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Mac Mini Music Server (Read 5952 times)
orangecrush
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Mac Mini Music Server
12/22/12 at 01:02:10
 
I am thinking of getting a Mac Mini to replace my SB Touch and thought it would be great to have a dedicated thread for tweaking. I know Will uses one as his source. Any others? What software are you using? Tweaks, impressions?
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KMokc
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #1 - 12/24/12 at 22:17:51
 
I have both a Mac Mini and Macbook Pro setup. Both sound wonderful. I running 8gb of RAM in both and also Pure Music. I listened to both Ammara and Pure Music.

Pure Music sounded better to me. However I would recommend you download both on a trial basis and see which one sounds better in your system.

You will also need a external hard drive and its best to use the firewire to hook it to your Mini. I would also suggust that you run it full resolution and import the files as AIFF.

Good luck.

Kevin Smiley
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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #2 - 01/18/13 at 23:41:18
 
Ok, I scrapped the Mac mini plans. It seems to really get the best out if you need to do some serious and costly power supply upgrades. So I bought a lightly used Bryston BDP-1 Digital Player. An amazing player. I sold my Audiophilleo and PurePower. Anybody looking for an end game digital source that will play 192khz/24-bit files with no clip or pops, I highly reccomened it. My redbook music has never sounded better. Has great weight and authority that I was missing from the modified SBT and Audiophilleo combo.

I now use Aiff in iTunes, and just copy the music files over to the SSD hooked unto the BDP-1 using Finder on the Mac. Very convenient and no streaming content. Basically it is Linux server stripped down to only do audio with really good power supplies and a heavily tweaked Juli@ sound card providing the BNC coax out.

You can control it from the front panel, but I use my iPad and Mpad app. Cover art works perfectly. Could not be happier.
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Donnie
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #3 - 01/19/13 at 02:39:33
 
I've contemplated BDP-1 before. I just couldn't quite figure out how it would fit into my system. And if I did get one would my DAC be inadequate. Ah, the problems with the always moving target of computer based playback.
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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #4 - 01/19/13 at 03:51:00
 
Yeah, their approach is not in sink with the current trend of streaming. My experence with streaming via wifi led to frustration. Think of the BDP-1 as the reliability of a CD player but with the convenience of computer audio. Wifi is only used for controlling the interface. Sound is absolutely stellar. IMO, a new level that few sources can compete with. I think it would sound great with any Dac that has BNC coax. The jitter it puts out is very low. I use an Anedio D2 Dac.
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #5 - 02/02/13 at 11:56:56
 
I am using a current Mac mini as my server. It replaced an iMac, which took over the dedicated server function when I grew frustrated with wifi streaming from my Synology NAS. in my case, the server software is PS Audio's eLyric Music Manager.

I have tried the mini feeding my PerfectWave DAC directly through USB and via the Network Bridge over both wifi and Ethernet. I settled on Ethernet, though wifi was also fine with the mini [as opposed to the older generation iMac]. While USB was okay, it was not as flexible for rack placement purposes as Ethernet. The mini has 16gb of RAM and an internal 1tb drive, almost unused, and an external Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 HD holding 2.2tb of music. All files AIFF.

I also took a look at the Bryston and several other player/servers, including Auraliti, W4S, and Olive. The Stereophile review actually turned me off the Bryston. Interface simplicity is very important to me to ensure my family's enjoyment of my system. I decided to stick with a computer running reasonably decent software—though like all such things, in a constant state of development—using an OS that my family and I all use, and supported by the same company and community that supports my DAC.

The Ethernet streaming solves many of the mini's criticisms, and the Digital Lenses in the PWD MKII and the Network Bridge solve the rest. SQ is extraordinary.
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« Last Edit: 02/02/13 at 12:14:49 by Pale Rider »  

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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #6 - 02/03/13 at 08:06:38
 
Complete simplicity is what brought me to the BDP-1. Not sure how it could be any simpler.  I like the Mpad app much better then Apple remote app. My Mac based iTune library is still available for other parts of the house such as Apple TV and my iPhones syncs my music. The only difference is I use Aiff files on my main Mac iTunes. Then all I do is copy the iTunes music folder to the BDP-1 which shows up in Finder. Seemless. I control it with either Mpad or Mpod on my iPad or IPhone. However, I like the option to control it from the front panel if needed, just like CD player. Most of all, it just works, so reliable, and awesome with hi res music and now I don't worry about additional software/players, computer resources, integer mode, upgrading Mac mini to SSD, upgrading power supplies, and usb cables.

