Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server With Joule III Power Supply

by Karl Sigman on December 16, 2013 · 15 comments

in Digital, Sound Docks/Servers/Computer, Stars

Although I vaguely knew that Mojo Audio had a reputation for making high-quality reasonably priced power cables and interconnects, I admittedly did not know much about them nor what else they were known for. So, when I found myself at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2013 in Denver, Colorado, in October, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what to expect. I was introduced to Benjamin Zwickel, owner of Mojo Audio, now based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he invited me to a private listening of his show room, along with Audiophilia Publisher Anthony Kershaw and his lovely wife Jan.

What I saw and heard both confused and impressed me: Mojo Audio’s room was by far one of the least expensive and most minimal set ups at the show, yet sounded wonderful. Even people who are obsessed with vinyl might easily believe that they were listening to just that; but all was digital. I looked around for fancy equipment; there was none. I merely saw a Mac Mini computer as server connected to a reasonably priced DAC (made by Mojo Audio, it turned out) plugged directly into a vintage pair of upgraded/modified Allen 75 organ amps and Zwickel’s DIY floor standers. The speakers were less than $1000 for the pair; ‘who needs fancy cabinetry anyhow’ seemed to be his attitude. Moreover, all his files for play were ripped CDs, so the resolution was at only 16/44.1. I was very impressed. Having witnessed many rooms at this show with systems that easily retailed upwards of $100,000, and were playing 24/192 files, and/or DSD, and bragging about it, this was a breath of fresh air.

I quizzed Zwickel extensively to find out how this could be. His small display table had everything right there to see as he carefully and patiently explained what it is that he does besides making cables. I was quite taken by his down-to-earth simple approach of using a Mac Mini as music server by upgrading it: mainly replacing its own internal power supply with a very high-grade external one (the Joule III; it currently retails at $999.95) so as to improve the sound quality. A Mac Mini was right there on the display table to reveal exactly what the surgical procedure was, as was the Joule III by its side, and he answered every question I asked with impressive knowledge and confidence. (He is a hands-on engineer of the highest order.) You can either send Mojo Audio your own Mac Mini and they will upgrade it accordingly, or buy a new one from them already upgraded. A standard upgrade (as a kit for about $1500) consists of the surgery for the Mac Mini, the Joule III, software optimization, and internal filters. They even keep the Mac Mini under warranty for you (Apple won’t of course honor their own warranty after the surgery).

The Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server.

Some Theory and Background

Whenever I have come across a great sounding music server, it is the result of an audiophile/scientist/engineer who for whatever reason—putting aside the obvious massive practical advantage of using files versus disks—came to the conclusion that they can create, or have already created, a device that betters a transport in sound quality and at a lower price, and that using an outstanding power supply is a necessary part of the creation.

There are two types of music servers in general: (1) computers (e.g., a Mac or PC), and (2) what I will denote henceforth here as ‘dedicated’ music servers, meaning that their sole function and purpose is to play music. My focus in this review is on the computer, and I admit right up front that I am of the ‘computer’ type, that is, I like and enjoy using computers—my cup of tea. All else being equal in sound or closely so, I would choose a computer. This does not mean that I don’t appreciate a truly outstanding dedicated music server. Audiophilia has just published a review of one that I am immensely impressed!

The Mojo Audio Approach

Mojo Audio argues that a Mac Mini computer is already endowed with an outstanding design as a music server due to an easily upgradable single voltage power supply, a low-resonance well shielded machined aluminum chassis, and premium Apple components. As with any switch mode power supply (SMPS), the tiny internal 12V SMPS that occupies about 25% of the Mac Mini’s chassis is engineered for efficiency and size as opposed to performance. Although adequate for most tasks, SMPS rely on error-correction as opposed to error-prevention, which makes them less than ideal for real-time audio playback in which timing is absolutely crucial.

Mojo Audio takes the position that by replacing the Mac Mini’s internal power supply with an external linear power source (e.g., the Joule III), a significant reduction of distortion of the digital square wave is accomplished, which results in a significant reduction in bit-read errors. In effect, the computer then performs like one with more system resources, since the existing system resources are doing far less switching, swapping, and error-correction. The result is more accurate time and tune with better musical flow, yielding a more natural analog-like sound.

