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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:58 am 
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Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:32 am
Posts: 4
Location: Toronto, ON, CA
I've been using my MacMini for a few years now and like the versatility as a music server attached to the TV via HDMI and via USB to my Tube Amp with integrated DAC. I use iTunes with Amarra Symphony and enjoy that simple setup for either watching Netflix, browse or listen to Spotify or my high res music library.

Having a simple setup with only a few components/connections looks clean and but wonder if I am limiting myself with the MacMini as a music source in comparison to a HIFI music server like a Naim Uniti or MOON Ace or similar. With a unit like the Naim or Moon I would just need a pair of decent speakers and I'm good to go. I definitely want to upgrade my system, most likely getting away from tubes and replace the book shelf speakers on stands with a slightly bigger floor stander.

Any advantage using a music streamer with active speakers over an all in one unit and passive speakers? Would love to hear some opinions and recommendations. Budget wise I would like to stay at around 8k for smaller floor standing speakers and an all-in-one unit.

Thanks a lot,
Martin


Last edited by flyheli on Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:14 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:17 pm
Posts: 2361
Location: Winnipeg, MB, CA
I asked a similar question a few years ago and borrowed a few streamers from a dealer. I trialed the Bluesound Node, Project Streambox RS and a Moon Mind unit. I didn't detect a difference using any of those and found I preferred control through my MacBook pro over the iPad apps; so I don't purchase any of them.
I have also had a Naim Uniqute 2 and currently own an Oppo Sonic dac that streams. Tried streaming function with both but abandoned it in favour of the Mac. i just prefer using the Mac but then my set up is conveniently placed for it.
simplifying to purchase one of the units you mention could result in gains through the comparison of the all in one over the dac/amp set up you currently have, though my trial suggests it would not necessarily be from their streaming ability over the Mac. If you run the Mac headless then you would be use to using the iPad for control; otherwise you would need a tablet to control either of those units as they don't offer Mac apps.
I have also done the active speaker route for my smaller streaming set up. will likely return to such eventually as I was so impressed what a small pair of Paradigm shift delivered. I did notice however that a large improvement was realized when I added a dedicated pre amp to drive them over dac with volume control. This could certainly be component dependant but the $1200 I was in for the speakers, preamp and dac certainly gave little to the $4k in retail costs of what I currently have for the setup.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:31 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 7:08 pm
Posts: 187
Location: Montreal, QC, CA
Hi Martin

I once used a Mac Mini/Amarra as a music server connected to a DAC (Weiss, Lavry) and it worked really well at the end of a few integrated amps over the years. It was indeed a simple setup, one Firewire or USB cable to the DAC and I used the built in screen sharing feature to operate the Mini from my laptop. At the time, computer audio using a Mac Mini was considered a really good solution but after making the move to a streamer/DAC unit like a Linn Akurate DS, the Mini was replaced with a NAS and I entered the world of UPnP. This allowed me to remove the computer from the audio chain and use an iOS application to operate the streamer. More convenient but more importantly, is was better sonically. Fast forward a couple of years and then moved on to a Naim Superuniti "all-in-one" amp/pre/dac/streamer and preferred this over the previous kit. A one box solution with speakers with an Apple device like an iPad or iPhone to operate the Naim app. Simple and musical. I even tried a Moon Mind 180 streamer connected to a Devialet for a while. Regardless of the solution, you still need a computer to manage your music library on NAS if you decide this is the right path for you.

Seeing you already own an integrated amp/DAC, you might want to consider network steamers without built in DACs like a Moon Mind 180, an Auralic Aries and possibly even an Aurender. There are some basic differences in terms of storage and connectivity. Most these streamers integrate third party services such as Spotify, Tidal, etc. A buddy of mines owns an Aurender/Chord2Qute combo and its a very musical and capable streamer.

Another option if you are looking at changing the entire kit is to audition the new Naim Atom "all-in-one" amp/pre/dac/streamer which allows you to connect an external USB drive if you do not want to use a NAS. Just connect speakers and your are done. The bigger brother, Nova also offers the same but at a much higher cost. Naim have Tidal, Airplay, Spotify integration as well.

Then there are streamer/DAC combos from Bluesound, Arcam, Auralic Mini, etc.

All these suggestions of course are with passive speakers. I do not have any hands on experience with active speakers other than hearing a Linn Exact setup which was well above your budget.

You do not mention your speakers. I assume you are looking for a complete change but you could also consider keeping your existing speakers and see how they get along with the new setup. You have a healthy budget to play with regardless of the direction you take.

Hope this helps.


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