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Airport Express/ipod touch control of Mac-based system


Phil Bishop
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Forgive me if I am wrong, but I think I have come across a couple of folk referring to the above. At the moment, I have my Mac connected to system via an optical lead and tend to use my apple remote/Front Row as a control. Can someone explain exactly how Airport Express works - presumably it carries the digital signal from your Mac to the system wirelessly? Does this degrade the signal at all? Some folk say different optical cables can make a difference, so what about air?

 

....and how does the ipod touch feed in as a control?

 

I may have got the wrong end of the stick about some of this, but any advice much appreciated. What is the most convenient way of operating a Mac-based system - I am sure opinions will vary?

 

Thanks

 

Phil

 

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Phil - I had a setup working for a while.

 

Mac Mini computer+AirportExpress+DAC and Touch as a remote

 

1) Power up the Airport

2) In the computer activate the Airport Utilities program

3) Configure the Airport to stream music

4) Connect the Airport´s digital out (mini-toshlink) to the toshlink input on the dac

5) Install the Apple Remote program on the Touch

 

The Touch can now join the wireless network and take control of iTunes running on the computer. Not like the

Frontrow but by taking over the itunes screen. If you have iTunes as a startup item, you don´t even have to have a monitor connected to the Apple computer.

 

I encountered a lot of problems with this setup after updating iTunes, so now I use a usb connection between Mac and the dac.

But I still enjoy the benefits of using the Touch as a remote. It´s a very cool remote. After deciding on the songs to play, you can read your mails on the touch or play a game of chess or.....

 

cheers

 

Tom

 

BM DAC1/HDR --> ATC SCM 100ASL[br]BM DAC1--> Genelec 8020/Beyer T70[br]Apogee Duet2 --> Stax 007T/404[br]Apogee Duet2 --> Genelec 6010A/Beyer DT1350[br]

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Hello again Phil,

 

Yes, the Express as used in server setups by some here is basically a wireless "receiver". (It can also be used as a bridge or repeater.) There is some controversy around here as to its placement, specifically either before or after your computer which is running iTunes. Some (like Chris) prefer placing it before your computer, with your computer hard wired to your DAC, while some feel pretty strongly that it works fine sitting between your computer and your DAC. The former camp say their method reduces chances of problems with signal transmission while the latter camp say it's been proven to work fine their way. If you search CA on Airport Express I'm sure you'll run across some of these discussions. My choice was the former, although I used an Airport "Extreme" router going wirelessly to my Macbook and therefore didn't need an Express: External hard drive in another room>>Airport Extreme wireless router>>Macbook running iTunes>>Toslink cable>>DAC>>Amplifier.

 

The Ipod Touch (as well as the iPhone) has been a favorite remote control tool among CA members for awhile. It's just a very slick remote control device for iTunes. See a very early writeup by Chris here: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/71 . Be aware that some things have changed - most significantly, Apple released their own Remote application. And of course there are new generation iPods with new pricing. Here's a link to Apple's site: http://www.apple.com/itunes/remote/

 

Interesting timing on your post - I've participated recently in a thread regarding some concerns with shortcomings in the Apple Remote application and whether an earlier third party developer's application is actually still better. Here's that link: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/799

 

For now I have sort of the overkill remote control solution in that I have a second Macbook Pro that I keep by my chair and can use via OS X's built-in "Screen Sharing" facility to control the other Macbook that is my music server attached to my hi-fi system. (I can also use that chairside Macbook Pro to surf, get email, etc while I'm lounging around. Plus it's my main take-with-me laptop.) My plan all along has been to wait for this latest generation of iPod, with their reduced pricing, to take the plunge into the iPod Touch remote. The software concerns mentioned in the prior paragraph have delayed me a bit, but I still plan on doing it.

 

Hope that's not too much info. These are both very popular subjects around here and I tried my best to distill them down into the different factions represented on CA.

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

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I'm have a new PC built and I need to know what audio cards should be considered. Also, I want to connect wirelessly to my DAC. Any recommendations and how should I run it to my ARC DAC.

 

Also have Macbook system and having trouble with IPhone remote app. Not able to get Itunes to sync.

 

 

Thanks,

 

Jay

 

Jay

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Hi Jay - Audio cards for your PC to connect to the ARC DAC and a wireless connection to your DAC are two very different things.

