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Some basic questions about the AVI ADM 9.1 Speakers!


keysersoze123
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Hi guys,

 

Have been looking into building a stereo for my laptop, and had been considering things like the Linn DS range, and the Logitech Transporter, but am now intrigued by (the much cheaper) AVI ADM 9.1 active speakers all-in-one solution, which I have read only amazing things about.

 

OK, can I plug my iPod into the speakers directly? Primarily I would be using the speakers from my laptop, but when friends come over with their iPods, it would be a very good feature if they could just plug them in and play their own music.

 

It says something about having 2 digital inputs and 1 analogue input - what exactly does this mean? I assumed that digital input would mean its good for an iPod, but after some research online, it seems the iPod does not have a digital output?? (Presumably because an iPod has its own DAC - so it outputs an analogue sound).

 

If I can easily plug an iPod in, will the iPod's internal DAC be bypassed, and the superior DAC of the 9.1s be used instead?

 

Also, could I have my computer and my TV plugged in at the same time? Would this be a bit dangerous, because if I accidently played TV and music at the same time, I could blow the speakers? In fact there are 3 inputs I think, as mentioned above, so would having 3 things plugged in simultaneously be very unwise?

 

What things could I plug into the digital inputs? (What outputs a purely digital signal? Computer/ipod/virtually everything has it's own internal DAC doesn't it, so they would all output an analogue signal?)

 

What things could I plug into the analogue inputs? (I assume I could plug vinyl in here, and also iPod because of internal DAC, but surely it's better to plug iPod into digital input, and bypass iPod's rubbish DAC..?)

 

I plan to use these speakers with Apple's Airport Express, which is limited by 16 bit/44.1khz.. Not a big deal, as 99.99% of music is CD quality rez, but can you guys hear a big difference when listening to 24 bit material? Esepcially, say, 192khz/24bit recordings??

 

I assume CD quality recordings still sound amazing with these speakers, as CD quality sound still comprises virtually the entire music collection of most people (vinyl excluded) and after all, most 'audiophile' companies still see fit to sell £10k CD players that are limited by 16 bit/44.1khz - they must think you can still extract pretty amazing sound from CDs!

 

If I wanted to listen to some 24 bit material occasionally, would I just unplug the cable that goes from my (wireless) airport express into the speakers, and just plug the cable direct into my macbook instead? That way 24 bit recordings would work, right? (Although not with itunes I think? Someone said itunes doesn't do 24 bit, but I'm not sure, as I think I've read different things about this..)

 

Thanks :)

 

Keyser

 

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The ADM's have two Toslink (optical digital) inputs and one analog RCA input.

 

You can connect an iPod with an iPod/RCA cable to the ADM's analog input. Most likely the sound quality will be compromised, since you'll be using the iPod's DAC, rather than the ADM's. If this is an issue, you'd have to look into an iPod dock that has a digital output. There's the Wadia 170i, but its output is coax, not compatible with the ADM's toslink digital inputs. You may be able to find some kind of adaptor. (I've also heard Onkyo makes an iPod dock with digital output.) Anyway, theoretically this should by-pass the iPod's DAC & use the ADM's.

 

You can plug in any device that has a toslink output. This includes Airport Express, all new Macs and (from what I've heard) some Windows PC's as well. Computers do have their own internal DAC's, but grabbing the digital output by-passes it.

 

I can't speak for the sound quality when going through the analog input, but you should be able to connect anything with an RCA analog output, including a CD player, AM/FM tuner, the above-mentioned iPod/RCA cable, etc. You could connect a turntable, but you will need a separate phono stage between the TT & the ADM's.

 

I personally don't have much experience with higher-resolution formats, but I think "normal" CD's sound great on the ADM's. And yes, if you wanted to play some higher-res stuff, you could inplug from the AE & go directly to you MacBook.

 

As for multiple inputs, I believe the ADM's sense which input has a signal, and switches to that one. I doubt if you could blow the speakers by accidentally attempting multiple inputs - I suspect the ADM's would simply not play a second input if it was already playing from another input.

 

Rascal

 

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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"OK, can I plug my iPod into the speakers directly? Primarily I would be using the speakers from my laptop, but when friends come over with their iPods, it would be a very good feature if they could just plug them in and play their own music."

 

You can if you use a Y-cable (1/8 inch to 2 male RCA) to the analog input or if you invest in an iPod dock that outputs a digital signal then you can plug it into the digital input.

