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Looking for a PC to Stereo Amp Connection Solution


Peter T

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I am currently connecting my PC (streaming Pandora and from iTunes) via Audioengine W3 to my existing whole house sound (which is driven by a Yamaha integrated stereo amp).  Very simple, and my apps recognize this as a speaker, so connections are very easy and work well.  The fatal flaw is that the W3 has unacceptable drop outs, seemingly from interference I can't solve.  I have tried everything offered from Audioengine support and nothing solves the problem.

 

I want a better solution, but have many questions.  I think some form of direct wire will work, but I don't want to run wires (walls to penetrate, wires to fish through, etc.)

 

Q1:  Is there a better wireless solution than the Audioengine W3?  I am not far away, maybe 15 feet, but must get through a wall and get inside an enclosed built in audio cabinet.  The interference/signal strength issues I am seeing with the W3 are not acceptable.

Q2:  I am looking at power line communications (PLC) options, essentially to run the audio via ethernet.  I assume I need to run digital output from my PC to the ethernet PLC adapter plugged in near my PC, send that to the PLC in an outlet at my receiver, insert a DAC (my stereo amp does not have digital input), and send the DAC output to my amp.  Does this work?

Q2.1:  How do I tell my app (Pandora, iTunes) to send the audio to the DAC on the LAN?

 

Newby on LANs, etc. but looking for advice.  Specific product recommendations are welcome.  I am hoping to find an affordable solution (e.g., $100 or so), and am not a true audiophile looking for perfection (just no drop outs!)

 

Thanks.

 

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Hello,

 

I'm not sure how computer savvy you are but I do see you mentioned being a newbie in terms LAN's which doesn't mean you are the same in terms of computers so I figure Ill ask that first?

 

If your handy with installing Linux you can get away somewhat cheap doing what you want to do but you will have to get your hands a bit dirty. I estimate this could be done for under $200 in that case if this option applies to you.

 

If building your own is not an option for you then your looking at $600-700 bones by my estimation to accomplish your task properly.

 

A few spitball ideas would be as follows. I make no promise of functionality as I've not had to do this myself so do your own extra research if the ideas might work for you. I don't think from here doing either would be an issue though based on my own past experiences playing around with such things.

 

At a high level option 1 would require:

 

1. Beaglebone Black wireless mini computer https://beagleboard.org/black-wireless

2. An open source OS like Voyage MPD Linux, Ubuntu or perhaps FreeBSD to install on item #1 above

2. Roon or JRiver on your main PC

3. And a Schiit Audio Modi DAC https://www.schiit.com/products/modi-1

 

This setup would utilize an existing normal wireless network and not a point to point wireless network of proprietary design like you use today. You would play music on your main PC and point Roon or JRiver to the mini computer in step 1 above. That mini computer would connect to the Schiit Modi DAC via USB and the Modi DAC would connect to your existing receiver via the included Analog RCA outputs.

 

Option 2 would include the same DAC as option 1 above but the difference is that you would be buying the mini computer pre-built already. The basic functionality explained above would be the same.

 

The mini computer you would need to purchase is the Sonore MicroRendu https://www.smallgreencomputer.com/products/microrendu?variant=31840626147397

 

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Oops.. Hit enter too soon.

 

I forgot to finish with saying that Option#2 above is not Wireless but does accept a wired Eth cable. Getting that connection in room is the easy part though without physically running wires to make it happen.

 

This of course assumes you have some form of regular wireless already present though. If you do, you could buy a wireless bridge device which will take its Input wirelessly and have a few Eth ports on it also to,plug your mini computer into

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I appreciate your input.  I have a couple of questions:

 

On option 1, can I bury the Beagle in the audio cabinet without fear of the wireless dropouts I am already seeing?  And is the purpose of the Beagle simply to provide a wireless receiver I can connect to my DAC?

 

On option 2, can I use a powerline communications ethernet adapter to provide the wired connection to the MicroRendu (which would likewise be buried in the audio cabinet where my integrated amp is located)?  And are there any DAC's which I can network directly over PLC ethernet and avoid the expense of the MicroRendu?

 

My audio cabinet is a built in, solid wood doors which are generally closed when streaming music from my main PC.    Signal has to pass through a wall and the cabinet to get from the PC (or wifi).  Only about 15-20 feet from the wifi router, and my main PC.  As mentioned before, I am not looking for perfect audio over my whole house system, just something to eliminate the dropouts I am experiencing with the Audioengine W3.

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1 hour ago, Peter T said:

I appreciate your input.  I have a couple of questions:

 

On option 1, can I bury the Beagle in the audio cabinet without fear of the wireless dropouts I am already seeing?  And is the purpose of the Beagle simply to provide a wireless receiver I can connect to my DAC?

