Mac Mini Replacement

Actually, I think that’s incorrect. The usb is not available for playback on a ST.

I’m still using MacMini (2011) 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5, 16GB Ram, 120GB SSD and a 2 TB firewire drive.

Roon Core, Plex, and a SFTP server running 24/7

Runs perfect and would be a waste of cash for me to upgrade.

Really? That’s weird, cause I’m listening to an album right now that is being streamed from my ST directly to my DAC via USB and Roon! :grin:

All you have to do is in the ST setting for Roon Core is to enable it for local playback. Then just connect a USB port on the ST (I used a 2.0 port on the front of my i5 ST) directly to your DAC. As the ST is a Linux device, no drivers for your DAC are necessary.

I have a 2012 Mac mini i7 Quad core 2.6Ghz w/ 16GB of Ram. 1 1TB SSD for Roon and another 1TB HDD installed under the SSD for Time Machine. I think it works great and the SSD is smoking fast!! I am new to Roon (less than 60 days) but I using my iPad for a remote, I’m blown away how quick songs change literally as quick as my fingers can move!

I just got a new DAC and going down another rabbit hole chasing USB converter boxes so I can feed my Yggy with a AES signal I’m told will out perform the USB input…But what the hell do I know😳

I’d swear Andrew has said many times that the usb is for a drive only. Out of curiosity, where is your music stored? NAS or attached usb drive?

NAS. I didn’t try the USB 3.0 ports, maybe those are what Andrew is referring to when he said drive input only?

Hi Andrew,
I live in LA but was a longtime resident of Phoenix for 20 years before that. I’m still a client of Glen’s and bought my Nagra DAC from him last December. Here’s a basic question: how does the sonicTransporter interface with the Roon software that you use to control the app from a computer or iOS device? With the Mac Mini the computer that acts as the Core/Server must be on the local network. Is it the same with the sonicTransporter?

[quote=“Peter_Blandino, post:27, topic:23218”]
live in LA but was a longtime resident of Phoenix for 20 years before that. I’m still a client of Glen’s and bought my Nagra DAC from him last December. [/quote]

Awesome DAC and glad to hear you bought it from Glen… he’s good people!

The Sonic Transporter is a computer and is fundamentally no different than your Mac mini. There are a few different versions of the ST, but ultimately it’s an Intel CPU running a customized version of Linux. The built-in web interface is nice for management, but at its core it’s still just a computer built from commodity hardware. The major difference that you would notice is that all of your interaction with Roon would be via a remote (Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android) as there’s no local Roon user interface on the ST.

Through my own experimentation I’ve found that getting the best performance out of Roon requires separating the core functionality from playback. This allows for the noisy / CPU-intensive processing of the core to be completely decoupled from the audio system. There are a number of ways to accomplish this but they all involve putting a low-powered device next to the DAC and feeding it via USB, AES/EBU, or SPDIF. The Micro Rendu is a popular option but I’ve been having great success with the Intel Thin Canyon NUC (1GHz single core ATOM CPU) running a custom Linux distribution that I’ve developed. Performance is easily as good, but at a fraction of the cost.

Another option is a purpose-built streamer that’s optimized for audio. The dCS Network Bridge is an excellent option here as it can be setup to feed your DAC via AES and it’s truly optimized for audio playback. This is a step above most of the streamers out there as rather than being a commodity CPU it’s a fully custom implementation running on an FPGA. Everything in the box is optimized for getting audio data off the network and delivering it to a DAC unmolested. I’ve been pairing these with the Vivaldi DAC lately and its performance is definitely commensurate with the capabilities of the Vivaldi. The Vivaldi upsampler still betters it, but that’s at more than 5X the cost.

Andrew, first of all thanks so much for such a comprehensive answer! I’m amazed at the incredible feedback I’ve received on this forum from you and so many others; what a great community this is! What started for me as a concern about the age of my Mac Mini has developed into a fascinating discussion of alternate playback options as well as improved configurations for the Mac Mini itself.

A question about the NUC you mentioned: does this configuration eliminate the need for the sonicTransporter or does this device replace just the low powered device you mentioned? In other words is the NUC option with the Linux operating system you developed a stand alone option that stands as an alternative to the ST and Micro Rendu? Thanks again!

