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post #1 of 16 Old 04-16-2005, 07:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Is there any competitors to Airport Express that do (pretty much) the exact same thing, i.e. stream wirelessly from my laptop to amplifier. My basic project is to put speakers in my bedroom because I am often in my bed and want something a little higher quality than my laptops speakers :-).

I read a stereophile review of it, and it seemed to have high distortion on the audio out side of it which bothered me. Any alternatives for around the same price? Note, there will be NO TV in the area to hook the unit to.

Thanks
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post #2 of 16 Old 04-17-2005, 05:25 PM
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The airport express sounds awesome. It has no support for video so a TV does not matter. It only works with iTunes software unless you have a Mac. There is a 3rd party product for Macs called Airfoil that lets you stream anything to the AE. Anyway, I've recomended the AE to many people. It works great. I'd check it out for yourself as I don't know of another piece of hardware that does something similar.

I'd like to read the stereophile article. Do you have a link?

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post #3 of 16 Old 04-19-2005, 03:42 PM
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The distortion comment suggests the reviewer did a lousy job and, typically, IMHO, didn't know the capabilities and limitations of his subject piece of equipment. The AE has a digital out that you can feed into a receiver's TOSLINK input. That way, your receiver/pre-amp is doing the D/A conversion and there is NO distortion that you haven't accidentally encoded on the supply end.
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post #4 of 16 Old 04-19-2005, 04:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Stereophile is pretty decently respected and they posted the graphs for the analog response. I ask because the amplifier I would be using has analog in only, and not digital, and therefore I was a bit worried about the analog output and clipping and distortion.

I don't think any commerical solution will work for me anyway, as none of them I can see can do Monkey's audio, Flac, or Musepack which a lot of my music is in, and I don't really want to re-encode it into MP3.
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post #5 of 16 Old 04-19-2005, 05:19 PM
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I remain surprized that Stereophile, highly respected or not, would dein to review the analog output of a device whose reason for living is "bits". After all, given the $119 cost of the entire device, how worthy do you think the D-A converter could be?

Anyway, except for the time to "re-rip" your CDs, the AE/iTunes/dedicated Hard Drive approach is really quite inexpensive and I believe you would be pleasantly surprized how good it sounds, analog or not.
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post #6 of 16 Old 04-19-2005, 06:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Wasn't an actual 'review' but a follow up to an editoral where a reviewer said he liked it. It was 2 pages or so.

I am sure it would be fine, I was just trying to find some sort of alternative to check out the competition, but there doesn't seem to be any.
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post #7 of 16 Old 04-19-2005, 07:35 PM
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There was an interesting product mentioned in the "Ethernet-to-RCA" thread a little further down the page:
http://www.gallerycart.com/index.asp...OD&ProdID=1417

The price is certainly right ($35), and it meets your stated requirement of "stream wirelessly from my laptop to (analog-in) amplifier" - unless, of course your laptop is a Mac (which this product doesn't support).

EDIT: in theory since this thing seems to be a USB "sound card", you can presumably play any format you want, since your PC is doing the "playing", not this device.
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post #8 of 16 Old 04-20-2005, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by drew138
I don't know of another piece of hardware that does something similar.
I don't see how something like the Squeezebox or SoundBridge doesn't do "something silimar" regarding music (with the exception of the print server or range extender functionality). They're a bit more expensive, but they also have a stand-alone user interface and don't REQUIRE a PC to control, even though they can be controlled from a PC in an identical manner.
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post #9 of 16 Old 04-20-2005, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by uwradu
I don't see how something like the Squeezebox or SoundBridge doesn't do "something silimar" regarding music (with the exception of the print server or range extender functionality). They're a bit more expensive, but they also have a stand-alone user interface and don't REQUIRE a PC to control, even though they can be controlled from a PC in an identical manner.
I really don't know that much abuot the Squeezebox or Soundbridge. The biggest selling point of those two devices seem to the fact that they have a small screen and can be set up next to you stereo so that you can select music or playlists directly from the device. For me, those 2 devices are sort of irrelevant for my needs as I typically build playlists on the fly or actively manage my music selection while listening. It's just a lot easier for me to use the PC client, or my wifi PDA with VNC to control iTunes. I see that you can do something similar via web interface with the Roku device, which is pretty cool. I'm sure the Squeezebox offers somthing similar as you mentioned. For that matter you could recomend the Sonos system but it offers much more feature rich and dynamic controls, but it's $1200 for a two unit system. There are a lot of options out there, but none seem to offer the simplicity of the AE.

Anyway, for 119.00 the Airport Express is a pretty compelling device that will get your digital music up and streaming via a PC/MAC with pretty solid audio quality.

I hope someone develops a device like this that does the same thing for HD video in the near term.

Drew
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post #10 of 16 Old 04-20-2005, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by drew138
Anyway, for 119.00 the Airport Express is a pretty compelling device
It is a good price, and I found it very interesting. But I guess it depends on your usage pattern. For a living room device that you want to play some abient music on for say a party or whatever, it's preferable to have on-device control and display, without having to go to another room to a PC to change songs, or having a clunky laptop sitting in a corner of th LR. However, if you DO want to control the device from a PC (such as your wireless PDA), you still can. I guess the question is if on-device display/control is worth another $70-80 to you.

