22 posts / 0 new
Last post
BowserWilkens's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 19/09/2013 - 17:52
Posts: 57
Mac mini to Denon 4311

Hello again, 

 this is my second thread & I hope someone can help.

I've just bought a mac mini (the 500gb model).

I have a Denon 4311 & have connected the mac to it via Hdmi.

I'm in the process of ripping my 600+ cd collection onto the Mac's hard drive & I intend to use the mac as my source until I later buy an external hard drive (time capsule).

I want good sound - I haven't ventured into PC audio yet - I nearly spent my money on a new CD player instead of splashing out on the mac. Somehow I persuaded myself to get into the present & source my music the modern way.

Right now the sound quality of ripped Cds sounds okay, I used the apple lossless format.

 

So, with a budget of between 200 & 500 Euro (175 to 450 pounds), what should I buy to improve the sound quality?

I've heard that the sound quality can trump the best cd players around but I 'm a little bemused by streamers & Dacs.

I have a 11.2 home cinema set up with B&W speakers (hence the moniker), & listen to Funk, Hip Hop & Classical.

(B&W P6, CDM CNT, CC6, DS3, CDM SNT, ASW500, ASW675, 602iii)

So..... what should I invest in?  Or, on my meagre budget, would the difference in sound quality a device between my mac & 4311 delivered be so negligible that I might as well just use Hdmi as I do now?

Thanks in advance,

BW

ID.'s picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 days 2 hours ago
Joined: 22/02/2010 - 13:12
Posts: 1484
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

I think the best way to, potentially, improve the sound quality is with a DAC (using optical or USB out from the Mac).

You might get better answers if you ask in the home cinema section or hi fi section. Hopefully someone there will be able to give you some ideas of how DACs in high quality AV amps compare to something in your budget like the iRDac.

Then again, the HiFi forum is just as likely to say that the AV amp is the limiting factor and you'd be better off getting a dedicated stereo amp with a DAC like the Marantz PM6005. There seems to be a split of opinion about the capabilities of AV amps for music.

Sorry I can't give any advice from my own experience.

 

Bedroom: Esoteric RZ-1, PMC DB1i, Fostex CW200A. FUBAR IV

Office: Nuforce Icon HDP, Adam A7X

Living room: Apple TV, FIIO D03K, Fostex PM0.4n

Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-AD900x and ATH-A900x, Sennheiser HD595,  Grado SR80i

wilro15's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 3 days ago
Joined: 19/01/2012 - 15:53
Posts: 327
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

The Denon is your weak point.  AV amps are poor at 2 channel music, I can speak from experience.  See my signature, I have two separate systems.

Music: Naim ND5 XS | Naim SuperNait | Kef LS50

BowserWilkens's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 19/09/2013 - 17:52
Posts: 57
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Thanks for the feedback guys.

I'm not about to ditch the Denon so that's out of the question. I do, however, intend to buy a power amp to drive my B&W P6'S at a later date. Possibly a Nad, Rotel or Atoll power amp.

I was told today, in one of the specialist hifi stores in my home town, that with an AV amp of the quality I have (the 4311), I'd need to spend at least 600 euro (say 550 pounds) to make any real improvement. Buying an DAC for half that amount would be wasted money apparently. I had thought about a modestly priced Cambridge Audio DAC before hearing this but now I need to aim higher for any investment to be worth my while. Or do I? (feels like a hifi pantomime)

What to do? 

Are there any DACS with an HDMI in?

 

 

On a semi related note, I have a large collection of VHS cassettes I wish to get onto a hard drive before they degrade into unwatchability, oh and my VCR is broken beyond repair.

Buy a Funai VHS/DVD/HDD all in one solution (has a 500g drive)

or

Buy a new VCR, external hard-drive, cables & software to hook up the VCR to my mac mini.

The latter is only slightly cheaper than the former. (both around 300 pounds)

 

Thanks again & hope someone can help.

ID.'s picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 days 2 hours ago
Joined: 22/02/2010 - 13:12
Posts: 1484
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

BowserWilkens wrote:

 

What to do? 

Are there any DACS with an HDMI in?

 

Not many that I know of but I think

http://nadelectronics.com/products/masters-series/M51-Direct-Digital-DAC

With the MAC mini I think I'd use the optical output (in the headphone/audio out port)

Bedroom: Esoteric RZ-1, PMC DB1i, Fostex CW200A. FUBAR IV

Office: Nuforce Icon HDP, Adam A7X

Living room: Apple TV, FIIO D03K, Fostex PM0.4n

Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-AD900x and ATH-A900x, Sennheiser HD595,  Grado SR80i

rs6mra's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 12/01/2009 - 12:45
Posts: 184
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

I would suggest reading through other threads in order to possibly give you a better picture of what you want to achieve. 

