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Micromega's AirStream WM-10


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I was on the AVguide site looking around and stumbled on this anouncement

 

http://www.avguide.com/article/ces-micromega-s-airstream-wm-10-wireless-digital-music-player#comment-25580

 

for Micromega's AirStream WM-10 wireless player. Reading through I looked at the pictures and there is one with the cover open. And then, as will anybody that ever looked at an Apple Airport Express circuit board, did a double take. Did these guys just stick an Airport Express in a bigger case with a power supply?

Anybody willing to check on this? Because I am jaded already after the Lexicon/Oppo debacle.

 

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It certainly looks like there is an AEX board in there. However, there are also other things happening. I'd be impressed if they tapped the digital line and did some jitter reduction or something. It seems to infer that it can play 24/192 which the AEX cannot do so maybe they have something there.

 

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There is no doubt that the MicroMega' WM10 is based around an Apple Airport Express - if you read the instuctions it talks about using the Apple Airport Manager software and the device appears as an Airport Express.

 

However what is unknown is how the audio is directed AFTER the Airport Express - there is at least a DAC, but how much is done to reduce the jitter from the output - is it just a case of using a wire'd link soldered instead of the optical output?

 

I've previously asked this question and only got a "salesman" answer.

 

There is a difference between this and the Oppo / Lexicon as there was NO change / addition to the Oppo to make the Lexicon except for an aluminium exo-skeleton.

 

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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This is what I thought too when I read the 24/192 but it got me more suspicious as what it really says is that it's "prepared for expected Apple upgrades" to do this, does not do it exactly now. I magnified the image and the circuit board on top is 100% a hacked Airport Express (can't make the identifiers on the wireless cage which would make verification easier). There is a little IC next to the large PCB output which looks like an opamp to buffer analog audio or maybe for the coax digital. It looks like they tapped into both the analog and digital out since there is no cable leaving the combo line/toslink out of the Airport Express Visible last after the ethernet and the USB.

The read of their technology now is just too funny. Wow, this is some technology they developed these guys.

 

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Reading the "article" again ... the claims


    The WM-10 is, by design, already prepared for expected Apple upgrades to the iTunes system—upgrades that will allow iTunes to play better-than-CD-quality, 192kHz/24-bit digital music files.
    For those not willing to wait for Apple’s high-resolution audio upgrades, the WM-10 is already compatible with iTunes systems that have been augmented with Amarra software, which allows playback of high-res 192/24 files in the here and now.

Are rather obscure and potentially misleading ...

 

iTunes already plays 192/24 files - just not via AirPort Express and no one (that I've ever seen) has ever claimed that Apple are working on upgrading AirTunes to support it.

 

And yes, Amarra will play 192/24 file ... but if you use AirFoil (the only way to pipe to output to an AirPort Express device) they are downconverted to 44.1 (or 48)/16

 

Eloise

 

PS. Not sure where these two statements have come from - Micromega or from AVGuide

 

PPS. This was previous commented on in this thread - http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Micromega-WM-10-Airstream J.Bevier who commented on this previous thread could be John Bevier who, has a profile on LinkedIn where he is identified as "Sales & Product Manager at Audio Plus Services" who are quoted as the contact for more information on the AVGuide.com article linked to above.

 

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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Eloise,

 

what I said is that I am jaded after the Lexicon/Oppo debacle.

There is no mention in their literature that there is a hacked (ok re-phrase for marketing use) Airport Express in there. And there is all the posturing about the technology that they developed, at least on the AVGuide anouncement (did you read it by the way?).

Now lets compare with Ayre. They are using the Oppo engine because they think it is the best for the function it provides to them and they disclosed it up front and then they go ahead to build their system based on their engineering principles. Sounds at least respectful towards the consumer.

 

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It's not out and out stated that it's just an Airport Express with DAC in a box (okay so I don't even know there is a separate DAC I'm assuming that) but if you read the CONNECT A SECOND WM10 TO YOUR NETWORK or ORIGINAL SETTINGS documents both refer to using Airport Utility and show the WM-10 identified by the Airport Utility as a Airport Express.

 

Eloise

 

PS. I don't disagree that it's a huge markup compared with (for examples) an Airport Express and a Musical Fidelity V-DAC or Benchmark DAC1.

PPS. I would disagree that in the AVGuide article there is any posturing or claims that they have developed any technologies - just offering it in an easy to use, pre-configured system for end users.

PPPS. The claims made by AVGuide / Audio Plus Services don't seam to be made by anyone else related to Micromega. Another article about the WM-10 here What HiFi seems a lot more tempered in the claims.