Mojo Audio was (2010) the first company to begin the development of an Internal Filter Module (IFM) that fits in the space where the stock Mac Mini power supply was removed; then in 2011 they were the first company to offer a high-performance hardwired DC power cable for the Mac Mini. The problem with any cable is that it acts like an antenna, attracting RFI and EMF noise. To compensate, the IFM removes noise well into the Gigahertz range with three dedicated Pi filters that are tuned to the major radio frequencies that ‘marinate’ our world: FM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular.

The first-generation of the Joule was out in 2011; named in honor of James Prescott Joule, the physicist—and top-notch brewer of beer. The current (newest) version, the Joule III, has a noise floor about 15% of an LiO4 battery. Impressive. And, Mojo Audio only sells directly to customers, no middlemen involved; no distributors. This helps keep their prices low.

Mojo Audio Joule III Power Supply rear panel.

Mojo Audio Joule III Power Supply rear panel.

Mojo Audio Joule III Power Supply inside chassis.

Mojo Audio Joule III Power Supply inside chassis.

Mojo Audio’s View of the Linux Operating System

Although Mojo Audio has been offering Mac Mini media servers with optimized Apple OS X for music and optimized Windows for Blu-Ray, they believe (as do the audiophile-scientist/engineers that I find most compelling) that Linux is the best way to go for sound quality. In Spring 2014 they plan to offer partitioning your internal hard drive so that one part runs optimized Apple OS X and the other (for music playing) runs Linux with free music player software. In fact they will even allow multiple (more than two) such partitions with various optimized versions of Apple OS X, Windows, and Linux operating systems on each. Wonderful.

Mojo Audio’s View of High-Resolution Files

Zwickel thinks that 24/192 resolution for digital files is overkill for optimal sound quality, that 24/96 is sufficient and perhaps even 20/96. He points out that CDs—obsolete as a medium overall (with transports as source following suit rapidly)—are still widely available and many of them when ripped at their natural 16/44.1 resolution already sound outstanding and take up considerably less disk space than high-resolution versions, which often sound worse due to the way they are mixed/remastered.

A Review in the Making

Zwickel speaks his mind, and is very generous with his knowledge, experience and time. Whatever one may think of the Mojo Audio philosophy, one thing is clear: he is a perfectionist and his enthusiasm, energy and passion for low-cost but audiophile-quality audio equipment and music is contagious. As an extensive user of a regular (non-upgraded) Mac Mini as my reference computer server, and a Mac user since 1986 for general computer use, I was intrigued. This was right up my alley. This was exciting. My current Mac Mini as server already sounded great on my system; could Mojo Audio make it sound even better? Could it be modified to compete with high-end dedicated music servers that cost more in comparison? Could it be made easy enough to use that even a non-computer nerd could use it? These were the questions swirling in my head. Zwickel was particularly interested to hear that I use a direct ethernet crossover cable connection to my DAC for sending the files, as opposed to using USB, and I do not use a preamplifier (my DAC supports hardwired ethernet streaming, and has a built-in volume control). We also shared some similar tastes in music which added to the comradery.

When I returned to New York City from the RMAF, I was very pleasantly surprised when Mojo Audio contacted me offering to soon send me some new products to try out and review for Audiophilia: Their newest version of the Joule III Power Supply kit for the Mac Mini (complete with the very newest upgraded internal filter module, from October 2013) together with the ($70.00) tiny and light aluminum external hard drive case that they were planning to sell as an option with their upgrade, the Oyen Digital MiniPro. It connects via firewire or USB 3.0 to the Mac Mini and can house different kinds of hard drives for music file storage. Mojo Audio only sells the Oyen Digital cases, not their offered hard drives, because Mojo Audio prefers instead to offer you its own choice of a variety of alternative drives which they believe are more appropriate for the upgraded Mac Mini, and they install them for you if you wish. Zwickel offered to send three such identical cases, each containing distinctly different kinds of drives for my perusal:

1. The original (standard) 1TB magnetic spinner one that comes internally with a standard Mac Mini. Mojo Audio already suggests removing that internal one anyhow and replacing it with an internal Samsung Pro SSD drive (for running the computer’s operating system, or if you wish, for also putting music files on it); that alone gets rid of any mechanical ‘spinner’ noise within the Mac Mini. The internal SSD replacement choices are from 128GB to 512GB.

