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Looking for good, compact AirPlay amplifier


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I wanted an AirPlay amplifier for my bedroom, to stop using an Airport Express, which was messing up my network, so I bought a Denon CEOL N-9. It worked fine for a few months, but after a firmware update, AirPlay stopped working reliably. It would drop out every few minutes, and eventually the network connection died. I reset the device a dozen times, and sent it in for service. It was returned to me a couple of days ago, and, while I can use AirPlay, it still drops after five to twenty minutes. I am going to ask for a refund. It's a shame, it's a nice, compact amp with a built-in CD player.

 

So I'm looking for something to replace it. I could use an older Apple TV I have, and connect that to the Denon amp; that won't affect the network the way the Apple TV did. But I'd rather avoid all those cables and just have an amp that can handle AirPlay correctly. Any recommendations?

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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I wanted an AirPlay amplifier for my bedroom, to stop using an Airport Express, which was messing up my network, so I bought a Denon CEOL N-9. It worked fine for a few months, but after a firmware update, AirPlay stopped working reliably. It would drop out every few minutes, and eventually the network connection died. I reset the device a dozen times, and sent it in for service. It was returned to me a couple of days ago, and, while I can use AirPlay, it still drops after five to twenty minutes. I am going to ask for a refund. It's a shame, it's a nice, compact amp with a built-in CD player.

 

So I'm looking for something to replace it. I could use an older Apple TV I have, and connect that to the Denon amp; that won't affect the network the way the Apple TV did. But I'd rather avoid all those cables and just have an amp that can handle AirPlay correctly. Any recommendations?

 

Just out of curiousity, did you have the Denon hardwired to network?

 

You could look at the Marantz M-CR611 which is similar to the Denin but known to be be more stable and sounds terrific to boot.

 

image.jpeg

Marantz US | M-CR611

 

Also, if what you are wanting to AirPlay are your music files on your phone along with streaming Pandora, Spotify, etc. then you could use a Sonos Connect Amp.

 

image.jpg

CONNECT:AMP - Wireless Stereo Amplifier | Sonos

David

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Thanks for the recommendations. The Sonos doesn't do AirPlay, so I wouldn't be able to stream from my iMac's music library to the bedroom, which is one of the main ways I listen. The Marantz is a bit expensive, but I see they have a cheaper model, the M-CR511, which doesn't have a CD player. I'll have a look at both and see what reviewers say about AirPlay quality. I had picked the Denon in part because I have a Denon amp and CD player in my office, and they've always been fine, but AirPlay is a very different story.

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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I'm a huge Apple fanboi (and fan of your blog), but I have come to the conclusion that airplay is inherently unreliable.

 

I have found using an apple TV (2 or 3) as a player (vs as an airplay receiver) works quite a bit better, presumably because it has 8 Gig of buffering capacity. The advantage is that, for $70, you can use it with anything that accepts optical input, and control it with a free iOS app.

 

Using the same apple TV in airplay mode is demonstrably inferior.

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I'm a huge Apple fanboi (and fan of your blog), but I have come to the conclusion that airplay is inherently unreliable.

 

I have found using an apple TV (2 or 3) as a player (vs as an airplay receiver) works quite a bit better, presumably because it has 8 Gig of buffering capacity. The advantage is that, for $70, you can use it with anything that accepts optical input, and control it with a free iOS app.

 

Using the same apple TV in airplay mode is demonstrably inferior.

 

It's never been unreliable for me, at least with Apple devices. The only problems I've had have been with third-party devices. I had a Cambridge Audio AirPlay speaker for a while, and that worked fine, but this Denon has been a disaster.

 

Yes, I can use an Apple TV 3 (which I have anyway, having upgraded to the 4), and that's what I'll probably end up doing. But my goal was to find an amp that didn't need an external device and more cables, since it's on a dresser in my bedroom.

 

One colleague has speculated that third parties often use cheaper antennas, because there are a lot of reports from people with these Denon and Marantz amps about poor AirPlay. That could be an explanation, but there's no way to diagnose it.

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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You've had better luck than me. I have even experienced airplay troubles with wired connections. Mine is also on top of a bedroom dresser, FWIW. The ATV is hidden behind my Peachtree Nova. (The other benefit is being able to run it as a zone player controlled from an iPad.) The downside is it resamples everything to 48kHz. (I think this is transparent, but others disagree.)

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Thanks for the recommendations. The Sonos doesn't do AirPlay, so I wouldn't be able to stream from my iMac's music library to the bedroom, which is one of the main ways I listen. The Marantz is a bit expensive, but I see they have a cheaper model, the M-CR511, which doesn't have a CD player. I'll have a look at both and see what reviewers say about AirPlay quality. I had picked the Denon in part because I have a Denon amp and CD player in my office, and they've always been fine, but AirPlay is a very different story.

 

The Sonos plays your iTunes library just fine in fact better than AirPlay.

David

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The Sonos plays your iTunes library just fine in fact better than AirPlay.

 

Alas, no. In theory, Sonos can play up to 65,000 tracks. (There's a hard limits because of their poor database design.) In practice, when I tried it out, it would only display 42,000 tracks from my library (around 70,000 tracks), because I have a lot of classical music, which has more metadata.

I write about Macs, music, and more at Kirkville.

Author of Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Co-host of The Next Track podcast.

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Alas, no. In theory, Sonos can play up to 65,000 tracks. (There's a hard limits because of their poor database design.) In practice, when I tried it out, it would only display 42,000 tracks from my library (around 70,000 tracks), because I have a lot of classical music, which has more metadata.

 

Got it. Good luck on this and let us know what you finally come up with.

David

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