Author Topic: Mac versus PC for Music Server  (Read 16758 times)

Bigfish8

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Mac versus PC for Music Server
« on: May 10, 2010, 04:16:34 PM »
Guys:

We have touched on some of this in My DAC Thread but I think the subject of music computer choice requires its own thread so here goes:

I have been a long time PC, Windows computer user (20+ years) and I still don't know or have a desire to know how they work.  My goal is to turn the computer on and have it allow me to do what I need to do.  I don't want to adjust this, that or anything - I just want the computer to function!

Okay, so we have established, I think, the fact that I cannot assemble a PC and I have no interest in learning how to do so (just not my thing).  Therefore I have to purchase a computer or pay someone to assemble individual components to make one for me.

Carl and Shane have, at least functionally wise, what I want for my room.  I want a computer to send music to a DAC and I want to have the capability to surf the web from my music listening position.  I am going to site some things I think I know about a MAC versus PC and would appreciate your comments and input.

1.  A PC will likely use a Windows operating system which willl require I run a resource hoging antivirus program.
    - I will be subjected to the daily antivirus updates
    - I will be subjected to the Windows System Updates and normal system reboots that occur.
2.  A MAC will not require a antivirus software to be used (almost no Mac user runs one).
     -Start-up and shut-down is almost instant
     -A mini can sit on a shelf on my rack and actually sit on top of an Iomega External Drive.
3.  A MAC comes with or you can obtain Itunes Music Server for free.  I guess some of the commonly used PC Music Servers can be downloaded for free.  I know that a couple of non-Apple programs are available for a fee but can be downloaded and evaluated for free.
4.  A Mac comes with USB and Firewire 800 connectivity.  You don't have to purchase a sound card or usb to Spif convertor.  However, any DAC I would consider for the Mac must have Firewire or USB connectivity.

Okay guys, set me staight and enlighten me as to which computer is the better choice. 

Thanks,

Ken

Offline mdconnelly

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2010, 04:55:42 PM »
Well, based on that description, sounds like you already know you want a Mac ;-)

Ken - you should select the platform you're most familiar with (or want to be) because there is no way to avoid some level of sys admin tasks. Plan for it.  You will want software to rip music as well, correct?  And, whatever you do, make sure you routinely backup that music somewhere safe.  Hard drives expire - it's when, not if.   

A Win7 box running MS Security Essentials is very stable and will take care of itself and even the updates and reboots can be scheduled early morning hours such that you never see it.  I'm pretty sure any Mac will cost you more than a comparably equipped Windows PC, but haven't looked in quite awhile.  iTunes already runs on Windows but, personally, I'd opt for Foobar.  I'm not a fan of iTunes (but that may just be me ;-)  But I'm certain a Mac server can be made to sound just as good as a PC. 

If the computer will only ever be used to play music and nothing more, Linux is also another very viable alternative.  It is very stable and requires far less CPU for the same performance as a Win box.

But, bottom line - this is still the wild, wild west when it comes to this stuff.   For every good choice out there, there is an equally compelling, expensive and potentially bad choice.  So my gut check advice is not to choose the platform first, but to choose someone extremely knowledgeable first that's already paid for all the dumb mistakes I know I'd make if I headed out to the Dell or Apple store with credit-card in hand.   

Bigfish8

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2010, 05:22:18 PM »
Mike:

Thanks for the comments and that is exactly the type of response I was looking for.  I realize the world is dominated by PCs (Windows Based Machines) and thus I would expect a bias for them.  My bias is based on my negative experiences with PCs but bias aside I am really most interested in responses from folks using computers as music servers.  What machine have they found to be best, why and why they selected it?   Yes I am leaning toward a Mac but I have not made a commitment or actually ordered one yet!

Ken
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 06:31:54 PM by Bigfish8 »

Offline JBryan

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2010, 06:17:55 PM »
Well, we use MAC in our house and it was pretty easy to set up a NAS server, the Slimserver software is quite compatible with iTunes and the system is very stable and reliable (we've only had to reboot the ReadyNAS 2 or 3 times in 4 years - usually after power outages). The drawbacks are that an Apple server is more expensive and though iTunes is extremely user-friendly, it doesn't play WMA or FLAC files. I started uploading in AIFF for the music library and AAC for the iPod. There are certainly aspects that are more complicated and less user-friendly than they have to be but note, I'm not very computer literate and haven't tried to update anything since the initial set up a few years back. I'm sure there are better, faster, easier ways to set up a music server now but I still think that MAC/iTunes would be the easiest to use.

