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Airport Express and KEF LS50W - Anyone actually using that combo?

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Searched this topic before starting this thread, apologies if I missed an answer that's already been posted here...

 

I'm looking to get a pair of LS50W's for the public/living room of a new living situation and, to make life easier in my household, it would be great to have the option of simple, seamless Airport streaming to them, with no D-A-D conversion step.

 

So my ideal would be to connect an Apple Airport Express to the KEFs using the Airport Express's optical digital output. However, I know the AE has poor jitter performance, and some DACs won't lock onto its signal reliably, for that reason.

 

I've seen comments here and elsewhere online where people suggest using an AE with the KEFs - but surprisingly I haven't run across comments by people who actually are using that combo. And specifically, I haven't seen any feedback about whether or not the KEFs are able to stay in sync with the jittery digital output of the AE.

 

Would be grateful to hear about anyone's experience, or for pointers to places online where folks have discussed their experiences - or, I guess, for recommendations of alternative Airport-compatible endpoints that are not crazy expensive and that work as seamlessly with Apple iDevices as an AE would.

 

One final question: If the AE is the best solution in all respects except its jitter performance, can some kind of reclocker be seamlessly inserted in the chain between the AE and the KEFs - and if so, are any such reclockers available for a decent price (say, $250 or less)?

 

Thanks!

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6 minutes ago, GrahamJohnMiles said:

I airplay to my LS50W’s occasionally for downloaded Tidal playlists. I use a raspberry Pi with a Hifiberry Digi Pro hooked into the optical input on the KEF’s. Volumio is the OS on the Pi. Works a charm. 

 

Thanks! So are you able to select the Pi/Hifiberry as your Airport receiver from an iDevice's Control Center? Or do you have to go into your music app and select it from there?

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Hi,

 

I've posted elsewhere that my system, to my ears, holds up extremely well against better systems costing $$$$$ more. One of the few systems I've heard that sounds "better" than mine in some respects is the LS50 Wireless, and this was in a non-optimal room with no digital front end optimization or filtering or stuff people obsess about here at CA. So I would expect that the following would likely work well with your LS50W:

 

Macbook -> Netgear Orbi mesh wi-fi -> Airport Express (optical out) -> Wyred 4 Sound Remedy (powered by Uptone Audio LPS-1, coax BNC out) -> DAC, rest of system

 

And in your case, the LS50W comes after the W4S Remedy. Note that a critical piece of this chain is Uptone Audio's LPS-1 power supply (I'd now recommend their LPS-1.2) feeding the Remedy. And note that the Remedy upsamples to 96kHz (always) and is limited to CD quality because that's the Apple Airport standard. i.e., No DSD, etc. and so if your listening is all PCM (CD quality) then you're golden. If you're into DSD, etc. then the only other option is a digital to digital converter such as the Mutec. Either way, you're stepping up around $1000. 

 

Hope this helps. I love my Remedy. Sounds great and it keeps life simple (Apple) for the family. When Apple finally makes iTunes unbearable (seems possible) then I'm planning to go Auralic Aries G1 or G2 streamer because of their Lightning DS software is included in the package. I also like Sonore's hardware products but I don't like the third-party software you'd have to use with it and I don't use Roon.

 

 


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W4S have the Remedy at $320 in the clearance section:

https://wyred4sound.com/products/clearance-0

 

And, you don't strictly need to use the LPS-1.2 power. In your situation it might be worth trying just the W4S and that gets you much closer to your price point. 


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1 hour ago, feelingears said:

Hi,

 

I've posted elsewhere that my system, to my ears, holds up extremely well against better systems costing $$$$$ more. One of the few systems I've heard that sounds "better" than mine in some respects is the LS50 Wireless, and this was in a non-optimal room with no digital front end optimization or filtering or stuff people obsess about here at CA. So I would expect that the following would likely work well with your LS50W:

 

Macbook -> Netgear Orbi mesh wi-fi -> Airport Express (optical out) -> Wyred 4 Sound Remedy (powered by Uptone Audio LPS-1, coax BNC out) -> DAC, rest of system

 

And in your case, the LS50W comes after the W4S Remedy. Note that a critical piece of this chain is Uptone Audio's LPS-1 power supply (I'd now recommend their LPS-1.2) feeding the Remedy. And note that the Remedy upsamples to 96kHz (always) and is limited to CD quality because that's the Apple Airport standard. i.e., No DSD, etc. and so if your listening is all PCM (CD quality) then you're golden. If you're into DSD, etc. then the only other option is a digital to digital converter such as the Mutec. Either way, you're stepping up around $1000. 

