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How to get best sound quality?


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Could you guys give me your opinion on the following: My setup is an iMac in my office and a Hegel 160 integrated amp in my living room. I am trying to achieve the best sound quality. My source is iTunes and Tidal. My options are as follows:

 

1. Stream to an Airport Express, which is connected to the Hegel (built in DAC) via the optical output on the AX. This is my current setup.

2. Connect the iMac and Hegel via a USB cable. The Hegel has a USB input. This would require a fairly long USB cable.

3. Connect the Hegel to my network via the available ethernet connection and stream to the Hegel via Airplay. The Hegel is an Airplay enabled device. Problem with this setup is that I get frequent drop outs. I have ordered a CAT 6 cable to replace my CAT 5 cable to see if this helps. I don't get any drop outs with Airplay via the AX.

 

Thanks for your assistance.

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Even when options (1) and (3) are working flawlessly, they will still limit your resolution to 16 bit 44.1 kHz. Option (2) or variants (maybe use a long optical toslink mini cable) don't have that limitation.

 

Also, welcome!

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The problem with option 2 is that long USB cables are generally not advisable for audio, but the Corning optical USB cable is a way around that limitation. I'd suggest trying it if you can arrange for an audition in your setup with a return option if it doesn't work.

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My objective is to achieve the best sound quality possible. I think my current setup sounds very good, but like most audiophiles I am always seeking that incremental improvement. I tried all three options tonight (I used my MacBook for option 2) and I really did not notice any difference. For now I am going to stick with option 1 as this is the most reliable. The guys at Hegel tell me that option 3 should sound better than option 1, but until I solve the drop out problem I will not use that option.

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If you really want "the best" sound quality, I would use HQPlayer and get a low powered fanless computer as an NAA. Connect the NAA to your network and to your Hegel via USB.

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

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