2. A 1TB magnetic spinner ‘AV’ drive that is optimized for 24/7 continuous play (no auto head align to pause music); about $80.00. Very nicely priced.

3. A Samsung Pro 840 SSD, 512GB, the most expensive option by a wide margin; $499.95, but considered to be one of the finest SSD available.

Also included to use with the hard drives was a 3’ Granite Digital 9-pin to 9-pin Firewire 800 cable that retails for $45.95; a top pick by most AV professionals in their recording, mixing, and editing systems. Icing on the cake—great.

I accepted the offer right away and shipped him one of my own Mac Mini models to upgrade— the 2.6GHz processor model with the minimal 4GB of RAM. Mojo Audio also upgrades RAM at about half the price of what Apple charges; they upgraded mine to the 16GB maximum. I also had them replace my internal 1TB drive with a 128GB SSD. I stayed with the Mac OS operating system (versus the Linux option) because JRiver does not yet offer a Linux based version of their MediaCenter software—but they are working on one—and I currently need to use JRiver on my Mac Mini (for reasons explained later in this review).
I was very keen on trying out the Mojo Audio equipment. This was going to be fun, and indeed it was. Another very delightful journey in the ongoing massive revolution of digital audio.

When the box from Mojo Audio arrived, it was carefully and cleverly packaged, with every piece in its own container within and placed for protection within neat looking black styrofoam holders. The Mac Mini (still in the original Apple Computer box) now had Mojo Audio’s black thin power cord (internally connected) sticking out of the back of the box with an XLR plug at its end which then snaps into the back of the Joule III Power Supply. And, the cord did not block the ethernet input of the Mac Mini as would be the case with almost all high-end power cords you might try to use to replace a standard Mac Mini’s one (the only exception I know being the excellent P.I. Audio Group MPC/Mini++). The Joule III was heavy-duty metal encased with a simple and very elegant silver anodized faceplate that matched the color of the Mac Mini and the color of the external drives (a black anodized option is also available). It was larger (8” x 9.25” x 3”) and heavier (9.0 lbs) than the Mac Mini itself, and it did not come with a power cord: no pressure by Mojo Audio to use any particular one, so I used one of my own favorites, but you can buy a Mojo Audio power cord if you so wish. The Joule III has no buttons or lights, just plug it in and it is on—as simple as can be—nothing extra to interfere with its performance. It is dead silent when on; only a dash of warmth on its top is apparent to the touch. It is advised to keep it placed to the right of your Mac Mini (as you face it), and always keep it on unless absolutely necessary to turn it off.

The three elegant tiny aluminum external hard-drive cases included were identical in appearance, and that was Zwickel’s point: Hear but not see what is inside. He had given them identical names so that when swapping, the computer would continue as is without requiring any change in file location. Experiment by double-blind testing, or (with the help of my wife) triple-blind testing. What sounds to my liking? Zwickel wants to know. He has a scientific mind. More fun.

Setting Things Up

Everything worked right out of the box; I had music playing within 20 minutes with a USB connected to my DAC. When the computer turned on, my monitor had the cool Mojo Audio logo (the last ‘O’ of ‘Audio’ in ‘Mojo Audio’) as its desktop theme with swirling semi-circles all about in a peaceful sea of blue, and the Audirvana music software that came already installed was up and running. Nice. The computer had been set up brilliantly by Mojo Audio to avoid the common mistakes that a newcomer using computers for music servers usually makes: Do not allow sleep mode, do not allow the processor set to go off after a number of minutes, do not allow automatic updates, do not allow various unrelated software to open up automatically upon start up. Well thought out by Mojo Audio in advance.

