Opinions please on Mini vs. Synology NAS

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by sfscott, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. sfscott macrumors member

    Oct 13, 2008
    Did a forum search on this topic, but none of the discussions seemed on-point enough, so your help is appreciated. Most every thread focuses on movies/video.

    I operate an indoor cycling studio, and I would like to store all of our music in a unified library. Instructors and other contributors currently use their own devices for classes, but for quality and consistency, we want to curate the music.

    We use dropbox as a means for people to move their playlists/music to iTunes remotely.

    What I am contemplating is a Mac mini running iTunes with screen sharing and home sharing enabled. The mini would be physically connected to the router, and the mini would stream music to an iPad connected to the studio's sound system. Instructors using Remote/homeshare would call up the desired playlist on the iPad and play via WiFi.

    Two basic questions: Which is a better and more cost-effective solution for this use, a Mac mini configured above or a Synology NAS with their music package? Second, do either of these work better in this application? Better is defined as no interface confusion, stability and reliability of connection.

    I can't have an app crash during a class or have lost packets or jitter mess up the music until the system recovers.

    Heat and power are also a consideration, but less important that ease of use and dependability.

    Any experience/thoughts are appreciated. My concern with the Synology is that there might be more stuff to go wrong or a lack of support for a particular file format that plays ok in iTunes but not on their software...and cost.
  2. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    I own both. both have hiccups.

    I would need to know how many classes with separate playlists run concurrently. too many people want concurrent access may be a problem. Causing stutter in video or jitter in audio.

    If you run 1 class at a time either one will do the job pretty well
  3. sfscott thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 13, 2008
    Could you elaborate more on each's respective hiccups esp as it might affect my use case?
  4. ColdCase, Sep 29, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014

    ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    I own both, and found the mini to be much easier to set up and it performs better in an entire apple device environment and when you have large libraries. I typically only have four or five users viewing HD video, however.

    I think audio/music is not that much stress, but with several classes it could overload the wifi network. That would be the same with either choice.

    If you are used to using iTunes, the mini would be much easier to set up. Since a mini is a real computer, you could choose to to load music via thumb drives which may be easier for some instructors.

    As far as quirks, you will have them regardless as the iPad or iPhone IOS can be quirky. Reseting the iOS device clears things up but I found I often had to reset/restart the synology too.... and it took forever to reboot. The mini has been solid, its been on 24/7 for nearly a year without being touched.

    Unless you spend a lot of money for a higher end Synology NAS, I think the mini will out perform it by a wide margin, although for music you may not notice.

    So I started out with a Synology box because of all the good things said about them, but found it limiting. So after a year I moved on to the mini and am much happier. The Synology is a great NAS for sharing files, their apps may be held back by hardware performance. It helps to have or learn a bit of unix terms and conventions to set one up and use it.
  5. drsox, Sep 30, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2014

    drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    IMO use something different. Get a basic SONOS system and run two or more playlists simultaneously. SONOS is inherently parallel in operation as each stream is controlled by its own player box. All you need as well is a disc store for your music - so get a USB drive and connect it to one of the SONOS units or the router. If many audio streams are required simultaneously then get a basic NAS and connect that to the router.

    Any iPxxx device can control the streams. I use an iPhone and an iPad as well as an MBA.

    SONOS says it can run up to 64 channels at the same time. I've only tested 7 at a time.

    If you have detailed questions the SONOS forums are very helpful. (http://forums.sonos.com)
  6. haravikk macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2005
    The Synology NAS may be a lot less powerful if you're going for something like a DS213j; I have a DS212j (half the RAM of the 213) and while it runs fine as a back-up server with some other light services, it's not the fastest server; although gigabit ethernet can handle around 100mb/sec, I can't get more than 30mb/sec out it, I don't know if I'd recommend it for music streaming if that's your intention; syncing to other devices ought to be fine, but if you have multiple streams going it's sure to start stuttering.

    Of course even an entry-level Mac Mini is a lot more expensive by comparison, but it's also a lot more powerful and is easily capable of saturating its gigabit ethernet connection. I'd personally recommend it for iTunes streaming, especially if you're running all iOS devices or similar.

    Still, the Synology NAS can be a lot cheaper, and if you're only looking for backup and syncing then you could get the NAS, plus a pair of disks (for redundancy) for less overall. You mention currently using DropBox to handle syncing; one alternative could be to try Bittorrent Sync, there's a Bittorrent Sync package for Synology NASes, and this allows you to share files locally (no syncing to a cloud service), and also lets you setup something like a read/write share on the NAS, and read-only shares on your devices (so they can't mess with the contents), and every device added improves the speed of syncing.

    There are also more powerful Synology NASes; some of models with Intel processors are easily able to handle multiple services at full speed, the ARM based ones are really best for syncing/backups where speed isn't so important.
  7. sfscott thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 13, 2008
    Is there a way people have been accessing playlists that live on the Mini any see them on the iPad?

    On homesharing tests, I can see the library but not the playlists. Since we will be creating lots of new playlists, it's not practical to have to physically move playlists on a daily basis.

    As for uses, I will be doing one class at a time only and using a separate direct input for music at the front of the house.

    I have two separate networks running off of one AC router, a 2.4 and a 5 Ghz.

    The playlist issue seems to be the one that I need to solve for.
  8. Lankyman macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2011
    I have a Synology and I too have Sonos. I would use Sonos every time, as for me it has no peer when it comes to music distributed via wifi. The units themselves deliver a gorgeous sound stage.
  9. Mago macrumors 68020

    Aug 16, 2011
    Beyond the Thunderdome
    Choose the PLAY EDITION of Synologys NAS (eithed DS214play or the 4hdd DS415Play).

    These versions comes with twice or more ram, plus true desktop cpu with hardware accelerated encoding, actually outperfoms the Mac Mini Srvvr disk access time, plus you can configure it to Raid 1 or 5-6 to keep an active Backup Just In case.

    To sync fils remotely, and strongr solution its to deploy BtSync (bittorent sync) its like runnng your own Dropbox service with thee realiability and availability offered by p2p bittorrent connections (btsync is not an share system but a file sinchronization and remote backup solution, requiring no dyndns, registered domain etc, just an open port at the router).

    you have BtSync clients for almost every device (Windows, OSX, Android, iOS, WinPhone, Ubuntu, Synology, etc etc).
  10. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    I have a DS214play and the new DS Audio app which supports multi device AirPlay. Nice way to access a library.

    As a bonus you can link the NAS to Dropbox or other cloud services. Easy to manage too.

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