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Turn a Mac Mini into a audio and video High Res "Apple TV"

MINOR WHITE

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I have read a number of threads on this but still not quite sure I am thinking all this out properly in trying to see if I should get a Mac Mini, or something like a NVIDIA Shield TV Pro?
The end result is the HIGHEST audio quality possible into my Bel Canto DAC 2.7, but have it look like things are running thru the TV.
I like the idea of an Apple TV, but it seems there is a limit to what resolution Airplay will stream/what the actual Apple TV unit will output, (effectively 24/48khz, period?).

Maybe this will help
I watch TV thru a Youtube TV subscription, streamed from my MacBook Pro, to a Google Chromecast Ultra (CCU).
I use computer apps like VLC to stream movies to the CCU.
I can stream other video content via the Google Chrome browser cast function to the CCU, (Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc).
I use the Qobuz computer app for streaming music (that I don't stream from the laptop itselt and iTunes)
The older Samsung flat screen has a TOSLINK out, which I then run to my Bel Canto DAC 2.7, then into my integrated Rega amp.
So basically I use the laptop as the 'media center' and I send what I want to watch/listen to to the TV/CCU.

Can I hook up a MacMini to the TV via HDMI, and control it from my MacBook Pro and 'stream' mostly the exact same way, BUT.....use the USB out to the Bel Canto DAC and when an app/program/service provides higher audio resolution, I can take full advantage of it? I guess regardless I can set the MacMini to output audio via USB at 24/192khz regardless.

I deeply apologize if this actually has been covered and a set up provided in another thread: feels like a lot of moving parts to do some relatively simple functions....like, why can't we have a casting dongle that does full 4K video and 24/192khz PCM?!?!

Thanks for everyones time.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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Only an older AppleTV would work in this scenario - current models are ALSO limited on their HDMI outputs to 48/24 :(
Oh my gosh are you serious?!? UGH!
Am I thinking correct that if I mirror to the MacMini....."it" would actually be launching and driving/playing the content from IT, so applications like VLC or Qobuz would be receiving full HD video and full rez audio: video out from HDMI and audio out from the USB at 24/192? Am I thinking that right?
 

voodooless

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You can just screen share into MacMini and run the apps that way, or just get one of those Bluetooth keyboards with touchpad to directly control one interface. You can run the sound though USB just fine.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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You can just screen share into MacMini and run the apps that way, or just get one of those Bluetooth keyboards with touchpad to directly control one interface. You can run the sound though USB just fine.
This is mostly what I am thinking. Not a huge fan of bluetooth stuffs, but if that's what works best and functions mostly the same as what I'm doing on the laptop, it's a worthwhile 'effort'.
 

ban25

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You can play DD Atmos music over HDMI using the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. The Tidal app claims to play high-resolution FLAC, but I'm not sure exactly what it sends over the HDMI port. The Shield is also, to my knowledge, the only way to stream lossless DD Atmos over Plex.

Chromecast built-in will support up to 24-bit/96 kHz FLAC (2-channel).
AirPlay 2 is unfortunately limited to lossy "CD quality" 256 Kbps AAC (2 channel).

With Roon Ready / RAAT, you can stream whatever the endpoint supports, including multi-channel. In the case of my Bluesound Node going into a Rotel A14MKII, that's 24-bit/192 kHz FLAC. Over USB, I can get that up to 24-bit/384 kHz. The new Rotel RAS-5000 is Roon Ready, so I expect it will be able to stream upto the limit of the DAC.

I wish Roon had an Android TV app, as it would turn the Shield TV into an excellent Roon client!
 

Axo1989

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I have read a number of threads on this but still not quite sure I am thinking all this out properly in trying to see if I should get a Mac Mini, or something like a NVIDIA Shield TV Pro?
The end result is the HIGHEST audio quality possible into my Bel Canto DAC 2.7, but have it look like things are running thru the TV.
I like the idea of an Apple TV, but it seems there is a limit to what resolution Airplay will stream/what the actual Apple TV unit will output, (effectively 24/48khz, period?).