 

Hope this helps. I love my Remedy. Sounds great and it keeps life simple (Apple) for the family. When Apple finally makes iTunes unbearable (seems possible) then I'm planning to go Auralic Aries G1 or G2 streamer because of their Lightning DS software is included in the package. I also like Sonore's hardware products but I don't like the third-party software you'd have to use with it and I don't use Roon.

 

 

 

Thanks - this is extremely helpful! RE digital resolution, I'm not concerned in this case, as this system, while of course intended to sound good, will be for the living room/public area and not for my main listening room (where bit-perfect transmission of original high-res etc is important to me).

 

It seems clear now from your and other helpful replies that Airport Express optical directly into the KEFs might work, but the foolproof and possibly better-sounding method is to stick a regen like the W4S unit in between them. Thanks!

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You're welcome. Note that you're still using optical from the Remedy to your KEFs because there's no coax input, so you'll need appropriate cable.

 

FWIW, cables are controversial. If you need length and don't want to spend a mint on an audiophile cable, I'm sure there are options at Amazon for TOSLINK cable. If you want to get both an audiophile cable and have length to keep your gear away from the KEFs so they look clean and modern like you see in their marketing photos, then check out Mapleshade Audio's 14 foot (coil down to 1.5 feet) Toslink: https://shop.mapleshadestore.com/Optical-Audio-Cables/products/338/

 

Yes, I have one because others here whose ears/opinions I have come to trust like Mapleshade products in their systems. So, I gave 'em a go because use the length to keep my AEx across the room from the rack. No, I haven't tested it against my previous optical cable, but as I noted earlier, that is because I don't feel my system is lacking enough to bother and that is because my next step up would involve substantial extra cost and won't involve optical cable. 

 

I find that a hallmark of a good (well-balanced/tuned) system is how often you're doing something else and you hear the music and it stops you for a second–you smile and think to yourself, "This sounds great!" Good luck and happy listening! 

 

 


Fav Gear Schiit Yggdrasil A2 + SR UEF Black power cable, W4S Remedy/Uptone LPS-1, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Naim, PSB, Elac, Uptone Audio USB, Phasure Lush/ZenWave/Transparent Audio cables 

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Oh that’s a good recommendation too. What do you think about Mini vs Aries vs G1/G2?

 

Unrelated but important, I feel the choice of streamer is obviously h/w dependent, but I don’t want to get stuck with under-funded software. Lightning DS seems to be well supported and maintained. 

 

Anyway would love to hear your impressions. 


Fav Gear Schiit Yggdrasil A2 + SR UEF Black power cable, W4S Remedy/Uptone LPS-1, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Naim, PSB, Elac, Uptone Audio USB, Phasure Lush/ZenWave/Transparent Audio cables 

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5 hours ago, Ajax said:

Hi,

 

Another option for you to consider is the Auralic Mini, which is a Streamer/DAC available for around $400 second hand. I have two, which I use in exactly the situation you describe, i.e. by-passing the internal DAC and using it purely as a streamer via the digital out, of which it has three, USB, Coaxial, Optical.

 

1. USB out to a Devialet 200 in my main living room

 

2. Coaxial out to a Marantz PM 5005 integrated amp at our beach house I share with my brother in law

 

I use it with a LPS in both situations and the sound quality is excellent, however, if using as a streamer only then you will most likely no need for the LPS. The advantage over the AE, which I also use in another situation, is sound quality and the fact that it will play any format as it has been manufactured especially for audio. The Mini been been recently superseded by the much more expensive G1 & G2 mentioned above.

 

The reason I like the Mini is that it provides me with high quality audio via its Lightning DS app (with built in Tidal) in any format using an iPhone or iPad, as well as Spotify Connect for my family, who can simply open Spotify on their phones (or computers), select a song and then under devices select the Auralic Mini. I name the Auralic Mini "Living Room" in both cases so it is intuitive and seamless to them - could be any streamer.

 

Chris, our fearless leader, and DARKO have reviewed here:

 

https://www.computeraudiophile.com/ca/reviews/auralic-aries-mini-and-lightning-ds-review/

 

https://darko.audio/2016/02/audiophile-grade-streaming-with-the-auralic-aries-mini/

  

This will do the trick.

 

Good luck

 

 

Ajax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extremely helpful, sounds like the perfect solution - thank you!

