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Help Please: Windows, How to Engage External DAC Over Airport Extreme?

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First of all, Thank You Chris for this informative and helpful site.


My problem: I can't figure out how to stream music to an external DAC. I have an HP notebook and desktop and I use MediaMonkey. I created a wireless network with an Apple Airport Extreme. I also have a FUBAR II USB DAC.


My two PCs see the Airport Extreme, and I can share files between them over the network.


I can also hook the notebook up to the DAC by USB cable, and then run RCA cables from the DAC to my NAD amp. When I do that the notebook sees the DAC, disengages the notebook speakers, and sends the data to the DAC, and everything works fine.


But I've been trying to send the data wirelessly, and failing, and there must be something I'm missing. I plug the DAC's USB cable into the Airport Extreme, but when I crank up the notebook it just plays through the notebook speakers. I know a lot of you guys use ITunes, and it gives you some sort of option like "Send data to Airport Extreme" or something, but I'm not going to use ITunes. I need to tell the notebook "Turn off your speakers, send this data to the network, and you, network, send the data to the external DAC." I don't know how to tell it to do that. I don't even know if it CAN do that.


I don't see the DAC in My Network Places. Dunno if I should, anyway.


As you've probably figured out, I'm no computer genius. It took me about a week just to get the wireless network up and running.


Is there something I'm missing, like do I need another component somewhere? Maybe I shouldn't have tried to combine Windows and Apple? I'd hate to have to start over and build a new network with a Linksys router or whatever, but I will if I have to.


Thanks for any pointers you can give me.





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"I plug the DAC's USB cable into the Airport Extreme, but when I crank up the notebook it just plays through the notebook speakers."


As a general rule, USB ports on Apple devices other than computers do NOT provide audio output, using instead, a Toslink (in the case of Apple TV) or a mini-Toslink (in the case of the Airport Express). The Airport Extreme has no audio output that I'm aware of.







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The USB out on the AE is for a printer. If your DAC has a digital optical (Toslink) input, you can use a Mini-Toslink/Toslink cable. Apple used to sell a Monster Cable kit for the AE that included just such a cable (it has a mini-jack at one end & a Toslink connector at the other. Maybe they still carry it.


Or if you'd like to buy a higher-quality Toslink cable, you can but a mini-Toslink adaptor, since it seems Mini-Toslink cables are not easy to come buy.




Buy the way, Audioquest seems to have a pretty good rep re Toslink cables (though not cheap)


Don't know how it'll work on your PC. On iTunes you can select what speakers to play to & the AE shows up as a speaker. Not sure how MediaMonkey handles is.


Good luck,



A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Airport Extreme and Airport Express - easily confused because the names are so similar. They even have a lot of similar features to make things even more confusing. Unfortunately neither of them allow sound output through their usb ports.


If you have Airport Extreme, it doesn't have any sound output capability at all. Airport Express does allow sound (both digital and analog) via it's mini toslink / miniplug ouput. It is quite possible to add one or more Airport Express units to an Airport Extreme wireless network, or to a Linksys or similar one for that matter. The wireless networking protocols aren't different for each manufacturer, but the control panels look different as do the instructions so you can expect to do a bit of head scratching to make it all work nicely.


Once you have things set up, Itunes on either Windows or Mac will allow you to send sound to the Airport Express. If you want to send sound from an application other than iTunes, you will need to use a program like Airfoil (http://rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/) as an intermediary. Other programs may also work, I'm not sure. Expect more head scratching at this stage!


On the bright side, once it's all done it's great to have decent quality music streamed to every corner of your castle. Just keep the dungeons ready for any servants who complain about drop-outs in their attic rooms, and be ready to flog anyone who asks for resolutions above 16/44.1


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"Once you have things set up, Itunes on either Windows or Mac will allow you to send sound to the Airport Express. If you want to send sound from an application other than iTunes, you will need to use a program like Airfoil (http://rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/) as an intermediary. Other programs may also work, I'm not sure. Expect more head scratching at this stage!"


I agree 100% with souptin.


On a PC:

I have tried Airfoil and had issues with dropouts. The manufacturer was very helpful and they have a new version that might work better.


I use Eric Milles product -> Remote speaker output (http://emilles.dyndns.org/software/out_apx.html) with MediaMonkey. This works well with MediaMonkey whose interface and functionality is superior to iTunes (in my opinion).


I have had zero problems with droputs with this product.


One can stream to multiple Airport Expresses (Expressi ?) without an issue although there is millisecond delay between devices.


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Thanks all. It looks like I'll be saying goodbye to the Airport Extreme. Between the USB port being incapable of hosting an external DAC, and the Windows vs Apple issues, I've had it with Apple products. Bought my mom an IMac a few months ago. She likes it, and it's okay, but some things just drive me nuts. Like no right click, no Print Screen button, had to buy an extension cord for the keyboard, etc. The Apple environment is just too restrictive. Never again. It's a shame too, the Airport Extreme is a really nice LOOKING piece of equipment, and what it does, it does pretty well. It's doubly frustrating because I told the kid in the Apple SoHo store exactly what I was planning on using it for, and he said it would work. I guess all that crap about their sales staff being well trained is just that, crap. Okay, rant over.


