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Sound quality: Airplay vs DLNA (vs Sonos) dilemma

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I have a Denon AVR-2113 (soon to be upgraded to a AVR-X4000 when it becomes available) and always listened to music via iTunes on my iMac streaming to the build-in Airplay of the Denon.

After upgrading my speakers I became interested in re-ripping my CD's in better quality. When I was testing/comparing/converting FLAC to ALAC I made a discovery that all music files played directly into the receiver via DLNA (Plex on iMac) sounded way better than the same files via iTunes/Airplay! Much more open sounding, better stereo imaging, more brilliant, tighter bass.
(The sound enhancer and EQ in iTunes are disabled)


While iTunes is a dream when it comes to managing, controlling and browsing the music, via DNLA to the Denon is an absolute horror.
Slow browsing, Tracks not in the right order, no support for double CD's, no pause, no fast-forward or rewind, not even a stop button on the remote control.

Questions:
Can you recommend a (free) DLNA server software that allows the browsing/controlling on the Denon to be more convenient?
Would a dedicated NAS do that and if yes which one is recommend?
Would a Sonos Connect be a solution to keep the nice user interface and does it have a better sound quality than iTunes/Airplay?

Thanks!!! :-)
post #2 of 18
You mean the same ALAC/M4A sounds much better through DLNA than Airplay, that is a strange one for sure.

The only one I personally know of on OSX is XBMC, that has a Play Using feature in it's context menu but XBMC isn't really meant to be used like iTunes it's meant for big screens like TV's.

Songbird was an attempt at an open source iTunes, the desktop client is still available and there is what looks like some sort of DLNA speaker selection.
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alx330 View Post

You mean the same ALAC/M4A sounds much better through DLNA than Airplay, that is a strange one for sure.

Indeed, that's exactly what I mean to my own astonishment....
post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by john bass View Post

I have a Denon AVR-2113 (soon to be upgraded to a AVR-X4000 when it becomes available) and always listened to music via iTunes on my iMac streaming to the build-in Airplay of the Denon.

After upgrading my speakers I became interested in re-ripping my CD's in better quality. When I was testing/comparing/converting FLAC to ALAC

Can you recommend a (free) DLNA server software that allows the browsing/controlling on the Denon to be more convenient?
Would a dedicated NAS do that and if yes which one is recommend?
Would a Sonos Connect be a solution to keep the nice user interface and does it have a better sound quality than iTunes/Airplay?

Thanks!!! :-)

Most DLNA-compliant devices (TV, AVRs) are not very user friendly. This is a reason DLNA streamers like WD TV Live and Squeezebox have become so popular. Unfortunately many do not support ALAC. WD doesn't, Squeezebox does. It is also very unfortunate that Logitech has now EOL the Squeezebox, it's a wonderful little device (I have two) with great remote control apps for tablets and smartphones.

There are several DLNA servers that can be controlled via smartphone/tablet that you may want to check out. Serviio, Plex, Twonky come immediately to mind. Whether they support mac or alac I'm not sure, but if you still have your FLAC source files just about everything will support FLAC.
post #5 of 18
The wife and I are very partial to our Sonos however I can't compare it to Airplay for sound quality since prior to the Sonos I only ever played iTunes on little bookshelf speakers connected to my laptop. I tried through my blu ray player but as with most DLNA players it wouldn't play ALAC. FWIW though I was able to try MOG through both DLNA and Sonos and didn't notice any difference in quality between them.

My suggestion would buy the Sonos Connect, test it at home, and return it if it doesn't seem worth the cost to you. You can control it through your PC but much better would be to get any cheap NAS like a WD MyBookLive to store your music on that and then control via the Sonos app for your smart phone or tablet. It's also a great multi-room solution if you want to expand and play your music all over the house since you can just add Sonos components that will sync wirelessly with each other as long as one of them remains hardwired to your router. That's a particularly cool feature to have for parties when we're constantly moving between the house, back yard, etc and it still impresses our luddite friends to see us just whip out our phones to change the music without having to get up out of our chairs.

I've upgraded just about every element of our AV setup over the past couple years including adding an HTPC and 5.1 surround speakers and for us nothing has been a better upgrade so far than the Sonos. So YMMV but if you listen to a lot of music I don't think you'd be disappointed.
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador View Post

The wife and I are very partial to our Sonos however I can't compare it to Airplay for sound quality since prior to the Sonos I only ever played iTunes on little bookshelf speakers connected to my laptop. I tried through my blu ray player but as with most DLNA players it wouldn't play ALAC. FWIW though I was able to try MOG through both DLNA and Sonos and didn't notice any difference in quality between them.