 

On option 2, can I use a powerline communications ethernet adapter to provide the wired connection to the MicroRendu (which would likewise be buried in the audio cabinet where my integrated amp is located)?  And are there any DAC's which I can network directly over PLC ethernet and avoid the expense of the MicroRendu?

 

My audio cabinet is a built in, solid wood doors which are generally closed when streaming music from my main PC.    Signal has to pass through a wall and the cabinet to get from the PC (or wifi).  Only about 15-20 feet from the wifi router, and my main PC.  As mentioned before, I am not looking for perfect audio over my whole house system, just something to eliminate the dropouts I am experiencing with the Audioengine W3.

Hello,

 

The purpose of the Beagle Bone or MicroRendu in this context is to be a receiver or NAA (Network Audio Adapter) of music that you are streaming from your main PC where you have your music playback software installed. These devices have daemon's running on them once setup that advertise themselves on the network as endpoints for the music stream. Basically they allow you to keep your main PC (which can be bulky,noisy or just plain too ugly to look at) out of sight. These devices also have USB ports on them that interface with outboard DAC's (like the Modi mentioned) so you can convert the digital stream coming in over Ethernet into USB that then connects and talks to the DAC.

 

Both of these devices are very tiny (picture a Credit Card size but thicker) and generate very little heat so ventilation requirements are minimal here. Unfortunately I have no way of knowing if your cabinet would block a wireless signal from reaching the Beagle Bone device inside the cabinet but a more sure bet would be to use a Wireless Bridge device that connects to your main Wireless in the house and then this Bridge would have physical Ethernet ports that you can then use to plug in the MicroRendu or in that case a non-wireless version of the Beagle Bone if the concern is very real of the Wireless signals not being able to reach these devices. I suspect a regular Wireless signal from your main Wireless installation would not have such an issue reaching a device inside the cabinet assuming its not lined with steel or some other interference blocking materials.

 

I dont see why a powerline Ethernet solution would have any issues here either but personally I would never use one. They have a tendency to inject a bunch of noise into the power grid of your house that can cause issues for other components/devices but that is just my own opinion.

 

There are many DAC's on the market that can accept an Ethernet cable directly but I've not seen one anywhere close to the price range you mentioned in the original post.

 

If you wanted to just go with a Wireless Bridge solution in combination with some other device that can accept a regular Ethernet cable then that is certainly another option. I think the Wireless bridge alone would probably eliminate the signal concerns for what ever device you end of purchasing

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On 12/18/2020 at 12:42 AM, Peter T said:

Q1:  Is there a better wireless solution than the Audioengine W3?

Yes ! To many 😀
(See last suggestion). 
 

On 12/18/2020 at 12:42 AM, Peter T said:

Q2:  I am looking at power line communications

Those can work very well in some cases. An Ethernet cable to your PC. 
 

 

On 12/18/2020 at 12:42 AM, Peter T said:

Q2.1:  How do I tell my app (Pandora, iTunes) to send the audio to the DAC on the LAN?

Have a look at this one Yamaha WXAD-10.
 

I think investing in the Yamaha WXAD-10 will probably solve all your issues and add several benefits as well. Use digital out if you can. You have to study a bit what this device do.
 

Start with this before network. Also if network is an issue, maybe go to source; where your WiFi originates from. Maybe exchange your WiFi router.
 

Or just finding a used ASUS router or similar, and put it in access mode. 

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On 12/17/2020 at 5:42 PM, Peter T said:

I am currently connecting my PC (streaming Pandora and from iTunes) via Audioengine W3 to my existing whole house sound (which is driven by a Yamaha integrated stereo amp). 

Peter Hello,

 

The Audioengine W3 is a USB DAC that has a wireless connection between its components.  The DAC has analog stereo out.  

 

So what you are looking for is a device that can emulate that.  There are a lot of different ways.

 

We have to find out if you have a wireless coverage issue in the stereo system.  Can you put a smartphone or something like that in the location and see if there is coverage there?

 

Can you get an ethernet network cable from our router to the inside of the cabinet?   (power line ethernet can be workable but I have had trouble with it)

 

Assuming you can get a network connection of some sort into the rack you need something in there to translate from digital on the network to analog in your stereo.

 

The MusicCast device mentioned above is a bit narrow focus but might work.

Sonos makes a very interesting device called the Sonos Port that does what you want.

Amazon has a device that also works but I did not like the sound from it.

 

There are a lot of other ways to handle this problem.   Let us know if you need more.

 

bob

 

 

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Hi!
 

You began this thread with the assumption that your W3 is the problem, which may well be correct.  But you should confirm it before embarking on any fix, to avoid wasting time and money only to find out that the problem is somewhere else (like your streaming setup, your PC’s settings or specs, etc).  Did this setup sound fine at first and develop only after a period of normalcy, or has the problem been there since you set it up?  
 

