Mac Mini Music Server - A first try

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Hi. After months of testing and research on the net, my first music server is playing. I just want to share my experience.
For a few hundred dollars, I believe and pretty close, if not bang on to a Naim NDX network music server that I listen to in details a few weeks back.

Here my system:
-Mac Mini (latest model of the first generation with integrated CD player)
-M-Audio Firewire Audiophile DAC (used only as Firewire to SPDIF interface, and headphone amplifier, see below)
Price for both, used $250!
-Hard drive external USB 3 Western Digital, 3TB (Music bank, Mac lossless): 150$
-Wireless Logitech keyboard (with pad): 69$
-Screen (used, already in stock), network cable, etc: 0$
-iPad (used as wireless remote), Free 'Remote' software: 0$ (I had it already for others uses)
So, if we exclude the iPad that is not included either in commercial solutions such as the Naim, total cost = 470$!

I'm using my excellent Yamamoto YDA-01B tube DAC with two selectable digital inputs as music source. I compare the music server to my Esoteric DV-50 used as transport, playing the original CD and the ripped lossless file on the Mac, and guest what! Both sources are close to identical at first listening. Only an advanced listening session could reveal differences between both sources (if there is really significant differences). Not bad and certainly excellent for less than 500$ I buy it!

The little DAC M-Audio is used only as SPDIF interface. The Firewire interface is a real high speed, high bandwidth digital interface, not like that crappy USB that always struggle to deliver its promises with endless drivers and receiver chips but not really succeeded in my book. This DAC decode the Firefire and retransmit SPDIF. It also include a very good headphone amplifier. Naturally I'm not using the internal DAC but my vastly superior Yamamoto.

This is an example of an affordable solution that I can only recommend to all of you guys as a first music server. What is great about this little Mac is that I can rip my CD's directly on it, find difficult to get CD covers, and even access other music files on my home network NAS drives.

The Mac OS makes easy to integrate with my iPad and no endless PC, Windows, drivers, etc, problems. I want to listen to music, not work on PC again. I have work for that, thank you... I didn't try advanced functions for now such as high res music files, pure music driver, etc as explained on numerous forums. I prefer simplicity for now. I have more than 2000 CD's, so most of my music is CD quality anyway.

The system works great with the iPad remote and even include volume remote control from the iPad screen! The system can work without screen and wireless keyboard but I prefer the conviviality of the keyboard and screen for the music bank maintenance.

So it is a success!


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