McIntosh MX-121 - any thoughts? - Page 13 - AVS Forum
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post #361 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 05:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

Who wrote the review?

Michael Fremer. A colleague of yours perhaps?

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post #362 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 06:07 PM - Thread Starter
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I have the article. Great writeup, though brief.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mookie b View Post

"But despite the borrowed resources, in no way is the MX121 a repackaged AV7005."

And after that statement the article continued with, "the digital and analog audio boards, layout, power supply, and, of course, robust chassis construction - including machined aluminum side panels and the distinctive industrial design are pure McIntosh. Most Home Theater readers already know that, regardless of brand, everyone throughout the industry buys from a short list of audio and video-chip manufacturers. The key is how the chips are implemented."

It was quite a positive review, with special attention given to help disprove the ridiculous and expired theory that the guts are a 7005. The 121 is a "Home Theater Top Pick." The only borderline comment related to the chroma resolution where there was roll-off in the most extreme frequencies -- a common issue which only showed up in tests and won't have any negative visible consequences.

I have to say that I find it interesting that the poster above, who first quoted this article, ignored all of the information relevant to the readers of this thread and instead chose to post a meaningless graph in an effort to selectively isolate his own point, suggesting that 'we won't like this.' Quite the contrary, the article proves why such archaic (and strategic) efforts don't hold water.

The author also loved the multi-channel McIntosh amp (MC8207), giving it 5 of 5 stars and a glowing review.
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post #363 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 06:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mookie b View Post

Michael Fremer. A colleague of yours perhaps?

Yup. As with any review, knowing the reviewer allows you to assess its value. Mikey owns an AV7005 so he should know.

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post #364 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

The only borderline comment related to the chroma resolution where there was roll-off in the most extreme frequencies -- a common issue which only showed up in tests and won't have any negative visible consequences.

Could one of you guys explain this chroma problem for me. I know you said that this shouldn't have any negative consequences for viewing but after installing the mx121 I thought I noticed some loss of detail and reduced picture brightness on the video processing side even with the video processing on the mx121 turned off.
I also did a few A/B tests comparing the oppo bdp93 straight into the display versus through the mx121 and there was clearly a difference between the two with the oppo straight to the display looking better. Is it possible that this chroma roll off problem could account for these differences in picture quality? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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post #365 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 10:40 PM - Thread Starter
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I highly doubt that the issue he mentioned would have anything to do with your detail and brightness problem. All the article mentioned was that during a test (presumably by test equipment, not eyes) of the highest-level burst pattern a slight darkening was noticed. It went on to say that that should not have any visible consequences. I assume that the test extends beyond the realm of normal sight, as some tests do, or he wouldn't have said that it would have no visible consequences.

fwiw - my picture is improved by running it through the 121 and that's true for each input.

I wonder if your oppo is processing the signal, adding brightness and sharpening the image so that by comparison the 121 when bypassed looks different. I also wonder if your 2nd HDMI cable is faulty. Doubtful, but who knows. The explanation might be evasive but it's simple.
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post #366 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 10:58 PM
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I can't tell a difference when I go straight to my projector vs running it through the 121, with processing turned off.

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post #367 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 10:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

I highly doubt that the issue he mentioned would have anything to do with your detail and brightness problem. All the article mentioned was that during a test (presumably by test equipment, not eyes) of the highest-level burst pattern a slight darkening was noticed. It went on to say that that should not have any visible consequences. I assume that the test extends beyond the realm of normal sight, as some tests do, or he wouldn't have said that it would have no visible consequences.

fwiw - my picture is improved by running it through the 121 and that's true for each input.

I wonder if your oppo is processing the signal, adding brightness and sharpening the image so that by comparison the 121 when bypassed looks different. I also wonder if your 2nd HDMI cable is faulty. Doubtful, but who knows. The explanation might be evasive but it's simple.

I actually think this could be the problem. It isn't as if the whole image is darker but that there is loss of some details in the shadows, etc. which may could be explained by slight darkening due to the chroma roll off and is entirely consistent with the reported tests. I have some of these benchmark tests on disc, maybe I'll run then at some point when I have time and report back. It will be interesting to see if my eyes can perceive these differences.

As for the oppo it should be bit for bit perfect over hdmi as long as the video settings are not moved from default, which mine aren't.