Various members have suggested that high end AV receivers such as your Denon do a very good job when it comes to 2 channel stereo. 

I have read other reads in the past that suggest that the sound quality from Macs is quite good although if i remember correctly it was in relation to Macbooks. The best solution however would normally be to add a DAC to improve sound quality and I would imagine that the DAC quality would make all the difference.

Your best bet would be to see if you can ask your local dealer to have a home demo based on what you decide to go with eventually. 

WishTree's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 days 13 hours ago
Joined: 18/05/2010 - 22:51
Posts: 1020
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

IMO, Very few people have actually experimented with AVR and HiFi beyond 1000 Pound mark on each component.

I have done so and all I can tell from my experience is that Denon could be the weak link but not the way this thread is steering. The DAC sections in denon will be very good (definetly comparable / better than 500 Pound DAC). It would be worthwhile to invest in a really good power amp to drive the front L&R speakers and then run the Denon in pre-amp mode with Pure direct or equivalent. This way you can extract the maximum music performane from Denon.

The best VFM / most enjoyable DAC that I have till date is Oppo BDP-105 and I had several DAC including Classe CP-800, Audiolab M-DAC, Rega DAC MF M1 DAC, just to name a few.

philipjohnwright's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 26/06/2009 - 21:32
Posts: 242
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

There are plenty of good DACs at the £200-250 price point that would work well IMO. I have had an Arcam rDac that worked nicely. It was replaced recently by thr MTech 'USB stick' one that is a slight improvement (I've forgotten its name). I'm running it into an Ayre AX7e amp that retails for £2500, into Harbeth speakers that used to sell for a similar amount. It sounds great. Starting again I might consider the new Arcam irDac, but I don't feel a great need to upgrade right now (famous last words!) 

BowserWilkens's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 19/09/2013 - 17:52
Posts: 57
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Thanks again for all feedback, I really appreciate it.

Now I've been informed that the best investment I can make right now is a higher quality power cable for my Denon.

Currently, I'm using the power cable that came with the 4311. This is connected to an Einstein Octopus power filter which is itself pugged into the wall power socket. 

The chap who told me this is very experienced in hifi & works in the high-end hifi shop (rooms full of B&W 800d's, Krell Amps, Macintosh's et al) from which I have bought the majority of my hifi kit over the last 10 years. I kinda trust this guy, I often drop in just to chat hifi & he has no problem when I say I'm not buying anything for 6 more months or something. I don't have the feeling he's pulling my leg, & I work in an industry where reading liars & cheats is our bread & butter. I'm sure he believes what he's saying.

It had never crossed my mind that on a budget of 200 to 500 pounds I should first invest in upgrading my power cable before even thinking about DACs, streamers, power amps or suchlike.

This led me to wonder whether there is  a higher quality power cable I could buy for the mac mini itself.....

maybe I should just have bought a nice turntable & taken a step into the past rather than blunder into the present  :boohoo:Nonetheless, more feedback would be great.

specifically:


a.WTF?

b. Best Dacs up to 500pounds

c.Best Streamer up to 500pounds

d. Best power cable up to 500pounds

e. Best power amp up to 500pounds

When I say "Best", I mean products you yourself have heard, bought, loved or cherished.

thanks.

professorhat's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 hours 45 min ago
Joined: 28/12/2007 - 11:34
Posts: 11026
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Oh dear - this thread will now become a flame war about whether power cables make a difference or not. Might be best to start another thread with those questions you've asked, minus the power cable question.

Personally, although I'm on the fence on whether power cables make a difference (I believe one has in my system, but I'm certainly not going to go to any of the lengths requested to prove this to anyone else), even I am still very very dubious about this being your best investment. Even if they do make a difference, it's subtle. It's not going to make something you're not that happy with suddenly sound fabulous.

I realise you trust this guy, but I would really take this recommendation with a hefty pinch of salt. At the very least, buy some testers from the likes of Russ Andrews and Clearer Audio, or any other retailers where you can get a decent money back guarantee that gives you time to test out what you buy and return it for a full refund if you're not happy. I did this and ended up returning a much more expensive Clearer Audio cable in the region of £200 and keeping one that cost £35, since I couldn't perceive any difference between the two in my system after a 60 day trial.

(in case it helps, I use an Onkyo 905 AV receiver, so there are some similarities in that sense)

 

The owls are not what they seem...

ID.'s picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 days 2 hours ago
Joined: 22/02/2010 - 13:12
Posts: 1484
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Be wary of power cables and the placebo effect.

I originally installed an Oyaide Tunami power cable on mine and I perceived deaper bass and a blacker background.

I recently switched back to the original power cable because it is more flexible and heard absolutely no change in sound...