I attached each of the three external hard drives one at a time for a quick initial check. Zwickel had kindly left some music on the drives. The drives were impressively quiet with very little vibration if any (one in particular was dead quiet and lighter without any vibration and it was whipping fast; the SSD? Obviously so). I powered them by the Mac Mini through the firewire cable (you can use a USB 3.0 also), not their own power source, and this additionally saved me a precious power outlet on my power strip. A major advantage of using firewire for the hard drive is that it then does not compete or interfere with the USB connection for sending the music to your DAC if you are using USB for that purpose (which was going to be my first testing method). In any case you have both options at your fingertips with this slick plug-and-play aluminum hard-drive case that measures in at a tiny 4.9” x 3.1” x 1.0”—about 1/3 the size of my clunky external powered noisy Seagate ones. What an improvement. Better yet: These drives are formatted as FAT32. They will work on any system (not just a Mac computer) without any additional software. So if you want to bring your tiny drive (fitted with music) to a friend’s system or an audio show to play, no problem. Finally, a slightly larger version of the case (5.2” x 3.5” x 2.2”) is available too ($100), in which 2 drives work together (up to 3TB) inside in a RAID 1 but are specially set by Mojo Audio so as to be powered directly by the Joule III’s power supply and connected to the Mac Mini using a prototype powerless Firewire cable (similar to how ethernet cables work)—amazing.

For initial testing, I kept the dead quiet one installed; later I experimented by swapping. Although ultimately I preferred the SSD (Who wouldn’t—except for its high price? It’s impeccably quiet, and damn fast), with the AV drive second, all of them were of audiophile quality in my opinion, and one can save a bundle by just using the original 1TB drive that came internally with the Mac Mini—don’t waste it! Better yet: Use it as the back-up drive in a RAID 1 version of the drive case, and choose AV or SSD for the other (the one that streams the audio files), particularly if you plan to use high-resolution files. Since the AV is considerably cheaper than the SSD, that is my highest recommendation for performance/price ratio.

The Sound Quality

Right from the start the sound had significantly more dynamic range than my regular Mac Mini did, which made the volume seem louder as a result. The soundstage was significantly larger too, but the sound itself was muddled and fluffy and thin, lacking clarity and details—as if I had cotton in my ears. Not to my liking at all. But this was confirmed as normal by Mojo Audio; a long burn-in period is needed for the Joule III to begin performing at its best and it is suggested to keep music playing 24 hours a day for 2 weeks or so. Five days later, after continuous playing, the sound had opened up beautifully, revealing more depth, clarity, transparency, warmth and fullness—no more muddled sound. The textures were lovely. This was now more like what I had experienced listening with USB on high-end dedicated music servers. It continued to further improve significantly over the next week. Very impressive. And it never crashed even once—that itself is worth noting.

The Audirvana software (free) already sounded great overall, was impressively stable, and was very easy to use since it has—admirably—very few options to choose from. But I had JRiver MediaCenter 19 for Mac installed—although it has so many damn options it will cause anyone to get a headache, and the Mac version is not yet at the higher stability level of the PC version. Even so, I needed it if I want to use ethernet streaming with my DAC, and it has tremendous sound quality (in my opinion)—when it works. So I switched to JRiver for comparison (but still keeping the USB connection). The sound improved further, with more richness and transparency—the bass in particular—and various crackles and pops that had occasionally previously occurred between tracks vanished now.

But then came a real surprise: I finally connected the ethernet crossover cable (directly from Mac Mini to DAC) instead of the USB. Wow! The significant improvement in sound quality was as dramatic as it was the first time I had switched from USB to ethernet on my previous (regular non Mojo-upgraded) Mac Mini. But compared to my regular Mac Mini using ethernet, the sound was even deeper, richer, fuller, and more resolving with amazing clarity and transparency, and so clean, with impeccable quiets and timbral accuracy. The enlarged soundstage that I noticed previously was at full show now. Magnificent. I kept the ethernet connection in place from then on—no going back.

I listened to several tracks of Harry Belafonte from ‘Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (Live)’, including ‘Day-O’, and one of my all-time favorites, his rendition of ‘Hava Nagila’. I carried on with some tracks from the exceptional recording ‘Belafonte Sings the Blues’; in particular, track 2 ‘Loosing Hand’, with that tremendous deep baritone sax from the left channel; it sounded just like it was inside my apartment. Belafonte’s voice was so full-bodied and expansive. This was clearly a very significant notch up on the quality of my system sound, so I decided to ‘work all night and drink a rum’—wallop down a goodly shot or two of aged rum that is—and stay up late to continue experimenting. I did so in Belafonte’s honor and to help continue onward with my journey.