Maybe this will help
I watch TV thru a Youtube TV subscription, streamed from my MacBook Pro, to a Google Chromecast Ultra (CCU).
I use computer apps like VLC to stream movies to the CCU.
I can stream other video content via the Google Chrome browser cast function to the CCU, (Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc).
I use the Qobuz computer app for streaming music (that I don't stream from the laptop itselt and iTunes)
The older Samsung flat screen has a TOSLINK out, which I then run to my Bel Canto DAC 2.7, then into my integrated Rega amp.
So basically I use the laptop as the 'media center' and I send what I want to watch/listen to to the TV/CCU.

Can I hook up a MacMini to the TV via HDMI, and control it from my MacBook Pro and 'stream' mostly the exact same way, BUT.....use the USB out to the Bel Canto DAC and when an app/program/service provides higher audio resolution, I can take full advantage of it? I guess regardless I can set the MacMini to output audio via USB at 24/192khz regardless.

I deeply apologize if this actually has been covered and a set up provided in another thread: feels like a lot of moving parts to do some relatively simple functions....like, why can't we have a casting dongle that does full 4K video and 24/192khz PCM?!?!

Thanks for everyones time.

I use a Mac (MBP but Mini would be the same) as main source for audio/video (like you are doing now maybe) and simply run Apple's long Thunderbolt cable to a hub, which splits to the TV and the DAC. A Mini is a bit better actually as you have HDMI and both USB-A and USB-C (over Thunderbolt) out so can connect directly (as you say).

Your question appears to centre on remote control of the Mini if I'm understanding you. Assuming you can see the macOS UI clearly enough on the TV from where you are sitting, I'd probably just use Magic Keyboard and Trackpad to control the Mini (there are third-party things to clip them together if you like). You don't have to worry about AirPlay limitations then, but if both Macs are Apple Silicon you can AirPlay from the laptop (or iPhone/iPad) to the Mini when convenient.

For audio output from the TV itself I assume your DAC has a remote (to switch between USB and optical inputs, say) for convenience, but not essential.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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You can play DD Atmos music over HDMI using the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. The Tidal app claims to play high-resolution FLAC, but I'm not sure exactly what it sends over the HDMI port. The Shield is also, to my knowledge, the only way to stream lossless DD Atmos over Plex.

Chromecast built-in will support up to 24-bit/96 kHz FLAC (2-channel).
AirPlay 2 is unfortunately limited to lossy "CD quality" 256 Kbps AAC (2 channel).

With Roon Ready / RAAT, you can stream whatever the endpoint supports, including multi-channel. In the case of my Bluesound Node going into a Rotel A14MKII, that's 24-bit/192 kHz FLAC. Over USB, I can get that up to 24-bit/384 kHz. The new Rotel RAS-5000 is Roon Ready, so I expect it will be able to stream upto the limit of the DAC.

I wish Roon had an Android TV app, as it would turn the Shield TV into an excellent Roon client!
That's a lot of what I am understanding about the advantages of the NVIDIA.
It has high resolution audio output abiity- has chromecast native which like you mentioned would be 24/96 similar to the Chromecast Audio:
NVIDIA:
"High-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192 kHz over HDMI and USB
High-resolution audio up-sample to 24-bit/192 kHz over USB
Audio support: AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, WAVE, AMR, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, PCM, WMA, WMA-Pro, WMA-Lossless, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD (pass-through), DTS-X (pass-through), and DTS-HD (pass-through)"

At least for me, everything is 2.1 channel: no real need for anything Dolby Atmos or surround sound.
Amazes me that Apple is so low resolution, for as 'music' centered it has been for ever.
Roon is next for me to buy and get rid of Amazon Music, keeping Qobuz.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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I use a Mac (MBP but Mini would be the same) as main source for audio/video (like you are doing know maybe) and simply run Apple's long Thunderbolt cable to a hub, which splits to the TV and the DAC. A Mini is a bit better actually as you have HDMI and both USB-A and USB-C (over Thunderbolt) out so can connect directly (as you say).

Your question appears to centre on remote control of the Mini if I'm understanding you. Assuming you can see the macOS UI clearly enough on the TV from where you are sitting, I'd probably just use Magic Keyboard and Trackpad to control the Mini (there are third-parttyy things to clip them together if you like. You don't have to worry about AirPlay limitations then (but if both Macs are Apple Silicon you can AirPlay from the laptop (or iPhone/iPad) to the Mini when convenient.