I'll get a Windows router and go that route. Thanks for all the replies.





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But the AE does work, works well, is cheap AND works in the PC environment. No Mac required.


Arguably, an AE + a decent DAC is an excellent foundation (see Stereophile Editor John Atkinsons' article on the Airport Express a few years ago) for a high end system.


I personally think you could have a very nice system with as little as a


Laptop (or PC) with a wireless card (router not required)

A USB drive for music if your PC does not have enough space - ~ $125.00

MediaMonkey - free (but be a sport and buy the Gold version - $25.00)

Remote speaker output form Eric Milles - $25.00

Airport Express - $100.00

DAC - $200- to the sky is the limit. A Benchmark for a $1,000.00 would be very reasonable


Thus, excluding computer, total cost could be $1275.00


Another room costs only 100.00 for a second Airport Express.




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Just swap your Airport Extreme for an Airport Express and you'll be in business IF (and this is a big if), you have a DAC with TOslink input.


I'm not aware of any USB only DACs that will offer wireless playback. If you're Fubar II is USB only, you'll probably have to get another DAC to go wireless.


As for the Soho store, the service is variable. If you're not confident in the advice, ask them to ask for a Genius' opinion. I try only to ask questions of the ones who have been there longer, although I can't recall their names to share with you, only there faces. The one guy I bought from exclusively for three years graduated and moved elsewhere.


good luck




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"I'm not aware of any USB only DACs that will offer wireless playback. If you're Fubar II is USB only, you'll probably have to get another DAC to go wireless." -Clay


Oh dear this is a new wrinkle. The Fubar was only about 150 dollars. I thought I'd play around with it to make sure everything worked, then move up to a Wavelength. But now that you mention it, when I look at the Wavelength site there's nothing about using his USB DACs wirelessly.


So to confirm, Clay and iamimdoc, what I'm hearing is, if I want to go wireless my only choices are Airport Express and a DAC with TOslink input, is that correct? I can't believe somebody doesn't make a product that does what I want, without buying a whole Squeezebox or Sonus "system" or whatever. Is this market really this young?


Guess I'll start looking at TOslink DACs, and get an Airport Express. May keep the Exteme and network the computers and external hard drive, it's been working fine for file sharing.


Thanks for all your help guys. If you hadn't told me there are no USB DACs that can do wireless I would have just gone to Best Buy and bought a Linksys or Belkin router, and I'd be right back where I started, except one or two hundred bucks lighter!





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You could swap your Fubar out for a DAC that supports both USB AND Toslink, for example, a Musical Fidelity V-DAC supports most everything except Firewire.


There are many DACs like this I believe, although none with the SOTA Asynchronous USB.


I use a Firewire DAC which also supports Toslink - I connect my computer directly to the DAC via Firewire, and for wireless (aka 'convenience') listening, I also have an Apple TV (which provides AirTunes services, just like an Airport Express) connected via Toslink.


Best of luck,






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I went through this about a year ago. I really have not looked since then and this is a rapidly changing area. I just wanted to get my feet wet - proof of concept type stuff. So far , I am pretty happy but intend to get into looking at DAC's


Important stuff to me was convenience, trying to do the same as I did with Vinyl and CD boxes - read the lyrics, look at the cover, etc, ease of selection of music.


I tried various PC products and found MediaMonkey to be the most stable; it was able to do all of this. It seems to multitask in that it can be given a task such as "delete these files" and then you can go back to doing something else simultaneously. It has a strong help forum and lots of little widgets to do stuff - find and save lyrics, get album art, etc. It has lots of search and sort capabilities and can handle thousands of files, reliably.


The only way I found it to work wirelessly was the technique described above (AE). But this works well and reliably. This was important to me as I did not want the noise of a PC, another keyboard, screen ,etc. Plus, I would have to get up to use them whenever I wanted to change things, look at lyrics, etc. I use an old clunker laptop via VNC to the "main computer". This gets me what I want - see lyrics, change songs, go the net if needed - etc. like a big remote control - sits on the table in front of me - no cords, etc


Sonus is probably more elegant - nicer remote BUT no lyrics. Cost more (although not crazy $).


The Squeezebox uses/requires their server software which I was less than enamored with. In retrospect, this might not have been as much of an issue as folks probably use the handheld remote (only) and never actually see the server software interface. But no lyrics, etc. But it might do "radio" better. I do get what I want on the radio with MM, however. Pretty inexpensive.


I have not compared sound quality of them (Best Buy is not much of a place to actually listen). That is a whole 'nother story.


If you have questions feel free to call/email.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Guys,


I’m just circling back to tell you how it turned out. Hardware-wise I got a DacMagic, Airport Express, and an AudioQuest Toslink cable with a miniplug adapter. I’m selling the Airport Extreme to a friend.