I followed up with Yo Yo Ma playing Vivaldi, Ella Fitzgerald ‘Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie’, Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’, David Byrne & St. Vincent ‘Love This Giant’, Eric Clapton ‘Unplugged’, Chris Thile, ‘Bach Sonatas and Partitas, Volume 1’ (written for violin but played here by Thile using mandolin), The Ginger Baker Trio ‘Falling Off The Roof’, and Vampire Weekend ‘Modern Vampires Of The City’, among others. I purposely chose a wide variety of different genres (some as ripped CDs, some as high-resolution files) to see how things were going, and everything I played sounded superb in this testing.

My wife, too, was very impressed with the sound now, but had no idea what had really caused this upward change in my system; she simply assumed I was using some new and expensive audio device that I probably snuck into the apartment in her absence (such as that exceptional pair of class D mono amps that Audiophilia colleague Marty Appel recently lent me to try out for a week or so). She was very happy (relieved?) to learn that I was just using a new $4.00, 7′ crossover ethernet cable with an upgraded Mac Mini (versus a $400 USB cable). And, so was I.

I then noticed that Zwickel had left me (on the hard drive) the Suzanne Vega ‘Solitude Standing’ album, from 1987, with its classic first track ‘Tom’s Diner’. Tom’s Diner actually exists as a restaurant, it is a real diner formally called Tom’s Restaurant, and is located on the corner of Broadway and West 112th Street, several blocks from my apartment in New York City. It was launched to fame by the highly successful TV series ‘Seinfeld’ (1989–1998), not at all because of its food quality, but because its front was filmed as a stand-in for Monk’s Cafe in the show. To this day, busloads of tourists still come to be photographed in front. But in fact, before the Seinfeld series began, Suzanne Vega completed her undergraduate degree in 1982 at Barnard College—the sister college of Columbia University—near the diner, and her song ‘Tom’s Diner’ stems from her real life experiences of going there. I quickly put it on; I had not even thought about her music in over 20 years, but recalled enjoying it. It was lovely from my Mojo Audio upgrade—so vivid, with her unique voice sounding like a loud whisper as she sings (or talks?) her way through, without any vibrato; kind of like just telling a story personally and up close to you with mysterious dreamy ups and downs in tone.

It brought back memories of my youth: I had eaten lunch at Tom’s Diner once, and only once, in about 1988 shortly after I moved to the area. After listening to this track and then to the other classic track, ‘Luka’, and finishing with the title track, ‘Solitude Standing’—the latter 2 also containing music (not just talking) with the Mojo Audio upgrade sounding fantastic—I felt the urge to go back to Tom’s Diner and have lunch again. I did so the next day. The place had changed very little, it looked like and had the ambience of a diner from the 1950s, except for the numerous posters of Seinfeld characters scattered all about the walls. I sat at the counter on one of those old bar stools fastened to the floor (same ones as 20 years ago?) and chose a special of the day: stuffed cabbage, which came with a salad, soup, a side of steamed vegetables, and a lot of potatoes, at a remarkable total price including tax of only $10.30. But, as I said earlier, Tom’s Diner is not known for the quality of its food—perhaps that’s why Suzanne Vega only mentions drinking coffee in her song?

Taking Mojo Audio’s cue concerning the sufficiency of CD quality rips, I continued with a more serious testing with what I consider audiophile reference quality 16/44.1 ripped CD files. Here are some choice examples in addition to the already mentioned Harry Belafonte ‘Belafonte Sings the Blues’ :

1. Dire Straights, ‘Brothers in Arms’ (remastered/re-released in 2000) tracks 6 and 7 ‘Ride Across The River’ and ‘The Man’s Too Strong’.

2. The Oscar Peterson Trio, ‘We Get Requests’ (remastered/re-released in 1997), track 1, 7 ‘You Look Good To Me’.

3. Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, ‘Random Acts of Happiness’, track 7, ‘Speaking With Wooden Tongues’. (Live recording.)