For audio output from the TV itself I assume your DAC has a remote (to switch between USB and optical inputs, say).
You're getting it. Sounds like you are doing exactly what I would like, only you are 'wired', and I am seeing if it's possible to do it all wireless.
I think you are right that a MacMini would be a bit better, and then getting a keyboard and trackpad like Voodooless mentioned above.
It seems Airplay has a limit to audio resolution, so I'd like to steer away from that if I can just to see if I can get max resolution/compatibility and simple functionality at the same time.
My Dac does have a remote to switch...that's a really good reminder!
I am intending to actually NOT use the TV as the audio out anymore, and use the much higher resolution of the USB into the Dac.
Again, this simplifies things but max resolution...then just video HDMI out to the TV and use all my normal computer based apps: chromebrowser, youtube, youtube TV, iTunes, Qobuz....right? I think? Maybe?
 

Axo1989

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Additional thoughts, I've had an AppleTV 4K before, but gave it to my sister. I'll get one again sometime and use it as a additional AV source (for convenience, the UI is easy to see from a distance and for casual users who don't want to mess about on my Mac). The Mac stays as the best quality music source. I don't do surround currently but that would also work from Mac (for music or video).

But back to your thing:

You're getting it. Sounds like you are doing exactly what I would like, only you are 'wired', and I am seeing if it's possible to do it all wireless.
I think you are right that a MacMini would be a bit better, and then getting a keyboard and trackpad like Voodooless mentioned above.
It seems Airplay has a limit to audio resolution, so I'd like to steer away from that if I can just to see if I can get max resolution/compatibility and simple functionality at the same time.
My Dac does have a remote to switch...that's a really good reminder!
I am intending to actually NOT use the TV as the audio out anymore, and use the much higher resolution of the USB into the Dac.
Again, this simplifies things but max resolution...then just video HDMI out to the TV and use all my normal computer based apps: chromebrowser, youtube, youtube TV, iTunes, Qobuz....right? I think? Maybe?

In practice I haven't used the TV audio out for ages, so it barely matters. I was incorrect thinking you had a Chrome gadget plugged into the TV. And I did use TV audio out when I was using an AppleTV as above, again not essential at all for me, ut it's easy for visitors. I would probably get a Mini for a better static setup but I have an iMac Pro that will retire from its work role someday and become the AV computer. The DAC will then sit nearby, and some longer XLR to the power amp.

I don't think the DAC remote is a big deal but you obviously want convenient volume control somewhere in the setup.

But overall I think it's best (at least for me) to use a wired Mac (which you can control in the normal way from wireless keyboard+trackpad) as main source, plus AirPlay (from another Mac or iOS device) for convenience. You can use AirPlay all the time, but you have the 24/48 restriction.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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Additional thoughts, I've had an AppleTV 4K before, but gave it to my sister. I'll get one again sometime and use it as a additional AV source (for convenience, the UI is easy to see from a distance and for casual users who don't want to mess about on my Mac). The Mac stays as the best quality music source. I don't do surround currently but that would also work from Mac (for music or video).

But back to your thing:



In practice I haven't used the TV audio out for ages, so it barely matters. I was incorrect thinking you had a Chrome gadget plugged into the TV. And I did use TV audio out when I was using an AppleTV as above, again not essential at all for me, ut it's easy for visitors. I would probably get a Mini for a better static setup but I have an iMac Pro that will retire from its work role someday and become the AV computer. The DAC will then sit nearby, and some longer XLR to the power amp.

I don't think the DAC remote is a big deal but you obviously want convenient volume control somewhere in the setup.
Oh no you are absolutely correct: I do have a Chromecast Ultra attached to the TV and I stream to it from MBP.
But it only seems to output 24/48k always: if it gets 16/44.1 it converts up to 24/48, and anything higher it will down rez.
So my thinking was to pull it from the chain and use a Macmini (or NVDIA Shield) as the streamer/player/hub. I at least know that to the "computer" (in the current case to my MacBook Pro) it will receive 24/192khz. Then the USB out can be set to 24/196.
My Rega Elex-r has volume, so that's not a problemo.
 