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« Last Edit: 02/03/13 at 08:07:21 by orangecrush »  
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #7 - 02/03/13 at 19:52:52
 
Trust me, I get the simplicity part. I would not choose to use the Mac mini as my front end, though on a headphone setup, it is a piece of cake. I would not choose to use the Apple remote for this purpose. Almost any one of the UPnP server/client setups can achieve the same simplicity. For example, the Linn Kinskey client on my iPad/iPhone works well with my EMM server, but I still prefer the PS Audio EMM remote clients. Very simple, great artwork, etc. And I don't worry about SSDs [though I will likely eventually replace my large hard drives with an SSD array as prices come down], integer mode, power supplies, etc., because—and this is the critical part—the computer is not the player or front end. Yeah, I use an Apple remote to control my AppleTVs, but not for anything else. The software on an iPhone/iPod/iPad is way easier.

In my case, here is my workflow:
    1. Rip CDs using Rip to AIFF; rips SACDs using my PS3 and convert to AIFF AudioGate.
    2. I still use iTunes as my "base container," because all the AppleTVs and computers in the house can access that core library of 17,000+ tracks, so all new music is loaded into iTunes;
    3. I use CarbonCopyCloner to automatically copy tracks to my Synology 411+ NAS [which is accessible to my Oppo and other front ends] and to the Mac mini server;
    4. The mini is headless, and is connected to the network via Ethernet, does not run Bluetooth, so all it does is run the server software; the PWD makes USB issues irrelevant; the EMM library is automatically reloaded on a periodic basis to capture new files;
    5. I also script automatic file/hard drive, etc., maintenance tasks for weekend wee hours so I don't worry about the storage, and of course all files are backed up offsite [in my case, using BackBlaze];
    6. Once I week, I automatically convert new AIFF additions to 256k np3 for copying to the 500gb hard drive in the car.

All the "complexity" if one thinks of it that way, as in your setup, is in the ripping and copying; once done, everything else automatic, and everything else very simple, and the EMM interfaces a pleasure to use. So simple, my daughters and girlfriend are not merely unafraid to use it, but actually enjoy using it. And there is zero obsolescence.
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Lon
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #8 - 02/05/13 at 22:00:02
 
Pale Rider wrote on 02/03/13 at 19:52:52:
In my case, here is my workflow:
    1. Rip CDs using Rip to AIFF; rips SACDs using my PS3 and convert to AIFF AudioGate.
    2. I still use iTunes as my "base container," because all the AppleTVs and computers in the house can access that core library of 17,000+ tracks, so all new music is loaded into iTunes;
    3. I use CarbonCopyCloner to automatically copy tracks to my Synology 411+ NAS [which is accessible to my Oppo and other front ends] and to the Mac mini server;
    4. The mini is headless, and is connected to the network via Ethernet, does not run Bluetooth, so all it does is run the server software; the PWD makes USB issues irrelevant; the EMM library is automatically reloaded on a periodic basis to capture new files;
    5. I also script automatic file/hard drive, etc., maintenance tasks for weekend wee hours so I don't worry about the storage, and of course all files are backed up offsite [in my case, using BackBlaze];
    6. Once I week, I automatically convert new AIFF additions to 256k np3 for copying to the 500gb hard drive in the car.


Wow, I am so glad that I have my discs and my players and don't have to do all this work for "convenience" that I don't seem to value. Smiley

I can see the value of a computer based audio system, but it's not for me.  Tried it out with the help of a friend, glad to not have the hassle.
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« Last Edit: 02/05/13 at 22:00:40 by Lon »  

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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #9 - 02/05/13 at 22:33:47
 
Heh, Lon, you and I will always see this differently, and I say that with a big ol' smile. I do that once for each disc, just once, and then it is available everywhere I want to listen, on demand and every device, and, if I want, without ever having to get up off the couch. Except for beer and potty break. Wink

To me, it's like choosing to scan and shred all incoming mail that requires interaction or archival storage. if I do it regularly and stay current, then it is simple to keep up, and sometimes takes as little as 30 seconds. Most of the tasks I describe above are actually automatic/scheduled for a machine to do. Once I have ripped the disc, and embedded the artwork, I am done. Because ripping is done by the computer, I can get other stuff done at the same time. There is very little effort on my part.
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Lon
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #10 - 02/05/13 at 22:41:03
 
Greg, I totally understand and know that this is 'the sign o' the times" and the vogue and the new standard soon enough.

