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Airport Express transmission 'patchy'

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I've just reassembled my gear after completing renovations and I'm noticing that my AE 'reception' kicks in and out irregularly. Sometimes it'll last OK for an hour, sometimes just a few seconds. Is it a location question? The setup is as follows:


1. iMac connected wirelessly to Belkin router;

2. 2 x Airport Expresses in the house: (i) hooked up to a small Tivoli Audio stereo in the kitchen (about 12m and 2 rooms away) and (ii) hooked up to a Cambridge DAC, then Musical Fidelity pre-amp and a Golden Tube Audio valve amp in the living room (same room as the computer, about 4m away).


Both usually stop working at the same time, which suggests to me that it's something at the router's end. Am I right? In the new setup, the router is in a wooden cupboard; should I experiment with it location?


Any advice much appreciated,




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I have similar problems myself. In my case it's with music streaming to one particular location in my house, so I'm fairly sure it's location and not something else. But I'm interested in any thoughts people can offer. Drives me nuts!


Things to try:


Check to confirm if it's the furthest away one that's affected, or definitely both. Since Airport does synchronised streaming to multiple units, it's possible that a problem with the furthest away unit will affect the nearest one.


If it is both, then have a look at the location of the Belkin's location. I think in some cases the orientation of the unit is a factor - for example the Airport Express gets much better reception when 'upright' - ie as it is when plugged into a mains wall socket, as opposed to on it's side as it is when plugged into a mains extension on the floor.


There's a choice of (1 to 13 I think) wireless channels that you can use - try changing the current one by a couple of clicks (eg if its set to 5, try 2 or 8). Apple also has a 'use interference robustness' setting you can use, not sure about Belkin.


Sometimes things like wireless phones, mobile phones, & microwave ovens can interfere with the signal - if the location of any of these have been changed during your renovations then they may be the culprit.


Finally (maybe!) I have read a lot of talk in different forums about iTunes 8's poor streaming performance (especially when using optical out) as compared with iTunes 7. But I don't want to downgrade. Roll on iTunes 9?


See what I mean about infuriating?


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I have two AE units, now both sitting in a drawer. They work, part time and this occupation is independant of the OS. The Apple forums found one reason why the dropouts occurred with XP, (using the Windows Zero configuration every 60s or so would refresh and drop the connection to the AE). Like Macs, my XP SP3 PC doesn't use the Wireless config, but an Intel incantation and uses a different refresh system.


The AE doesn't like cordless phones, despises microwave ovens, as evidenced with my bedroom (about 15m same horizontal plane as the Linksys router) with the phone about 0.5m away from the AE. Move it to another room 3m away in the same plane and the problem dissapears to a degree, but that's not where I wish to play music!


The typical sceanrio is that after some discovery process, AE works well for a few songs, then silience (morning break I guess). I wait for about 5 minutes and the break's over and it can play again without intervention fr at least 30minutes. I can reboot the PC after this time and there are no AE's detected at all now after the restart, they've gone home for the day, but if you are patient and wait for about 10 minutes, they can come back again, just like that.


I tried hard and studied the Apple forums in great detail, tried just about everything to get these two AE to work reliably. I would have spent at least a solid two weeks reading and testing spread over a few months to try to get this to work. The sound quality is 16/44.1, that's OK for such a small device and price, but it should at least work (a full day anyway).


I also am really concerned at how hot the AE units can get. Without a thermometer, my guess is about the same as the Stello DAC100 in Class A, 30-40C in such a small case, the potential for component degredation in a small case with no ventilation is a real worry and points to a poor design implementation.


The AE's were bought in OCT 08, have had one firmware upgrade, I will try the next FW upgrade to see if the problem comes good. The whole wireless issue with Airport Express suitably convinces me to trust copper and plastic/pfe/teflon above all other methods of audio distribution, with extreme prejudice ;)




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I have encountered similar problems. Do you have a microwave oven? Noted for messing up WiFi in the 2.45GHz band! Make sure the door seals are clean: try moving the AE as far as possible from the oven, and/or ensuring ALL WifI devices get as good a signal as possible.




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Itunes 8 streaming to AE simply does not work properly. You should consider upgrading to itunes 7 before trying any of the other rituals like asking your neighbour to stop using his microwave. Even connected to my AE with a hardwire, iTunes 8 streaming is patchy, so the problem is not all wifi related. I upgraded from back 8 to 7 after using 8 for just a couple of days and being totally dissatisfied with the streaming and the SQ. - John.


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If I change to iTunes 7, most of my music is encoded with the 8 engine ALAC. Will this cause a problem? I also am worried that the library data won't transfer down either. For example, with version 8s, the library files don't match if you are using a different version of music files. This happens when you use a portable drive which has the music files from your main PC and use the same files on a notebook with a different version of iTunes. I don't mean V7 to V8, it's like 8.1 to 8.12 for example.


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I too suffered from these very problems. And Apple's support for the AE is extremely poor.

One thing to consider when we recommend Mac's should be Apple's poor support.


I didn't sell mine so just installed after seeing this thread. And what do you know ;;; audio dropouts. GRR!