Good point about the second hdmi cable. I have a few extras laying around so I guess I can try and see if it makes a difference.
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post #368 of 651 Old 05-09-2012, 11:45 PM - Thread Starter
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"Highest-level burst pattern" suggests that that particular test was focused on signals of the strongest intensity. Shadows would be on the opposite end of the spectrum. An extreme test of shadows wouldn't suffer from darkening, it would suffer from lightening. These things, and the fact that my 121 as well as mookie's are untouched when bypassed, suggest, but don't prove, that something else is at play in your case.
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post #369 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

"Highest-level burst pattern" suggests that that particular test was focused on signals of the strongest intensity. Shadows would be on the opposite end of the spectrum. An extreme test of shadows wouldn't suffer from darkening, it would suffer from lightening. These things, and the fact that my 121 as well as mookie's are untouched when bypassed, suggest, but don't prove, that something else is at play in your case.

From the spears and munsil test disc:

Chroma Multiburst
"This pattern has ten horizontal bursts in two rows of five on top, and ten vertical bursts in two rows of five on the bottom. The horizontal bursts show how well the video playback chain is reproducing horizontal chroma resolution, and the vertical bursts show how well the video playback chain is reproducing vertical chroma resolution.

For this pattern, look at the highest-frequency bursts, which are on the lower right of both the horizontal and vertical sections. They should have clear, bright colors that look identical to the colors in the other bursts. If the colors are muted, or the burst looks solid gray or any other color, it shows that chroma resolution is being lost during one of the upsampling conversions. If the horizontal burst is muted, that shows a problem in the 4:2:2->4:4:4 conversion. If the vertical burst is muted, that shows a problem in the 4:2:0->4:2:2 conversion."

Interestingly this problem seems to be common with this video board as there are numerous reports of this problem with the board from other manufacturers. Also it should be capable of being fixed as oppo has previously used this chipset and when tested had no problems with passing the chroma burst test patterns.
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post #370 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 05:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Run that test through the oppo, then (using the same HDMI cable) run it through the 121 with all processing off. Do the results vary?

I'd check for myself but the 121 is in a rack in the basement, nice and tidy, so swapping cables is too much work.
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post #371 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 05:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benmoree View Post

From the spears and munsil test disc:

Chroma Multiburst
"This pattern has ten horizontal bursts in two rows of five on top, and ten vertical bursts in two rows of five on the bottom. The horizontal bursts show how well the video playback chain is reproducing horizontal chroma resolution, and the vertical bursts show how well the video playback chain is reproducing vertical chroma resolution.

For this pattern, look at the highest-frequency bursts, which are on the lower right of both the horizontal and vertical sections. They should have clear, bright colors that look identical to the colors in the other bursts. If the colors are muted, or the burst looks solid gray or any other color, it shows that chroma resolution is being lost during one of the upsampling conversions. If the horizontal burst is muted, that shows a problem in the 4:2:2->4:4:4 conversion. If the vertical burst is muted, that shows a problem in the 4:2:0->4:2:2 conversion."

Interestingly this problem seems to be common with this video board as there are numerous reports of this problem with the board from other manufacturers. Also it should be capable of being fixed as oppo has previously used this chipset and when tested had no problems with passing the chroma burst test patterns.

I have that disc coming in the mail any day...I can check this as well from oppo straight to the projector and then through the 121. I'll post back. Like I said, I haven't noticed any difference in going through the 121 on TV and Blu-Ray...but maybe a test pattern will show something. I'll let you know.

P.S. I could just run my sources straight to my projector and skip the 121, but I really like/need/want the OSD showing volume so that's why I go through the 121. And of course its easier.

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post #372 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 05:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mookie b View Post


I have that disc coming in the mail any day...I can check this as well from oppo straight to the projector and then through the 121. I'll post back. Like I said, I haven't noticed any difference in going through the 121 on TV and Blu-Ray...but maybe a test pattern will show something. I'll let you know.

P.S. I could just run my sources straight to my projector and skip the 121, but I really like/need/want the OSD showing volume so that's why I go through the 121. And of course its easier.

I'll also check mine when I get back into town and report back.

I currently have my blu-ray player set to output deep color (36 bit) which uses 4:4:4. The chroma problem wouldn't show up using 4:2:2 scaling (non-deep color) so if you can do so with your player also check and see if things differ with deep color on or off.
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post #373 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 06:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benmoree View Post

I'll also check mine when I get back into town and report back.

I currently have my blu-ray player set to output deep color (36 bit) which uses 4:4:4. The chroma problem wouldn't show up using 4:2:2 scaling (non-deep color) so if you can do so with your player also check and see if things differ with deep color on or off.

Aren't 4:4:4/4:2:2 and deep color 2 different settings? I had an issue with my last HDMI cable run where I couldn't do 36 bit and deep color as well as 3d at the same time. Changing either the 36 bit and/or deep color allowed it to work.

Maybe my eyes are bad, but I don't notice a difference on any of those settings:
4:4:4 vs 4:2:2
Deep Color on or off
36 bit vs 30 bit dithered or whatever vs off

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post #374 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mookie b View Post


Aren't 4:4:4/4:2:2 and deep color 2 different settings? I had an issue with my last HDMI cable run where I couldn't do 36 bit and deep color as well as 3d at the same time. Changing either the 36 bit and/or deep color allowed it to work.