DWPress

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What you propose is completely doable with the Mini. A M1 should handle all of this easily and be in the Apple OS upgrade cycle for awhile. When you add Roon into the mix eventually you'll be able to use a phone as a remote for that as well (at whatever sample rate you want) and fully control the music end of things.
 

Power Pop 23

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While the Nvidia Shield has features the Mac mini cannot match, I second the idea of using a Mac mini and a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse or trackpad combination.

I have been using a Mac mini as a HTPC in a 2-channel setup since Apple adopted Intel silicon. I use VLC, audio and video steaming services,iTunes and appreciate that I can run all these sources through filters tailored to my listening space by Dirac Live

I use a Logitech MX Keys Mini keyboard instead of an Apple Magic keyboard because the Logitech keyboard is backlit
 
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MINOR WHITE

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While the Nvidia Shield has features the Mac mini cannot match, I second the idea of using a Mac mini and a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse or trackpad combination.

I have been using a Mac mini as a HTPC in a 2-channel setup since Apple adopted Intel silicon. I use VLC, audio and video steaming services,iTunes and appreciate that I can run all these sources through filters tailored to my listening space by Dirac Live

I use a Logitech MX Keys Mini keyboard instead of an Apple Magic keyboard because the Logitech keyboard is backlit
Incorporating Dirac Live is something I want to explore after I get the TV thing ironed out and Roon onboard.
I have a very small space, or more like oddly dimensioned small space with some boom at a couple frequencies.
It is seeming like the Mini offers more options, but as you mentioned the Nvidia does have some good stats.
 

dmilller

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You may want to buy an Apple TV to stream your video, assuming it can be connected to an older TV. Not sure how Chromecast got in the mix.

There little value in running your TV into the DAC.

I can't tell if you have ever connected your DAC directly to your mac via USB.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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Ordered a 2014 Mac Mini and the bluetooth keyboard and mouse from OWC: great price. Intend on setting it up as the HTPC and 2.1 channel high res playback server player.
I'll hook it up to TV via HDMI, internet via Ethernet, and to the Bel Canto DAC via USB.
So I think this way, I can avoid 'casting' as much as possible which seems to be the biggest limitation in resolution and quality (varying compression when casting and streaming?).
I'll keep the Chromecast dongle attached to TV as well for ease just in case.
Ideally, this will get the highest resolution audio into the DAC,(set audio midi out at 24/192) and having the Mini as a high rez hub for Roon and Qobuz and movies.
I hope the interface with the TV isn't a hassle or struggle-thinking about resolution making things way too small, but I'll try to work around it (TV is only like 42").
 

tmtomh

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I've used a Mac mini for years as my computer music streamer. I have a 2012 Intel-based mini and it's more than powerful enough to stream 24/192k music via USB. So a more modern M1 or M2-based mini will absolutely be fine for whatever audio you throw at it.

