February 2011 issue - Page 5 - Mac Mini

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The Mac Mini will output 96kHz from TOSLINK.



As much as NK’s reply clears up many points on the Mac Mini Toslink connection, he makes one very large mistake. No Mac with USB 2.0 connections is physically or software limited to 16bit 44.1 – 48kHz through hardware. If a Mac (any Mac) has USB 2.0 and OSX 10.5 or higher it is capable of outputting up to 24bit 96kHz via USB. The limitation NK found with his Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, is the DAC Magic itself. While the actual Wolfson DAC is 24/96 capable, the USB receiver on the DAC Magic is limited to 16/48 max.

Brian Alvarez



In the Mail section of your October 2010 issue NK replied to several response letters regarding the Mac Mini. I am afraid he has given wrong information again. He states “The Intel Mac Mini has selectable fixed output sample rates of 44.1, 48 and 96 Hz via the optical output but only 44.1 and 48 kHz via USB, at least with the a 96 kHz capable Cambridge Audio DAC Magic attached as a test mule.”

The fact is that the problem lies with the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic which does not support 96 kHz via its USB input but only through it coax and optical digital inputs. I run a USB to a Wadia 151 PowerDAC Mini and do indeed receive 96 kHz via the USB connection.

Best regards,

Mike Kulfan


Hi Chaps. That the Cambridge Audio DAC restricts USB performance had already been discussed and was known about I presumed. I alluded to the limitation by saying “at least with the 96kHz capable Cambridge Audio DAC Magic attached as a test mule”. In other words, the Cambridge appears to be 96kHz capable, but it is not via S/PDIF.

Once again though, I am fascinated by your knowledge and experience of using a Mac Mini for audio, not something I would have considered, and feel sure that what you say will be of interest to many other readers. There’s nothing like beating the subject (and me) to death! NK



Experiences that I’ve had with my hi-fi system over the past six months have really been an eye opener for me and, I think, changed my way of thinking regarding how I view upgrades, reviews and listening.

My current system is Teac T1 transport (with Trichord Clock 4 and upgraded power supply, Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC, Cyrus Pre X, PSXR power supply, Rotel RB1092 Power Amp, Linn Kabers. Cabling is a mix of Russ Andrews, Ixos Ixotica and Linn.

My latest ‘adventure’ began when I saw a Townshend TA565 CD player for sale. Having once owned a Townshend Rock turntable/Naim Nait/Heybrook HB1 system that I remember extremely fondly, I decided to explore further. Reviews spoke very highly of the TA565 CD, talking about its solid bass, high resolution playback and plenty more besides. So I arranged to demo the player at the dealer who advised that I bring my current CD and DAC for comparison purposes.

My journey from Staffordshire to Surrey was a tedious three and a half hours but was tempered by my excitement and enthusiasm for what I was surely about to hear. My wife kindly agreed to join me to keep me company... actually I think it was to keep an eye on proceedings and also the purse strings!

Arrival at the dealers was met with coffee, a warm welcome and me drooling at not only the Townshend but also the racks of Naim, Linn and other gorgeous pieces of hi-fi. We settled in and fired up the Townshend which had been warmed up prior to our arrival and started to listen.

Well damn me, what a disappointment: it sounded rather flat, a little drab and dare I say it, rather ordinary. I persevered and played a clutch of discs that I had with me, but everything sounded the same, detail was merely OK but certainly not great, bass was admittedly tuneful but nothing special... I was gutted.

At this point the dealer suggested we compare my old but trusted Teac/Tri-Vista through the same system, we cabled up and off we went. It absolutely wiped the floor with the Townshend, detail was crisp, clear...very clear, bass was tighter, bigger and just as tuneful and the whole thing was way way better. Even the dealer raised his eyebrow and complimented the sound.

Then disaster struck, the sound went out on one channel. We checked cables, leads etc but nothing worked...the Tri Vista was on the blink! So our demo was cut short and we started to pack up for home. Before we left though the dealer offered to play us some of the latest Naim CD players through the demo system whilst we had a last coffee. I don’t recall the models but they were certainly expensive...I do recall the wife saying “don’t get any ideas” as the dealer set it up.

Again though, with my demo discs, we were somewhat disappointed, the Teac/Tri Vista had sounded better than the new Naims, the dealer looked somewhat bemused, embarrassed and had to admit the same. We thanked them for their time, kindness, patience and coffee then headed home. Three and a half hours wondering what the hell was wrong with the Tri Vista!

So, next step, to get it fixed. I contacted Musical Fidelity who were helpful but rather expensive. I then Googled for alternative options. I found a company called J.S.Audio, who appeared to be well versed in Musical Fidelity products. A call was made and a deal done for me to get the DAC to them, the repairs to be done but also some upgrades to be carried out at the same time.

I got the DAC back a couple of weeks later, it worked fine, back on two channels, but I wasn’t so sure about the sound, it had lost a little something. A further call was made and they were horrified that I wasn’t happy. It went back again with a clearer brief as to what I was looking for.

Two weeks later and it was back at home. Well, I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing, it was simply outstanding. The whole system had moved up to a totally different level. Bristling with fine detail (some never heard before), a truly ridiculous soundstage but most of all an almost holographic imaging that I’ve only ever heard once before at a show through £20,000 worth of high end system.

I have never before in twenty years of hi-fi interest had such a huge and tangible upgrade – all for £600! I’m listening to discs almost daily and hearing so much more music, detail and depth like never before.

So, either my system was lacking something before, or maybe the upgrades have waved a magic wand over proceedings. Or, and this is the interesting thing, the Townshend wasn’t as good as the reviews/reviewers made it out to be (it was a £3000 player!) but also are the new Naims really that good, is the new equipment on the shelves today any better than what was available years ago?

My experiences have taught me a really valuable lesson. Don’t get sucked in by the reviews, the brand names and status. Maybe, just maybe, the potential lies within what you already have, it just needs exploiting.

Food for thought?

Kind regards,

Dave Mayer


Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC tweaked by J.S. Audio was a "huge and tangible upgrade" says David Mayer.


Food for thought indeed. Ultimately, you have to use your ears. No amount of reading glowing reviews of products will get you to where you want to go; it's a case of listening for yourself. Of course we try very hard to be accurate and open in our reviews, and indeed back them up with measured performance which is a tremendous load in terms of the time it takes, but ultimately it's you who's buying it and it's you who should listen before you so do! Magazines can only frame the debate, and help you make your final shortlist. DP



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