 

 

"It says something about having 2 digital inputs and 1 analogue input - what exactly does this mean? I assumed that digital input would mean its good for an iPod, but after some research online, it seems the iPod does not have a digital output?? (Presumably because an iPod has its own DAC - so it outputs an analogue sound)."

 

Digital input means that it takes a digital signal prior to its conversion to analog. Portable players like the iPod do this internally (otherwise your headphones wouldn't work :).

 

 

"If I can easily plug an iPod in, will the iPod's internal DAC be bypassed, and the superior DAC of the 9.1s be used instead?"

 

Only if you can coax a digital signal out of the ipod (see above about docks).

 

 

"Also, could I have my computer and my TV plugged in at the same time? Would this be a bit dangerous, because if I accidently played TV and music at the same time, I could blow the speakers? In fact there are 3 inputs I think, as mentioned above, so would having 3 things plugged in simultaneously be very unwise?"

 

I believe the 9.1s have a preamp built-in. This means that not only can they control volume, but also the input. You can plug something into all three inputs and the 9.1s will only play the input that you select via the remote.

 

 

"What things could I plug into the digital inputs? (What outputs a purely digital signal? Computer/ipod/virtually everything has it's own internal DAC doesn't it, so they would all output an analogue signal?)"

 

While computers have their own DAC, some like the macbooks have a s/pdif (a type of digital signal format) output as well. This is located in the headphone output jack alongside the analog output. Depending on the type of cable inserted, it will output digital or analog. If you look at the specifications of things you will see if they have only analog, only digital, or a combination of outputs.

 

 

"What things could I plug into the analogue inputs? (I assume I could plug vinyl in here, and also iPod because of internal DAC, but surely it's better to plug iPod into digital input, and bypass iPod's rubbish DAC..?)"

 

Vinyl will only work in the analogue inputs after a separate preamp in order to convert the signal to line level. CD players, Ipods, DACs, etc will all plug into the analogue input.

 

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Hi guys,

 

Thank you both so much for your replies! Sorry I was so long-winded, I probably could've said everything in a lot fewer words.

 

So it would be quite easy to play iPods through the 9.1s if using the iPod's internal DAC. This isn't a huge issue, 'cos when I plug my iPod into a pair of sub £200 2.1 speakers (Harmon Kardon Soundsticks) the sound is still pretty damn good to me (music is music!) and I'm guessing that with the Soundsticks, the iPod's internal DAC is being used.. I'm just a bit worried that a superior sound system like the 9.1s will make the relatively poor quality of the iPod's DAC more apparent... However, from what I've read, one of the 9.1s greatest strengths is to make a poor source sound good, so hopefully it won't be such a big deal! (However, maybe this ability to 'improve' crappy source material music is mainly down to the 9.1's DAC..)

 

It would however definitely be ideal to have an iPod dock of some kind that allowed me to bypass the iPod's internal DAC... Rascal, the Wadia 170i you mentioned would seem like the ideal kind of product, but it costs almost $400!!! And as far as I can make out, its only function is to allow you to bypass the iPod's DAC..??? That seems absolutely crazy to me... I mean, maybe there's a reason it's so expensive to bypass an iPod's DAC... but seriously.. WTF!!!

 

You can get a top of the range iPod dock including speakers for that money!!! I would have thought a dock, or a cable, that allows you to bypass the iPod's DAC and output a digital signal could be bought for about $20!!!! Maybe there is more to the Wadia 170i than I realise, but if its only function is to allow a digital output from an iPod then I am truly stunned!! That is not cool... I'm actually just shocked!! It means any other products that do the same function (and preferably give a Toslink output, so I don't have to mess about with an adapter or something) are gonna cost big bucks as well.... :(

 

That's a shame, 'cos there's no way in hell I'd pay even $100 (well, maybe $100, absolute max) for a dock that simply allowed me to bypass the iPod's DAC... Here's hoping there is a cheaper alternative out there...!?

 

OK, so does anyone have experience with playing an iPod, using its own internal DAC, through the analogue input on the 9.1s..? Does it still sound good?

