there are not really right and wrong answers, it is more like trial and error. I would suggest listening to dacs before you buy if you could. Alternatively buy a product that has good reviews in the used market. That way if you don't like it you can sell it at not much of a loss.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 04/01/2020 at 9:48 AM, JPete9 said:

IF some one could name that exact model for me and my system tastes and room i would be very grateful :)

Definitely try out any multibit DAC which is above entry grade. Perhaps a vintage parasound with Burr Brown chips or any of those USA brands which are now defunct. Or... Schiit, or denafrips. Having said that, you may find an entry grade TDA1543 perfectly enjoyable... The TDA1387 is also pretty good, but not quite in Burr Brown territory.

 

 

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F132118486441

 

 

AU $210.99 | Finished L1387DAC 8Xse Eight Parallel TDA1387 HiFi DAC Decoder PCM2706 USB Fiber Coaxial OTG
https://a.aliexpress.com/EnqvCdGM

 

 

AU $113.50 | New AD1852 Audio DAC Decoder PCM2706 USB Fiber Coaxial HiFi Decoder Finished
https://a.aliexpress.com/BhLIdIus

 

 

There's plenty of mutibit options at affordable prices to try.

Edited by eltech

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I was about to just buy the Kelin 3 but this multibit vs DS DAC convo is going to take some reading. :)

 

For now i bought the linear power supply for the Topping dac and i will spend some more time listening for the differences between my phono and DAC setups so i know what to look for next.

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Read up on the Denafrips Ares II. That's as much as you need to spend on a DAC.

The Topping D50 is not a terribly flattering implementation of Sabre's ES9038PRO chipset.

 

A MacMini (or equivalent PC) will not do any decent DAC justice. A bespoke server / streamer doesn't cost much these days, particularly if you do your research.

 

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The Mini is there because i have it and i like apple Music/Spotify...although Spotify is noticeably not at as good.

 

I have a bunch of DSD and Flac files...but buying fancy player software just for that is annoying so i use Vox...but Apple Music is easier. I am running a tidal trial at the moment. I dont think its worth the extra coin for me (esp since i dont listen to modern rap).

 

I guess a streamer or hifiberry might be nice...but is it worth spending more coin on?

 

I'll try the Klein for now and look for an opportunity to compare that with a multibit at some stage...i dont have any loaner opportunities here, so i have to buy and sell and i desperately want to keep this simple and fewest components as possible.

 

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For the money the Mac Mini is great. You can buy an old 2011/2012 server edition for around $250-$300. Put Linux on it and your set.

 

Would have to spend a lot more to better it IMO. They are also ultra quiet through the USB.

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I think, as others have said, that the key might be to upgrade the dac. Preferably to a Klein (the later models will do dsd and once you set that up you will be amazed).

 

I had thoughts of upgrading my digital set up, ironically to a mac mini type arrangement, short of going the dedicated server route. I thought my PC wasn't cutting it for dsd files due to its fairly basic processor, although it was fine for all other hi-res files. However, once I ticked the magic box on JRiver settings, I now do up to dsd128 seamlessly over usb to the Klein Grob dac. 

 

Short way of saying that with a better dac you shouldn't need to do much else to get a significant uplift. Of course, ample scope for upgrading and tweaking in the future. 

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Thanks, i have Klein on the way. I am pretty excited! 

 

New speaker cables today, amp repaired today and added the Topping Linear PSU...combined its sounding a-mazing. So i am well placed to listen to the Klein and my test tracks are pretty fresh in my ear (waaaay too much testing lately).

 

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..

Edited by JPete9

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Today I started trial Audirvana on Mac mini. It sounds good, can connect tidal, has a remote app for iPhone/iPad (need to pay extra). I think it’s a good option for Mac mini.  

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