Nope, this is just an endpoint and would offer analogous functionality to the Micro Rendu. Network in and USB out.

You’ll still need a device on your network to act as the core, but the Mac Mini you currently have is more than up to the task. One benefit to the distributed configuration model (core feeding endpoints) is that you can locate the core anywhere in your home as long as it has a connection to the network. I have mine in a closet that has all of the networking gear, a few servers, and the equipment for our distributed audio system.

In that case the core in the closet would stream to the NUC, right? Since a physical connection in this configuration would be impossible.

That’s correct. The core processes and packages the data then streams it to the endpoint. It’s an ideal configuration for a number of reasons (not the least of which is noise isolation).

Hi Peter. I’ve also got a Mac mini 2012 but I got the best spec one I could at the time. It’s i7 with 16gigs of ram and it has a fusion drive so that the Roon core runs from the SSD. I’ve also recently bought a Sonore microrendu and a Mutec M3 USB. This has transformed the sound to a different level and I think you’d be hard pressed to improve upon this for the money I spent. One thing about the microrendu though is it needs a decent power supply. The ifI it comes with is not up to the job. I got my replacement PS from MCRU who gets them made to order from Longdog audio. I upgraded the cables to silver too. I know it sounds like a lot of work but you’d have to spend silly money to better this setup.

Sonic Transporter - seems overpriced. I don’t know what motherboard/chip combination is used in the base sonic transporter (web site doesn’t say), probably a Haswell i3 in a m-Itx motherboard. for that hardware $375 isn’t too bad, but the i5 version is overpriced. As for the 1U Roon appliance for $2600, I built essentially the same device for $1200. I suppose it’s like working on your car. If you know what you’re doing it’s always cheaper than hiring a mechanic.


I have a Mac mini 2012 i7 2.6 GHz Quad core with 1TB SSD and another 1TB HDD for time machine. I am total noob to Roon, less than 60 days. My setup seems to work great with my new Yggy DAC…(although may look into a USB converter like the Mutec)

My question is, do you use the AES out of the Mutec into your DAC, (I know the Mutec can be powered by a LPS or Battery), so why they need for the Microrendu?? It seems that another source for Circuit noise because you need yet another PS?

So many questions…:astonished:

No need to replace the mini IMO. I have the same unit and have just maxed the ram and replaced the HD with a SSD. The specs are still great for a music sever. FYI, I also use a SonicOrbiter/Regen/HQP (dsd128) and it sounds great to my ears.

Hi Larry

The microrendu takes over the whole job of dealing with the digital signal from the Mac mini by USB so the noise associated with USB audio is bypassed. Believe me, I’m a sceptic and only intended to try out both the Sonore and the Mutec, as I didn’t believe they would make that much difference: they did, so they stayed.
I use SPDIF coax out from the Mutec into my amp’s Dac stage as the HEGEL 160 amp doesn’t have AES digital inputs. I know it would sound even better if I could, but hey, the amp’s the next upgrade! The noise level now is way below what it was and the sound is on a different level than before I tried both these components. Try it and see what it does for you.

Hey Alex,

Thanks for the speedy reply! How do you power your Mutec? I think its 5 Volts DC…just curious if you used the stock PS or added a different one…Listening to my Headphones, I currently hear ZERO hiss. nada!

The beauty of digital IMO, is no hearing the damned stylus drag on the vinyl, I don’t care how expensive your vinyl rig is you cannot avoid that…:relaxed:

Noise over USB is an issue. But it massively depends how your DAC handles the USB input. I realised on some DACs, it does not matter at all, on others it is very critical.

An alternative is the optical output of the Mac mini. I assume that most readers here are not aware of the fact, that Apple has an optical output on every Mac (not any more on the MacBook Pro 2016). It is a regular S/PDIF interface. Just plug in the optical cable in the headphone output. It is essential to use a good glass cable and not just a cheap plastic one. This method works perfectly for me.

The good thing, my computer is completely isolated from my audio system. The bad thing, jitter wise the optical connection does not have a very good reputation.

Hi Alex,

Which Mutec are you using with the Hegel?