 

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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Eloise,

 

after the AVGuide advertorial I looked at Micromega's site and went through their material including their user manual.

There is no mention of Airport Express at any point with the exception of the setup where it's done obviously out of necessity (with name preset to WM10_xxxx).

The specs look pure Airport Express in the manual so no DAC. Best case scenario an audio buffer and a coax output.

So going back to your point of disagreement you don't find this statement posturing?

"Predictably, the DAC/analog audio section of the WM-10 leverages Micromega’s extensive experience in building high-end CD players".

I think we spend more time than this thing deserves, people can draw their own conclusions.

I will leave you with one thought. There are a lot of well respected people and companies that make money by modifying (hopefully to the better) already existing equipment with full disclosure as to what they modify and what their modifications do to improve the performance of the equipment. Why couldn't they do the same?

 

Let's go back to music.

 

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  • 11 months later...

The clock in the AirStream has been upgraded to a high quality 25 mHz one. The transformer is linear and quiet.

The result is reduced jitter and a clean digital signal which is much better from the coax than from optical jack.

An "audio grade" AE if you like :)

 

 

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  • 5 years later...

The proof is in the performance. Not sure why there is not more of a following for the MicroMega WM-10. I was always amazed that the venerable Airport Express could always turn in a respectable performance against other source equipment I'd spent a small fortune on. I wanted to see if the WM-10 might improve on the Airport, so I recently picked one up on the used market for a few hundred bucks.

 

The WM-10 easily outperforms the stock Airport Express A1264 and A1084 models (analogue or toslink outputs). Furthermore, it outperforms every other source I presently have, which is a variety of USB converters, DACs and cables. The WM-10 imparts an open, detailed and effortless quality to the sound that nothing else I've heard is able to approach. In short, it sounds less digital and synthesized. I hope to get a comparison of it to a MicroRendu soon and will report back on that encounter. If the MicroRendu is not a clear improvement over the WM-10, then I will be selling off a lot of gear made unnecessary by the WM-10.

 

The WM-10 instructions claim the Analogue outputs sound superior to the Digital output fed to an outboard DAC. I would absolutely concur with that assertion. The WM-10 also responds to a better power cord and interconnect cable as you might expect. The SQ is also affected by the computer in use and the playback software. My Mac Mini with outboard analogue power supply sounds superior streaming to it than any other machine I have on hand (Macbook Pro, HP/W7 Laptop, iMac, iPad, iPhone, etc). Most reviews only used iTunes to test the SQ of the WM-10, but it sounds better when played through other software, using Airplay or Airfoil to communicate with the WM-10.

 

I'm not crazy about the slight time lag that happens when pressing play and when the music starts. There is also a lag of a couple of seconds when stopping the music. Occasionally, maybe once a week, the WM-10 will drop off my home network for no apparent reason. It's easy enough to rejoin by flipping the power switch off and back on, but it makes me wonder if there is a setting on the router to maintain the lease after long periods of inactivity. There is also the limitation of 16/44 files.

 

Is the MicroMega worth the retail price of $1600? That's a tough call. While I've spent more than that on a single USB converter, I suppose it's in the back of my mind that this is only a hotrod Airport Express, and the improvements could not possibly be worth that price difference. However, it's extremely well made. The fit and finish is up to the standards of the best gear out there and SQ is better than anything I've been exposed to so far. If you can find one for less than $800, it's a steal IMO. Keep it turned on 24/7, give it good cables and I think you'll find it will not only hang with the best, but take a clear lead.

Hytek

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I auditioned one and agree it sounds quite nice. I think many are put off by the fact that you can only play redbook.

 

I agree, it is a detriment, depending on how much high rez music you have. Of course the WM-10 does such a fantastic job with redbook, it makes you wonder what all the fuss is about with higher resolution files. Some smart folks should be analyzing why the APX/WM-10 does what it does so well and incorporate that to other products. It literally beats the stuffings out of everything else I've heard. Not even a close contest. The only contender on the horizon is the MicroRendu and I hope to have a shootout with it soon.

Hytek

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  • 7 months later...

Greetings,

I am also a micromega wm-10 user since many years.

The music quality from that device IMO is excellent even if I compare it with my modified Unison Research tube cd-player.

It is the source where I am streaming TIDAL from my MacPro via Airfoil to it.

I wish there could be an opportunity to stream higher quality(or even MQA) than rebook to it.

hytechrednek, any update for the comparison with the MicroRendu?

 

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