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post #31 of 58 Old 06-01-2009, 12:30 AM
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Glad I found this thread!

I've got an older AE that I just connected (via an inexpensive analog cable) up to a new Integra DTR-8.9. iTunes is running on my last gen Macbook Pro and streaming over an older Airport Extreme. Both the AE and Extreme are the b/g versions not the new n versions.

I was also recently made aware of the many different file types one may download music into iTunes. I've gone and ripped a few CD's as AIFF files but can't seem to tell the difference between the AAC and AIFF versions.

Before finding this thread I was thinking this was due to the inexpensive cable I have my AE connected to my AVR with (more likely my decidedly NON audiophile sensibilities ).

I guess it could be the rather inexpensive DAC in the AE, perhaps not, but for how little a toslink cable costs I'm willing to test the difference between the AE's Burr Brown DAC and the Burr Brown DAC's in my 8.9.

Part of me hopes that I will be able to tell the difference and that I'll discover amazing things I've never heard from my music. The other part hopes that's not the case as I'm not looking forward to re-ripping all my music back into iTunes and then going out and buying the CD versions of all the music I've downloaded via the iTunes store. Ugh.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Cheers!
-Ian
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post #32 of 58 Old 06-01-2009, 03:26 PM
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Ian, you've actually raised a bunch of different issues, issues that are worth discussing and examining on their own. Where to start? Here:

Quote:


I've got an older AE that I just connected (via an inexpensive analog cable) up to a new Integra DTR-8.9

As you guessed, an obvious next step is to test the AE and Airtunes with an optical cable.
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post #33 of 58 Old 06-01-2009, 05:14 PM
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Thanks chef. I've got one coming. Ordered the Xtrememac version as there was a $10 promotional discount on it. Still would have been less expensive to get one from monoprice. Oh well, we're talking about $15 so not a big deal.

What would be the next issue to tackle? Let me guess, my budding audiophile sensibilities?

Actually the acoustics in my living room could use some work too.

Cheers!
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post #34 of 58 Old 06-05-2009, 09:24 PM
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I have been running my music over wi-fi into an AE with analog outs for several years and thought it sounded generally good using a mac mini with a 500GB external drive as the source. I care about audio quality so all my music is either lossless (if ripped from CD) or DRM free if bought online.

Recently I bought a used Channel Island Audio DAC and PSU on Audiogon and switched the AE to feeding it via optical output. The difference was very noticeable especially in the depth and weight of the bass and overall dynamic range.

I just replaced the mini with an Apple TV and set up a second network using only the 5GHz frequency which eliminated interference and dropouts totally.

So, IMHO, using your receiver's onboard DACs or adding an outboard DAC if your amplification is analog is a worthwhile investment and a noticeable upgrade. Using the 5GHz spectrum was the icing on the cake - I used to hate when the microwave would cut out the music on my old 2.4Ghz network.
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post #35 of 58 Old 06-05-2009, 09:34 PM
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Forgot to mention that I needed to add an Airport Extreme and switch the Express for the newer 802.11n model to create the 5Ghz network. With wide channels enabled and the Extreme set for 802.11n only I finally see a full 300M/bits over the new network. I use the older express as a bridge to provide backward compatibility for g devices such as my iPhone. I think adding the DAC made the biggest audio quality difference, whereas the network upgrades helped to eliminate interference so as well as my music I can stream last.fm or Pandora for hours reliably.
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post #36 of 58 Old 06-08-2009, 02:20 AM
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Great info. Thanks djstix!
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post #37 of 58 Old 06-15-2009, 08:34 PM
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One last thing, Airport Express audio format is limited to redbook CD resolution ie 16bit at 44.1Khz so money spent on 96/24 DACs isn't going to provide much benefit unless the DAC is upsampling and even then its probably marginal.
Audiogon.com is a good place to shop for high quality used DACs and audio gear in general. Spending 300-500 on a good quality used 44/16 DAC will yield a considerable improvement in listening enjoyment.
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post #38 of 58 Old 07-16-2009, 08:46 AM
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Anyone else having audio issues running optical from the AE into a DAC? Mine is unlistenable. Standard RCA sounds find. Did a search and this appears to be a known issue (for quite some time at that) with iTunes 8.x. Lots of angry posters on mac boards.

