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AirPlay, Airport Express and DACs


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I use Audirvana for critical listening on my main system, but when I want multi-room playback to other stereos in adjacent rooms, I am limited to iTunes with AirPlay. The remote Airport Express units I am using are 16/44 direct analog-out into integrated amps. Would inexpensive dacs, connected to the Airports by digital-optical improve SQ much? Anyone doing this?

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49 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

are you asking in terms of Redbook only?

 

or do you want to Xmit high bit rate music?

 

The Apple AirPlay ecosystem limits you to redbook over home wifi. I am OK with that. 90% of my music library is redbook, anyway. I am specifically asking if the digital out from the AE into a decent budget dac is going to sound appreciably better than just using the AE analog output straight into the amp.

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ok

I dunno, but I will guess 'yes' based on the prices and ages of the AE models:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPort_Express

 

I suspect that a decent budget DAC of today is a lot better than one used in a consumer product sold in 2004, for $100 total price.

 

Schiit will allow a test period for a small handling charge and other places allow this also.

 

 

 

Anyway, this is your thread bump...

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4 hours ago, wwaldmanfan said:

I use Audirvana for critical listening on my main system, but when I want multi-room playback to other stereos in adjacent rooms, I am limited to iTunes with AirPlay. The remote Airport Express units I am using are 16/44 direct analog-out into integrated amps. Would inexpensive dacs, connected to the Airports by digital-optical improve SQ much? Anyone doing this?

 

I'd done it since AE introduction until a few years ago. Run optical out into my NAD receiver that had built in dac and the sound was very very good. Optical into an inexpencive current gen DAC will definitely improve SQ over the AE's analog audio out.

I switched to RPI3 with Volumio installation, which still allows me to Airplay to it, just like AE, but have an USB audio out to a stand alone dac, plus other things.

my > overly > fancy > system > with > directional > interconnects > powered > by > ego & linear fusion reactor

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17 hours ago, wwaldmanfan said:

I use Audirvana for critical listening on my main system, but when I want multi-room playback to other stereos in adjacent rooms, I am limited to iTunes with AirPlay. The remote Airport Express units I am using are 16/44 direct analog-out into integrated amps. Would inexpensive dacs, connected to the Airports by digital-optical improve SQ much? Anyone doing this?

 

Hi wwald,

Below is a link to an old thread you may find of interest.

 

Basically the answer to your question is YES, however, for best results you will need a DAC whose optical input has good jitter rejection.

 

https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/6124-is-there-any-apple-network-attached-streaming-product-with-acceptable-output-jitter

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Another way to skin the cat is to purchase the very inexpensive Chromecast Audio, which will provide wireless streaming up to 24/96 vs 16/44.1 for the AE.

 

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Google-Chromecast-Audio/46784941

 

The Chromecast has both digital optical and analogue out, and at $35 from Walmart you can easily afford to buy one and A/B test it against the sound quality of your existing AE. You could still leave the AE in place as a wifi "booster", if that is its primary function.

 

IF you want better quality sound you could just use the Cromecast as a wireless streamer only, and by pass its internal DAC with an optical cable (and a 3.5mm adaptor) into an inexpensive but decent DAC such as the Schiit Modi 2 Uber for $150 or the SMSL M8 for $165. Then 2 x RCA into your preamp.

 

http://www.schiit.com/products/modi-2

 

https://www.amazon.com/ES9018-Optical-Coaxial-Asynchronous-decoder/dp/B00PS0WLX6/ref=pd_sbs_23_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00PS0WLX6&pd_rd_r=SH2YKB9364KWFA91GYGB&pd_rd_w=6qL6d&pd_rd_wg=eYCr5&psc=1&refRID=SH2YKB9364KWFA91GYGB

 

There are obviously many more DACs to choose from and at these price levels you are not going to get into too much trouble experimenting to get the best solution.

 

Good luck

 

Ajax

 

 

 

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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AE supported gapless from the start. As far as I know, Chromecast Audio still doesn't. If you listen to classical albums that might be really annoying to hear gaps between tracks.

 

no gapless

my > overly > fancy > system > with > directional > interconnects > powered > by > ego & linear fusion reactor

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I would agree with the assessment that a DAC would make an Airport Express sound better.

 

The AEs (all versions) only accepted music by a 44.1 khz stream over the Airplay protocol.  This led too some frustrating times in the 802.11b/g days when early AEs were prone to music drops every time Wifi bandwidth got ugly.  And because iTunes transcoded everything to 44.1 regardless of what trashy MP3 file from Napster you were streaming back then, the data payload was always been high.

 

These days things are usually better for bandwidth but Airplay is still 44.1 PCM.  And if your music library isn't any higher bandwidth that Redbook CD, the AE is still a good transport but the internal DAC isn't anything to stand up and scream about.  But every AE can do Toslink with a special cable.  So in theory a simple connection to any DAC with Toslink is a good idea.

 

The potential problem is that AEs aren't known for their ability to manage jitter so if you're DAC is especially fussy about this, you may have problems.  I think I read somewhere that the current AEs still on sale are a little worse for jitter than the previous generation ones.  But regardless, if you have an AE and a capable DAC, it's a good thing to try.

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I used an AE Toslink with a W4S Remedy into my W4S DSDse. It was very, very good for listening and watching Digital Concert Hall (Berlin Philharmonic) on my iPad. Used that combination for 2 years, then I sold the Remedy when I gave up the subscription.

 

Of course, that was not an inexpensive combination, but there are ways of improving the AE Toslink output that are reasonable.

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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Two related questions:

 

1. Is the Apple TV3 similar (in terms of audio processing issues, such as jitter, etc.) to the Airport Express(es)?

 

2. What are good DACs to use with these devices?  e.g. for me how is an Oppo Sonica or the version of it in an OPPO-205 disc player?

 

for the OP, what DAC is he using now?

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28 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

Two related questions:

1. Is the Apple TV3 similar (in terms of audio processing issues, such as jitter, etc.) to the Airport Express(es)?

2. What are good DACs to use with these devices?  e.g. for me how is an Oppo Sonica or the version of it in an OPPO-205 disc player?

for the OP, what DAC is he using now?

 

Am I the OP? No DAC on the AE in that room right now. That was the question--would adding one improve the AE?

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1 hour ago, Ralf11 said:

Two related questions:

 

1. Is the Apple TV3 similar (in terms of audio processing issues, such as jitter, etc.) to the Airport Express(es)?

 

2. What are good DACs to use with these devices?  e.g. for me how is an Oppo Sonica or the version of it in an OPPO-205 disc player?

 

for the OP, what DAC is he using now?

 

I'm not sure I'd use an Apple TV v3 with a DAC.  The Apple TV is notorious for resampling everything to 48 khz, even if the source material coming over Airplay is 44.1.  So I think you'd even up with an unwanted resample out to the DAC.  An Airport Express won't do this.

 

ted_b has told me that the Sonica is basically the Oppo 205 without the disc player and headphone amp.  Similar platform.

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  • 5 months later...

Bumping this thread - is anyone aware of a good, relatively inexpensive streaming interface that is both AirPlay compatible, has a digital output, and provides decent jitter performance?


The Chromecast Audio would be perfect if it supported Airplay. And the Airport Express would be perfect if its optical digital output's jitter performance didn't suck.

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