Quote:
Originally posted by drew138
I hope someone develops a device like this that does the same thing for HD video in the near term.
Yeah, well, that's the Holy Grail of media devices at the moment, and we don't have a killer device yet not for lack of trying. I think it's just a matter of one company hitting upon the winning paradigm, and then everyone will emulate it, sort of like DVRs are becoming more and more generic TiVo clones. I think part of the problem is also the video format. Until a widespread and flexible DVD-in-a-file format emerges that preserves all the DVD features but doesn't scatter a gazillion files all over the place, there are simply too many file formats for these players to support, and each company will have different favorites that they concentrate on.
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post #11 of 16 Old 04-20-2005, 03:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by uwradu
Yeah, well, that's the Holy Grail of media devices at the moment, and we don't have a killer device yet not for lack of trying. I think it's just a matter of one company hitting upon the winning paradigm, and then everyone will emulate it, sort of like DVRs are becoming more and more generic TiVo clones. I think part of the problem is also the video format. Until a widespread and flexible DVD-in-a-file format emerges that preserves all the DVD features but doesn't scatter a gazillion files all over the place, there are simply too many file formats for these players to support, and each company will have different favorites that they concentrate on.
I guess we're a little off topic now, but I agree with you that the format of video is still the biggest hurdle. The technology is there, but just take a look over at the Buffalo linktheather thread and you'll quickly see the pain people will go through to stream video on thier device. And this is one of the better options out on the market right now. Although there are issues with the HD video/audio codecs. A company like apple with enough brand power and influence on the marketplace could do a lot of damage if they could release a standard HD file format and get behind it with products and content.

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post #12 of 16 Old 04-20-2005, 06:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by drew138
A company like apple with enough brand power and influence on the marketplace could do a lot of damage if they could release a standard HD file format and get behind it with products and content.
A company LIKE Apple, but not Apple. They are a little bit like Sony in that everything they create has to somehow tie-in the consumer into their "fold", be it through proprietary formats, or through enhanced (or even critical) functionality when coupled with a Mac. If you look at their most popular media format--QuickTime--and in particular its codecs and players, I'm not sure I want this hackishness and self-importance extended into the video realm. Their probably most "altruistic" product to date is the iPod, and even that one originally required a Mac for full functionality. With Apple unfortunately all roads eventually seem to lead to a Mac, and a lot of people simply aren't interested. It's a little bit like religion: no matter how insistent, long-suffering and enduring those Jehova's Witnesses at the door are, and no matter how polite and humoring I am, in the end I'm not going to convert, regardless. And BTW, the JW are just an example, insert your favorite proselytizing denomination there. And now we're seriously OT :rolleyes:
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post #13 of 16 Old 04-20-2005, 07:36 PM
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Agree that apple is mostly self-absorbed, except when they think they can make money from a broader audience beyond the Mac converted. iTunes, iPod, Airport Express (which has a windows configurator) and even the Mac mini are a few other examples of a changing tide at Apple. Apple and Sony do have similar views on propritary formats and product tie-backs. It was interesting to see both Apple and Sony CXO's together at mac world announcing this as the year of HD. Who know's what will happen, but if we're waiting on Microsoft to produce a standard or some of the hardware vendors to build the "perfect" device that plays all forms and formats of music it wont be until 2007 before we start to see consumer grade products.
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post #14 of 16 Old 04-21-2005, 06:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by drew138
iTunes [...] a few other examples of a changing tide at Apple
Forgot about that one. Actually, I do like iTunes quite a bit and have purchased several albums (from a Windows PC, natch!). What annoys me is this geo-lockout in the online music business. You can browse the European iTunes offerings and listen to the track demos, but alas you aren't ALLOWED to buy them. And a lot of the albums I'm interested in aren't being sold in the US and never will be (not least because they're in German). So someone somewhere is missing out on my money.

I wouldn't be any more interested in Microsoft's media formats than in Apple's. I guess I'm really hoping for some de-facto format to emerge, driven by a third party less interested in industry dominance than in providing a true benefit. A small company like DivX could use their current popularity to create a truly flexible and open container format that they support with their own encoders and players and encourage other small developers and the OS community to embrace. If Dr.DivX, GK and ZoomPlayer supported such a format, perhaps a grass roots adoption would lead to similar success as mp3--long ignored by the big players, but eventually offered even by Sony.
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post #15 of 16 Old 04-25-2005, 10:33 PM
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Don't forget that most users will want the AE cable kit for an extra $35 dollars or so that gives you a useful power cord extender, a special optical cable and a special analog out cable. Not sure if you can get these elsewhere for less.

Also, might not be an issue for some, but you can only use one of the outputs (analog or digital) on the AE at once. Some other players (squeezebox, e.g.) has multi outs that are all active. Squeezebox 2 appears to have rather high end Burr Brown DAC's for those of you looking for analog out. Not sure of AE's DACs.

In my case, I need both digital out and analog out. (Well, maybe not "need"). Digital so that I can use the DAC on my pre/pro for the main listening area. Analog because my prepro only lets you route an ANALOG input to ZONE2 which drives outdoor speakers and living room speakers. Given the quality of DACs in the SB2, I might just use the analog for both.

I hate to return the Airport because it is very simple and cool. Except at the moment, it got kicked off the network and it's lone LED is flashing yellow at me.
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post #16 of 16 Old 04-26-2005, 06:17 AM
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Great point about the anlod/digital connection only allowing one to be used at any time. I actually thought is was pretty cool how they used a single plug for both Toslink and minijack; I've never seen that before, but you are right that it does limit the device. I had analog outputs used for about 5 months before I finally picked up an extra toslink cable. To be honest, I haven't noticed a big difference in most cases except where musif files are more than two channel.

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