For me, I love the search in my collection for what to listen to, the walking from room to room where I have discs (!!!!!!), the perusal of covers and back covers and notes, even the smell and feel of the vinyl discs and covers. I don't listen to music in any other devices at all, I have a dumb phone, have given up on iPods, don't have a car and listen on the go as I won't on my motorcycle, don't listen to music on a laptop or desktop computer because those are right near my system, don't have a job and a workplace to listen within, etc. So for me it's "much ado about" well not nothing, but not much.

And I had a digital engineer friend who stayed with me a while set up a computer system to try out, and listened a lot to his computer based system, and it didn't offer me any sonic advantages and the convenience just wasn't an issue or a plus for me.

So I've got great gear in an old-fashioned way and am happy! I think you too have a great set up and I'm glad you're enjoying it so, and I was just funning about the "labor" involved, I know that if you keep up it's nothing. (but in the case of me with over a dozen thousand discs the work to set up would be just not worth it to me!)
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« Last Edit: 02/05/13 at 23:57:42 by Lon »  

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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #11 - 02/06/13 at 04:55:44
 
We're both happy; that's the part I like!
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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #12 - 02/06/13 at 05:06:34
 
Great info Pale Rider. That's what I love about this hobby, so many ways to get the best out of the music. In the end what you are doing is very similar to what the BDP-1 is doing. Do you listen to much Hi Res?
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #13 - 02/06/13 at 14:59:03
 
I think that's right OC. What I am doing is a bit of what the BDP further simplifies. I am preserving my options in exchange for a bit of inconvenience, but as I mentioned with Lon, only a 1-step. And yes, I play a lot of hi-res. I am a huge fan of iTrax and AIX recordings, a moderate fan of HDTracks, and I extract a lot of hi-res of my own from SACDs, and DVD-A discs.
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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #14 - 02/09/13 at 03:08:26
 
Here is a good review of what the BDP-1 is capable of:

Hi James,

It was nice speaking to you on the phone this morning.  Thanks again for helping me setup MPAD.  I received my
Bryston BDP-2 yesterday and I'm absolutely amazed at the sound quality.  Through the BDP-2, digital music in my system
has never sounded so good.  The organic nature of the music is so enjoyable.  For reference, my system includes
a PS Audio PWD MKII and PWT, Ray Samuels A-10 Thunderbolt fully balanced vacuum tube 2 chassis electrostatic headphone
amp/preamp, McIntosh MC452 quad balance power amp, Harbeth M40.1 speakers, and a Linn LP12 turntable with
Radikal PS, Ekos SE arm, and Akiva MC cartridge.  

What really surprises me is that I find the BDP-2 playing 16/44.1 FLAC files preferrable to my PS Audio PWT spinning CDs
connected to the same PS Audio PWD MKII via an I2S cable.  Previously, I played those same FLAC files either through a
laptop PC connected to the same DAC via a Halide Bridge USB/SPDIF converter or through a SONOS system feeding the
coax digital input of the PWD MKII.  The BDP-2 plays at a completely higher level than any digital system that I've heard in my
home.  I'm using a 2TB Western Digital self powered USB HDD connected to the BDP-2 and an AES/EBU 110 ohm Blue Jean
cable to connect to the PWD MKII.  

What improvements am I hearing?  Images seem more real and are clearly defined in space.  There appears to be more space
between the images and the soundstage extends wider and deeper.  Piano, horns etc.; all sound more natural than ever before.
The noise level seems non-existant.  Noise never seemed to be a problem before but with the BDP-2 in the system the noise
floor seems to have dropped even lower.  I'm very happy that I can play my nearly 19,000 FLAC files at a level that exceeded
my expectations.  Thanks Bryston.

Regards,
Steve M. from Canton, MI
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #15 - 02/09/13 at 16:07:25
 
OC:

Interesting, but I have to admit—the excellent quality of that writer's equipment notwithstanding—the following excerpt strikes me as dubious:
Quote:
What really surprises me is that I find the BDP-2 playing 16/44.1 FLAC files preferrable to my PS Audio PWT spinning CDs connected to the same PS Audio PWD MKII via an I2S cable. Previously, I played those same FLAC files either through a laptop PC connected to the same DAC via a Halide Bridge USB/SPDIF converter or through a SONOS system feeding the coax digital input of the PWD MKII.