 

I highly recommend the Lynx AES16e card as long as the DAC has an AES/XLR input. This will allow you a wired connection up to 24/192. You could always use no audio card and just connect via USB to the ARC DAC but then you're limited to 16/44.1 playback.

 

Connecting wireless to your DAC severely limits your options. You can use an Airport Express which is limited to 16/44.1 or you can use a Squeezebox product with the less than stellar interface.

 

In my opinion it's a no-brainer to go the Lynx route.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Yes Phil, that's it. Here's a more detailed look:

 

http://www.apple.com/itunes/remote/

 

I plan on trying it out in a store or on a friend's iPod to see if it's all it's cracked up to be. As I mentioned in my prior post, I've seen a couple of complaints - it doesn't do CoverFlow and queuing up several tracks or albums at once can pose a problem. If those issues are not a big deal to you, however, it is supposed to be amazing. And, it's free.

 

Here is a third party competitor application that was mentioned often here before Apple came out with theirs:

 

http://www.alloysoft.com/

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Tim, I will check out the links. Let me know how you get on. I thought the Apple website said it did do Coverflow.

 

Airport Express is next on my list to try - just ordered one. An article in Stereophile says it is bit perfect from digital output so I am interested to give it a go.

 

Regards

 

Phil

 

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Hi Phil - All Compact Discs are 16/44.1. Some discs that don't meet the Compact Disc specification go up to 48 kHz, but they are few and far between. Music files on DVDs such as Reference recordings are 24/176.4 but since they are stored as regular data they can be any sample rate possible. Music Video DVDs are usually multiples of 48kHz, such as 24/96 or 24/192. Most likely 48kHz or 96kHz.

 

Hi resolution downloads can be any sample rate in the world. The Digital Audio Denmark site has some test files that are DXD 24/352.8. Typical high resolution downloads are between 24/88.2 and 24/192.

 

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Hey there, the data streamed by the Airport Extreme has no effect on the audio at all. You can stream 32 bit / 768 kHz if you want. This is because the Extreme is "before" iTunes in the chain. Whereas the Express when used as a streaming device is "after" iTunes in the chain. A hard drive attached to the Extreme can be considered the same as a hard drive inside your computer in terms of audio limitations. None really, as long as your DAC can handle it.

 

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All very interesting. So does the above mean you can keep your itunes library on an external HD, stream this to a Mac and then stream again to the Airport Express to play music? Sounds maybe just what I need!

 

I have just set up my Airport Express and it seems to be working well - a few frustrations setting it up, but hey..we are talking about IT here.

 

One issue I have is I don't seem to be able to get Front Row to work with the AE. It works fine when I play wirelessly direct from itunes, but when I try Front Row the sound conmes out of the computer speakers instead. Any ideas?

 

Phil

 

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Hi Phil - You certainly can use the Extreme to store the music and the Express to stream the music.

 

Look at this sorry answer from Apple about the Express / Front Row issue. http://support.apple.com/kb/TS1934

 

Also, here is the thread where many Front Row users have been venting http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1205165&tstart=0

 

"Front Row: Cannot stream audio to AirPort Express Base Stations in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard

 

* Last Modified: July 24, 2008

* Article: TS1934

 

* Old Article: 307054

 

Symptoms

 

After updating to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, you may be unable to stream audio to AirPort Express Base Stations using Front Row.

Products Affected

 

AirPort, Mac OS X 10.5

Resolution

 

Connect speakers directly to your computer in order to play media in Front Row."

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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Thanks Chris, glad to know I am not alone with this problem. To be honest (and as alluded to by you in a previous post I think) I am going off Front Row for music anyway. It was fine when I was a novice, but the standard itunes interface seems far more flexible anyway. I would not mind betting that most of you hardened computer audiophiles steer clear of Front Row anyway?

 

Just to develop the Extreme/Express question further, my current situation is this. Airport Express feeding system in one room, my broadband connection in another room and Macbook with my itunes library roaming wireless in house. If I was to buy an Airport Extreme base station could I connect it to the Net in my broadband connection room and to an external HD with my itunes library allowing me to access both Net and itunes library from Mac and send itunes to Airport Express? Sorry if I am labouring this point!

