A friend recently gifted me with a factory-sealed Retina 5K 27" fully loaded iMac. In the main music system, it replaced my previous iMac which moved into Ivette's system as combined video/audio/TV front end. That now puts us on the 3rd iMac since I transitioned to computer audio. You can tell that I really like this hardware platform. That doesn't mean I'm a flaming Apple fan boy. On my previous machine, I'd for example never upgraded to iTunes 10 once I saw on a friend's computer how certain display features I fancied had mysteriously disappeared. Wanting to do stuff which Apple in their corporate Overlord role haven't planned for you is a major frustration for people who are used to the greater freedom of Windows. With Apple, it's their way or nothing. iTunes 12.01 which came pre-installed on my new deck looked different again. I'm not sure I'd call it an improvement but one does rather adapt quickly. Again, their hardware particularly for music purposes is a real personal draw compared to a number of 'audiophile' music servers I've had through.

As a dedicated music machine, the only programs I use are Safari, iPhoto, iTunes, PureMusic/Audirvana, AudioMIDI, Qobuz and those listed below.

Wanting to get more precise backup software for my iTunes library than before, I ended up with Supersync which can synchronize iTunes libraries across multiple devices. It works exactly as advertised. It scans your onboard and external library, then offers 'send' or 'receive' options to make both the same. To eliminate duplicates which some less than rigorous exporting of previous libraries had caused, I used TuneSweeper. Next I learnt that Apple's little remote no longer worked. As a quick check on my old iMac proved, it wasn't the battery. Doing the Google dive unearthed that later generations of iMacs no longer include an IR window. Thankfully Twisted Melon have a cheap USB-connected IR receiver and their attendant Mira software which lets you customize the remote's 7 controls to work many Apple programs like iTunes. Instead of needing the Magic Mouse and Apple keyboard for basic track hopping, I can once again wave the wizard's wand at the big screen's general vicinity. With four USB ports—I use two for the red KingRex double-header cable to my DAC—I have one for the SuperDrive (my previous thicker iMac still had a built-in drive) and one for the IR eye. The backup drive connects via Thunderbolt 2 for top transfer speeds. I rather like the notion of an external €49 combo drive. Should anything go wrong with it, it's a lot easier to replace than to send the entire machine for repair to extract a stuck disc or swap a drive.

Streaming 16/44.1 FLAC via Qobuz in full-screen mode.

Due to a mistake with his online order, my machine came without the maxed-out RAM my friend had intended. So he ordered me another 32GB separately which the user in this iMac model can easily install. Simply pop the little hatch beneath the stand's hinge, click out the memory board holder and slip in your add-on cards. The installed 3TB FusionDrive makes for a noticeable speed improvement over my earlier machine whilst the amazing Retina display is obviously utter overkill for plain music server duties but a true eyelight what with how sharply rendered and legible even small album art and text are. On that count, the majority of far costlier music servers don't even begin to compete. With mega RAM and PureMusic 2.0.4 set to memory play, the FusionDrive quickly spins down. And it also appears that with Yosemite, Apple's most current OS has taken further steps to minimize background housekeeping threads. That and PureMusic's memory buffering and hog mode quite effectively turn any iMac into a dedicated music server. This includes Qobuz/Tidal full-resolution subscription streaming services, purchasing those music files I want to own and selecting the album art in the resolution and size I want rather than relying on automated grabbers.

I even do minor tag changes inside the iTunes 'Get Info' window. I can see how particularly owners of large classical music libraries might want more sorting options to distinguish the same work by orchestra, conductor or date but for my purposes, iTunes remains perfectly sufficient. I installed dBpoweramp now that it became a native OS option but discovered no real benefits. I always grin when computer-for-hifi detractors malign iMacs as noisy. Mine sits less than 2m from the seat and I can't ever hear it run. With a passive inline isolation transformer like SOtM's iSO-CAT6 on the Ethernet port, noise migrating down the pipeline between Internet router and iMac is banished. Relative to Apple's SMPS, Merging Technology's premium consumer NADAC includes one as do Nagra and Chord gear, our upstairs Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 and sundry premium class D amps like Mola-Mola and their derivatives. Switch-mode power bashing is popular. When applied wholesale, I no longer think that it is fully educated and factual. Until 'audiophile' servers significantly outperform my iMac, I'm not sold on all the computer hate. And so far, they haven't. Yet they often are wildly costlier, functionally crippled, have far inferior displays if any, rely on WiFi which we despise... and some still require a computer to complete them. Never mind that all of them are computers by another name. In short, for me the venerable iMac still makes for the most cost-effective sleek hi-performance PCfi platform I've worked with despite all the legitimate Apple criticisms one contends with during ownership of one. As with anything, one learns the ropes to work within them. There are of course many different solutions. This merely happens to be the one which works best for me. And no, our car doesn't wear a "Mac for music server" bumper sticker; even though that'd express my sentiments precisely. But hey, with family connections on my father's side, to the Scottish highland clan of the Mackay, one perhaps shouldn't be surprised that for me, Mac would equal okay.