I will never, ever say someone doesn't hear what they hear, but I also know that we often hear what we want to, and what our wallet feels pained to prove. But leaving psychoacoustics aside, there are some oddities here. And I want to be clear that I have not listened to the Bryston. No offense to anyone, but  I have used the Halide Bridge to link a computer USB to a DAC, and it is just not in the same league as the PWD, let alone the PWT/PWD combo connected via I2S. Second, what the writer appears to be describing is using the Bryston BDP-2 with the PWD, because the BDP-2 is DAC-less; it requires some form of external DAC or DAC integrated into another piece of Bryston equipment. In that sense, the BDP-2 is simply a player, a computer if you will [Bryston even describes the Intel Atom motherboard and Linux OS they deploy], stripped of all non-player functionality to make it as pure as possible. Computer Audiophile has a lot of discussion about such devices, even a series on how to build one, and as one might imagine is an enthusiastic proponent of doing these well. So am I. In reality, the PWT is itself just a combo file extractor and digital file player. It does not play discs; it extracts digital information from discs, checking each bit of data for integrity, and then employs the digital lens to create a clock-free stream of data.

The Bryston does what the Auraliti and a bunch of other players do—it plays files, using a device stripped to its essence to be as good and clean a file player as possible. Leaving aside its user interface options, which I like better than some other players, it has no specific technology to present or counterpoint the advantages for which the PWT/PWD combo has been engineered. Now, maybe the way PS Audio has solved the digital extraction and playback challenges is simply not as good as ripped files on a USB stick without benefit of a bit-perfect, clock less data stream. Maybe, but I am doubtful.

So, the writer is convinced that his BDP-2, connected to his PWD via SPDIF/BNC [not I2S] , is superior to his PWT connected via I2S to his PWD. Um, there seems little reason to believe this would be the case. But maybe so. Bryston has an excellent reputation, and I like and have enjoyed several of their products. But I think one should ask what it would be about the BDP-2, no matter how good, or even perfect it might be, that should cause it to be so aurally superior, especially as compared to the writer's other very excellent equipment.

I want to be clear that I am not saying the Bryston does not sound better as the author describes. It might. But I am saying there is no obvious reason why it should, or how it could, and so we should ask why and how.
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« Last Edit: 02/09/13 at 18:40:12 by Pale Rider »  

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Lon
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #16 - 02/09/13 at 17:25:48
 
That sentence surprised me. One other thing to factor in is cabling. I find that the HDMI connection between PWT and PWD is very influenced by the cable, which really surprised me, I tried four different HDMI cables and could easily hear differences between all four.
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #17 - 02/09/13 at 18:37:17
 
Lon, that makes sense. I don't have the combo, but I have heard it, and I have no doubt the cabling can make a difference. What cable did you settle on, and which did you return to the hellhole whence they came?
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« Last Edit: 02/09/13 at 18:40:57 by Pale Rider »  

Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #18 - 02/09/13 at 19:10:44
 
I ended up with the cable that I bought with the PWT and PWD combo, the silver PS Audio HDMI. I tried the silver-plated copper PS Audio version, an Acoustic Research HDMI cable and a Purist Audio HDMI cable, all those are okay but the sliver PS Audio is the winner.
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #19 - 02/10/13 at 03:13:58
 
I think the superiority of what this reviewer is hearing is what has become the consensus of all the pro reviews (there are so many) and all the consumer reviews: The noise floor on the BDP-1/2 is the lowest anyone has ever heard from a source. It is really is that striking. This review is a good start:

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/bryston-bdp-1-digital-player-tas-215/

My favourite line from TBS is once you have heard music through it, there is no going back and also: "The Bryston BDP-1 doesn’t merely “sound better”; the experience of hearing music through it is qualitatively different. It plays music with unprecedented purity, a lack of artifice or artifact that is manifestly, incontrovertibly closer to the real thing... The BDP1 offers a level of detail, clarity, focus, dynamics, and resolution that is nothing short of revelatory."

I am not a big believer in glossy magazine reviews, but in this case, they are all dead on. This is a really special player.
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« Last Edit: 02/10/13 at 16:07:01 by orangecrush »  
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #20 - 02/10/13 at 16:41:43
 
OC, I saw that review, and I think it probably quite correctly describes what makes the BDP-1 successful: it is a computer optimized for digital file playback. And just 13 months later, that same publication would say this about the PWT/PWD MKII combo:
Quote:
Let me begin with the bottom line: The PS Audio PerfectWave DAC II and PerfectWave Memory Player have evolved into a cutting-edge digital front end. They have competition, but competition that rivals them in quality is substantially more expensive or lacking in the same features. The DAC II has an outstanding ability to play back the highest sampling-rate material and get the best out of the older CDs that contain almost all of the world’s best performances. Most strikingly, the DAC II joins a handful of more expensive units in reducing traces of hardness in digital sound to the point where even the most demanding acoustic instruments like the violin, flute, and piano sound as musical as the recording permits.