I had a bunch of trouble getting the wireless network set up with the Airport Express. I had assigned IP addresses and default gateways to both my computers, because that was how I was able to network them with the Extreme. I don’t know if that’s how you’re supposed to do it or not. Once I'd plugged in the Airport Express both my computers saw it, but I couldn’t connect to or configure it, even with an Ethernet cable. Airport Utility kept giving me a “Error -6357” and telling me to check my network connections.


After a frustrating few days of digging through internet forums, I learned you have to click the “Obtain an IP address automatically” radio button in TCP/IP Properties in Network Connections. I’m guessing then the AE assigns an IP that it likes to your computer. Once I did that I connected right away. Then I went back and reassigned the IPs I wanted, and I still had connectivity.


I downloaded Eric Milles’s Remote Speaker plugin for MediaMonkey. Again I couldn’t make it work with the AE, although Remote Speakers could see the AE. So again I clicked on “Obtain IP address automatically” and Eureka! Success! What a great feeling when I finally heard sound coming through my headphones (I had plugged them in, so in case I botched something I wouldn’t send a blast of noise through my speakers).


Earlier, I had downloaded Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil for Windows, but I couldn’t get it to work. It saw the AE, but it just kept saying “Connecting…” forever. Now I wonder, if I’d allowed automatic IP earlier, might this software have worked? But I don’t want to mess with a good thing and test out that theory, at least not right now.


Some of you are probably reading this and saying “What a numbskull”, and you’re right, but I thought I’d post my troubles in case there are others out there like me with limited computer expertise who are having the same problems.


So in closing, I’d like to say a big Thank You All again for your help. I promise you, I never would have gotten to this point without your responses to my original post. Have a great weekend!


- Jeff



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Things are working so do nothing.


There is a setup option in the Airport Utility - a music tab I think. You are allowed to give a name to the AE (for music streaming purposes) here. In addition, one can name the AE (a different name) for different configuration purposes.


The Remote Speaker output looks for the name saved under the music tab. This _might_ have cause some of your issues.


But, as I said "Things are working so do nothing."


Of interest to me, is a comparison of the quality of the sound


of the analog output of the AE




the sound through the DAC.


Your experience/opinion would be appreciated.




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"Of interest to me, is a comparison of the quality of the sound


of the analog output of the AE




the sound through the DAC."


Not sure I know how to do that. Use a Y cable with a mini plug at the AE end and RCA plugs at the amp end? (I have an old NAD integrated amp, I'm pretty sure it doesn't have optical input but I'll check tonight when I get home from work.)




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Well I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't tell a bit of difference.


Bear in mind it wasn't a very scientific test. In between listenings I clambered around behind the stereo swapping cables, which probably took a minute or two. Also I only did one switch, so I sat through five songs, changed the cable, then listened to the same five. So we're talking fifteen minutes or so between hearing the same song with the two different systems. There wasn't any way to do a real A/B test.


I ran a Radio Shack Y cable with miniplug/RCA plugs from the AE directly to my NAD C370, swapping out the DacMagic and Toslink cable. I listened on my Sennheiser HD600 headphones, which I love BTW. I played Disclaimer and Crisis 1&2 by the Dears, Serpentine and I Feel Cream by Peaches, and The Return of the Jitney Man by the Branford Marsalis Quartet. Given all the qualifications above, I really don't think I could tell any difference. I could hear all the little things I look for in both set ups. My feeling is that if you could somehow rig up a real A/B test, with someone out of my sight switching back and forth, I wouldn't hear any difference.




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"Well I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't tell a bit of difference."


I don't think there's any need to feel embarrassed. Certainly it doesn't compare with eulogising over some perceived difference and then realising that you were in fact comparing A with A. Personally I've found that quick A/B comparisons work well when I'm doing something like changing the tonal balance of the music (equalisation, or changing the position of speakers for example), but not so well with other changes. Once I hear a particular detail on one setting, I hear it on all settings, plus I get bored listening to the same thing over and over again. I guess those with more professional ears can home in on the important differences, but for me it takes time.


I would have expected the dacmagic to be a noticeable improvement on the built-in airport express dac, but in fairness I have seen some reviews that speak quite highly of the airport analog output, albeit in a backhanded "not bad at all" or "much better than expected" kind of way.


If you find yourself in the mood to experiment some more, I'd recommend that you investigate the different playback settings in your software (bitrates, volume, equalisation etc), maybe do some comparisons with lossless and lossy cd rips and mp3 files, and compare cd to streamed files if you currently have a cd player connected directly to your amp. Think of it as a perfect excuse to sit back, relax, and listen to more music!


ps I can relate to clambering about behind the stereo trying to sort out what cable goes where.


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"Don't worry, be happy".

B. McFerrin


At any rate, an easy test to do might be to beg/borrow/buy another AE.


Hook AE 1 via analog outputs into input 1 and AE 2 via the DAC via input 2.


If still no difference detected after extending listening then it's time to


Get a better stereo

Get a better DAC

Give up on AE

Send the DAC back and buy some music




Just be happy


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