Hands up how many of you use a consumer-grade computer as your digital audio playback device? Keep those hands aloft if that same computer is a Mac Mini? Yep – thought as much – that’s plenty of you. No quarrel from me either. The Mac Mini is Apple’s least expensive OS X entry-point, a not unattractive brushed aluminium box that can easily be tucked out of sight. It’s a solution that gives easy access to the library management awesomeness of Roon as well as the audible amelioration of Pure Music, Sonic Studio Amarra or Audirvana+. Oh – and you can browse the web, watch video and run office software too.
The absence of a built in screen on offers two advantages: 1) the Mac Mini can be run headless – once configured, no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse – and 2) lower electrical internal noise emissions. Having run a 2014 MacMini and 2014 MacBook Air back-to-back, I can confirm that sonically speaking, the Mini has the edge.
Direct, hands-on experience also tells me that the Mac Mini can’t match the AURALiC Aries, Aurender N100H or (especially) the Antipodes Audio DX, even when tricked out with all manner of USB signal cleaners, USB cables or USB-S/PDIF converters.
At some point in every digital audiophile’s journey comes a point when they either consider moving up to a bespoke solution or just accept the Apple box’s limitations as digital audio transport.
The dividing issue is (predominantly) one of internal electrical noise that can cause music to sound rigid, uptight and iced with treble glare. One major source of that noise is the Mac Mini’s switch-mode power supply. Of further nuisance is that it’s found inside the Mac.
Those determined to pursue a path with the MacMini might want to sit up and pay attention right now because Hong Kong’s CLONES Audio is tapping us on the shoulder with news of its freshly-announced POWER STATION – a low noise linear power supply for the MacMini. At 4.5kg it ain’t no foolin’ around.
POWER STATION deployment requires a little internal surgery which CLONES Audio’s founder ‘Funjoe’ claims takes only ten minutes. And yes, the modification is reversible. Check the video for instructive guidance:
Warranty? Three years.
Inside the box: the custom input module to be fitted inside the Mac Mini, the 4.5kg POWER STATION itself and a 1 metre DC cable that joins the two.
The Mac Mini version arrives with a a 12V/7.5A output but the POWER STATION can be specified for devices other than Apple computers at time of order. Products that fall between 2A and 8A on current thirst and between 5V to 18V on potential may see benefit from POWER STATION injection. May. Before taking the plunge, it’s worth researching just how noisy your existing SMPS; not all switching modules are the work of Satan.
Now you gotta ask yourself: where does a Mac Mini + POWER STATION fall in comparison to the Aurender N100H or AURALiC Aries?
Further information: CLONES Audio