Offline richidoo

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2010, 06:18:44 PM »
I think I know you well enough now.... reading between the lines of your post, a Mac it is....   ;)

Get 4GB memory on the mac. If you want to upgrade the standard 2GB later as OS grows you will have to throw out the two 1GB sticks. 
You can always use Shane's handy USB>SPDIF adapter if you want SPDIF output from the mac. iTunes is not audiophile approved. Decide what software you will use before you decide on hardware.

Here is a Mac only music server app that a friend of mine uses with his highly modded mini. He is very fussy audiophile, uses Feastrex in OB, builds his own SET tube amps and he says it sounds great into Lynx Aurora DAC. The app allows 2 way digital crossover. This developer has appeared at  many trade shows with his vinyl software, super nice guy, smart, and has a lot of good reviews on the sound and ease of use of the vinyl app. He is a real audiophile. I think Fremer reviewed it last year.  http://www.channld.com/pure-music1.html

Taking the Devil's Advocate side of things for a moment, and I mean that literally what with Bill Gates being the anti-christ and all... ;)   Microsoft Security Essentials is excellent and idiot proof protection from all threats. I thought Avast was fast, but SE brought a big speed improvement. I recently installed it on a bunch of Mac Minis running Windows 7, no performance hit. It is free and works very well.  My kids play internet computer games and it has kept them clean when no others would. You never think about it ever again after it's installed. Even during updates there is no noticeable impact on performance. Windows 7 is turning out to be the real deal, and MSFT stock is finally emerging from the coffin after a decade because of Win7's brisk sales and broad acceptance. I would not hesitate recommending it to you, since you are already familiar with the Windows Way. You will have Mac initiation period to get used to the new interface. But if just for music server then it won't matter. Most people say it is nicer once you get up to speed. With Win7 and a decent chipset and BIOS you will not need to reboot the PC either. It can sleep automatically when not in use, and wake when you want music.

The mac will probably cost about 2x what similar feature mini HTPC will cost. They have similar Intel processors, so no significant performance advantage, nor does it matter for simple streaming. If you want to do some room correction on your digital stream or something fancy like that in the future then a PC is where the software is. Fan noise is important, check the reviews for that.

Shane and Carl both use a monitor at the sweet spot. I don't like that approach, I prefer the handheld controller like sonos, duet, iPhone, whatever. Nowadays I mostly use my laptop to control my Sonos system. If you can use your work laptop to remote control the music server might make the server installation a little more streamlined, eliminating the couch monitor. I think an itouch could control iTunes on the Mac Mini via wifi, then backend the iTunes with Pure Music app for sound quality and you could be sitting pretty!

You also need to consider where you will store your music files. If they are going on the server, then Mac mini will require you use an external USB drive, or a file server elsewhere on the network. With a PC you could make an internal RAID array in the server.

For me, a fileserver outside the music room is the best solution for storage. It doesn't need to run any music software, only serve the files, so a cheap NAS appliance like DLink DNS-323 is enough. RAID 1 protects the data. Slide in two hard drives, format, plug it into your router and you're done. A USB drive in the Mac is even easier to setup, but no redundancy.

That's all I can think of now. Except the BIG QUESTION: Will you still be our friend after you get all cool with a Mac?  :D

Offline richidoo

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2010, 06:19:52 PM »
Mike, you are so smart! ;)  And a fast typer too!   :rofl:

Offline hometheaterdoc

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 08:11:44 PM »
For me, the choice is easy... As much as I hate the history I have with bill gates trying to take my money for software that was half baked and buggy, I have not now, nor will I ever own an Apple product... never owned an ipod, will never own an iphone or ipad.... definitely will never own a mac computer.... expensive garbage of which I want no part....  Using other folks machines was more than enough of a demo to know I want no part of Steve Jobs and his proprietary dreck.  I despise Itunes with a fervor that's difficult to describe.  What an invasive piece of garbage software. 

I know windoze because I work with it every day.  It's at least half the price for the same hardware and the software options are more plentiful and cheaper with windoze based machines... I know the drawbacks and relish them compared to the issues of mac...

I'd go linux long before I go mac.... as a former unix administrator, although it's cheaper and runs on less robust hardware, I'm still not a big proponent of linux based audio PC.... it's definitely not as easy to setup as windoze 7 based machine... and hardware is so cheap now, you can get a win7 based machine for half nothing.....  Win 7 really has been a dramatic leap forward for Microsoft.  I've been very happy with the software.

