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Moving to AE wireless audio


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First off, I would like to thank everyone on this site for providing me with enough reading material to keep me busy for a week of research. Hats off.


The conundrum: I am committed to moving away from my previous component based system which took up a significant amount of shelf space to a wireless audio setup with minimal equipment other than speakers in my main listening space. I thought I had it figured out till I stumbled on this site and now I have more questions than answers. ;)



* ReadyNAS Duo -> Mac Mini -> Airport Express

* I am designing for music listening not surround sound or video

* I have a budget of $900-$1200


My Thoughts:

Until stumbling on this site I had the following items in my shopping cart:

* Audioengine 5 Speakers

* Cambridge Audio DAC Magic

* An inexpensive ($4.00) Toslink to Optical Cable

* Optional: Audioengine AS8 Powered Subwoofer


Here are my questions:

* Does using self powered speakers such as the A5s make sense over a traditional amplifier to speakers setup?

* Am I a fool for buying all this now when AirPlay equipment is just around the corner?

* Is there really a need for a subwoofer, or can I save some money without it?

* the most important question: is there a setup or piece of equipment that you thinks makes more sense in my price range?


Thank you in advance for helping me out.



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I am going to suggest 2 alternatives to the Mac Mini + Airport Express + DAC


Option A) Drop Airport Express. Move MacMini to listening room connected via USB to DAC such as Arcam rDAC or HRT's devices.


Option B) Forego MacMini and Airport Express. Use a Squeezebox Touch into DAC (of choice). Squeezebox server running on ReadyNAS or use a RipNAS or Vortexbox server instead of ReadyNAS (these have built in ripping facilities).


As for your choice of speakers. No problem with them. With the Squeezebox Touch you may find you don't need the DAC.






...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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I have heard very nice sounding self-powered speakers, including the A5s. With your budget, I would say that's a good choice.


As for the Airplay option, I think that it's certainly a technology we should all keep our eyes on. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about it, so it remains to be seen whether this will be a viable option for wireless streaming in a high-end system.


I'd like to share my experience with Airport Express. I used the original AE with a good glass toslink cable (Van den Hul Octocoupler) and it sounded very bad in my system. I could not get good sound using AE and a DAC. For that reason, I bought a Squeezebox Duet and using the digital out to my DAC, I get much better sound compared to the AE/DAC combination. But, Apple updated the Airport Express in 2008 and it's possible that the newer version sounds better than the one I had (I don't know).


If you decide to forego the Airport Express and get a Squeezebox Touch (as suggested by Eloise), be aware that the Squeezebox Server software absolutely sucks in comparison to iTunes for managing your music library (IMO). I've been using the Squeezebox Server everyday for the past several years in my office system and I REALLY miss iTunes. I still use iTunes/Amarra for my main system and I am in the process of looking for an alternative wireless streaming solution (including the Arcam rDAC) to replace the Squeezebox Duet in my office just because I hate the Squeezebox Server software so much.


But I think you are on the right track with choosing a Mac Mini and self-powered speakers. The pieces I would really evaluate closely are the AE vs an alternative streaming device.




Intel NUC NUC8i7BEH Roon Server running Audio Linux in RAM -> Sonore UltraRendu (Roon Endpoint) -> Uptone ISO Regen -> Singxer SU-1 KTE -> Holo Audio Spring Level 3 DAC -> Nord One UP Monoblocks -> Spendor LS3/5as | Music controlled via iPad (Power Conditioning: Audience adeptResponse aR12).  Twitter: @hirezaudio

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Thanks to both of you for the informative information. It's funny, you both brought into question the one piece of gear I already own - the Airport Express. Considering that I already have it I'm going to give it a go rather than moving over to Squeezebox or some other streaming option. If the AE really doesn't work out I'll probably just bring my Mac Mini (also already owned) down to the living room.


Curious though, you both mention the 'Arcam rDAC'. Would that be a workable option to use with the Airport Express and the A5s?


Also, any recommendation on the need for (or lack thereof) for the subwoofer with the A5s?


Thanks again for everything.




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