4. Vincente Amigo’s ‘Un Momento En El Sonido’, track 1, ‘Demipati’.

The sound quality from the Mojo Audio setup was stunning. For example, the bass played with a bow in ‘We Get Requests’, from the right channel, was so much deeper, rich and real sounding than ever before on my system. For another example, the timbral accuracy of Bruford’s percussion in ‘Speaking With Wooden Tongues’ was at a new level; so natural and earthy sounding, and the bass was obviously deeper and richer.

Soon after, a friend from Colorado was visiting and brought me the CD (reissued in 2010) Arvo Pärt’s, ‘Tabula Rasa’, with Keith Jarrett on piano, Gidon Kremer on violin, among others, even including 12 cellists from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on one of the tracks, ‘Fratres for 12 Cellos’. I ripped it; it absolutely fascinated me. Peaceful, beautiful and haunting all at the same time, it sounded exceptional on my set up, with periods of long silence and fast action. I listened to this for the next several days because it was so engaging [May I suggest Pärt's beautiful and mesmerizing 'Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten'? - Ed].

Before moving on, I noticed—by chance—a ripped CD ‘Baka’, by Outback (1991) on my hard drive. I did not recognize it by name. It attracted my attention only because in Japanese, the word baka means ‘stupid’, so I expected something silly. I was stunned. This was not a stupid album: it was gorgeous sounding from my new set up; a close-up natural organic sounding acoustic performance, using a traditional indigenous Australian native (wind) instrument called a didgeridoo, an acoustic guitar and various percussion. It sounded on my system as if it had been recorded in my apartment. You could vividly hear the sliding sound of fingers on the strings of the acoustic guitar, and tapping on wood. The didgeridoo at times gave a sound like a dog growling or barking in addition to its classic deep drone sound. I had never heard of Outback before; what a pleasure to finally know about them. Better later then never. And, it turns out that ‘Baka’ are a tribe of people from Cameroon in Africa after which the album was named—so much for my Japanese.

Playing High-Resolution Files

It was now time to carefully check out high-resolution (HR) files — primarily, 24/192. Some HR were already included in my earlier testing, but not enough to determine problems that might occur. This is an area where my testing could have serious consequences. Such files can sometimes randomly cause trouble on many ad hoc computer music servers (skipping, screeching, pops, crackles, crashing of the system, etc.) when played at their full resolution without downsampling. So I decided to go right away to files that have caused me trouble in the past on other computer servers and here are some choice culprits:

1. Norah Jones, ‘Come Away With Me’ at 24/192.

2. James Taylor, ‘Sweet Baby James’, at 24/192.

3. Duke Ellington, ‘Concert in The Virgin Islands’, at 24/192.

They played flawlessly through the new Mojo Audio set up, and the sound quality was way up there with such fine details exposed. I played each over and over many times throughout the night and for several days on and off over the rest of the week to be absolutely sure. What a relief. Finally, no more trouble. Well done Mojo Audio. I thus can relax now and listen to all my HR on my Mac Mini without worry.

Summary

The Mojo Audio Joule III upgrade kit converts a Mac Mini into a first-rate audiophile quality music server that can compete very favorably with dedicated music servers that cost more. On the Mojo Audio Website it is stated that, ‘Our products sound graceful and fluid yet articulate and precise, preserving the natural tone, timbre, and harmonics that bring you closer to the original musical performance’. I agree. And don’t forget that this music server is not just a music server—it is a world-class computer as well—a multitasker of the first water; it still connects wirelessly to your network even if you are using (like me) the ethernet connection to stream the music directly to your DAC. You can do the following all at once in principle: listen to music, stream a movie, surf the Web, watch a YouTube video, send and receive emails, fiddle around with Facebook, and even perform complex mathematical computations. Even my 3-year-old daughter knows how to use it to some degree.