My suggestion would buy the Sonos Connect, test it at home, and return it if it doesn't seem worth the cost to you. You can control it through your PC but much better would be to get any cheap NAS like a WD MyBookLive to store your music on that and then control via the Sonos app for your smart phone or tablet. It's also a great multi-room solution if you want to expand and play your music all over the house since you can just add Sonos components that will sync wirelessly with each other as long as one of them remains hardwired to your router. That's a particularly cool feature to have for parties when we're constantly moving between the house, back yard, etc and it still impresses our luddite friends to see us just whip out our phones to change the music without having to get up out of our chairs.

I've upgraded just about every element of our AV setup over the past couple years including adding an HTPC and 5.1 surround speakers and for us nothing has been a better upgrade so far than the Sonos. So YMMV but if you listen to a lot of music I don't think you'd be disappointed.


+1 for the Sonos/NAS combo it's a fantastic music solution with seemless expandability being a major plus.
post #7 of 18
Hi John,
Quote:
Originally Posted by john bass View Post

. . . When I was testing/comparing/converting FLAC to ALAC I made a discovery that all music files played directly into the receiver via DLNA (Plex on iMac) sounded way better than the same files via iTunes/Airplay! Much more open sounding, better stereo imaging, more brilliant, tighter bass. . .
Does your Denon manual tell you which file formats are supported over DLNA? Since FLAC and ALAC are not yet an officially supported profile within DLNA, most players will have the server transcode on-the-fly to MP3. A few players support FLAC (as an un-official extension), but I've yet to see one that supports ALAC. I haven't looked at Plex on iMac, and it should likely support ALAC, but that won't prevent Plex from transcoding to MP3 unless the Denon also supported ALAC over DLNA.

Plex should be able to tell you which DLNA profile it is streaming. Most DLNA servers stuff that information into a log file.
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all your reactions!

My Denon AVR supports both FLAC and ALAC over DLNA.

In resumé what I tested was:
FLAC file over Denon DLNA -> Perfect
ALAC file converted from the same FLAC file over Denon DLNA -> perfect
(same) ALAC file via iTunes over Denon built-in Airplay -> less quality

As a conclusion would I be correct in saying that:
- (Built-in) Airplay is nice for casual listening streaming from your iPod/iPhone/iPad but not for serious hifi listening?
- Sonos Connect to AVR is/would be very suitable for hifi listening (bitperfect)?

Unfortunately here in Belgium we don't have return/money back policies in our shops so testing is somewhat difficult.... :-/
Edited by john bass - 5/3/13 at 1:31am
post #9 of 18

I have a question too guys. I want to get into streaming music throughout my apartment. I can not figure out which route to take and I need help. I heard Airplay does not have terrific sound quality and there are dropouts and clicks. I want to set up a premium system. I also DO NOT want to have my computer open all of the time. I have an iPhone and and iPad and I would rather use these devices to access my music listings which are ripped using Apple Lossless. 

 

So what about Sonos? Well, I listened to their Play3 and Play5 speakers and I was underwhelmed. I don't want to go this route either. But maybe there is a way I could still use Sonos Connect with some kick-ass audiophile speakers. So can I put my music on an external hard drive and connect it to the Sonos Connect? I have about 160 GB's of ALAC files. Why can't I put my music files on a USB Flash Drive and plug that into the Sonos Connect? Finally, what do I have to attach to the speakers so that the speakers can sync with the Connect? 

 

I have not made any moves in buying anything because I am just so confused about this subject. I want to set-up three sets of speakers, one for my bedroom with use of my TV, one in my system in my kitchen, and another in the family room. 

post #10 of 18
Here is what I use:

1. Twonky Media Server (available on Mac and PC for $20 or 15EUR)
2. Files stored on a raid array connected to my PC in the office (Flac, ALAC, MP3, DSD/DFF)
3. Wifi extender in the living room connected to my OPPO (but I could just as easily connect it to my AV Receiver directly

This allows me to browse my library and play files of any format and any resolution (flac/wav up to 24bit / 192 kHz, and also DSD/DFF files).

I can browse the library on my Ipad (not perfectly but doable) and easily on my TV screen as well.

The Sonos system I have seen (in my brother's house) does not play anything above 16bit / 44.1kHz.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by john bass View Post

Thank you for all your reactions!

My Denon AVR supports both FLAC and ALAC over DLNA.

In resumé what I tested was:
FLAC file over Denon DLNA -> Perfect
ALAC file converted from the same FLAC file over Denon DLNA -> perfect
(same) ALAC file via iTunes over Denon built-in Airplay -> less quality ...