You also don’t describe the dropouts.  Are they a brief fraction of a second or longer? Are they complete silence, a partial drop in volume, noise, or something else?  Are they periodic or random?  Do they occur exactly the same way regardless of the source?  Have you listened for them while playing your own audio files through a player on your PC or only while streaming?

 

Make sure the dropouts are not present in directly wired outputs, eg plug any compatible ear buds or headphones into your PC’s headphone jack and (if at all possible) listen to something through a wired connection.  You could borrow or buy a cheap 50’ cable with 3.5mm stereo plugs and add a $5 3.5mm female to stereo RCA male adapter and connect your PC’s headphone out to aux line in on your receiver.  If possible, borrow a USB DAC with a headphone jack and listen for the problem that way.  If the dropouts are present on any of these, the problem is not the W3.
 

As I recall, Audioengine does not divulge the nature of their wireless scheme. So we don’t really know what to expect, because we don’t know how close its specs come to ac and 5GHz WiFi.  A 5 GHz signal won’t penetrate walls and other physical barriers as well as a 2.4 signal.  And many WiFi devices whose specs suggest otherwise simply don’t perform well in a given setting.  So your problem may in fact be inherent in the device, in which case there’s no assurance that a substitute will perform any better.

 

Common causes of poor WiFi connectivity when specs suggest it should be fine start with WiFi interference from multiple other devices on the same channel.  But any interference in the same frequency band can be a problem, even if the device of interest is not on the same network. If you have a WiFi router and a few devices in the same room that are on your WLAN, they could be causing this.  Move the W3 away from any other source of energy being transmitted over WiFi to see if that solves it.  This includes mobile devices, IoT devices of any kind, smart TVs, lights etc.  if you can’t move anything, temporarily turn off everything you can.

 

Work your way down the signal chain from source to receiver, and you’ll probably find the cause.  If WiFi won’t work well for you and you can’t run cable, you can consider other options.  I have a few high quality, low latency HD Bluetooth transceivers that work well through walls.  There are dozens on the web, all with the same current Qualcomm AptX chips and codecs.  I bought a few random choices (since we never heard of any of the makers) ranging from $25 to $75 and they’ve been interchangeably fine.

 

Good luck!

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Thanks so much to all.

 

I am convinced the drop outs (fraction of a second silences in the audio stream) are coming via the W3.  I have listened extensively on my PC speakers and do not get any streaming errors (i.e., the drop outs I describe).  I have tried all the troubleshooting from Audioengine, including moving my router, etc., without notable and persistent improvements.

 

My PC does support Bluetooth, so I tested my Bluetooth speakers with it (JBL Charge 3, which I placed inside the audio cabinet) and the drop out issue seemed to be resolved.  With this information in hand, I purchased a Bluetooth adapter to connect to my amp.  I chose an Auris Blume HD Long Range Receiver (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0147FOJBY/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1).  I intend to place this out of sight inside my audio cabinet, and use the RCA analog outputs to feed my amp.  I am hopeful this will solve the connection problems, and also add the flexibility of streaming from my phone as well as from my PC if I want to.  Thanks bluesman for the suggestion, it confirms my research and testing!  Device arrives on Tuesday, I will set it up and use it for a while and post a review of my experiences.

 

Thanks again.

 

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53 minutes ago, Peter T said:

My PC does support Bluetooth, so I tested my Bluetooth speakers with it (JBL Charge 3, which I placed inside the audio cabinet) and the drop out issue seemed to be resolved.  With this information in hand, I purchased a Bluetooth adapter to connect to my amp.  I chose an Auris Blume HD Long Range Receiver (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0147FOJBY/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1).  I intend to place this out of sight inside my audio cabinet, and use the RCA analog outputs to feed my amp. 

That's a nice device.  But I worry that you missed an important piece of information about BT.  You have to be using the same codec in both transmitter and receiver, or a BT link will revert to the default SBC (sub-band coding) codec.  This means that you will not be able to use the low latency or HD features unless your BT speakers are also running the latest aptX HD and LL codecs (which your JBL lacks - there are still very few BT speakers out there with aptX LL and HD).  You'll still get your music, but it will not be HD.  I believe the basic SBC codec is limited to a maximum of 328 kbps under ideal transmit-receive conditions.

 

If I were you, I'd also buy a small HD/LL BT receiver like this one for $35 and drive your receiver with the analog output if it doesn't have an optical input.  I know you said you're not that particular about sound quality, but there will be a huge difference between your JBL BT speaker and this approach for an extra $35.

 

image.png.f5b846cd302ca0fbc7b0ed0cbeeff22c.png

 

You also need to be careful with electronics in an enclosed cabinet.  Temperature affects both performance and lifespan, and unless you have ventilation for the space, you're setting yourself up for problems down the line.  If you can't provide airflow through vents or an open door, you might want to consider putting a pancake fan (like those in computer cases) over a hole in the back or bottom of the cabinet.

