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Squeezebox digital out compared to MAC digital out

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Hi all, first post here but I've been around for a lot of time.


Question is this, which sounds better (if any) and why:

- MAC - itunes - SPDIF optical out into a DAC

- MAC - wireless - Squeezebox receiver - SPDIF/Coax optical out into a DAC


is there any reason why these two solutions should sound any different?


in any case, both seem to me better than anything using USB as it avoids all the uncertainty on the correct implementation of this interface (spdif & wireless seem to be accepted as more transparent out-of-the-box) - please correct me if this is not the common understanding at the CA community, if there is such a thing :)


and by the way... why are squeezeboxes so rarely mentioned in CA?


thank you and happy holidays


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Hi neovibe - I don't think anyone can give you the all encompassing answer you're seeking. There are a lot more variables than just the interface and transmission method.


The two mentioned solutions will sound different because they are different vastly different.


I strongly disagree with you about these two both sounding better than anything USB. I've personally listened to a ton of these and based on my listening tests and based on objective measurements asynchronous USB sounds much better in the systems I've used.


As you know the forums are wide open for readers to talk about Squeezeboxes, but you're right about SBs not being discussed very much. I don't like the SB software interface and I don't think it outperforms an Airport Express. Since the AE integrates so well with iTunes it's a no brainer for me to use the AE when I want this type of convenience.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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I've tried using both a Squeezebox Duet and a Squeezebox Transporter as transports into external DACs. I don't know why, but I never was able to get good performance out of them as transports. The Duet always sounded soft and mushy in the bass and treble via the coax output, and the Transporter added a layer of glare in the upper midrange via the coax output. I tried them both with multiple DACs. Supposedly the new Squeezebox Touch has a better performing coax digital output.


I think there is a lot of value in the Squeezebox Duet remote. I used to use it by running Squeezecenter on my server and Squeezeslave (a Squeezebox emulator) on a headless computer in the listening room. The PC running Squeezeslave fed an asynchronous USB DAC. I got wonderful performance out of this setup, but it was unfortunately limited to 48 kHz and lower sampling rates. Now there are products available that allow an iPod Touch to work well as a suitable replacement for the Duet remote and Squeezecenter, and these are not limited to 48 kHz.




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Hi Chris, first of all, thank you for creating the CA iniciative :)


About USB, I did not mean what I actually wrote (my fault); what I meant is that a USB solution with a good USB implementation is probably pretty expensive, compared with a macbooks spdif out (cost is zero) or a squeezebox (150USD or so) and these allows you to use an entry level dedicated DAC (Musical Fidelity X-DAC V3 & PSU here). But yes I know, very good USB DAC's out there.


Regarding the interface on squeezebox... of course the squeezebox point is not the interface (which is no good) but the physical de-coupling of server and hifi. But there's a solution for that: squeezebox can use the itunes library solely (works! I tried) and using an app called ipeng to remote control squeezebox you efectivelly use it as apple's remote for itunes, use the itunes library but benefit from squeezebox.


But you're right, I have always dismissed the airport express as a convenient accessory for mac but 'not worthy' enough to feed an audiophile setup. But actually that's what CA is about right? Dismistifying the need for ultra-expensive transports in favour of correctly set up servers.


So, my question should have been another... regarding sound-quality (digital out only), would you say the airport express solution is as good as the squeezebox? which is about the same as asking wether the path MAC OSX » iTunes » Airport Express is truly bit-perfect all the way (any tests around that I missed?)

If it's as good as... then there is really no point in the squeezebox for mac/itunes/iphone users...


thanks again




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thanks Chris, as you typed as was reading the stereophile thorough tests on it (from 2005) here http://www.stereophile.com/digitalprocessors/505apple/


conclusion (for the digital out):


- it is bit perfect (recorded it's output and compared with the file being played)

- jitter levels are 'respectable' (258ps)

- one niggle depending on the DAC - can loose it's lock when changing songs as the data stream is interrupted.


seems to be the way to go...


if anyone else wants to share their experiences please go ahead.


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as I won't be buying my mac in the next month or so (waiting for apple's event in january to hear what's new) I need to get this going with my PC, and one question remains: itunes out of a pc is not bit perfect (I think it is possible with some plugins but I want to keep it simple and mainstream, not depending on amateur plugins with no support) but what about itunes @ PC » Airport Express ? will this be bit-perfect out of the box


thank you again and happy holidays


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iTunes on PC can be bit perfect so long as you set both Quicktime and Windows sound setting to correct sample rate / depth.


iTunes on PC via Airport Express (AE) is bit perfect upto the limitations of the AE.






...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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Thank you for your reply Eloise, but can you clarify what are the limitations of AE that you mention? are you referring to the fact that it only handles 16bit/44.1khz ? (according to benchmark media, the only way to use the volume control without any loss on 16bit data is to use 24bit output for 16bit data so I'll loose that).

then there would be jitter but in the 2005 review I posted above, stereophile says it is 'respectable' so...


I still need to clarify some settings on quicktime but that's way off topic, I'll leave it for another thread.


thanks again


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I have both an Airport Express, a Slim Devices Squeezebox 2 and used to have a Transporter.


I was planning to use the Airport Express as bedroom client feeding my Meridian F80 (now changed to AD88), but unfortunately as quoted by the previous poster the Airport Express's TOSLINK output is unusable. I tried everything but it just never worked.


The Slim Devices interface takes some getting used to and depending on software version could be a little clunky. But it is just about the most versatile platform out there with its many cool plugins.


In terms of sound quality its analog out (to me) is about on par with a mid level CD player, nothing to get excited about but the Airport Express is about the same in terms of sound if not worse.


The Transporter however is a whole different ballgame. it has very good resolution and is about the most listenable, non fatiguing digital source I have ever listened to. I am now using a Weiss DAC2 with Macbook Pro. I can never be sure how they compare, but in my long term listening impression I would say the Weiss is marginally better than the Transporter but not by much. I can easily live with the Transporter for long term listening if I didn't catch that update bug.


And with all the recent talks about Async and memory player, One could argue that Slim and LinnDS had it solved a long time ago, and Sean Adams (of Slim) did it years before everyone else including Linn.


Macbook Pro/MacMini/dCS Debussy/Cambridge 650BD[br]Vitus Audio SS-010/Living Voice OBX-R2 Speakers/Ultrasone Edition 8 phones[br]Airport Express/Meridian AD88[br]

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I'm not sure what you mean by:


"And with all the recent talks about Async and memory player, One could argue that Slim and LinnDS had it solved a long time ago, and Sean Adams (of Slim) did it years before everyone else including Linn."


Do you mean extracting music from pc's via streaming is in general less likely to touch the data than with a USB DAC?

I'm leaning towards that opinion more and more...


(yes I know, good results can be had either way but most of us live in a bang-for-your-buck world and don't have neither the time nor the knowledge to go deep into technical considerations)


happy new year


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  • 4 months later...

I almost gave up on squeezebox as a transport until I changed one of the Server settings (Player - > Audio - > Volume Control - > Fixed at 100%).


The difference is like night and day and from there SB becomes a truly great performing digital transport with an open detailed sound.


It is actually an official recommendation that can be found in the squeezebox wiki along many others (http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/HowtoBestAudioQuality).




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