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Streamer vs Airport Express and a good DAC for wired network

BluePotato

New member
May 30, 2012
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Evening all,

I'm kicking off initial research on a new system which I'd like to be purchasing before xmas. I have a wired network and music stored on a NAS. Seems to me I have 2 key routes to head down to source my music into an amp:

Option 1 - feed ethernet into a music streamer direct. Cambridge Audio and Naim seem to do good products and this seems a good solution. For better or worse though I quite like controlling my NAS music library via itunes on my macbook. I get the impression that streamers tie you into their own versions of software? Is that fair?

Option 2 - Ethernet into an airport express and then optical into a dedicated DAC. Savings on the streamer here could help me invest in a good DAC, Chord Hugo for example. With this option I would be able to control via itunes but I believe the AE has limitations to the file qualities it can handle being limited to CD quality? Majority of my music is lossless ALAC or 320kbps however would be nice to have the option to go down the hi res route if I felt I got the value out of it.

In terms of systems, early days with no demo's as yet (I know thats what I need to do :)). Rega Elex R with ATC SCM11's or Naim (not sure what) are in the early thinking just by way of a guide.

Any thoughts appreciated, thanks
 

ifor

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2002
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You could consider a Raspberry Pi with a HiFiBerry Digi running software such as RuneAudio, Volumio or Moode. The Digi would connect to a DAC of your choice via optical or coaxial. You could use AirPlay from iTunes, but I wouldn't/don't. Best control the Pi via webUI on computer, iOS or Android device.
 

BluePotato

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May 30, 2012
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Thanks for the replies guys. Am more inclined to go down the AE route initially and then trial a few dedicated DAC's. Audiolab MDac +, Chord 2qute etc
 

Macspur

Well-known member
May 3, 2010
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BluePotato said:
Thanks for the replies guys. Am more inclined to go down the AE route initially and then trial a few dedicated DAC's. Audiolab MDac +, Chord 2qute etc
Can highly recommend the M DAC+... at £800 a real bargain., build quality and SQ as good as some DACS 3 times the price.

Mac

www.macsmusic.blogbubble.net
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,232
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19,195
BluePotato said:
Thanks for the replies guys. Am more inclined to go down the AE route initially and then trial a few dedicated DAC's. Audiolab MDac +, Chord 2qute etc
As 'unfashionable' as it is to say so, the AEX (latest version mind you) has a pretty respectable DAC built-in. I have used it as such - for a while - and was quite impressed with it.

I now just use it as a wired network extender and use an ethernet connected ATV3 for AirPlay (connected with optical cable to the DAC in my Quad Vena).

For someone without a stand-alone DAC, the AEX will serve admirably. Connect it to your router with ethernet cable and to your hi-fi amp with a 3.5mm - 2 x RCA Phono lead, then stream from your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch or Mac with AirPlay. (Up to and including lossless ALAC files.)

If you can bear Ken Rockwell, you can read all the AEX technical stuff here ...

http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/airport-express-audio-quality-2014.htm
 

BluePotato

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May 30, 2012
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Thanks for the post Chebby, makes sense. Have had a read of the Ken post (or a 'summary' read). Almost sounds a bit too good to be true?!

Not had an AE for years, maybe the 2008 version, I used to have it hooked into a REGA DAC via optical over wifi but it suffered with jitter. Always 'felt' like a weak link in the system - sounds like the newer version is a good step up.

Are you still running with the AE or have you moved onto a dedicated DAC? If so do you mind me asking which DAC justified the outlay over the AE?

Cheers
 

drummerman

New member
Jan 18, 2008
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ifor said:
You could consider a Raspberry Pi with a HiFiBerry Digi running software such as RuneAudio, Volumio or Moode. The Digi would connect to a DAC of your choice via optical or coaxial.  You could use AirPlay from iTunes, but I wouldn't/don't.  Best control the Pi via webUI on computer, iOS or Android device.
Anything to do with Raspberries pi's seems rather cumbersome for the uninitiated that just want straight forward operation

Cheap DIY option but not very elegant.
 

Oie

New member
Jan 30, 2015
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Hi,

I have the Nas connected to a Nuc and this to the Dac.

I run JRiver on the Nuc and I control it from the phone and or tablet.

I think it's a flexible system in terms of files I can reproduce (audio formats, video, pictures) and also future proof as I can change the Dac and ir Nuc if required.

Regards,

O
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,232
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19,195
BluePotato said:
Are you still running with the AE or have you moved onto a dedicated DAC? If so do you mind me asking which DAC justified the outlay over the AE?

Cheers
As I said in my last post ...

"I now just use it as a wired network extender and use an ethernet connected ATV3 for AirPlay (connected with optical cable to the DAC in my Quad Vena)."

I'd happily use the AEX again if I changed to an amp without a built-in DAC and didn't need more connectivity. (It wasn't a quality 'thing' but connectivity.) My Quad Vena DAC has two optical inputs (both being used) and a coax digital input and both kinds of USB and Bluetooth aPTX.
 

ifor

Well-known member
Dec 3, 2002
71
1
18,545
drummerman said:
ifor said:
You could consider a Raspberry Pi with a HiFiBerry Digi running software such as RuneAudio, Volumio or Moode. The Digi would connect to a DAC of your choice via optical or coaxial. You could use AirPlay from iTunes, but I wouldn't/don't. Best control the Pi via webUI on computer, iOS or Android device.
Anything to do with Raspberries pi's seems rather cumbersome for the uninitiated that just want straight forward operation

Cheap DIY option but not very elegant.
... not too difficult.
 

Brokenflame

New member
Oct 23, 2016
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I own many Airport Express's as I used to live in a large house in the country side. They are excellent for extending your wifi signal or using as hot spots on the hotel's wired Ethernet.

If you intend to use the Airport express then the optical out is probably the way to go if you are going to use it with a DAC, amp and speakers. If you are using with little active PC speakers then the 3.5mm jack works well.

Although I would recommend against an Airport Express. They are way over due for replacement, and airplay is limited to CD quality. So from a future proofing point of view you might want to look at something else. Your ALAC, file will not sound as good streaming to an Airport Express.

You will unfortunately end up looking at dedicated network streamers if you want to use HiRes Audio files.

As a new version of Bluetooth is expected next year (2017) and Apple seriously need to support HiRes audio in AirPlay or drop it, I opted to use a MDAC+ and a 5 meter USB cable. Not the most elegant solution, but it gives the industry a year to sort out what they are doing.
 

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