I can only assume the money spent and the sexy fire engine redi plugs had me expecting a change. If you do try them, make sure you can trial and return the power plugs. Try switching a back and forth, ideally having someone do it for you so you don't know which cable is being used, and really be sure that it is worth it. Even then, I don't think I'd be spending 500 pounds on a power cable. Maybe 50-100 at most.

 

Bedroom: Esoteric RZ-1, PMC DB1i, Fostex CW200A. FUBAR IV

Office: Nuforce Icon HDP, Adam A7X

Living room: Apple TV, FIIO D03K, Fostex PM0.4n

Headphones: Audio Technica ATH-AD900x and ATH-A900x, Sennheiser HD595,  Grado SR80i

BowserWilkens's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 19/09/2013 - 17:52
Posts: 57
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Thanks again for input.

 

I have the chance to trial a 2000euro power cable, a 250euro power cable, and a 400euro hdmi cable.

My friend in the hifi shop I mentioned wants to use me & my system as a guinea pig.

I turned down the offer for now as I want to get used to what I'm currently using so that any improvements these exotic cables bring will then be more discernible.

When I do test them, I'll post on here.

I'd still like some feedback on my last post concerning your recommendations for the best X under 500 pounds (power amp, Dac, streamer, power cable)

Any bickering between posters will mean I cancel this thread and perhaps my use of these forums altogether. I don't suffer fools easily.

Just tell me what you like, love or cherish & don't worry about what others say.

You might be rich, an expert or both - I don't care - it's what moves you and makes you feel great that interests me.

(BTW if you enter Audiophile Mac mini on Google, there are some exorbitant upgrades available with fanboys and naysayers along for the ride)

rs6mra's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 12/01/2009 - 12:45
Posts: 184
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

BowserWilkens - Please report back and let us know what you did and the opinion on the outcome....................

BowserWilkens's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 19/09/2013 - 17:52
Posts: 57
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Thanks once more.

 

I'm currently trying out the three possible digital ways of getting data from the mini to my 4311 before I invest in any further kit.

1. Airplay (over ethernet)

2.Hdmi

3.Digital Optical cable

Airplay comes a distant third but I've yet to distinguish any difference between Hdmi & Optical.

Futhermore, I've been playing around with the mini's audio output settings. First a little bemused, I slowly began to understand the options open to me. Choosing 8 channel sound is sexy at first, as music is fired out of most of my speakers. However, switching to 2 channel sound on the mac's output improved the sound so much. Hdmi allows up to 24bit, Optical up to 36bit (or 32... not sure) which is also called 'floating'. I had thought this difference in bits might bring some improvement but I'm yet to notice it. 

Choosing Multi-Output audio out in the mac's MIDI app allows me to quickly switch between hdmi & optical on my 4311 without needing to change ouputs on the mac itself. Hence the chance to compare sound quality between the two connections effortlessly while listening to the same Itunes track.

The other thing I'm wondering about is the setting for the sampling rate; I can choose the regular 44.1khz or 48 khz but I can also raise this to 96khz. I've tried this; the audio neither disappears nor changes in quality. Any tips?

Which of the three connection types do you favour?

Which Bit rate is advisable?

Which Sampling rate is advisable?

 

Thanks guys.

BowserWilkens's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 19/09/2013 - 17:52
Posts: 57
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Hi, 

I'm reviving this thread as I still need some advice on taking my next step towards achieving improved sound quality.

My Mac mini is full of music ripped onto iTunes in ALAC.

It is connected via optical cable to my Denon 4311 which in turn is connected to my audiolab 8000s via the front pre-outs over analogue cables. The audiolab drives the 2 B&W P6's & the Denon is set to Pure Direct to avoid any processing of the signal.

I use only iTunes for music & have no other third party software in use.

I have a second external hard drive running Time Machine to back up the mini.

What should I do next?

Is a DAC (budget around 500 pounds) my next logical step?

Could I connect the mini to the Denon 4311 directly via USB & if so, would this make sense?

I'm open to any fresh suggestions, but don't tell me I need to get rid of anything - just looking to add.

BTW - if anyone else is playing around with an 11.2 set-up, let me know.

Thanks. 

MajorFubar's picture
Offline
Last seen: 18 min 59 sec ago
Joined: 03/03/2010 - 00:01
Posts: 3505
RE: Mac mini to Denon 4311

Unless I'm not seeing it, there doesn't appear to be any USB Type B sockets on the back of the Denon to which you could connect your Mac directly with a USB cable, only optical connections. You could always buy a USB DAC and use that plugged straight from your Mini into the Audiolab, but unless you feel the DAC in the Denon is particularly lacking, I'm not sure what you'd gain. Biggest benefit would probably only be that you wouldn't have to switch the big amp on just to play music from the Mac through the Audiolab.

Pages

Log in or register to post comments