Glossies are not a dime a dozen. I think the Bryston review is extremely complimentary, no doubt well-earned, and as I have said, I am sure the player sounds great (though I confess I could not locate the "consensus of all the pro reviews" you described—really? that would be truly unprecedented in digital-audiophiledom). All I pointed out was that there were few, if any, objective reasons to believe the Bryston was orders of magnitude better than another product built to similarly exacting, if not moreso, standards.

I am not interested in a war of the glossies. The TAS review of the PWT/PWD combo (by Cordesman, with whom I have more familiarity than Schuster) was over a year later, and it was so effusive, that one might think he needed to excuse himself after writing it.

For each of us here, what matters is that we are able to listen, choose what we like, and act on it. If you truly believe that either the BDP-1 or BDP-2 actually outperforms the PWD MKII, then that's cool, because this being a consumer's market, you can choose the one you like.

My guess is that for my old set of ears, that even if i spent enough time in a proper demo room, with comparative systems correctly set up to factor out any other possible difference, I would likely be hard pressed to discern the differences between these quality products. Maybe I could; I have actually surprised myself when I could actually tell the differences between cables and other items....and so could people in my family.

But I also know what happens when I listen to something new, and it blows me away, in part because I was fully engaged, listening, in a primed setting. I recently ordered a pair of HR-1 speakers to replace one of my pairs of ERRs. Before doing so, I had listened to Teresonic Ingenium speakers (gorgeous and detailed, like that Photo A/B metaphor Schuster used—inaccurately in my view; some of the most impactful photographs of all time lacked detail, focus, or color). I was indeed blown away. And I was prepared to drop 14k on a pair. But discretion got the better of me, and I spent some time in conversation with Bob, re-read some of the effusiveness around the HR-1s, and decided instead to order them sound unheard. I of course had the benefit of my own experience with the ERRs, I know what Bob and Steve voice for, etc. And so, when I returned to a critical listen of my own ERRs, this time Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions Revisited and the hi-res Piano in a Church (yeah, I was on a church kick), and I could hear the sounds of a church alive in music, I knew if I could have a more precise, detailed, accurate version of that voice, I would be very happy.So I ordered the HR-1s.

As I listened, and adjusted the placement of my speakers, I also remembered that correct speaker placement likely had far more impact than any difference between pieces of Bryston and PS Audio equipment—if any. None of which is to say I don't think you should buy the one that you think or hear is better. You should! I just doubt that the Bryston is, or that it is in such a way that I should spend hours in listening rooms, or $ in my own living room, swapping equipment in and out, hours I can never get back. But the $? Those I can spend on live music. Week after next, I will be 1/3 back in the 2000-seat Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton watching and listening to B.B. King. No Bryston or PS Audio or even Decware can compare to that. Not quite the Checkerboard Lounge, but live nonetheless.
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Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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orangecrush
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Posts: 194
Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #21 - 02/11/13 at 01:34:26
 
I think we are on differnet pages here. Let me clarify:

First, I firmly agree with the user review that I posted that a good music server/player (not just the Bryston) can trump a good CD transport into the same DAC. For me, the Bryston was a revelation.

Second, for me, a Mac Mini would require allot of work to get the same results as I have now. The Bryston was a welcome addition, hence the reason for my post.

Third, I am not saying that Bryston "is the best". There is "no best" of anything in this hobby. However, for me the Bryston is a fabulous choice for anybody that wants a reference grade, minimalistic, no compromise, reliable, easy to use music player that will play high-res files without any problems. Can other set-ups accomplish the same thing in other ways? Of course. That is where user preferences and system synergy come into play.

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« Last Edit: 02/11/13 at 01:39:14 by orangecrush »  
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Pale Rider
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Posts: 1272
Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #22 - 02/11/13 at 03:19:23
 
OC, makes perfect sense. Thanks for the clarification. I couldn't agree more that moving up to a properly dedicated file server or player is a definitive improvement from a typical computer playback setup. I wouldn't dream (at least, not any more) of using my Mac mini for anything other than a dumb server, much like my NAS, except that in the case of my current setup, it is dedicated solely to serving up files to the PWD. My guess is that it would be nearly impossible to get a mini, stock or otherwise, to be competitive with your Bryston. Cheers!
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Decware: Ultra | Torii MKIII [2] | SE84ZS | Taboo MkIII Sources: Synology 1812+ | Baetis Revolution | PWD DAC MKII | Lumin Network Player | Mytek 192 | Oppo 105 DSP: DEQX Mate | Emotiva Outputs: ERR [6] + Servo Subs | LCD-2 & other cans
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