 

Thanks again

 

Phil

 

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No worries Phil. Yes and yes.

 

The major thing that irks me about Front Row is the extremely long list of artists or songs or albums that must be scrolled through to access content. Plus, with a MacBook Air or Ipod Touch to remote control my music server Front Row really isn't necessary.

 

You certainly can connect the Extreme to you Broadband network. this would allow you access to the Internet and your itunes library from any network connected computer (wired or wireless). It looks like this:

 

 

Wired Connections

|

Internet >> Broadband Modem >> Airport Extreme ~~wireless~~ MacBook

|

External USB Hard Drive

 

Let me know if you have additional questions. Even if you think they are redundant or less than brilliant. I'm sure many others are wondering the same thing :-)

 

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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Chris, thanks! Totally agree with you about the scrolling through Front Row - madening! Whizz through, overshoot, up, down, up a bit, down a bit, fire - whoops, wrong song! It was OK when my library was in it's infancy, but now it is frustrating to use.

 

Next dumb Q - just to check - in your diagram above I am assuming the USB (or FW) HD can be connected to the Airport Extreme and thus accessed wireless from the Macbook?

 

Phil

 

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Don't mean to butt in here, but Phil what you're discussing is exactly the setup that I chose to do, with the exception of the Express. Mine is:

 

Internet

|

telephone cable

|

DSL modem

|

Airport Extreme with external hard drive attached via USB with all my music files (and an ethernet network cable from the Extreme going over to a desktop PC in the same room that I use for other stuff)

|

...wi-fi...

|

Macbook with my iTunes library data file

|

toslink cable

|

DAC and amp

 

Notice, as I mentioned, that I'm wired via toslink from my Macbook to my DAC, whereas you are wanting to go Airport Express, which certainly has its advantages of mobility.

 

This setup works like a charm for me and was fairly simple to install and operate for this complete Mac nooby. If you decide on the external hard drive hooked up to the Extreme, you might look into some of the "automount" solutions discussed here that will assist in linking up with the external hard drive whenever you turn on your Macbook. I did it, and it's handy. If you get to that point, post to one of these threads and I'll give you some installation pointers - it had me guessing in a couple of places.

 

As a side note, I have my brother and his 20-something daughter coming to visit us this weekend, and I can't wait to see the envious green when I fire up the new server setup and have coverflow running across the big TV and uncompressed lossless tunes blasting away. Ah, sibling rivalry is such fun.

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

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Tim, Your contributions are always very welcome - no such thing as butting in on a Forum.

 

As you say, your set up sounds very similar to the way I may be heading. With around 130 GB of itunes on my Macbook I am sure I am going to have to bite the bullet and put my itunes music files on an external HD. I also have my PC in my study where the internet modem is. So I could site the Extreme here connected to PC and streaming internet wireless and music files from attached HD to Mac, with the Mac transmitting on to Airport Express.

 

Being brought up with wires, I was sceptical about wireless - surely, it could not be as good? Then Ashley and Chris pointed out various articles which indicated that the AE (and Apple lossless for that matter) gave bit perfect results. So I bought and set up an AE and today was my first real trial. First impressions are it is a fine device.

 

Let me give an example. I think it was you who mentioned Dire Straits' "Love over Gold" as a good test recording. I have a £1500 AVI CD player connected to my ADM9s together with the optical digital input from the AE. I put the CD in the CD player and simultaneously started playing a 256 kbps AAC version via my Mac and AE set up. Both sounded great, but try as I could I could not tell a difference. So even streaming compressed music wirelessly matched a very highly rated and expensive CD player.

 

I dunno, maybe my ears are shot! I had heard such bad things about compressed music, but handled properly it can sound fantastic.

 

Please let me know more about the automount facility as soon as you get a chance - that would be great.....and good luck with the demo at the weekend!

 

Phil

 

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Will reply in the near future Phil, as I'm about to head to the airport (the real one, not the Extreme or Express variety) to pick up my visitors. I'm assuming no rush on the automator thing - will probably reply when guests are gone.

 

I understand your feelings about compressed vs uncompressed music. My wife and I could hear a bit of a difference, but by no means huge, during an extended evening of A/B testing. More on some types of music and not at all on others. And then again, it could have been all that Pinot Noir we enjoyed that night.

 

TheOtherTim

 

 

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