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Why no audiophile Airport Express alternative?


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My home system is built around an iMac running iTunes. The Airport Express is a great, inexpensive whole home digital streamer solution -- works with nearly all iOS apps, works with iTunes, etc. But I've discovered that if you want an audiophile experience (yes, limited to 16/44.1 or 16/48, I know, I know), I find that buffering the digital output on the Express to reduce jitter is pretty important. Makes an audible difference on high quality gear. So I'm using Airport Express -> Genesis Digital Lens -> Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition.

 

That's a lot of boxes, and the Genesis Lens is ancient by today's standards.

 

So I'm wondering why no one has built a simple Airplay streamer with a digital buffer and SPDIF digital output, so that we can use AirPlay but choose our own DAC. PS Audio once talked about such a product, but they didn't end up building it. The Arcam AirDAC has no digital outputs, and the Myro:Air doesn't do AirPlay wirelessly. And not clear that either of them take any anti-jitter steps.

 

Should be pretty simple -- basically, an audiophile version of the Airport Express (just the Airplay bits, not the hotspot bits, and no DAC). Essentially, a DAC-less audiophile version of the Airport Express...

 

I know, I know, you're all going to tell me that's too small a market. But in this era of Kickstarter funding, that seems wrong!

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Here are two handy bits of kit that might get you close in function but will sound much better.

 

In my opinion an AE does not belong in an audiophile setup as it is way too noisy.

 

1. SoTM SMS100 renderer

 

Airplay compatible and a whole lot more.

 

SOtM Ultimate High Performance Audio

 

2. Netgear WNCE2001

 

If you cannot hardwire a LAN into the renderer, this handy gadget provides a tiny wireless receiver to the renderer. The nice thing is that you can attach your own clean LPSU or clean USB power to it instead of the wallwart.

 

WNCE2001 | Gaming & Home Theater Adapters | Connected Entertainment | Home | NETGEAR

 

And a DAC and source of your choice...

 

Or for more money, as mentioned above, there are some all in one units like Auralic and NAD.

 

Cheers

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In my opinion an AE does not belong in an audiophile setup as it is way too noisy.

 

Yes, it generates some jitter. However, the analog out of the AE going into a DAC with strong jitter rejection and re-clocking abilities, such as the Benchmark DAC2, works very well. The only, admittedly strong, limitation is that it is bit perfect only at 16-bit 44.1kHz, but this is the format of the vast majority of the existing catalog.

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Have a look at A Review I did recently. Benchtests

 

OK It's DIY(ish) but these types of devices are capable of acting as a Music Renderer (be it Airplay-Audio or DNLA-UPnP).

 

flohmann, to achieve you're objectives, imagine replacing the IQAudioDAC with a Wolfson Audio Card Community: Wolfson Audio Card | element14

 

I have tried this and had success with the S/PDIF output.

 

The Renderer Software Projects, Volumio and RuneAudio projects seem to be developping fast and most things work. As present RuneAudio doesn't support DLNA just the Airplay (or reverse Engineered Shareport as it is called).

 

At the moment I would suggest this type of kit can be reliable as a Music Controller and Renderer. I would not use them as a music server.

 

Kevin

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First off; the Arcam airDAC does have a digital output. In addition you can get devices such as Marantz NA7004 or Denon DNP-720ae which support AirPlay in addition to UPnP/DNLA.

 

The problem with building one of these type if devices commercially is that Apple would have to licence it; I'm not sure if the issue is that Apple are reluctant or the hardware manufacturers are reluctant to spend the money.

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I fancied on these

 

Zardoz Le Phénomène musical

 

Shame they stopped making it....

 

You can still get this. It's now La Rosita. La Rosita

 

Very nice stuff. They also have a iTunes Plug-In so that you can play files with 24/192 over Airplay.

Ripping: PC with Win7 64bit and dbpoweramp reference | Music: MacMini 2011 | 16GB | Crucial 512GB SSD | Sierra | LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 6TB | La Rosita Beta New with La Rosita iTunes Plug-In | Pioneer BDP-LX88 | Rega RP6 with Ortofon 2M Black | Rega Aria MC/MM | Ayre AX-7e | Ayre Codex | Hifiman HE-400i | Mulidine Cadence |

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Hi all,

 

I work with Arcam so here is some current info.

 

Just to let you know that the airDAC HAS a digital output. SPDIF large as life on the back panel and the whole unit is built to the highest audiophile standards including extensive de-jittering: To quote.

 

"The airDAC benefits from Arcam's more than twenty years of digital audio expertise and use the finest quality parts in a layout that is optimised for low noise and distortion. A dejittering design that Arcam have used in many of the reference class FMJ products is applied to all inputs. The four-layer PCB allows our designers to maximise the quality of the ground plane in order to further reduce interference between components. The use of multiple low noise separately regulated power supplies ensures that we get the cleanest signal to the audiophile quality output stage."

 

It has a good internal DAC and can feed a better DAC externally.

 

There is nothing better for AirPlay

 

Cheers Robert

 

 

My home system is built around an iMac running iTunes. The Airport Express is a great, inexpensive whole home digital streamer solution -- works with nearly all iOS apps, works with iTunes, etc. But I've discovered that if you want an audiophile experience (yes, limited to 16/44.1 or 16/48, I know, I know), I find that buffering the digital output on the Express to reduce jitter is pretty important. Makes an audible difference on high quality gear. So I'm using Airport Express -> Genesis Digital Lens -> Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition.

 

That's a lot of boxes, and the Genesis Lens is ancient by today's standards.