Has anyone found a workaround to this problem, short of downgrading to itunes 7.x? (I can't due to iphone compatability issues ..)
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post #39 of 58 Old 07-16-2009, 09:44 AM
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Quote:


this appears to be a known issue (for quite some time at that) with iTunes 8.x...Lots of angry posters on mac boards...

Links to a few representative threads?

Don't use it too often, but in a bedroom I go optical out of an Express into an AVR, which serves as the DAC, and haven't noticed a problem.

Is this a widespread issue, i.e. something that affects all Express owners feeding their DACs via optical, or an issue that only affects certain brands of DAC?
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post #40 of 58 Old 07-19-2009, 07:46 AM
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I don't have a problem with quality.....when it works.

I have dropouts like crazy. My router is on the main floor. I've got all my music on my MacBook so I simply take it with me when I go into my mancave in the basement, the same room where the AE is. Airport Utility even has a hard time finding the AE. It can work well sometimes, but last night, I was gonna sell the damn thing on kijiji!!!!!!

It's too bad because I love apple products but this is reminiscent of effing around to fix PCs. It's the most elegant way of getting my entire music collection wirelessly to my stereo and then via optical to my Integra 9.8.
Yes, I could plug the mini-toslink directly into my MacBook and use my iPod touch as a remote, but then i can't surf the net while seated. grrrrrrrrr!!!
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post #41 of 58 Old 07-19-2009, 08:22 AM
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It's probably off-topic for this thread, but this might be the weak link:

Quote:


I have dropouts like crazy. My router is on the main floor

What brand router is it? I gather it's not an Airport Extreme and you're not using WDS? In your current situation, with just the Macbook and no other Macs or devices, what I'd do is run some ethernet and hardwire your Express to your network. Years ago I had my Express hardwired like that into an Airport Extreme and it performed flawlessly.

Quote:


Yes, I could plug the mini-toslink directly into my MacBook and use my iPod touch as a remote, but then i can't surf the net while seated.

Convenience and reliability usually comes at a price. Eventually I put a mini, then a succession of Macbooks, where that hardwired Express once was, and at some point you'll likely be better off adding a Mac or aTV down there in the basement so you can also watch video. But, from an evolutionary standpoint, the single best move I ever made was to run gigabit everywhere and pick up a couple of inexpensive Netgear gigabit switches to complement my Airport Extreme.

Everything is much more reliable, and much more fun, when connected by gigabit.
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post #42 of 58 Old 02-17-2012, 09:12 AM
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Hi,

I've recently put together a simple little system for mostly background listening. We are using an Airport Express, analog out to an old Yamaha 5.1 AVR. The speakers are Aperion Verus Grand bookshelves, which we A/B against Axiom m22s and Aperion Intimus 4T... was a fun couple weeks, but ultimately the Verus was the unanimous choice.

I guess I'm wondering what I should upgrade next - I think I buy the "amp is an amp - as long as it's not driven to distortion" theory. We don't listen very loud at all - often background levels. But I'm wondering specifically if a dedicated stereo amp, due to differences in processing, would sound better than our current Yamaha AVR?

Or would a DAC be the first step? Would a budget DAC, like the Grant Fidelity TubeDAC11, make an audible improvement in the quality of our music, which ranges from 128k mp3 to (mostly) lossless? Is the DAC improvement noticeable at all levels, or only during critical listening?

We don't listen very loud these days, but we do want it to sound as good as possible within our budget! any advice/interesting discussion on this stuff would be great. I am particularly interested in hearing from the 'audio skeptic' crowd that don't buy into the expensive cabling and endless amp upgrade plans. For those of you who are certain that any amp with reasonably low THD is sufficient, do you agree that a two-channel amp is better than a 5.1 for stereo listening? What about DACs - would we notice a real improvement by going external DAC, vs AE internal DAC?

Thanks for any feedback.
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post #43 of 58 Old 02-17-2012, 10:06 AM
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Quote:


I guess I'm wondering what I should upgrade next...

Well, do you like currently streaming via the Airport Express, as in it works and it's reliable?