AIUI, AirPlay converts to ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) if necessary using a 44100 khz sampling rate for transmission between sender and receiver. Is it possible that your source material was originally used another sample rate? If so, the resampling might account for the quality difference.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AirPlay#Protocols

Craig
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
In the end I went with the Sonos Connect. Soundquality is better then the built-in Airplay of the Denon receiver and it does have the advantage of not having to have my MAC powered on to be able to listen to music. Also when I put my media on my NAS, iTunes becomes painfully and unusably slow compared to having the media on my internal harddrive.
The Sonos interface is very good but still not as good as the album view of iTunes, which is still my favorite. The album art is very very tiny on my iPad in the Sonos application.

I guess the Sonos is also converting/resampling all the media just as Airplay does. The display of my Audiolab MDAC always displays 16bit/44.100hz no matter what type of file or bitrate I throw at it.
post #13 of 18
I am interested in your findings! So you were able to put the Connect system in and use your NAS with out a PC powered on at all? Wonderful! I have run into issues with airplay making my volume on the marantz unit I have stick and not go past -6 and it is about to drive me insane. Looking for higher quality streaming is basically my number one priority at this point to hopefully remedy this and avoid airplay altogether. I do LOVE the simplicity of the appleTV, airplay, iphone controlability. it is pretty tough to beat
post #14 of 18
Hi Beast,
Quote:
Originally Posted by beastaudio View Post

. . . Looking for higher quality streaming is basically my number one priority at this point to hopefully remedy this and avoid airplay altogether. I do LOVE the simplicity of the appleTV, airplay, iphone controlability. it is pretty tough to beat
If you don't mind being on the bleeding edge (and I know you don't), then you may want to try this: http://volumio.org/

I'm on location now, but I will try it on my BeagleBone Black when I get home. The Beaglebone hardware is only $45, and it will connect to your Ethernet to access your library, to your AVR using HDMI, and is controlled from your phone, tablet or PC.

I heard that they are currently working on synchronized playback, which will put it in the same league as Sonos and Airplay, but with support for higher bit-rates.
post #15 of 18
Sounds fun, but I have NO idea what i am even looking at right there! That in itself gives me cause for concern. Is that an HTPC type board? If that is the case, I don't use HTPC at this point and am not really looking into it at this point. Thanks for the suggestions though Mark, and yes, bleeding edge is fun, IF I am actually able to understand it!!!
post #16 of 18
Hi Beast,

Yeah, I just looked at that site again, from the perspective of someone seeing it with no other introduction. It does assume you know what it is they are offering. My Texas Instruments salesman pointed me to it, so I already knew what it was about. I will attempt an explanation:

First, Volumio.org is an open source audio project. It is a bunch of programmers who decided to create their own audio player software, similar to FooBar, Winamp and the rest of the PC-based audio players. The difference is that, rather than a PC, it is designed for pre-built, low-cost hardware platforms, like the Rasberry-Pi. The software is built for each platform, and it looks like they have five platforms so far. The software, being open-source, is a free download.

The software is designed to be controlled over the network (wired or wireless) from a PC, tablet or phone, it is designed to play all audio formats and all resolutions, and it is designed to access your library either over the network or from a local drive. Since my library is on my NAS, a Ethernet-to-HDMI device is perfect for me.

Of the five hardware platforms that they currently support, I will be trying the BeagleBone Black, simply because I have a bunch of them already. It's a $45 credit-card size Linux computer with Ethernet, HDMI, USB (both host and device), micro SD card and a lot of expandability. Some of those hardware platforms also have S/PDIF and/or analog outputs. The prices vary, but all are a lot cheaper than a PC solution.

So this is my scenario:
I load the software ($0) onto a BeagleBone Black ($45). I stuff the BeagleBone and it's 5volt wall-wart behind the AVR. I plug the Ethernet into the BeagleBone, and it's HDMI into the AVR. I then browse my library and play my music using my iPad as a controller.
post #17 of 18
Well makes way more sense now! Thanks for the explanation! Sounds pretty straightforward but what I keep seeing is an NAS device of some sort just seems like a good starting point in general. I will look more into this and go from there. Thanks again for the insight though!
post #18 of 18
Hi Beast,
Quote:
. . . what I keep seeing is an NAS device of some sort just seems like a good starting point in general.
Yes. I started with the NAS as well, playing the music on PCs.

Although all of those platforms also support having your music library on an USB disc or flash-drive, and most people seem to use it that way, I find maintaining my library much easier over the network, without having to resort to sneaker-net.
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