2 channel Airplay setup - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 02-05-2014, 03:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone, I'm looking for your opinion.
I recently purchased a set of Definitive Technology BP8Bs. The intention is to use them for 2 channel music play. I want my system to be Airplay enabled, as all my music is either on my Mac or my iPhone. High quality playback is important to me.

I have come up with a few options:
1. Apple Airport Express ($99) - steady connection
Sony STRDH130 ($130) - simple 2 channel amp
--> cheapest option
--> lowest audio quality

2. Apple Airport Express ($99)
Yamaha RX-V375 or V373 ($200) - better amp, with Burr Brown DAC

3. Sony STRDN840 ($450)
Has built in wifi and Airplay (95w)

4. Denon DRA-N5 ($499)
Compact unit, but low power output (65w)

The AE option is appealing because of price and good connectivity. However, I'm not sure about audio quality.
The other options are pricey, but everything is in one unit.
As you can see, the max I would like to spend is around $500.
I did think about AE --> DAC --> receiver, but I think that option would cost even more.

Your opinions?
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post #2 of 20 Old 02-05-2014, 03:58 PM
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You can get either the Denon AVR-X1000 or Denon AVR-1713 for under $500 that has plenty of power, Airplay enabled AND Audyssey MultEQ XT. Make sure your source music is good or else it will just sound bad. Remember, crap in = crap out. The better your audio system is, the more obvious that crap will sound like crap.
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post #3 of 20 Old 02-05-2014, 05:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. I should have noted that if I were to go with one receiver with Airplay, that it is wifi enabled. The two good suggestions made above both require ethernet cable.
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post #4 of 20 Old 02-05-2014, 06:27 PM
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Friend of mine uses option 1 ...Airport express and Hk 3490 (120wpc) stereo receiver that works very well.
I see they have a couple of new models HK3770 that replaces the 3490 and the HK3700
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post #5 of 20 Old 02-05-2014, 08:29 PM
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The airport express has a digital out, so the output quality is dependent on your receiver's DAC. It's a combined plug that does both analog and digital.
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post #6 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 04:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ae82gtm View Post

Thanks for the reply. I should have noted that if I were to go with one receiver with Airplay, that it is wifi enabled. The two good suggestions made above both require ethernet cable.

You can use either a wireless router in "bridge" mode or use Powerline adapters to connect the X1000 or 1713 to your home's wifi router.

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post #7 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 06:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ae82gtm View Post

Thanks for the reply. I should have noted that if I were to go with one receiver with Airplay, that it is wifi enabled. The two good suggestions made above both require ethernet cable.

Yeah, folks say that, but then they suffer the hassles of trying to forever deal with wifi hassles. Pulling wire is undoubtedly cheaper/easier over the long term. Don't cripple the reasons you want the functionality solely based on being unwilling to run a little wire...

As JD points out there are gizmos that will bridge between wired and wifi. Those will allow you to plug wired ethernet devices into them and then handle making the wifi connection. That adds one more device to buy, configure, babysit and maintain. But it does let you use a wired device.

And in the cases where people claim wiring "isn't possible" most of them are among the WORST situations for wireless hassles. As in, rental apartments. There you're VERY likely to have dozens of conflicting wifi networks, all battling for bandwidth. While I'm no fan of them for those I'd suggest considering powerline bridges instead. Or perhaps MOCA (network over coax cable).

So don't limit your selections just on demanding built-in wifi.
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post #8 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 07:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worf View Post

The airport express has a digital out, so the output quality is dependent on your receiver's DAC. It's a combined plug that does both analog and digital.

Yes, if I was to go with an AE, I would use the digital out... and hence the importance of a Receiver with a good DAC. Any suggestions?
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post #9 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 08:05 AM
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Which, of course, depends on whatever you're streaming into the AE. Don't get all worked up about the output without first being sure you know what source material you're going to being sending through it. Make sure you're dealing with known quality lossless material. Just because it's in ALAC format doesn't mean it's any good. It's entirely possible to deliver poorly mastered material in a shiny wrapper... as duc pointed out before "crap in = crap out".

Bearing in mind, of course, that the Airplay format is going to be the choke point for whatever source encoding is involved. Unless the source is already in one of Apple's proprietary formats it's going to get transcoded into one of them. A process through which quality is often impacted (usually negatively).

So there's quite a lot more to obsess about WELL before the output DAC gets involved...

Meanwhile, there's also devices like the Myro:Air: (but who knows if/when it'll actually ship...)
http://www.myrocontrol.com/myroair/
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post #10 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 10:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the comments, all very good information.

