Sonic Transporter i5 vs MacBook Pro

Hi guys, apologies if this question has been covered before. I’m using my 2013 MacBook Pro / SSD to manage my Roon Core and store music. I don’t have a vast music collection. Most of my listening these days is via Tidal and my 500 G SSD is more than large enough. I’ve had absolutely no functional issues with my MBP and the general SQ I’ve already achieved with my microRendu / Schiit Eitr / Hegel HD25 DAC / Belles Amp / Kudos Super 20’s is extremely pleasing.

But neverless I’m intrigued by the possibility of improving SQ further by integrating a Sonic Transporter in place of the MBP. The only professional review I’ve seen is Michael Lavorgna’s - which praised the ST in lavish terms. I’d love to have more input and references from other Roonies before making any decisions. $1000 is not an insignificant investment if the SQ would be pretty much a sideways move.

Thanks for your input - and Merry Christmas to all of you

I wouldn’t bother but YMMV

Why do you think the ST would improve sound quality. Roon core on either the Mac or the ST will both deliver a bit perfect stream to your microRendu. I use a ST i5, but only because I needed something headless to use 24/7. The sound quality is no different from running Roon Core on my Dell laptop. Keep in mind that the Roon Core machines I’m using are only feeding a ROON-RAAT endpoint in a different room from the server. I’m not getting any analog audio from the ST itself.

Interesting…have you tried both?

Gary, i’m really only going from Lavorgna’s review - he’s saying clearly the difference is “not subtle”. But you’ve tried both and found the sound differences to be negligible? This is exactly why I posted the question. Thanks for your feedback. Like you, I would also appreciate freeing up my Mac so that I can get constant control without starting up the Mac, but I’m also looking for SQ benefits.

Your microRendu>Eitr setup is already doing the job of sending your DAC a pretty clean electrical encoding of the digital music stream. It’s hard to see technically how making changes at the other end of the Ethernet feeding the microRendu can improve that significantly. I read Lavorgna’s review and I’m totally not convinced. There are two many moving parts (hardware and software) in his review, and he did not explain clearly what he compared with what. In addition, he used microRendu USB into his DAC, and in my experience that can be improved with an Eitr (for a DAC that prefers S/PDIF) or an SU-1 (for a DAC that prefers I2S).

Having said that, laptops like the MacBook Pro are not really intended to run as servers, so who knows how it might start misbehaving over time. I use a NUC running Ubuntu for my Core, but then I’ve been running *nix servers for decades and I know my way around shell commands. The sonic Transporter seems a nice self-contained solution that does not require any shell mojo to manage.

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Hi @Jeremy_Jones

Do you use the Macbook Core inside the listening room? So the Macbook is both your Core and Remote?

Or do you leave the Macbook outside the listening room and use a tablet as Remote?

If it’s the latter I’d save your money and keep using as is, until functional performance starts to become an issue. By then, there will be newer and faster Core options. Since you said there’s currently no issues, I wouldn’t be in a rush to have a new Core.

But definitely you should (if practicably possible) have the Macbook Core outside the listening room and just use a a tablet for Remote. So if you weren’t using a tablet at the moment, I’d get a nice big iPad Pro for Remote for now.

@dabassgoesboomboom I use an iPad Mini for control (and sometimes an iPhone). My MBP is in another room. It all works quite nicely. From what you say, there would be little to gain in using a ST.


Yeh I’ve had both, including a microRendu endpoint.

At one point I had a sonciT (fanless and headless) connected directly to my DAC and powered by a linear PSU.

But overall it was better to have the sonicT outside the listening room and just powered by it’s supplied SMPS.

So if I were you, I would recommend you save your $ until you see your Macbook struggling. By then, there will be better spec’ed Core options.

Just based on personal observations - I’m definitely no expert.

Good advice - thanks

I questioned why moving my Roon Core from a late model MacBool Pro to a sonicTransporter i5 would make a difference? After repeatedly getting the same answer from those with no skin in the game I pulled the trigger and yes the improvement was readily apparent.

@Still-One - is your sonicT connected directly to your DAC, inside your listening room?

Or in another room and connected to a networked endpoint?

I have done a very similar set of system changes over time. I used to run a Mac mini in the stereo directly to the DAC. This was good but not great. Early this year I upgraded to a microrendu and an ST i5. The MR is in the stereo and the STi5 is done with the router and the 24 port switch. The overall audio improvement of the MR in the system is really amazing. I am testing right now with an intel NUC running ROCK and the ST i5. (I just switched licenses on the core computers today and will test ASAP). I am pretty sure that the NUC/ROCK is not as good but I am A/B/A testing right now.

As I get the network better placed I have more to test and the Mac mini is in the same rack as the other gear and I am thinking I will try it again. Switching licenses back and forth is a bit of a pain.

I have to test passive ethernet isolation this week too. Having way too much fun!

There are a LOT of variables to test with.

I have both a Macbook Pro and SonicTransporter i5. My main reason for having the latter is that it’s always turned on. No need to go turn on my laptop for the sole purpose of playing music. I haven’t explicitly compared sound quality. No significant difference, none that I could tell anyway.

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Bart, do you use some kind of renderer such as a microRendu?

Thanks for your thoughts. There are some varying views about this comparison, even in this thread, but it seems that your experience is probably quite typical for many systems.

I am indeed using a microRendu. That probably helps to minimize the difference (if there is any) between my Macbook Pro and SonicTransporter i5. Also not that I don’t have any DSP enabled.

We seem to have a very similar approach and setup. I also prefer not to use DSP for most recordings.

Both the sonicTransporter and my DAC (Rossini) are hardwired to the network but in different rooms.

[quote=“Jeremy_Jones, post:5, topic:35699, full:true”]
But you’ve tried both and found the sound differences to be negligible? [/quote]

Not negligible, but non-existent. For me it’s not about sound quality differences (none for me) but all about keeping the server in a back closet and out of the listening room. I control everything via an ipad or iphone.

p.s. for full disclosure, I am in the “objectivist” audio camp and a believer in double-blind testing, etc. I’m much too aware of the tricks the mind can play on us in sighted experiments, even with experienced professionals as subjects. That said, it’s only a hobby (and I’m a good capitalist) so I’m perfectly happy for people to spend their own money on whatever they want that makes them happy and for companies to gladly accept such money.

Thanks for clarification - well understood. From my POV I tend to be subjectivist in my views. I’ve usually found it takes me hours of ‘normal listening’, preferably accompanied by a tasty beverage and nice lighting :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:, before I really know if I like a product or not. Quick A-B stuff does nothing for me, and would be an unreliable test in my case. After a period of time I’ll just know if a product sounds (a) different and (b) better or worse. I trust my judgement to that extent. From what you describe, it would be hard to justify $1k for the benefits.