Lessons I've learned from the experience:
  1. I wouldn't get too hung up on high-res. I use iTunes/Apple Music to stream my music files and over the years I've experimented with multiple fixed-rate output resolutions (set via the Audio MIDI Utility app) and with on-the-fly resolution-switching (via the BitPerfect app, which sits between iTunes/Apple Music and the core OS, allowing for that resolution-switching) - and after years of comparing I hear no difference. Modern-day sample-rate conversion is trivially easy for competent hardware and software to do, so I just set Audio MIDI at 24/88.2k (or 24/96k if you prefer) and leave it.
  2. Controlling the mini's screen and interface remotely from another Mac or an iPad is trivially easy with Screen Sharing. HOWEVER, if you do that, the number-one requirement is to make sure something is connected to one of the mini's video ports. The simplest thing is to connect it to your TV via HDMI. If you don't want to do that (or if like me you have a separate audio-only listening room with no TV), you can buy an HDMI dummy plug at Amazon or a lot of other places for $15 or less. This will fool the mini into thinking a monitor is attached. Without this, the mini's graphics acceleration will be disabled, and the responsiveness of its screen and interface will be atrocious. This might no longer be an issue with the M1 and M2-based minis, I don't know. But it's a major issue with the Intel-based minis - though fortunately super cheap and easy to prevent.
  3. Controlling your preferred music/streaming app directly from your phone is IMHO far more convenient than controlling the mini's entire screen and OS interface through Screen Sharing from another Mac. The phone is so much smaller and lighter to hold, and easier to pick up and put down when you just want to listen and don't want to control the interface for a while. The phone interface is also simpler and easier to read than the full-screen OS interface you get through remote controlling the entire mini interface. And in my experience the refresh through Apple's Remote app on the iPhone is much faster and more reliable than the refresh with Screen Sharing - in other words much less lag time until you regain control, and also a more dependable connection (sometimes screen sharing will drop the connection if you haven't used it for more than 10-15 minutes).
  4. Despite the above, make sure you have remote-control capability for the mini. Eventually after several months, the computer might crash or simply become a little sluggish, or the OS or your music-streaming app might become glitchy - or you'll just need to update the OS and/or the music app. And (assuming this is a media-only computer with no personal files on it) set your computer to automatically log in (if Apple still allows that option) and your music app(s) to automatically start up upon login, so if you have a power outage or need to restart, you won't have to screen-share into the mini just to restart Roon or whatever your app is.
  5. Wireless is much easier than AirPlay, and USB can have slightly better stop and resume functionality than optical - so if at all possible, connect your mini to your DAC (or whatever you have downstream) via USB. Less important is how you control the mini, but even there if you are able to connect the mini to ethernet instead of wi-fi, it will give you that little bit of extra robustness and dependability in the connection you use to control the mini.
Good luck!
 

Axo1989

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Fyi I use TV as second monitor with laptop (it's 55" at ~2.5 metres) but run at default resolution as Retina display (obvious if you are a Mac user: needs 4K GUI is 2x). Operating eg Music and TV apps on that screen is fine for me. You can also try Remote app from the phone to control audio/visual playback from those apps. There are likely similar solutions for third-party.

Edit: plus what @tmtomh said.

Screenshot 2023-11-20 at 5.10.59 am.png

It's counter-intuitive, but you want to use the default (you can show all resolutions to see the rest) so macOS renders everything at high resolution (just like your Mac laptop screen). The UI will be 2x and the side effect is that UI is large enough to see/use easily.
 
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MINOR WHITE

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I've used a Mac mini for years as my computer music streamer. I have a 2012 Intel-based mini and it's more than powerful enough to stream 24/192k music via USB. So a more modern M1 or M2-based mini will absolutely be fine for whatever audio you throw at it.

Lessons I've learned from the experience:
  1. I wouldn't get too hung up on high-res. I use iTunes/Apple Music to stream my music files and over the years I've experimented with multiple fixed-rate output resolutions (set via the Audio MIDI Utility app) and with on-the-fly resolution-switching (via the BitPerfect app, which sits between iTunes/Apple Music and the core OS, allowing for that resolution-switching) - and after years of comparing I hear no difference. Modern-day sample-rate conversion is trivially easy for competent hardware and software to do, so I just set Audio MIDI at 24/88.2k (or 24/96k if you prefer) and leave it.
  2. Controlling the mini's screen and interface remotely from another Mac or an iPad is trivially easy with Screen Sharing. HOWEVER, if you do that, the number-one requirement is to make sure something is connected to one of the mini's video ports. The simplest thing is to connect it to your TV via HDMI. If you don't want to do that (or if like me you have a separate audio-only listening room with no TV), you can buy an HDMI dummy plug at Amazon or a lot of other places for $15 or less. This will fool the mini into thinking a monitor is attached. Without this, the mini's graphics acceleration will be disabled, and the responsiveness of its screen and interface will be atrocious. This might no longer be an issue with the M1 and M2-based minis, I don't know. But it's a major issue with the Intel-based minis - though fortunately super cheap and easy to prevent.
  3. Controlling your preferred music/streaming app directly from your phone is IMHO far more convenient than controlling the mini's entire screen and OS interface through Screen Sharing from another Mac. The phone is so much smaller and lighter to hold, and easier to pick up and put down when you just want to listen and don't want to control the interface for a while. The phone interface is also simpler and easier to read than the full-screen OS interface you get through remote controlling the entire mini interface. And in my experience the refresh through Apple's Remote app on the iPhone is much faster and more reliable than the refresh with Screen Sharing - in other words much less lag time until you regain control, and also a more dependable connection (sometimes screen sharing will drop the connection if you haven't used it for more than 10-15 minutes).
  4. Despite the above, make sure you have remote-control capability for the mini. Eventually after several months, the computer might crash or simply become a little sluggish, or the OS or your music-streaming app might become glitchy - or you'll just need to update the OS and/or the music app. And (assuming this is a media-only computer with no personal files on it) set your computer to automatically log in (if Apple still allows that option) and your music app(s) to automatically start up upon login, so if you have a power outage or need to restart, you won't have to screen-share into the mini just to restart Roon or whatever your app is.
  5. Wireless is much easier than AirPlay, and USB can have slightly better stop and resume functionality than optical - so if at all possible, connect your mini to your DAC (or whatever you have downstream) via USB. Less important is how you control the mini, but even there if you are able to connect the mini to ethernet instead of wi-fi, it will give you that little bit of extra robustness and dependability in the connection you use to control the mini.
Good luck!