Maybe my eyes are bad, but I don't notice a difference on any of those settings:
4:4:4 vs 4:2:2
Deep Color on or off
36 bit vs 30 bit dithered or whatever vs off

That's my mistake, you are right about that. That is what I get for replying to the message while trying to watch a baseball game.

As for 4:4:4 vs 4:2:2 and deep color I have never noticed a difference with my display between any of those settings as well. However I have never used a test disc to examine if there were differences between those settings as well. I've only examined them with playback of various source materials and couldn't see any noticeable changes. Anyway keep us updated as to what you found out with the spears and munsil disc.
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post #375 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 07:40 PM
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So would this serve both purpose-movies and music? Or how would it compare with the Classse SSP-800?
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post #376 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 07:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maison View Post

So would this serve both purpose-movies and music? Or how would it compare with the Classse SSP-800?

That was the other one I was looking at. I mainly decided to go Mac because it's an American company, quite a bit less $$ and it runs a lot cooler than a full classe setup and that was a concern since my stuff is in a closet.

And the blue lights are cool.

P.S.
I bet the classe is a little better on 2 channel...

P.P.S. spears and munsil disc is at my house. I'll play with it after the laker game.

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post #377 of 651 Old 05-10-2012, 09:46 PM - Thread Starter
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I haven't read any comparisons of the 121 and Classe, but those who put the 150 against the Classe most often preferred the Classe for 2-channel.
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post #378 of 651 Old 05-12-2012, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benmoree View Post

That's my mistake, you are right about that. That is what I get for replying to the message while trying to watch a baseball game.

As for 4:4:4 vs 4:2:2 and deep color I have never noticed a difference with my display between any of those settings as well. However I have never used a test disc to examine if there were differences between those settings as well. I've only examined them with playback of various source materials and couldn't see any noticeable changes. Anyway keep us updated as to what you found out with the spears and munsil disc.

I ran through a bunch of test patterns and didn't see anything that stuck out switching between going from the oppo to the projector vs going through the 121.

I didn't do as much with the hdmi settings listed above though yet...

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post #379 of 651 Old 05-12-2012, 12:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mookie b View Post


I ran through a bunch of test patterns and didn't see anything that stuck out switching between going from the oppo to the projector vs going through the 121.

I didn't do as much with the hdmi settings listed above though yet...

That's good to hear. I'm particularly interested to see what happens when deep color is turned off and on or when the chroma sub sampling is changed. I'll give mine a test when I get back on Monday.
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post #380 of 651 Old 05-12-2012, 10:20 PM - Thread Starter
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There are many opportunities to suck the life out of audio as it travels through our digital world - it's good to know where that's happening so we can avoid it. That brings me to a couple of questions about Airplay:

-when music is streamed from a computer (WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, etc.) to the 121 via Airplay, does Airplay down-sample the audio at any point along the way? Is it compressed, or does it remain intact?

-when music is streamed from the iCloud (through an iPhone or iPad, etc.) to the 121 via Airplay, is the audio down-sampled at any point?

I'm trying to settle into the best quick-listen scenario. I can stream directly from my phone, or I can use the phone as a remote for the iTunes library of a Mac that's connected directly to the 121. Certainly the 2nd scenario will sound great, but there's clear degradation with the 1st scenario and I'm trying to understand exactly what's happening. Apple must certainly limit the bandwidth to iPhones and iPads, devices less likely to need audiophile quality, but to what extent? My guess is that the audio comes from the iCloud into the phone as 44.1/16 AAC. Does Airplay then dumb it down further?
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post #381 of 651 Old 05-12-2012, 10:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Silly me. I should have checked Wiki, which is where I went next.

The Wiki document speaks to the Airplay protocol, but not iCloud streaming. About Airplay:

"The AirTunes part of the AirPlay protocol stack uses UDP for streaming audio and is based on the RTSP network control protocol. The streams are transcoded using the Apple Lossless codec with 44100 Hz and 2 channels encrypted with AES, requiring the receiver to have access to the appropriate private key to decrypt the streams."

So it passes incoming signals in the Apple Lossless format (ALAC), which is good, though not higher than 44.1 KHz.

I believe this translates to iCloud music as well. iCloud music is 256 AAC. I'll assume that when my phone requests a song from the cloud and pushes it to the 121 via Airplay that the 256K AAC file is trans-coded to Apple Lossless at the same sample rate, essentially leaving it at the 256K AAC quality, nothing worse. UNLESS...