To make my point: While playing the Norah Jones, ‘Come Away With Me’ album at 24/192, I simultaneously ran a computer program (in C programming language using Xpro) to determine how many ways there can be a tie in a USA presidential election. In other words, how many ways can the USA be divided up into two sets of states so that each one sums up to 269 Electoral College Votes (ECV) (there are 538 total; I used the ECV allocation that was used in the 2000 election). This is not a trivial computation. The answer came out in under 10 seconds (about 17.1 trillion; 17, 150, 271, 124, 366 to be exact) and in no way that I could tell did this computation interfere with the sound quality of the Norah Jones streaming. So, I repeated the experiment but this time made the computation repeat itself over and over. Same outcome.

Although I probably deserve a ‘Moe double-slap’ for doing so—but I just could not resist—I then upped the ante: I repeated the same experiment but added on simultaneously a third process: watching The Three Stooges 1936 episode, ‘A Pain in the Pullman’, on YouTube via Safari (but with no sound). Again, no interference—except for the loud outbursts of laughter from me and my wife. That scene alone in the beginning—in which Curly, Larry and Moe, while practicing their dance routine which satirizes the intricate legwork of classic Jewish folk dance— and end up drifting from their hotel room into the room across the hall of a woman’s boudoir, is priceless 1 What dedicated music server can boast about doing all this?

Meanwhile, the cool external hard drives are a superb choice with the upgrade: tiny, light, energy efficient, very flexible and relatively inexpensive (except for the SSD one)—and with exceptional sound quality. Even if you choose to use your own Mac Mini’s internal 1TB hard drive, you need only spend an extra $70.00 to buy a case to enclose it in, or spend a dash more to get a RAID 1 version that powers right off the Joule III.

The Mojo Audio Mac Mini upgrade kit with the Joule III, together with its choice and set up of external hard drives, gets my highest recommendation. I’m pretty sure I will still be using one of these upgrades (with a Linux partition and Linux version of JRiver ?) to help predict the outcome of the upcoming 2016 USA presidential election—while simultaneously listening to Suzanne Vega—and drinking a Joule’s beer. Stay tuned.

1. [In Japanese, The Three Stooges are called ‘San Baka Taishou’, which translates back into English as ‘Three Stupid Bosses’.]

[It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server With Joule III Power Supply. Congratulations! - Ed]

The Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server With Joule III Power Supply

Manufactured by Mojo Audio
418 Morningside Drive SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108 USA

tel: 412.735.3618
website
email

Prices: (Joule III): $999.95 by itself.
As a kit, installed into your own Mac Mini
(complete with cord, filters, software optimization, etc.) $1500
Price (Oyen Digital MiniPro Case): $70.00 by itself.
$30 installation charge if you want a particular drive installed.
Price (Oyen RAID 1 Digital MiniPro Case): $100.00 by itself.
$50 installation charge if you want particular drives installed.
3 Granite Digital 9-pin to 9-pin Firewire 800 cable: $45.95.

Source: Manufacturer loan

Specifications

Joule III
Size: 8″(W) x 9.25″(D) x 3″(H)
Weight: 9 pounds
Input voltage: factory set to any international voltage from 100VAC to 250VAC
Output voltage: factory set to any voltage from 3.3VDC to 25VDC.
Output current: 7.5A continuous and 10A peak.
Auto-Shutdown Protection: ground fault, over temperature, and short circuit.
5-year warranty

Associated Reference Equipment

DAC: PS Audio PerfectWave MKII DAC with Bridge
Amplifiers: 2 Wyred 4 Sound W4S mAMP Monoblock Amplifiers
Speakers: Monitor Audio Platinum PL200
USB cable from Mac Mini to DAC: Wireworld Platinum USB cable, 1 meter
Crossover ethernet cable from Mac Mini to DAC: CablesTogo, Cat 6, 7 feet.
Speaker cables (with jumpers), interconnect cables from DAC to amps,
and all power cords: Waveform Fidelity GSIII (formerly known as Kaplan Cable)
Power centers: 2 PS Audio Dectets.

{ 1 trackback }

Addendum to Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server With Joule III Power Supply — Audiophilia
01.28.14 at 8:00 am

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

admin 12.16.13 at 9:15 am

What a fantastically detailed and engaging review, Karl. Congratulations.

