In my recent review of the Mojo Audio Mac Mini Music Server With Joule III Power Supply, I mentioned the possibility of using a slightly larger version of the Oyen Digital external hard drive case, in which 2 drives work together 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 (for transferring the music files) using a prototype powerless Firewire cable. (The case is here).
At the time of my review, although I had the case itself and used it with a regular Firewire cable, the powerless Firewire cable was not yet available. Moreover, to use it requires a Mojo Audio ‘Dual Y’ cable, which has stemming from it another cable for powering the RAID 1 drive directly from the Joule III. I now have this new Firewire set up. Mojo Audio kindly modified my Mac Mini to accommodate this. I had sent the Mac Mini back to them so they could complete the job, and the purpose of this article is to quickly update the reader on how good it sounds. In short: cutting edge improvement.
The theoretical justification for wanting to use the powerless cord is this: A standard 9-pin to 9-pin Firewire 800 cable—such as the superb Granite one that I used in the review—contains power conductors within for powering external devices (such as a hard drive) using the Mac Mini itself as the power source. Such power conductors can interfere with the cable’s transmission of the digital data (from external hard drive to Mac Mini); in particular they corrupt the data wires causing bit read errors that require new packets of data to be swapped for corrupted data packets. Even if they are not used (e.g., by powering the external hard drive using an AC adaptor instead) they still cause this problem. Using a Firewire cable that is only capable of transmitting the music files, with that being its sole function, thereby reduces such problems yielding higher sound quality — a softer more analog-like sound. But also, by powering the drive by the amazing Joule III instead of a cheap AC adaptor is better too; AC adaptors typically give off annoying sounds as well as causing other kinds of noise/interference.
I chose to have the Dual Y cable hardwired to my Mac Mini as was my original Mojo Audio cord. This means that an additional (new) power cable (for powering the RAID 1 drive) needed to be installed into my already hardwired power cord. The new black Mojo Audio cord ($99.95) comes shooting out near the XLR plug, forming a ‘Y’ shape, and on its end is a plug that goes directly into the RAID 1’s AC input. When the XLR plug is snapped into the Joule III, it thus powers both the Mac Mini and the RAID 1 drive. As an alternative option for those who already have the regular Mojo Audio upgrade cord internally installed (as I did), but don’t want to send back their Mac Mini for further surgery, they also offer a ‘2nd DC Y splitter’ with a male 4-pin XLR that plugs into the Joule III and a female 4-pin XLR that the Mac Mini’s XLR plugs into and a 2nd DC power cable of up to 1M in between. It too is manufactured by Mojo Audio and costs $199.95 for the minimal length between XLRs or $249.95 for up to a 1M extension going to the Mac Mini.
The price of the new 1M powerless Firewire cable is $199.95; it is a unique cable manufactured for Mojo Audio under precise Mojo Audio specifications. Black in color like the other cords are, it is a bit thicker, and (although not obvious to the casual user), is not symmetric: It is suggested that one particular end be plugged into the Mac Mini and the other into the drive for best performance, but since this very well may depend on the drives within your case, you can just experiment to hear what sounds best to you; the two end plugs are the same standard ones. Just reverse the cable and play it each way for comparison. I found that on my system, one way offered a more attractive (to me) ‘tighter’ sound than the other.
The two drives in my RAID 1 chosen were 1TB drives with one being the original internal Mac Mini drive, and the other (for streaming the files to the Mac Mini) the AV drive. One can increase the drives up to 3TB ones. One can also use SSD drives for the two, but currently that would be quite expensive.
As compared to using a powered Firewire cable, a significant improvement in smoothness and fluidity was apparent right away and was increased even further after about 2 days of constant burn in of the Firewire cable. As I played Holly Cole’s ‘Don’t Smoke in Bed’ album, track 1, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, my immediate reaction was to say out loud, ‘Holy Smoke, I can hear clearly now!’. This really is a wonderful/clever way of improving sound quality, and the increase in price (I think) is relatively low; well worth it. This advancement further justifies Mojo Audio’s Mac Mini Upgrade deserving the The Audiophilia Star Component Award it was given in my main review.