Did some more browsing today and found this: Onkyo A-9050.
2 Channel integrated amp with built in DAC.
http://www.crutchfield.com/p_580A9050/Onkyo-A-9050.html

Tried looking around the net and this forum for people's comments/review but couldn't find much.
Seems like a home run. An amp with a decent DAC.
Of course, for $300 odd, you can also buy an AVR instead.

Any thoughts?
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post #11 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 10:22 AM
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something wrong with this?

"The classic Harman Kardon home stereo setup is time-tested to perfection," said Michael Mauser, president, Lifestyle Division, HARMAN. "With the HK 3770 and 3700, we've brought the technology into the new millennium, with home stereo receivers that have built-in, state-of-the-art wireless connectivity for the way listeners use networks and mobile devices."


The high-performance Harman Kardon HK 3770 and 3700 stereo receivers deliver everything needed to set up a classic home audio system, now updated with modern connectivity for analog and digital devices. They deliver 240 watts and 170 watts, respectively, of ultra-low distortion power. Their built-in 192 kHz/24-bit DAC provides the powerful core that's essential for any serious audio system. These new receivers are all about connectivity, as well, loaded with wireless and wired ways to sync all your old and new devices to all that powerful sound. The Harman Kardon HK 3770 and 3700 receivers are designed and built to become the rock-solid centerpiece of any home audio system.

Harman Kardon HK 3770 Stereo Receiver

240 watts of power in a stereo receiver dedicated to complete connectivity for all kinds of devices. The Harman Kardon HK 3770 stereo receiver is ready to drive any home audio system, with digital-to-analog conversion by a built-in 192 kHz/24 bit DAC. Built-in Ethernet provides a solid connection to home networks, with access to all local content over DLNA 1.5. Or connect a storage device or any Apple iOS device via USB. Bluetooth is included for high-quality audio streaming from a broad range of devices. Rounding out the picture is built-in AM/FM radio and phono inputs, making the Harman Kardon HK 3770 the perfect bridge between classic and modern audio.
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post #12 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 10:35 AM
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What're you going to use for volume control? IIRC, when using the digital out on the AE there's no volume slider.

Then there's the question of the DAC in the two different versions of the AE:
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/466-measurements-first-and-second-generation-apple-airport-express/

This leads to me think an AVR with an embedded Airplay feature might be worth considering.

Also note, as you increase the bitrate (and presumably quality) of the source signal you do run into the potential to overwhelm the capacity of a wireless network's bandwidth. Yet another reason to feed it to a wired device from a wired source.

Even more so if the source is streamed or you're playing from a networked device. As in, straight from a Mac with the media on a local disk or tracks stored right on the iDevice (burning up battery in the process) only uses network bandwidth once. Pull it from a streamed source or a network drive and now you require twice the bandwidth (once to get it and the second time to send it to the AE).

As an aside, this is where gizmos like the Chromecast stand to be an interesting item. The device itself pulls the content from the source, you don't stream to it (unless for some reason you want to use 'casting' from a browser). You use your device to send instructions to the CC and it does the work. It'll certainly be interesting to see what develops now that they've made an SDK available for it. Might make for an interesting alternative to an Airport Express if there's more codec options available...
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post #13 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 11:15 AM
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I use a similar setup for the bedroom system. All the music is on the Mac, stored in Apple Lossless format, and I use the Remote app to control iTunes from wherever i happen to be. The volume slider on the remote app is available irrespective of whether the Airport Express uses analog or digital out.

Data from the Airport Express then goes into one of these cheap outboard DACs, and from there into a Topping tripath amp. It works well enough for a small room.

Now to be frank, part of what drove this was budget -- I already had the AE and a set of Klipsch Quartets that weren't doing anything, and I had a $100 Amazon gift card, so this was more of a "What can I get that would be different and fun for a hundred bucks?" kind of adventure than a "What would I do if I could do whatever?" one. I really doubt the $30 outboard DAC is any better (or any worse) than what you'll find in any newish receiver, so an AE -> DAC -> amp/receiver is functionally equivalent to a receiver with Airplay built in.

tl;dr -- Assuming the same input, they're all going to sound basically the same so do whatever will be the most fun.
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post #14 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ducky6 View Post

something wrong with this?

"The classic Harman Kardon home stereo setup is time-tested to perfection," said Michael Mauser, president, Lifestyle Division, HARMAN. "With the HK 3770 and 3700, we've brought the technology into the new millennium, with home stereo receivers that have built-in, state-of-the-art wireless connectivity for the way listeners use networks and mobile devices."


The high-performance Harman Kardon HK 3770 and 3700 stereo receivers deliver everything needed to set up a classic home audio system, now updated with modern connectivity for analog and digital devices. They deliver 240 watts and 170 watts, respectively, of ultra-low distortion power. Their built-in 192 kHz/24-bit DAC provides the powerful core that's essential for any serious audio system. These new receivers are all about connectivity, as well, loaded with wireless and wired ways to sync all your old and new devices to all that powerful sound. The Harman Kardon HK 3770 and 3700 receivers are designed and built to become the rock-solid centerpiece of any home audio system.