If so, at the moment you're holding yourself back by going analog out of the Express into a very old AVR that doesn't have an optical input. No sense auditioning speakers when a system can only rise as far as its weakest link, and in your case that means analog out of the Express into that very old AVR.

Contained within your text are a lot of potential audiophool footholds, I'd suggest you resist grabbing a hold of any of them until you've made the simplest and least expensive upgrade: pick up a better used AVR on Craigslist that is slightly newer than the one you currently have, it could be a Yamaha, it could be any known brand like Pioneer, Harmon Kardon, Denon, whatever, but one that simply has digital audio inputs, specifically optical inputs. There are a glut of these to be had very inexpensively on the used market because now everyone wants AVRs with multiple HDMI inputs and support for high def audio in order to connect all their video sources to the AVR and then run one cable to their HDTV. So folks have been selling off their still perfectly excellent AVRs with excellent built-in DACs for years now. Look on Craigslist, there should be plenty of 5-7 year old AVRs available. Swap one of those in place of your Yamaha, then run an optical cable from your Express to it.

Live with that for a while, rely on the DAC within the AVR being fed optical from the Express and then decide if you want to go down any audiophile rabbit-holes.

(If you are impatient, or don't feel like going with a used AVR, buy something new with no worries, the DACs inside AVRs became commodity parts a long time ago. I was in Costco just yesterday and they had the Pioneer VSX-921 for $199. That's a superb AVR for someone on a budget that has HDMI and support for Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD...not that you care about any of that at the moment...but it would easily meet your 2 channel listening needs in order to test streaming via the optical out of the Express. That would be much better money spent at this point in your progression than ANY money spent on an external DAC, let alone $375, and it's more future-proof since you may eventually evolve into other areas of home theater and come to value a smart hub to handle all your audio needs rather than 2 channel music.)

Quote:


I am particularly interested in hearing from the 'audio skeptic' crowd that don't buy into the expensive cabling and endless amp upgrade plans. For those of you who are certain that any amp with reasonably low THD is sufficient, do you agree that a two-channel amp is better than a 5.1 for stereo listening? What about DACs - would we notice a real improvement by going external DAC, vs AE internal DAC?

Unless your questions have something specifically related to Macs or OS X, all this is discussed and debated in other AVS forums, which thankfully are largely populated by audio skeptics rather than Luddites or audiophools.
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post #44 of 58 Old 02-17-2012, 03:04 PM
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Thanks. This is exactly the kind of reply I was hoping for.

I have another AVR, a Marantz SR5200, which does have optical inputs, currently in service in my home theatre (Energy Connoiseur 7s, CC1 centre, dipole surrounds). One option may be to upgrade the home theatre receiver, and bring the Marantz up to the living room to perform the AE-based stereo duties.

It's still older than 5-7 years.... probably closer to 10, but let me know what you think.

Also... if you could point me to other parts of the forums where this 2-channel vs. 5.1 audio quality element has been discussed I would really appreciate it. I've already had other people (on other forums) tell me that the first and most important upgrade to make is the Yamaha AVR because it is a 'weak link' due to digital processing, vs. an integrated amp. To be clear I never use the DSPs on either of the amps for listening to music because it sounds worse than stereo (to my ears).
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post #45 of 58 Old 02-17-2012, 04:35 PM
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Quote:


I have another AVR, a Marantz SR5200, which does have optical inputs, currently in service in my home theatre...It's still older than 5-7 years.... probably closer to 10, but let me know what you think.

I still have an AVR in a back bedroom that's about 10 years old, a Harman Kardon AVR 225, it was my first really good AVR, and it is every bit as great today as it was when new. 7 years ago or so I used to have a wired Airport Express connected to it via optical for what used to be called AirTunes streaming and it was wonderful. (AirTunes is the progenitor of AirPlay.) I eventually replaced the Express and now have an Apple TV 1 w/ a Broadcom card running Crystalbuntu back there, and that 225 is still a wonderful AVR, whether it's a 1080p bluray rip or music.

The whole AVR digital processing versus an integrated amp + DAC is one of those audiophool canards, you can get very nice 2 channel sound quality from either an AVR or an amp, at all sorts of price ranges, but something, somewhere is going to do the digital to analog conversion...in the case of an AVR with optical audio inputs you're just choosing to use its DAC instead of the DAC within the Airport Express or in an external DAC before an amp, and I think you should at least test how the Express sounds over optical through your Marantz.