 

So I'm wondering why no one has built a simple Airplay streamer with a digital buffer and SPDIF digital output, so that we can use AirPlay but choose our own DAC. PS Audio once talked about such a product, but they didn't end up building it. The Arcam AirDAC has no digital outputs, and the Myro:Air doesn't do AirPlay wirelessly. And not clear that either of them take any anti-jitter steps.

 

Should be pretty simple -- basically, an audiophile version of the Airport Express (just the Airplay bits, not the hotspot bits, and no DAC). Essentially, a DAC-less audiophile version of the Airport Express...

 

I know, I know, you're all going to tell me that's too small a market. But in this era of Kickstarter funding, that seems wrong!

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Robert, thanks very much for the information. That makes the airDAC a serious option for me to consider! I had been misled by this post from Myro, which suggests no SPDIF *output* on the airDAC -- plainly mistaken!

 

I use the AE optical digital output, but the high jitter makes it less than ideal for audiophile applications. So now I rely on the Genesis Lens to reclock the bitstream before going to my Red Wine DAC. Sounds like the airDAC might be just the thing to replace both the AE and the Genesis reclocking box. I'll give it a try.

 

Hi all,

 

I work with Arcam so here is some current info.

 

Just to let you know that the airDAC HAS a digital output. SPDIF large as life on the back panel and the whole unit is built to the highest audiophile standards including extensive de-jittering: To quote.

 

"The airDAC benefits from Arcam's more than twenty years of digital audio expertise and use the finest quality parts in a layout that is optimised for low noise and distortion. A dejittering design that Arcam have used in many of the reference class FMJ products is applied to all inputs. The four-layer PCB allows our designers to maximise the quality of the ground plane in order to further reduce interference between components. The use of multiple low noise separately regulated power supplies ensures that we get the cleanest signal to the audiophile quality output stage."

 

It has a good internal DAC and can feed a better DAC externally.

 

There is nothing better for AirPlay

 

Cheers Robert

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Robert, thanks very much for the information. That makes the airDAC a serious option for me to consider! I had been misled by this post from Myro, which suggests no SPDIF *output* on the airDAC -- plainly mistaken!

I love this statement (from that link)...Second major difference is connectivity, hence the reason why I choose the back side images above. Myro:Air offers both analog and digital audio outputs that run in parallel. Whereas the airDAC only offers analog RCA outs.

 

If you actually look at the back side images the Arcam has a clearly marked "Dig Out" connector. :-)

 

Eloise

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Robert, what's the maximum audio quality accepted by the airDac? Is it also limited to 44.1/16?

 

I'm not Robert but .. according to the Arcam website Airplay is currently restricted to 16bit/48kHz but the airDAC can also be used as a UPnP renderer (in conjunction with a UPnP server like Songbook) in which case you can stream 24bit/96kHz to it. Since the airDAC also has optical and s/pdif inputs, and analogue outputs from it's own DAC as well as s/pdif digital out, this makes it (imo) an extremely versatile device, and very good value for money. The networking is good too - wireless, ethernet and direct wireless connection.

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Hm, then the question is whether it passes 16/44.1 through bit perfect (like Airport Express) or whether it transcodes everything to 16/48 (like AppleTV).

 

Anyhow, I'm intrigued enough to visit my local dealer and see if I can get one for home trial. I will update the thread if I have more to share.

 

Thanks. [emoji4]

 

So it's the same as the AppleTV then.

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I'm curious about that too. But I think it may be that the receiver sets the quality and the sender must deliver the audio at that quality.

 

Once I took a look at the AirPlay protocol and found a field in which the receiver would inform the sender of the accepted quality, but didn't find anything similar for the sender. Anyways, I didn't look more into it—I was just checking for packet retransmission. So there may be a way of negotiating the quality.

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Well, pretty much any Linux device can server as an Airplay endpoint, with a little software magic. But there are also a very large number of devices out there, some of quite respectable audiophile quality, that have Airplay already built in.

 

For example, the NAD D7050. it's more expensive of course - about 10 times more expensive. But it does more and it sounds very nice. There are a ton of AV Receivers that come with Airplay built in for very reasonable prices.

 

It just takes time, patience, and a bit of cash to get just about any level of audiophile excellence you want from Airplay. :)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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More research uncovered another intriguing option, the Wyred 4 Sound Remedy, which is a reclocker (not clear to me whether there's a digital buffer in there or not, as well). Since it omits the DAC altogether, it's $399 (rather than the $599 for the Arcam AirDAC), but it still requires an Airport Express, so really $498 altogether. So now I have two options to explore (with due respect to all the awesome Linux options, I'm not looking for another tinkers project right now). Turns out there was more out there than I initially thought!

 

Here's the description on the product page:

 

Remedy Reclocker

 

Stemming from our highly successful Sonos Connect modifications, we are pleased to introduce a uniquely revolutionary product, the Remedy reclocker. This highly advanced digital reclocking device removes digital errors and drastically improves jitter utilizing an incredible Femto-grade clock. With the Remedy, you can now connect and improve many digital sources previously heretofore unfeasible. Pair the Remedy with the DAC of your choice and transform your favorite consumer digital source into a truly audiophile-worthy component!

 

Recommended applications include: Sonos Connect, Apple TV & Airport Express, Squeezebox Duet & Touch, iPod docks and many more!

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So you think that AirPlay can pretty much serve up "about any level of audiophile excellence you want"?

 

There's another thread going in this forum about a guy being puzzled about why his airport express directly into his integrated amp is out shining his DAC set up. You can indeed get good sound from the current generation of them. Being good enough is a tougher question:)

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