 

It's ironic, though - seems like a very similar situation to what I went through with the Sqeezebox Touch when I first got seriously into computer-based music streaming: I became aware of the Touch soon after it had been discontinued and it took some doing to find one on the used/third-party market, especially for a reasonable price. Looks like I might be in for a similar journey now! ?

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7 hours ago, tmtomh said:

 

Extremely helpful, sounds like the perfect solution - thank you!

 

It's ironic, though - seems like a very similar situation to what I went through with the Sqeezebox Touch when I first got seriously into computer-based music streaming: I became aware of the Touch soon after it had been discontinued and it took some doing to find one on the used/third-party market, especially for a reasonable price. Looks like I might be in for a similar journey now! ?

 

I have actually purchased 3 of these units (I bought a spare) - so you can guess what I think of them. A true hifi bargain especially now that they have debugged their app, Lighting DS, and recently added Spotify connect.

 

I listen to both Tidal and local files via the Lightning DS app, whereas my family use Spotify connect. The important thing to remember is that the unit itself is the source, not your iPhone or iPad, which merely act as remotes. i..e there is no denigration of sound quality usually associated with streaming via airplay or blue tooth. You connect the mini to the internet via your router either wirelessly or via ethernet. A good wireless network is essential to use the LightningDS app effectively.

 

I installed a 500G SDD drive into two of my units (you could just as easily add an external HDD) and loaded my favourite ripped CDs and hires music. You can of course install any size SDD drive you like. So not only is it a streamer but it also a music server.

 

To improve the experience I purchased a second hand iPad (2013) for $150 and use it as a designated remote with Lightning DS installed. It sits on the coffee table in an el cheapo L shaped stand. Really cool.

 

If you add an LPS, SSD and the iPad you increase the cost of the unit by $600 to around $1K, however, a LPS such as booster (16V 1 Amp) ensures the DAC inside the unit provides a very high quality analogue output and it is really all you need to bring digital connectivity to a traditional HiFi system - easily replaces the need for a computer.

 

Hi feelingears,

 

I have not heard the G1 & G2 so cannot comment on sound quality vs the mini, however, Chris recently reviewed the G2 and maybe able to help. Note the G2 is around 10 times the price of the Mini.

 

What I do know is that I am so happy with the mini that I have not bothered A/B testing IT against other sources. This is most likely laziness on my part but also an insight into how much I value and enjoy the versatility and ease of use of the unit. To me listening to music is like going to the gym. If it is too hard you don't go as often.

 

I have music playing constantly!

 

Good luck finding a unit in good condition - if you can't find one they are selling new in Aus for around A$699 = US$500 + shipping. They are not much bigger than an Apple TV so should be relatively inexpensive to transport.

 

https://simplyhifi.com.au/product/auralic-aries-mini-streamer-629-00-new-stock-just-arrived/

 

 Good Luck,

 

 

Ajax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I


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6 hours ago, Ajax said:

 

I have actually purchased 3 of these units (I bought a spare) - so you can guess what I think of them. A true hifi bargain especially now that they have debugged their app, Lighting DS, and recently added Spotify connect.

 

I listen to both Tidal and local files via the Lightning DS app, whereas my family use Spotify connect. The important thing to remember is that the unit itself is the source, not your iPhone or iPad, which merely act as remotes. i..e there is no denigration of sound quality usually associated with streaming via airplay or blue tooth. You connect the mini to the internet via your router either wirelessly or via ethernet. A good wireless network is essential to use the LightningDS app effectively.

 

Thanks for this great info!

 

One question, RE the bit I've bolded in your comment: If the Aries mini is Airplay-capable, wouldn't that mean that an iDevice could in fact be used as the source if one wanted (putting aside for the moment any sound-quality concerns)?

 

What I'm looking for, since this will be a living-room system used by both my wife and me, is for her to be able to do what she does now (with a much lesser small stereo system plus Airport-Express): Pick up her iPhone, select the Airplay source in Control Center, and then hit Play on a song or playlist in the music library that's on her phone. In other words, I guess what I'm asking is, regardless of its additional options and capabilities, can the Aries mini be used as an Airport Express (except with better jitter performance etc)?

 

I, of course, would love to have additional options and would be happy to use my iPhone or an iPad as a remote in the way you describe, especially since that would allow for the transmission of bit-perfect and high-res content. And over time my wife might possibly migrate to such a method too (she's quite tech-literate; it's just about convenience and about not forcing her to migrate to a new method without her having the option to keep doing what she does now). But for ease of use, given the location and function of this particular system, I want to preserve the iPhone-as-source option/scenario.