Unless the process of decoding an AAC file and converting to ALAC introduces something new. It would be somewhat analogous to converting MP3s (another lossy format) to WAV, which can cause additional artifacts depending on the integrity of the decompressor and encoder.

So my question now is:

AAC --> ALAC? Any additional artifacts in the process?
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post #382 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 04:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

any point along the way? Is it compressed, or does it remain intact?

-when music is streamed from the iCloud (through an iPhone or iPad, etc.) to the 121 via Airplay, is the audio down-sampled at any point?

I'm trying to settle into the best quick-listen scenario. I can stream directly from my phone, or I can use the phone as a remote for the iTunes library of a Mac that's connected directly to the 121. Certainly the 2nd scenario will sound great, but there's clear degradation with the 1st scenario and I'm trying to understand exactly what's happening. Apple must certainly limit the bandwidth to iPhones and iPads, devices less likely to need audiophile quality, but to what extent? My guess is that the audio comes from the iCloud into the phone as 44.1/16 AAC. Does Airplay then dumb it down further?

I certainly hope it doesn't dumb it down more. In fact, it would be good if the MX121 could do digital audio at higher than 44.1/16 - but I haven't seen anything to suggest that it does. Also - is it limited to 44.1/16 for movies as well or does this only apply to sources going through the USB hub?
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post #383 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 02:47 PM
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I just ordered the mx121 and the mc8207. I'm upgrading my home theatre. I am really looking forward to setting it up.
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post #384 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

I haven't read any comparisons of the 121 and Classe, but those who put the 150 against the Classe most often preferred the Classe for 2-channel.

If, by 2-channel, you mean using an analog source, that's no surprise since the 150 re-digitizes all analog inputs. It does it very well but nobody's perfect.

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post #385 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 02:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javry View Post

it would be good if the MX121 could do digital audio at higher than 44.1/16 - but I haven't seen anything to suggest that it does.

The 121 does digital audio at rates far above 44/16, but Airplay does not. Airplay is limited to 44/16.
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post #386 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

There are many opportunities to suck the life out of audio as it travels through our digital world - it's good to know where that's happening so we can avoid it. That brings me to a couple of questions about Airplay:

-when music is streamed from a computer (WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, etc.) to the 121 via Airplay, does Airplay down-sample the audio at any point along the way? Is it compressed, or does it remain intact?

-when music is streamed from the iCloud (through an iPhone or iPad, etc.) to the 121 via Airplay, is the audio down-sampled at any point?

I'm trying to settle into the best quick-listen scenario. I can stream directly from my phone, or I can use the phone as a remote for the iTunes library of a Mac that's connected directly to the 121. Certainly the 2nd scenario will sound great, but there's clear degradation with the 1st scenario and I'm trying to understand exactly what's happening. Apple must certainly limit the bandwidth to iPhones and iPads, devices less likely to need audiophile quality, but to what extent? My guess is that the audio comes from the iCloud into the phone as 44.1/16 AAC. Does Airplay then dumb it down further?

Its not limited iCloud would be the same for all, I would add a mac (i use a new mac mini i7 with ssd silent and very little power usage) and control it using one of the remote apps (iPad, iPhone,iPad) for best output in my opinion use the optical out and something like pure-music from channel-d.

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post #387 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 03:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

If, by 2-channel, you mean using an analog source, that's no surprise since the 150 re-digitizes all analog inputs. It does it very well but nobody's perfect.

The 121's Pure Direct mode bypasses all digital processing, but I don't know if it can take an analog input and avoid all A/Ds and D/As entirely. Whaddyathink, Kal? Do these Macs have a true analog-only mode?
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post #388 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 03:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elbig View Post

I just ordered the mx121 and the mc8207. I'm upgrading my home theatre. I am really looking forward to setting it up.

Cool, congrats! I just did the same thing but got the 5 channel amp since I'm only running a 5.2 setup...

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post #389 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post

The 121 does digital audio at rates far above 44/16, but Airplay does not. Airplay is limited to 44/16.

The bridgeCo card inside the 121 probably had this limit, the protocol itself doesn't have any of these limits hardcoded in as far as i know. Airplay (not just AirTunes) can handle enough bandwidth to stream full 1080hd/mirroring/audio so it is able to send lots of bits if your network can handle it.

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post #390 of 651 Old 05-15-2012, 03:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by danielo View Post

Its not limited iCloud would be the same for all, I would add a mac (i use a new mac mini i7 with ssd silent and very little power usage) and control it using one of the remote apps (iPad, iPhone,iPad) for best output in my opinion use the optical out and something like pure-music from channel-d.

Daniel.

Mac-to-121 is the best scenario, as I mentioned, and that's what I use, but for quick and easy listening I needed to understand all that Airplay was doing. My post which follows the one you quoted answered those questions.
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