CLONES Audio’s Power Station: a linear PSU for the Mac Mini

  • Hands up how many of you use a consumer-grade computer as your digital audio playback device? Keep those hands aloft if that same computer is a Mac Mini? Yep – thought as much – that’s plenty of you. No quarrel from me either. The Mac Mini is Apple’s least expensive OS X entry-point, a not unattractive brushed aluminium box that can easily be tucked out of sight. It’s a solution that gives easy access to the library management awesomeness of Roon as well as the audible amelioration of Pure Music, Sonic Studio Amarra or Audirvana+. Oh – and you can browse the web, watch video and run office software too.

    The absence of a built in screen on offers two advantages: 1) the Mac Mini can be run headless – once configured, no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse – and 2) lower electrical internal noise emissions. Having run a 2014 MacMini and 2014 MacBook Air back-to-back, I can confirm that sonically speaking, the Mini has the edge.

    Direct, hands-on experience also tells me that the Mac Mini can’t match the AURALiC Aries, Aurender N100H or (especially) the Antipodes Audio DX, even when tricked out with all manner of USB signal cleaners, USB cables or USB-S/PDIF converters.


    At some point in every digital audiophile’s journey comes a point when they either consider moving up to a bespoke solution or just accept the Apple box’s limitations as digital audio transport.

    The dividing issue is (predominantly) one of internal electrical noise that can cause music to sound rigid, uptight and iced with treble glare. One major source of that noise is the Mac Mini’s switch-mode power supply. Of further nuisance is that it’s found inside the Mac.

    Those determined to pursue a path with the MacMini might want to sit up and pay attention right now because Hong Kong’s CLONES Audio is tapping us on the shoulder with news of its freshly-announced POWER STATION – a low noise linear power supply for the MacMini. At 4.5kg it ain’t no foolin’ around.

    POWER STATION deployment requires a little internal surgery which CLONES Audio’s founder ‘Funjoe’ claims takes only ten minutes. And yes, the modification is reversible. Check the video for instructive guidance:

    Price? US$890.

    Warranty? Three years.

    Inside the box: the custom input module to be fitted inside the Mac Mini, the 4.5kg POWER STATION itself and a 1 metre DC cable that joins the two.

    The Mac Mini version arrives with a a 12V/7.5A output but the POWER STATION can be specified for devices other than Apple computers at time of order. Products that fall between 2A and 8A on current thirst and between 5V to 18V on potential may see benefit from POWER STATION injection. May. Before taking the plunge, it’s worth researching just how noisy your existing SMPS; not all switching modules are the work of Satan.

    Now you gotta ask yourself: where does a Mac Mini + POWER STATION fall in comparison to the Aurender N100H or AURALiC Aries?

    Further information: CLONES Audio




    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. I’m wondering how long the swansong will go on with the availability of excellent products such as the Auralic Aries and Linn DS offering dedicated streaming for the audiophile which I guess this PSU is aimed at? I moved from a standard laptop running JRiver a year a go to the Aries and never looked back. It probably creeps in at this price level as an upgrade but it’s well worth saving and making the jump, is it a swansong, what’s your take on this?

    2. $900 for a Mac mini LPS with a form factor that doesn’t even fit the Apple design!
      Way to go Funjoe!

      • I am interested in the Uptone scenario but I don’t want to send $900 for a power supply. What 12v source would you recommend, Danny?

        • There’s the HD Plex, which is well regarded and goes for about $375 US. It has 5,7,9, and 12 V outlets, so you can power more than one device from it.
          There are also some Chinese LPS units which go on eBay for less than $100 and have been well received.

    3. I love me some power tweaks, but I’m growing weary of $500-near 1k US PSU updates. Do you have insights on how the parts and or engineering costs justify these prices?
      I know everything is variable, but I invested in a linear PSU for my Squeezebox Touch a few years back (at a cost equal to the Touch) and did not hear much benefit.

      Thanks for all you do here.

      • As I understand it, the SBT has noisy switching regulators on the inside that make linear PSUs a bit of a waste of time/money.

    4. I think it is time for a Darko Digital Transport Index. Can you sneak in the Squeezebox Touch in there? Just for old times sake…

    5. I’m anxious for reviews of the Aries Mini to start trickling in. It will be available in Australia a month before it is in North America.

    6. $900 for a simple linear power supply? That’s absurd. A TeddyPardo can be had for less than half of that.

    7. JD-
      Timely post for me. Struggling with the decision to create a franken-mac to defeat the Satan designed PS or going the appliance route (AURALiC , Aurender, Bryston…). Would lament the loss of flexibility (Roon, Amarra, Dirac…) the mac provides vs purpose built component. Are you going to bite and compare the two approaches? Love to “hear” your thoughts/review of both…

      • I second that although did I remember reading something along these lines penned by Mr Darko recently? I’m now at that point of do I keep buying add on’s for my 2009 MM or bite the bullet & invest in a proprietary solution like the Aires Mini, Simaudio MiNT 180, Cambridge audio CXN or spend over $2K on products from QAT, Aurender etc?
        My guess is my budget wont stretch much passed $1,500, the product will need have balanced outputs, flexibility with content, NAS compliant & absolutely must be easy to use (wife factor) & easy to manage library.

    8. Mojo Audio is doing the linear PSU thing too for Mac Mini’s and NUC’s , etc.. Albeit, more expensive depending on options. But their new Dac is also interesting in its purist R2R approach and active I/V conversion, it uses an AD chip, but I’m more of a BB fan (I think) from the impressive Naim digital front end I listened to a few years ago through Horning speakers.

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