 

Thanks for any clarification you can provide - much appreciated.

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2 hours ago, tmtomh said:

 

Thanks for this great info!

 

One question, RE the bit I've bolded in your comment: If the Aries mini is Airplay-capable, wouldn't that mean that an iDevice could in fact be used as the source if one wanted (putting aside for the moment any sound-quality concerns)?

 

What I'm looking for, since this will be a living-room system used by both my wife and me, is for her to be able to do what she does now (with a much lesser small stereo system plus Airport-Express): Pick up her iPhone, select the Airplay source in Control Center, and then hit Play on a song or playlist in the music library that's on her phone. In other words, I guess what I'm asking is, regardless of its additional options and capabilities, can the Aries mini be used as an Airport Express (except with better jitter performance etc)?

 

I, of course, would love to have additional options and would be happy to use my iPhone or an iPad as a remote in the way you describe, especially since that would allow for the transmission of bit-perfect and high-res content. And over time my wife might possibly migrate to such a method too (she's quite tech-literate; it's just about convenience and about not forcing her to migrate to a new method without her having the option to keep doing what she does now). But for ease of use, given the location and function of this particular system, I want to preserve the iPhone-as-source option/scenario.

 

Thanks for any clarification you can provide - much appreciated.

In a word YES

 

Have another read of the two reviews I linked above and they both refer to the unit being capable of both airplay and bluetooth.


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@Ajax Thanks, I've no doubt it's a fine unit as you've set up. My interest, unlike the OP, is more in the diminishing returns category as I'm just wondering how much more I can eeeek out of my already excellent system by using the higher end Aries' AES output to my DAC. I use BNC coax now and really have no complaints. I can hear cable differences–a double edged sword at times.

 

USB is the economic common denominator but I'm trying to stay away from USB decrapifiers and extra power supplies and extra cables–that adds up $$$$$ very fast.

 

Anyway, the Mini is a good solution for low cost! Good to be reminded.


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Rather than using the Raspberry Pi as an AirPlay receiver, you could instead use it as an AirPlay to UPnP/DLNA network bridge, by using the Logitech Media Server with the ShairTunes2 (fork) & UPnP/DLNA Bridge LMS plugins.

 

This would get your UPnP/DLNA supporting Kef LS50W to bit perfectly network stream the AirPlay audio, plus no use of the LS50W's optical audio input.


We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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On ‎11‎/‎17‎/‎2018 at 11:47 AM, Cebolla said:

Rather than using the Raspberry Pi as an AirPlay receiver, you could instead use it as an AirPlay to UPnP/DLNA network bridge, by using the Logitech Media Server with the ShairTunes2 (fork) & UPnP/DLNA Bridge LMS plugins.

 

This would get your UPnP/DLNA supporting Kef LS50W to bit perfectly network stream the AirPlay audio, plus no use of the LS50W's optical audio input.

Sorry to hijack/revive an old thread, but your advice sounds relevant to my current efforts trying to get a SGC microJukebox to talk to Kef LSX's.

 

I am merrily burning CD's to the mJb, in the hope that one day it will see and I will be able to control playing of my CD library from this device to the LSX's.

 

I can see my CD's in LMS, but not sure what I need turned on to both send stuff to the LSX's, or select and play the CD's.

 

I have loaded and turned on Sonore UPnP Bridge and it identifies our LSX's as an available "renderer" so having selected this, I then turn on LMS and look for a "media server" with the Kef Stream App with no luck.

 

I had thought Minim Server might be the way to go but that just leads down a rabbit hole of Minim this and Minim that, which confuses the hell out of me. This became a dead end when it became essential for me to load "File Viewer Plus" on my computer and no idea what it does and when I need to use it.

 

So any examples from the world of LS50's used with "Media Servers" would be appreciated. I currently use an iPhone to run Spotify on the LSX's and have used Soundirok on the iPhone to play a few CD's burnt to a hard drive plugged into the back of a SOtM sMS200 in a previous set up.

 

Kind Regards

 

Grantn

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Hi Grantn,

 

Going by the 2 recent threads that you have created mentioning the same issue, ie:

 

my previous post in this thread is not really relevant to your specific problem. This thread is about the various methods of getting the LS50W to play audio streamed over the network by AirPlay (such as using the Airport Express device mentioned in the thread's title).

 

So I'm going to post my response to your issue in your "Newbie Question" thread, as that already has one reply.

 

May be you'd have received a better response to your threads if you'd originally created them in this section (Networking, Networked Audio & Streaming).


We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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