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Thanks again for valued insights and experience.  I did my research, and the source equipment I use (my PC, my phone, etc.) should work fine with the Auris receiver (it supports all the aptX codecs, plus AAC and SBS).  The Auris will then feed my amp, just like the small receiver you suggested (which would certainly be cheaper than the Auris).  The JBL was only used to test whether I would have any problem with the Bluetooth signal from my PC or phone getting into the audio cabinet.  I just paired the phone with the JBL, shoved the speaker into the cabinet next to my amp, closed the door, and made sure it kept playing as I walked around the house with my phone in hand.  Good to about 25-30 feet, when cut outs started to happen.  Hopefully I have longer range with the Auris, but it's not critical for me.

 

Fortunately for me, I don't have to worry about latency as I am only sending audio to a single amplifier (which then feeds my whole house through direct wire to passive speakers, old school).  That being said, I am pretty sure the more modern  aptX codecs will be used in any case.  (One side note, apparently Windows 10, which is on my PC, does not show you which Bluetooth codec is in use, so I'll have to either take it on faith or do some more research to better understand exactly what is going on with my system).

 

I appreciate your comments about heat.  I have been using the same built in audio cabinet set up for about 30 years, and have seen some issues with electronics lifespan, indeed.  I'll think about adding ventilation, but I don't want to impact the aesthetics of my cabinet, which is built in with a wet bar, out of sight.

 

Again, many thanks, and I'll provide some feedback when I have had some time living with the new setup.  The proof is in the pudding, and I'll let everyone who cares know if this solution proves acceptable to me.

 

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2 minutes ago, Peter T said:

the source equipment I use (my PC, my phone, etc.) should work fine with the Auris receiver (it supports all the aptX codecs, plus AAC and SBS).  The Auris will then feed my amp, just like the small receiver you sugge

Sorry, but that’s probably not correct.  It will work, in that you’ll get sound - but that sound will not be as good as it should, to a degree you will almost certainly notice.  Your PC, phone etc are probably not running the latest codecs in their BT implementations because very few (if any) are.  There’s a list of devices on the aptX website that will tell you which devices have the latest codecs.  But to date, it’s extremely short compared to the number of legacy devices already in use.
 

Unless you’re using the exact same codec in both transmitter and receiver, the pairing will default to the basic SBC codec rather than to the “lower” of the two.  That’s why I suggested getting an inexpensive transceiver like the one I pictured, so you can use the Auris as the transmitter from your PC with the little transceiver in the cabinet to drive your audio components with much better sound quality.  Even though the Auris has HD AptX capability, it won’t be active without being paired with an HD AptX device - it will default to the same bandwidth as ordinary BT devices without AptX.  

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Thanks, I understand your comment.

 

I am first and foremost looking forward to continuous audio with no dropouts.  I'll know better today when I get my Auris.

 

Since it looks like a transmitter dongle with aptX HD is not terribly expensive, I may go ahead and buy one to try (after I live with what I will now have for a little bit).  I have done just enough research to understand the codec issue, and will continue to research what I actually have in native devices in my PC and phone, so at least I take best advantage of those things.  Looking forward to some experimentation, and mostly, enjoying some music without hiccups!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

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Follow up.

 

The Auris has been great, solves my basic problem of streaming drop-outs beautifully.  The bluetooth connection works seamlessly in my Windows 10 PC, I simply select the bluetooth output device as the speaker set and stream away.  Perfect connectivity so far in my situation.

 

Research indicates my Windows 10 is using apptX codec.  For my purposes, sound quality is great.  I am sure true audiophiles can find more perfect solutions, but I am very happy.

 

Thanks again to the community for helping me solve this problem.

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22 minutes ago, Peter T said:

Follow up.

 

The Auris has been great, solves my basic problem of streaming drop-outs beautifully.  The bluetooth connection works seamlessly in my Windows 10 PC, I simply select the bluetooth output device as the speaker set and stream away.  Perfect connectivity so far in my situation.

 

Research indicates my Windows 10 is using apptX codec.  For my purposes, sound quality is great.  I am sure true audiophiles can find more perfect solutions, but I am very happy.

 

Thanks again to the community for helping me solve this problem.

That's great - I'm glad you're enjoying your music again.  FWIW, aptX is currently the basic Qualcomm BT codec and is far better than the basic SBC to which systems default if both transmitter and receiver aren't running the same version of aptX.  I use an aptX transmitter to my Edifier 1280s and they sound quite fine for general listening.

 

There are 3 new aptX codecs that offer even greater bandwdith, better SQ, and lower latency.  You can learn more about them on the aptX website, if you're interested.

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