Harman Kardon HK 3770 Stereo Receiver

240 watts of power in a stereo receiver dedicated to complete connectivity for all kinds of devices. The Harman Kardon HK 3770 stereo receiver is ready to drive any home audio system, with digital-to-analog conversion by a built-in 192 kHz/24 bit DAC. Built-in Ethernet provides a solid connection to home networks, with access to all local content over DLNA 1.5. Or connect a storage device or any Apple iOS device via USB. Bluetooth is included for high-quality audio streaming from a broad range of devices. Rounding out the picture is built-in AM/FM radio and phono inputs, making the Harman Kardon HK 3770 the perfect bridge between classic and modern audio.

Those are good suggestions. I don't think those are available yet... I just checked HK's website.
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post #15 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 01:03 PM
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I would still recommend one of the Denon units and add a cheap wireless access point for it. The Denons have Audyssey MultEQ XT which will help greatly with rooms with bad acoustics.
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post #16 of 20 Old 02-06-2014, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post

Bearing in mind, of course, that the Airplay format is going to be the choke point for whatever source encoding is involved. Unless the source is already in one of Apple's proprietary formats it's going to get transcoded into one of them. A process through which quality is often impacted (usually negatively).

There's no quality loss sending audio via AirPlay. The transfer format is ALAC, (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) which as its name says, is lossless. So your quality is limited by the source material. No different than sending audio vla FLAC or other lossless format.

(FYI - ALAC is probably the most "proprietary" of formats, though it's also a part of the AAC spec, which is not proprietary at all).

AirPlay is not like Bluetooth.
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post #17 of 20 Old 02-07-2014, 05:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worf View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post

Bearing in mind, of course, that the Airplay format is going to be the choke point for whatever source encoding is involved. Unless the source is already in one of Apple's proprietary formats it's going to get transcoded into one of them. A process through which quality is often impacted (usually negatively).

There's no quality loss sending audio via AirPlay. The transfer format is ALAC, (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) which as its name says, is lossless. So your quality is limited by the source material. No different than sending audio vla FLAC or other lossless format.

(FYI - ALAC is probably the most "proprietary" of formats, though it's also a part of the AAC spec, which is not proprietary at all).

AirPlay is not like Bluetooth.

Airplay uses UDP, so there's plenty of potential for dropouts, especially over wireless connections at higher bitrates. If the source material is not already in the format the device uses it will get transcoded before sending. Any time you transcode you alter the signal, and this rarely results in anything resembling improvement. This means you'd be forced to obtain material in a proprietary format, limiting it's playback on other devices not also forced to use and pay to license the proprietary materials. Whereas open formats like FLAC and CELT/Opus are unencumbered by predatory corporate practices.
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post #18 of 20 Old 02-07-2014, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post

Airplay uses UDP, so there's plenty of potential for dropouts, especially over wireless connections at higher bitrates. If the source material is not already in the format the device uses it will get transcoded before sending. Any time you transcode you alter the signal, and this rarely results in anything resembling improvement. This means you'd be forced to obtain material in a proprietary format, limiting it's playback on other devices not also forced to use and pay to license the proprietary materials. Whereas open formats like FLAC and CELT/Opus are unencumbered by predatory corporate practices.

Except you're transcoding to basically raw PCM, just compressed with a lossless codec. There will be no loss of quality because it's decoded and then losslessly compressed. It's decided to PCM on your computer. Unless you want to argue that playing the audio on your PC changes the quality because it's transcoded to PCM. That audio is then compressed to ALAC, losslessly to lower network bandwidth requirements. You're going to have a hard time convincing me that transcoding to FLAC degrades quality - both are lossless.

You're right about UDP, but that's for real time performance. Yes you'll get dropouts but it'll recover faster than using TCP.

I think you're letting your Apple hatred color your thinking. It doesn't matter if your source material is MP3, AAC, ALAC, FLAC, PCM, whatever. AirPlay will not degrade the quality as it's losslessly compressed when it's sent to the AirPlay receiver. The source decodes the format and re-encodes it losslessly. If you lose quality doing this, your decoder is faulty because it's exactly the same as playing back the audio - it's converted to PCM.
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post #19 of 20 Old 02-11-2014, 12:41 PM
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post #20 of 20 Old 02-11-2014, 01:08 PM
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This was my solution. I bought a refurb, the cd drawer would not open and air play was wonky but they took care if it under warranty. Works like a champ and drives my inefficient Dynaudios effortlessly.

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