We seem to be very lucky with meeting like minds such as Ben Zwickel (and Mark Jenkins, among others). I love learning from them and listening to their benchmark kit.

Thanks for the hard work. Cheers, a

Karl Sigman 12.16.13 at 9:42 am

You are very welcome Anthony; indeed we are lucky!
Best,
-Karl

Benjamin Zwickel 12.16.13 at 11:57 am

Its nice to be recognized for the obsessive, compulsive, uncompromising music lover that I am.

The best part of working with Karl has been all the great music he introduced me to.

The second best part is Karl’s sense of humor, though personally I would have preferred to watch the Marx Brothers while listening to Norah Jones ;-)

Enjoy!

~ Benjamin

Karl Sigman 12.16.13 at 12:47 pm

Thanks Ben, I learned a lot from you, and your product is fantastic.
But one question: Who are The Marx Brothers?
Best,
-Karl

admin 12.16.13 at 1:03 pm

lulz

you two, get a room. Ben’s not THAT smart ;)

I want to be at dinner next RMAF with Ben and Mark Jenkins and try to follow their discussions on all things digital and delivery.

Cheers, a

Rob 12.16.13 at 5:59 pm

I’ve been on the fence for a long time, trying to choose between the MojoAudio modified Mini and a free-standing server like the one from Antipodes. Magically, you, guys, posted reviews on both - at almost the same time! Thanks a lot.

As much as I love the concept of a free standing appliance, I think I will go with the MacMini (for reasons sonic, economical and practical).

admin 12.16.13 at 9:20 pm

The new Antipodes DS Reference has a much improved, internal power supply. And a glorious unit, it is. My review is on the Audiophilia front page.

Cheers, a

Benjamin Zwickel 12.17.13 at 12:19 am

I have to admit that I am jealous of the user friendly single box plug and play solution Mark has come up with. In engineering among the hardest things to do are “small” and “simple.”

Engineering a plug and play Linux based media server is currently only a fantasy of mine.

I would certainly look forward to a dinner next year at RMAF with Mark…maybe he’ll share a few of his tricks ;-)

~ Benjamin

Michael Mercer 12.17.13 at 3:56 am

GREAT job as always! Kept me engaged the whole time!! We gotta get together on somethin!!

Karl Sigman 12.17.13 at 9:14 am

Thanks for the compliments Michael, glad you enjoyed.
-Karl

Rob 12.21.13 at 6:38 pm

Just as a side note: the Samsung Pro 840 SSD is great when it works, but I’ve read a lot of laments about those drives being dead-on-arrival or dying in first few weeks or months.

I am hoping, that SSD drives coming with the MojoAudio Minis are thoroughly tested and reasonably reliable…

Benjamin Zwickel 12.21.13 at 7:31 pm

Hi Rob,

Its odd that you have heard the exact opposite information about the Samsung SSDs.

I don’t want to mention any names, but we’ve heard exactly what you heard about the Samsung drives about many of the other popular brands.

The reason we use the Samsung Pro 840 SSD is because it has both one of the highest performance and one of the highest reliability ratings of any SSD (at least according to our sources).

Since we warranty the ENTIRE media server, the last thing we want is for a drive to fail.

I can not speak for other people/companies but our experience has been a ZERO failure rate over the past two years we’ve been using them.

If we started getting ANY failures we would be looking for a new brand of SSD ;-)

~ Benjamin

Benjamin Zwickel 12.21.13 at 7:36 pm

BTW, Rob, what brand(s) of SSDs have you heard good things about or had good experience with?

Rob 12.23.13 at 6:41 pm

Hi, Ben,

I have to admit that the overwhelming opinion on these Samsung SSDs is positive. But I also heard that there is many duds that don’t work and Samsung’s Customer Service is not much of a help, when their products die prematurely. My information mainly comes from the Amazon customers’ reviews, but not entirely.

Which brand I have heard good things about? …Samsung ☺ , OWC, and just about any other brand on the planet. I guess, people say good things about the particular brand that they chose. The OWC brand is marred with the same problems as Samsung, though. And I can say that from my personal experience. There are people who like other brands, but ALL of them have problems. Personally, I chose to go back to hard drives - at least for a year or two…

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>