Setup a PC and then remote desktop into it with your work laptop if you don't want to do my and Carl's monitor solution.... I can't stand the small screen of laptops for extended periods of time.  That's why I do the monitor solution... $150 24 inch monitors are nice to have around and the only thing on your lap is you very tiny bluetooth mini keyboard...



Shane Sangster
Night & Day Audio - AMR, Alpha Design Labs, AURALiC, Audeze, Bakoon, Devialet, ENIGMAcoustics, Exogal, Harbeth, iFi Audio, Lumin Music, M2Tech, PS Audio, Pure Audio, REL Acoustics Ltd, Sennheiser, Tannoy, Unison Research, WyWires & more

Bigfish8

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2010, 05:31:21 AM »
Guys:

Please keep them coming!  I have received strong anti-Mac recommendations and am thinking their must be a Mac user out there! 

Ken


Offline Carlman

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2010, 11:14:34 AM »
There probably are, Ken.. It's just that they don't have all the issues of us PC users so they're probably just listening to music. ;)
I really enjoy listening to music.

Bigfish8

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2010, 12:34:26 PM »
There probably are, Ken.. It's just that they don't have all the issues of us PC users so they're probably just listening to music. ;)

I really do appreciate the loyality to the Windows based PC.  I have never owned anything or used anything other than Windows based PCs.  However, I am unable to fix them when they act up and unfortunately I have experienced a lot of acting up!  I have two friends that have converted their business computers to Macs in the past 6 months.  Neither one claims that the Macs are perfect but they also claim they have had absolutely no issues and would never go back to PCs.  They, like me, were life long Windows based PC users.  Maybe their experiences are unique and I would like to hear from someone with a valid reason to dislike the Mac other than Price! 

Thanks,

Ken

Offline Carlman

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 03:11:34 PM »
You won't hear one from me.  I too have friends that have switched.  You have the same complaints they did.. However, I would encourage you to go to the Mac store and get a demonstration and make sure you ask questions about how you'd do the things you need to do.  (Some company software requires Windows.)

A computer is a tool.. I just learn how to use whichever.. I can use a Mac but it's weird switching back and forth.  My preferences are shrinking as Windows is starting to catch up to Mac's abilities.. the ones they had 10 years ago. ;)

-C
I really enjoy listening to music.

Offline sleepyguy24

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2016, 08:30:14 AM »
Hi everyone. happy Friday. I was digging through the archive for help with a DIY music server and found this thread. I have an old DIY PC. I'd like to repurpose that case, power supply and quiet fans or whatever else in there for a DIY music server. I'm pretty much starting from scratch. If buying the parts and building the PC by myself is cheaper than buying a Mac I'll do it. Is there a 2016 update to this PC Music server thread that anyone would like to share? Thanks in advance.


Offline shadowlight

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2016, 01:24:26 PM »
Sleepy,

Are you planning to hookup the DAC directly to the Mac and use one of the apps to play music?  My understanding is that on a Mac you do not have anyway to bypass the coreaudio stuff (based on the stuff reported on HQPlayer thread on Computeraudiophile website).

Personally, I like the option of PC where I have choice of OS to run it under.  I have been playing around with HQPlayer under stripped down Linux based around Debian Stretch.  The only thing that I have not figured out yet is how to get support for DSD without using DoP.  I need to read up on how to compile a custom kernel with support for Amanero card that is in my DAC.

Offline mfsoa

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2016, 02:52:49 PM »
Sleepy,
What you need depends on what you plan to do with it.

If taking a USB out to a dac, most likely the computer will be in your listening room so fan and drive noise might be a concern.

If you are going to really go for it and try HQPlayer and upsample to DSD you need to get a very powerful PC - one that you would probably want to spec out and build yourself. People are going ape over HQP's upsampling to 512DSD.

Are you gonna network? Then maybe a NAS running a music server will be all the PC.

Hmmm, I keep saying PC and didn't need to mention mac...

-Mike

Are you using USB? Then you need to consider a Sonore microrendu or some other usb decrapifier, the PC audio gurus say.

Offline HAL

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Re: Mac versus PC for Music Server
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2016, 05:01:58 PM »
There are also totally mechanically noiseless PC Music Server options as well. 

Only moving part is the DVD drive for ripping.

Good luck with the search.