 

And finally, and more importantly, what do you all make of the 9.1s, in terms of proper CD quality digital output from a macbook etc? Are these speakers really as good as some of the reviews seem to suggest? I mean, are they amazingly good for the money? They are cheap compared to true 'high end' audio, but they're still pretty damn expensive at £1200 here in the UK... It's gonna be hard for me to arrange a demo I think, but would you say that I'm in for a sonic treat? I'm the kinda guy who can get a lot of enjoyment out of music in a car radio, on my iPod with good heaphones, and even from my macbook connected to the aforementioned 2.1 Harmon Kardon Soundsticks... Are these 9.1s gonna really sound amazing.. With all kinds of music???

 

Thanks again dudes,

 

Keyser

 

PS. Do expensive iPod docks including speakers, like the Bose sound dock, use the iPod's internal DAC? Or do these expensive iPod docks include their own DACs, and they have a function built in that somehow bypasses the iPod's internal DAC? Thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Hey Keyser,

 

I had to chuckle to myself when I read your "shocked" comments re the Wadia, getting digital out of the iPod, etc. Welcome to the world of high-end audio!

 

Well, actually, I think the Wadia does more than just get a digital signal out of the iPod (see link), but according to some that's a bit of an accomplishment. Apparently Apple is not eager to share info re getting at the iPod's digital signal (some discussion of it on this site). Some think it's well worth the price:

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Teardown-Wadia-iTransport

 

From Wadia's site:

http://www.wadia.com/products/transports/170i/design.php

 

FYI, I know of no other way to get a digital signal out of an iPod (though some have speculated that Apple may be working on some solution of their own ... perhaps it explains their tight-lipped behavior around this issue).

 

But you have me curious. I have a pair of ADM 9.1's on eval, so if I can remember, I'll grab by Belkin Y connector & hook my iPod and see what I think.

 

As for the overall sound quality of the ADM's, I'd say that definitely yes, you will be in for a sonic treat. But these things being subjective, I would really try to arrange for a demo, or get get a pair on an evaluation period.

 

Bear in mind, these are NOT desktop speakers. They have lots of power to spare and will fill up a good-sized room. I say this because my intention for the ADM's was as a secondary system for a medium-sized room. But after having them a few days and playing them in my living room, I feel they are probably "too much" for a smaller room, and I may end up returning them. But this is not at all a knock on the 9.1's - just that it seems like they need a somewhat larger space to "open up".

 

The other thing I'll say about the 9.1's is that they provide an extremely simple path to computer-based audio. Especially if you have a Mac (which seems to be their target audience) and especially if you are primarily interested in playing off the computer. They are very plug-n-play. On the other hand, it seems to me, if you like to play from a wider variety of sources, including vinyl, if you like to play with various components, then a more traditional pre-amp or integrated amp solution would be more flexible.

 

Rascal

 

PS - The Wadia is the only one I know of that by-passes the iPod's DAC. And word is there is an Onkyo unit (cheaper & supposedly better) that also does, but I don't know the model.

 

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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Keyser,

You can plug more than one digital source into the 9.1s. I plug my Mac and Blu-Ray player in and if I want to play my Xbox I just unplug one of the digial cables. As far as the iPod goes you can get a mini RCA to stereo RCA cable to plug into the analog input. I think my iPhone sounds pretty good with headphones so I would think this would give some pretty good results. I would turn the volume all the way up on the iPod and then control the volume with the 9.1s. As far as transports I believe the Onkyo will also output digital. This is not an Apple issue but more of a studio copyright thing. Yes the 9.1s can play 24 bit 96 kHz material

 

ADM9.1s ,2.0 Ghz Mac Mini, Panasonic BD-35 blu-ray player.

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Hey, thanks for the reply Radar, cool to hear that the Xbox can be plugged in via digital, as I do like to play my Xbox!

 

What do you make of the sound quality on your 9.1s? Also, I don't know if you've listened to really really high end audio equipment in your time? If you have, your idea of 'awesome' sound might be a bit different from a more 'regular' guy like me lol...! But what are your impressions of the speakers when playing music? Outstanding?

 

Also, do you know which Onkyo model it is? Because Rascal doesn't know the model number...

 

Thanks!

 

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Hahaha glad you got a chuckle! Thanks for the reply, yeah it does seem strange that it's so expensive to bypass the iPod's DAC, Apple can be pretty tight with copyright etc..

 

Have you by any chance heard any of the Linn DS range? If you have, how would you say the AVI 9.1s compare? That's one thing I'm very interested in...