Quote:


if you could point me to other parts of the forums where this 2-channel vs. 5.1 audio quality element has been discussed I would really appreciate it.

Most of that talk shows up in the "Audio Theory, Setup and Chat" and "2 Channel Audio" sub-forums.

Quote:


I've already had other people (on other forums) tell me that the first and most important upgrade to make is the Yamaha AVR because it is a 'weak link' due to digital processing, vs. an integrated amp.

And just so we're clear, I also feel that your Yamaha AVR is the weak link, but for a different reason: precisely because it is not able to digitally receive and process an audio stream from the optical out of the Express and as a result you have to rely on the DAC within the Express. I want you to go optical out of the Express, bypassing its DAC, and rely on the by now very evolved (and very inexpensive) DACs inside relatively modern AVRs. Whether you then choose to listen to music as 2 channel, 2 channel + sub, or in some surround music mode that your AVR supports, is entirely up to you--but you'll be in a much better position because you'll have gotten the audio stream to the DAC chip within your AVR as cleanly as possible.
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post #46 of 58 Old 02-17-2012, 08:49 PM
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Thanks for the feedback - I understand your point about using the AVR DAC vs. AE DAC, certainly.

I will probably hang on to the system as-is then.. I haven't heard a whole lot of support for going preamp/DAC like the Grant Fidelity unit, and the DAC inside a reasonable AVR (like my Marantz) is probably good enough. In the next year or so I might look to upgrade my home theatre AVR and can then re-purpose the Marantz for the living room.

Thanks for the input
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post #47 of 58 Old 02-27-2012, 12:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oztech View Post

I stream my music to the AE and let the dacs in the integra receiver do the
job since macs are bit perfect and it sounds great. Yes the Cambridge has
good dacs. The optical out from the Mac to the Cambridge would have done
the job unless the cambridge lacks optical in .

Mac is bit perfect? Depends!

One scenario: if you are playing audio CD, which is recorded with a sampling rate fo 44.1khz, Mac will output on its Toslink 48khz unless you change the midi setup in the Utilies to 44.1khz. Same goes with playing lossless file via iTunes, etc.

Another scenario: If you are playing DVD, the audio recording is done with a sampling rate of 48khz and you don't need to adjust anything Mac.
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post #48 of 58 Old 02-27-2012, 01:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RMcR View Post

Just connected the AE via analog to my Trends TA-10.1 amp yesterday, so I appreciate the discussion here. The TA-10.1, in case you are not familiar with it, has a single analog input and no onboard DAC, so when using the AE I either have to settle for the analog connection or add an external DAC with a Toslink in.

Two questions:

The AE has a USB port. Can this be used to supply a USB DAC or is it (as the Apple website seems to suggest) only for connecting a printer?

Any DAC recommendations? 17 inch wide components are out. I've got limited space available for this system, so ideally I want to find something no bigger than the roughly 10"x11"2" Citypulse DAC DA7.2X II over at audio-magus.com. Being able to plug in headphones and add a CD/DVD player down the road would be a big plus.

Harman Kardon BDS5 smaller width... has everything!
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post #49 of 58 Old 02-27-2012, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by purplesaber View Post

I have a related question:

Is there any difference in the quality of the DAC in an airport express vs. the one in the Apple TV? If the Apple TV has a better DAC I would get a used 40gb version just to stream iTunes to my receiver.

If not, does anyone have a suggestion for a stereo receiver or integrated amp that has optical in and a good DAC for less than $1000? Most AVRs have optical in, but I want to set up a music-only 2 channel system and it seems like a waste to get a full HT AVR for that. I'm having trouble finding a stereo-oriented receiver with optical in and would rather not have to add another component (external DAC) if I don't need to.

Any opinions?