I considered reinstalling given the fact I consider lossless (alac and flac) formats to sound the same as uncompressed.


Am sitting here listening to those irregular drop outs.






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Some caution is required but you will not lose the library data. You will back-up the library file anyway. The files ripped as ALAC with itunes 8 will cause no problems.


However, if you have your artwork stored in the silly structure that Apple uses for 8, you will lose your artwork. If your artwork is actually tagged with the song tracks you will not lose the artwork. I lost half of my artwork but now I am glad that I did because I have put it all back against the song tracks so I am now fully cross-platform portable for when I move away from Apple.


One other caution regarding artwork. In itunes 8 you can apply artwork to aiff files. In itues 7 you can apply artwork only to some aiff files. It seems to depend on the software that does the transcoding. For example: convert a flac to aiff with xact and there's no way to apply artwork to the file; covert the same file with audacity and you can do it. Go figure.


- John.



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No matter what I do I can't stop the dropouts.


Given that I'd like to use my iPod Touch with iTunes and ensure bit perfect output via the AE, it's very very annoying.


Do older versions of iTunes support the iPod Touch?


I really can't believe Apple have ignored requests for this to be fixed. It's a widely reported problem and for a company of it's size surely, given previous versions of iTunes were fine, this should not be difficult to fix.


One poster on one of the Apple forums was keen to get a lawsuit underway!. Extreme action maybe but I guess Apple always do declare their products plug and play so in this case they are mis-selling.


HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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I'm only talking dropouts here, not lost connections etc.;


I don't know anything about this AE stuff, but I always wondered whether it really worked. I guess by now suddenly some speak up and say it doesn't ?


In the PC world it is quite known that anything which smells like WiFi should be shut off or otherwise you'll be having dropouts. And the reason seems a logical one : the polling in the "PC" is outrageous at times, and it just swallows the precious interrupts needed for flawless audio playback.

IR keyboards and mouses are banned from the Windows audio PC as well, for the same reason (though slightly other cause).


I only want to say : it may not be the AE to blame, but just the principle of WiFi. The AE might not get stuck, the "PC" is ...

Remember, talking about dropouts only.




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for the info. I see that many others went back to iTunes 7 to overcome the problem of the drop outs experiencing using 8. I don't think I could resign myself to get the art work right again, it took a long time to get the entries in, and I won't have the will to bend to a white plastic device that demands otherwise.


I will use copper wire to the bedroom, to run a low power receiver as a good source in analog, so at line level i can choose to have a set of active speakers or another amp/speaker combo. The iphone can change songs in iTunes, so the system is just about there.


I have the AE now about 2 feet from the router, I can ping the AE very well, but start to play a song, and the ping dissapears. I also do not like the small click you hear when the song starts, or you activate the AE from iTunes. If your amp is set to a high volume, this will sound very unpleasant and make you think of tweeter repairs.


This thread can go for a while without getting much of a resolution I fear. One resource is the Apple forum, http://discussions.apple.com/forum.jspa?forumID=1014 unless someone can point us to a better source. The Apple site support is quite pathetic for this product. During the course tonight to resurrect in trying to find a fix, I received numerous error codes, none of which could be found on the Apple site.


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What is the Belkin doing amidst the sheep? I have two Belkin (G and N) which is now sitting in my use to use box, taken over the by express, etc. No problems now.


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I agree with you there. It could go on with no resolution.

It seems some users have had some success by disabling IPV6, easily done with Vista, or by fixing your IP address.


I download some software which monitors network activity and you can clearly see something happening whenever it drops out. I wish I could send the results to someone at Apple but I don't think they'l listen.




This is purely an iTunes 8 problem. The Airport worked perfecty well under iTues 7. It's something Apple have changed, hence my frustration that there are no answers forthcoming from them.





HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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I also tried setting up an iTunes dedicated Mac G4 desktop and sending AIFF 3 rooms away via AE. I was constantly having confused control signals via the iTouch due to delays in the commands. It was an untenable situation which I solved by installing a Mac Mini in the music room. Now iTouch control is xlnt as is SQ. AE and music don't mix too well IMHO.


Mac Mini AIFF > Toslink > Behringer 2496 (for RC) > Toslink > Benchmark DAC1 > B&K EX-442 amp > Legacy Audio Sig.IIs


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So i can now identify what's going on...


I downloaded a piece of software called Whiteshark and monitored my network activity.

On recording activity it was easy to identify the dropouts. It's caused by an Address Resolution Request. The wireless adaptor in your computer, already streaming to the Airport Express, wishes to find out "who has the Airport Express".

Address Resolution Protocol is used by Internet Protocol 4 and unfortunately you can't disable this.


I'm still trying various things but if I can identify the exact problem, why can't Apple fix it.


Chris, do you have any access to Apple's engineers ? Whatever has changed in iTunes 8 does not like the ARP request being made of the Airport Express.






HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Hi Beemb - Try setting a static IP address on your network devices. This MAY decrease ARP traffic because devices SHOULD not have to resolve an IP address to a MAC address very often if it's static.


Is the AE your main wireless device or just a way to distribute music? Some devices allow manipulation of the ARP cache which MAY effect the results here.