 

Cheers Rascal

 

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Also consider the Apple TV. It can do what the Airport Express can do in terms of streaming and it is basically an Ipod with a digital output so you can use the Toslink input on the ADM 9.1 speakers. It syncs to Itunes just like an Ipod and it will stream just like the Airport Express. Its not a dock though so your friends with their Ipods will have to use the analog input on the speakers.

 

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And since I know you're eager to pick up the Wadia dock & hook it up to your as-yet-to-be-purchased ADM 9.1's, here is what looks like the missing piece to convert the Wadia's coax out to Toslink for the ADM's:

 

M-Audio CO2 - Coaxial/Optical Bi-Directional Converter

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/CO2.html

 

US $59

 

Rascal

 

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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It adds playing off its own hard drive and easy hookup to your TV via HDMI for pictures and movies. If you don't like streaming it has that advantage. Also your laptop does not have to be on. If you just want streaming you are right the AE is cheaper and more dedicated to that.

 

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As the subject has been broached, I'll post a little recap on getting digital audio out of an iPod.

 

As was said, for a long time the only way to do this has been via the Wadia i170. This attaches to the iPod via USB rather than being a straight SPDIF type connector so does do "a lot more than a £20 cable". The problem, as has been mentioned, is the cost - the Wadia i170 is £400 or so. Also available is the MSB iLink but we'll discount this as it's not only a LOT more expensive than the i170, but also requires your iPod to be adapted to allow digital output.

 

Recently Onkyo have released a competitor to the Wadia i170. The ND-S1 appears to work in the same way as the Wadia i170 and is being sold for around £150RRP in the UK - though being Onkyo I would think street price will be less. The Onkyou has both co-ax and TOSLink SPDIF output. Beyond these two devices, all iPod Docks (for hi-fi connection) let the iPod's internal DAC do the work.

 

There are however other devices which allow access to the iPod digitally and therefore use their own DACs. First off were a number of car head units from Kenwood, Pioneer and others. The Naim DAC is the first which can talk digitally to the iPod and is due on sale any day now; Rotel showed at CEDIA various components which talk to the iPod digitally; and there is at least one iPod speaker system - the Bowers and Wilkins Mini Zepplin - is also available. IIRC there was actually a memorandum from Apple announcing that they would license products to talk to the iPod digitally so over the next 12 months there is likely to be a bit of an explosion I think.

 

Having said all that - you are likely to get reasonable results using a good but standard iPod dock (or even just a dock connector to RCA cable) with your AVI ADM9.1 especially if you are considering it as more of a secondary source.

 

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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for the clarification, Eliose!

 

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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Hey Keyser,

 

Whoa, now. Linn? No, I haven't heard one of these, but don't they start at like US$20,000? I think you should buy the ADM's & with the money you save, about a dozen of those Wadia units!

 

I've only had a cursory glance, but from I gather, the Linn system would be overkill, unless you're running a large restaurant or live in a 14 room mansion. If the ADM's could fill the bill, then what would your need be for a high-end network music server?

 

Also, from what I gather, the Linn is just a music server, right? In my very limited knowledge/experience, I've been coming to the conclusion that the music server (for simplicity, let's say computer + DAC) ranks about 4th in importance in sound quality. The first 3 being speakers, amp and speaker placement/room configuration.

 

Not to say the music server doesn't affect sound quality. But it seems better to focus money & attention to where it will make more difference.

 

Rascal

 

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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Listened a bit this morning to my iPod played on the ADM's through my Belkin Y adaptor. I didn't do any A/B testing against the Mini, but it sounded good. Not great, not amazing, but certainly good enough for the occasional visiting iPod. (Although - caveat - I did not try playing any lossy file formats, which is what most people seem to have on their iPods.)

 

Btw, seems the Onkyo ND-S1 isn't sold in the US, at least, I couldn't find one to buy on-line.

 

Thanks,

Rascal

 

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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Just for the record (and from memory so prices may be wrong) the Linn DS range is...

 

Sneaky DS - combined UPnP streamers with inbuilt amp - just add speakers (£1000)

Magik DS - UPnP streamer with volume - add power amp and speakers (£2000)

Magik DS-I - combined UPnP streamer and multiple-input intergrate amp with both analogue and digital inputs - just add speakers. (£2500)

Akurate DS - UPnP streamer with quality DAC. (£5000)

Klimax DS - higher quality version of Akurate DS. (£14,000)

 

All need NAS or PC with UPnP Server and a UPnP control point on PC or iPhone, etc.

 

Hope this clarifies.

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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