Thank you SO much for this great info!!!!! This is exactly what I was hoping to get confirmation or direction on here!!
I'll be honest.....I at times do fixate on high-res, thinking "I am missing out" and things could sound better....but then I have to remember that I am dominantly listening via a Chromecast Ultra via wifi, into an old not-smart-tv and using it's conversion to toslink to get audio-out to DAC.
That alone is sort of nixing any 'high res' element even if it was present.
Also, to be honest, I really can't hear a lick of difference from 16/44.1 to 24/192khz or higher (via USB from computer).
I've even tried doing Room EQ Wizard measurements with formats, and can't see a lick of difference.
I -DO- hear a difference in the program like Amazon Music to Qobuz (both running as computer apps and thru USB), vs running as a cast program.
Even Qobuz when it hits its buffer limit or the network is bogged, you can start to hear compression/digitization effect (sounds like a little bit of a tin can).
So I think you are correct and smart to advise NOT getting hooked up on it (though it seems that's what we are all told to do?).

I'll attach the Mini to the TV via HDMI, so I think this will solve the issue you mentioned if I 'stream' to that computer. I'd prefer driving it as a stand alone so that it only uses ethernet and not have any limitations from streaming....but regardless I'll test that also.

I'll for sure utilize either my phone or iPad for the "remote" control function and drive Roon or Qobuz that way. Seems robust and high enough quality and ease setting up and using.

Will for sure have 'remote' access to the Mini as well. Like you mentioned things need updating and at times re-booting.

I do intend on only utilizing USB audio out from Mini into Bel Canto DAC 2.8: again, with things like Bit Perfect running apps like Apple Music (maybe Roon and Qobuz as well?) I can be sure the best audio quality is being pushed to the DAC, with the least amount of components and programs and processes in the signal path.

Many thanks for your advice here. I'll report back how it all works out!!
 

Tre2023

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I use a Mac mini M1 as my main music player. I also have an Apple TV 4K as my main video streamer. The Apple TV 4K, Mac mini M1 and other devices are connected directly to my receiver and it is connected to my TV. I use the M1 to go online and browse while listening to music on the couch using a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. The update to macOS Sonoma updated the HDMI port from a locked 24/48 output and it can be set up to 24/192. Amazon Music Unlimited Ultra HD, Apple Music, Qobuz and Tidal can now all deliver 24/192 hi-res signals to my receiver via HDMI without the needing to go through Roon or Audirvana. Different settings are necessary for hi-res output of different services but honestly, they all sound good from 16/44.1 up to 24/192.

The most convenient service when using my Mac mini M1 for music is Apple Music. My rips and Apple Music service library both show up when using the iTunes Remote app on my iPhone to act as the Mac mini M1's Apple Music app controller. If on my iMac in another room, screen share works to use any of the service apps currently in the Mac mini M1. If I want sample rate and bit match while using Apple Music, I turn on LosslessSwitcher.
 
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