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I haven't had problems with dropouts on my AE. However, I'll qualify that this is just a "background music" application so... perhaps It has occurred and I haven't noticed. But if it does drop the signal, it must be fairly rare.


FWIW, I have set this up in the wireless mode "To join an existing wireless network" versus "Participate in a WDS network" or "Create a wireless network". As I understand it, this first option allows me to use the AE for iTunes, but not to actually extend my network for general purpose communication. At least that's how I'm understanding these options -- I may be off base on this. For your consideration....




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Touch wood... I think I have managed to solve my problem by setting up the three units as a WDS network, using the Express that's physically in the middle as a relay station and the furthest away one (which was previously prone to dropouts) as a client.


Setting this up is a little more complicated - I had to write down the Airport ID number of each unit and key that into the Airport Utility. Also it's best to have all the units sitting together when you set them up, then move them to their final location - this avoids dropouts while you're updating their configuration.


I had previously avoided this because I read that it can 'degrade network performance', which I thought would make matters worse, but so far this has not been the case.


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Well, thanks for your attempts at trying.


My reason for using the Airport Express with iTunes was to be able to control my library remotely with my new iTouch. I'm happy streaming ALAC as I believe lossless is lossess.


I've tried everything above and with no success I decided to revert back to iTunes 7.7. I was then told that my iTouch needs 8.0 or better. So, quite literally, I ethier accept iTunes outputting via the Vista engine, or go back to Media Monkey which can be controlled remotely but is slightly restricted. Not sure whether Foobar has any decent remote software available as yet.


Given the number of users reporting this problem, it's a good example of Apple not keeping to their plug and play promise. Quite frankly, now my library is also screwed up, I'm quite annoyed.


If anybody knows of any other decent remote software for say, Foobar, please let me know so I can give that a try.







HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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  • 2 weeks later...

A new version of firmware was available 7.4.1 for the Airport Express. I uploaded the new firmware to one AE and it turned out to be a disaster. Took several hard resets to get the AE to be stable and it still isn't working.

Ping replied about 10% of the time, when iTunes was off, and when iTunes started "Destination host unreachable". The other AE on the older firmware at least pinged OK, but it also fell over when I tunes started playing (request time out, spluttering audio, drop outs).

I noted a new(ish) thread over at Apple forums, over a hundred contributions, 8000+ views. This is from a poster jceaves which sums up the situation with Airport Express.


"All of the Apple networking products seem to have limits that prevent them from being very reliable or robust. They can't handle much network traffic, distance between airports, or simultaneous users. Apple really markets the promise of seamless and easy to use networks and media streaming. However, their equipment doesn't do it. It is really a lie. "




Several users have gone back to Version 7 of iTunes, but their remotes required Version 8 and won't work. Look, I'm not going to bother anymore, both AE units are in the garage in a box. Maybe in 18 months i will get them out upgrade them to version 28.3 software and it all might work. In the meantime I will install some wires, get in the roof and be dirty and hot, but when it's all said and done, I know everything will work. I like the security of copper.


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not going to bother ... agree with you. But I sense your absolute frustration, its just like mine. And when the company in question can't be bothered to listen ... Grrrr !!!


HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Yes, it's not worth the trouble any more. Pity it's not a device that you can swap something out, would have done this long ago, when in doubt, cut it out! This experience with Apple has made me shy of buying any of their product for the time being. The mac mini has a lot of fans on this site, so for audio serving it would do well, if that was its only job in life. I wanted to use it for home theatre/slide shows as well, but the ouput to large plasma or LCD has whiskers on it, some drama with the size of the screen not syncing correctly. There's always some niggle that gets in the way. For a PC you could remove the video card and put in another with relative ease, but can you do this with Apple computers?




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One and a half,


In terms of video it's worth bearing in mind that Apple do not offer support for BluRay. This would be in direct competition to their own iTunes movie download service. I was very happy with my Mac Mini but switched back to a PC as I prefer the freedom of formats offered and enjoy the quality of a bluray movie from time to time. It's worth bearing this in mind. Another niggle is the displayport technology on the Mini could have some issues with some TV's; you'll need a display port to HDMI converter which hopefully should pass HDCP okay - though I can't be sure. And if you wish to experience and of the HD sound formats such as true HD, forget the mini completely.


You can't switch video cards on the mini but you certainly can on the full fat Macs. Again, the OS restricts support for some formats but you do have the ability to install Windows and boot into that when you want to watch a movie, giving you access to programs such as ReClock which allow you judder free playback with 24p footage even if your TV doesn't support 24p (speeds it up to 25p).


Music playback on the Mac is where things are so straight forward. Bit perfect iTunes out of the box.


As the perfect media centre neither OS is perfect. The way I see it: audiophiles can be satisfied on both platforms though the PC is harder to setup. Video - HD downloads (grey blacks, not pin sharp) are not a match for the physical HD formats and won't be for many years. The PC is the way to go in this respect but even then there are annoying things to put up with.


Gabbled on a bit, sorry.







HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Try changing your network wireless security protocol Wep etc,i do not recall which is recommended but i had similar problems and changed my security setting on Main wireles router and password, Airpot Express worked flawlessly thereafter.


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