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My readers have often asked me what type of computer setup I personally recommend, something that is suitable for a decent music server.
First of all, I’m not going to recommend a specific OS. All major operating systems whether that would be Windows, Mac OS X or Linux are perfectably capable in 2015. In addition, most USB DACs now work driverless on many platforms. Thus it comes down to your personal preference.
Are you more comfortable with Linux or Open Source in general? Go ahead and take your pick.
In reality there are a couple of things way more important than the OS itself or even software choices. Do you plan on using the computer for streaming purposes or as a data storage device, too? If streaming is all you’re after, wouldn’t a simple set-top-box from Sonos or even an Apple TV do the job just fine?
If you plan to archive music or just desire more flexibility, you won’t get past a dedicated computer. In my opinion, laptops are still the perfect way to go. They are quiet, consume only little energy and are pretty cheap. You can find great laptops on Amazon for under $300 (advertisement). You can install any OS of your choice on them. I’ve even seen working Intel Nuc boxes running Mac OSX.
Alternatively, consider something like an Intel Nuc (advertisement) or a Mac Mini (advertisement)
. Although not portable, they are small and easily fit into any living room audio system. In fact, your guests won’t even notice what the small boxes do 🙂
Being a Mac user with a 2011 MacBook Pro, I wanted a dedicated Mac computer for music playback but didn’t like the idea of spending extra money on a Mac Pro. So I built a little Intel Core i3 Hackintosh based on a Gigabyte Z77-DS3H board with 16GB of RAM as a side project. It runs great, even with the latest El Capitan release. I use Audirvana Plus as the playback engine for my FLAC collection. For obvious reasons I cannot give complete details on how to install Mac OS X on standard PC hardware but I will gladly answer your questions – just drop me a note. Check out TonyMacX86 (Google) if you are curious about the Hackintosh scene.