No one can answer this question, because Apple TV does not have an analog output.
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post #50 of 58 Old 02-27-2012, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
because Apple TV does not have an analog output

well, you're replying to a three year old post and purplesaber was asking about a 40GB aTV1, which most certainly does have analog audio out. (I can't answer his question because even though I have an Express and an aTV1, I've only gone digital out of both of them, which is excellent.)
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post #51 of 58 Old 02-28-2012, 06:15 AM
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Or if you are fond of the old receiver you might consider something like the FiiO D3 Digital to Analog Audio Converter. For < $30 it will take the digital output from the AE and convert it to analog. You can read about it here http://www.head-fi.org/t/558794/fiio-d3 . For what it's worth I've found that the newer (cheaper) AVR's are putting far more emphasis on video and the latest 15 channel surround decoding than on making stereo sound good. YMMV
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post #52 of 58 Old 02-28-2012, 06:23 AM
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That also seems like it might be a nice solution for anyone who wants analog out of an Apple TV 2...
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post #53 of 58 Old 02-28-2012, 02:33 PM
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And if you do have extra speakers and an extra Airport Express there's the Twenty from Griffin Technology -- a rather clever little device:
Quote:


Griffin's Twenty digital audio amplifier lets a user play digital audio from iTunes to an existing set of speakers wirelessly using an Airport Express wireless base station and Apple's AirPlay wireless audio/video protocol.
The result is a zero-configuration audio set-up, streaming Apple Lossless sound from iTunes to the user's speakers via a low-profile digital amplifier.


erik g
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post #54 of 58 Old 02-28-2012, 04:54 PM
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I'd love to have a look at the Twenty but I haven't seen how much it will cost or when it will be available. The foot print reduction alone would be worth some coin to me.
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post #55 of 58 Old 02-28-2012, 06:54 PM
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Quote:


I'd love to have a look at the Twenty but I haven't seen how much it will cost or when it will be available

And with Griffin, you're wise to consider this...as anyone who owned a G4 mini and hoped the Griffin Firewave might offer a potential solution for its lack of "digital" audio output can attest. Previewed in January 2005 at Macworld, basically dead on arrival when it did eventually ship in August 2006, quickly discounted.
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post #56 of 58 Old 03-06-2012, 12:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaderson View Post

And if you do have extra speakers and an extra Airport Express there's the Twenty from Griffin Technology -- a rather clever little device:

That is a clever device, thanks for linking to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

And with Griffin, you're wise to consider this...as anyone who owned a G4 mini and hoped the Griffin Firewave might offer a potential solution for its lack of "digital" audio output can attest. Previewed in January 2005 at Macworld, basically dead on arrival when it did eventually ship in August 2006, quickly discounted.

I too have had my share of disappointments with Griffin; I think their designs are better than their execution.

My problem was with their Desktop Stand for Airport Express which was a clever idea with failed execution. Or maybe Apple changed the tolerances of the Airport Express between when Griffin designed theirs and when I bought mine. My Express wouldn't make reliable contact into my stand, so I needed to add liberal amounts of duct tape to force the Express down so that it picked up the power connection.

Edit: just noticed that the two 1-star reviews at Amazon had the same power problem!
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post #57 of 58 Old 03-06-2012, 07:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phantom Gremlin View Post

I too have had my share of disappointments with Griffin; I think their designs are better than their execution.

I've had issues with Griffin's execution as well. Their Beacon remote for iphone/Android is actually a great product (http://www.amazon.com/Griffin-Beacon...1044034&sr=1-1), BUT -- it only runs on batteries, there is no adaptor included or available. Because of this the batteries run out in a couple of weeks. Also, because it needs to conserve battery power, it shuts off after 60 minutes and you have to either push down on the device or manually reconnect bluetooth in the iphone menu to make it active again (which is the last thing you want to in a remote device, the whole point is to make it simple to remotely turn on gear on a whim). It's a great product, but I seldom use it because the batteries are always dead.
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post #58 of 58 Old 03-31-2012, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpenton View Post

Or if you are fond of the old receiver you might consider something like the FiiO D3 Digital to Analog Audio Converter. For < $30 it will take the digital output from the AE and convert it to analog. You can read about it here http://www.head-fi.org/t/558794/fiio-d3 . For what it's worth I've found that the newer (cheaper) AVR's are putting far more emphasis on video and the latest 15 channel surround decoding than on making stereo sound good. YMMV

Just got it. Super good. improving my sound from analog out of AE 100 times!!!!
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