I've compared this using a Chord Blu Transport and Airport Express into a Chord DAC64. Without the buffer (i.e. jitter reduction) circuitry turned on, the transport had a deeper, richer sound. Engaged the buffer up to 4 seconds and you'd be hard pressed to tell the two apart. Three people were in the room (including the Chord dealer) and we all agreed the Airport Express with a top-quality DAC changes the landscape in high-end audio. Source was both Apple Lossless and direct from CD through iTunes on an IBM Thinkpad T42.
In the end, I wound up using a USB extender to an M-Audio Audiophile USB with coaxial out into a Musical Fidelity A3.2/24 DAC. The Chord was a great unit, but I just didn't want to spend that much as my system is still in experimental mode.
Ghunter - many thanks for the information - this is exactly the kind of information I'm looking for. Its wonder to hear that a computer streaming music to an Airport Express can compete with a high end transport like the Chord Blu transport!!
I've heard the Chord DAC64 and agree that it is very special. It is interesting that the DAC sounded better without the 4 second buffer - when I heard it it seemed to sound richer and fuller bodied with the buffer - but the transport used was an Arcam CD player - I'm sure that the Chord Blu Transport takes it to a whole new level.
Once again, many thanks for the information and all the very best in your journey to audio nirvana.
All the best,
i have had similar positive experience using airport express into emm labs dcc-2 sounded almost as good as the
cd/sd transport so good that i sold the $6000 transport
Tfl303 - that's excellent information!! The EMM Labs DCC-2 is one of the DAC's I'm seriously considering getting.
Tfl303 and Ghunter - what kind of optical cable are you using for connection from the Airport Extreme to your DAC? I understand that the connection out from the Airport Extreme is a "mini-optical" which is different than an "standard optical" - I may be off base on this. Did you get a standard optical cable and then an adapter for mini-optical to standard optical?
The AE uses mini-optical. My unit came with an optical cable and an adapter. I kept the adapter and use it on a VH Optocoupler. Keep in mind that the AE only has an optical jack so if your DAC does not have an optical input, you will need to get the AE modified or use a converter -- I use the Monarchy Upsampler which converts the signal to coax.
I am just getting started on comparing the AE signal to my RA Opus 21. So far the differences are evasive. As you might expect, there are huge differences between file formats with Lossless being head and shoulders above the others.
FYI Keyspan has a new remote control integrated with the AE and iTunes. A bargain at $40 on Amazon.
Mcmanus - many thanks for the information. Would love to get an update from you once you've had a chance to compare the AE to RA Opus 21 against the RA Opus 21 standalone a bit more. Thanks for the Keyspan tip _ I'll look into getting one.
Thanks and all the best,
Does anyone know if it's possible to use another playback program like Foobar with AE, in place of iTunes?
It seems Foobar has upsampling options and sounds better than iTunes when a USB - SP/DIF convertor is used instead of AE.
Rooze, At this point you can only use iTunes. AE only "listens" to Apple Lossless format. iTunes translates non-AL files into AL format on the fly to stream to AE.
Actually, I'm now using a USB interface to link them together as the AE inserted a delay in when starting playback. Very annoying.
Also, sorry for any misunderstandings in my original post - the 4-second buffer is neccesary to bring the DAC64 up to the level of the Blu. Without the buffer, it sounds thin.
It's also worth noting that the Blu has a dual output that I did not try. I've heard from my dealer that this once again takes the Blu to a different level as it seems to split the signal or something and the DAC64 has circuitry to reassemble it. I'm still ecstatic with my system.
I just bought an Audio Research DAC-5 and might just give the AE another chance in that context.
Thanks for the update. I loved the sound of the Chord DAC64, especially when engaging the 4-second buffer. Let us know how the Audio Research DAC-5 works out for you with the Airport Express.
All the best,
A bit off the thread but I hope this is helpful. I had been running a G4 with USB out into a Waveterminal, then taking the SPDIF into a modded Music Fidelity TriVista with a Stealth Varidig. Doing everything in Apple Lossless. This is pretty damn amazing - I now have about 200Gbs online
I upgraded to a G5 in part to get the Toslink out - figured one less box, one less cable and complete electrical isolation had to help. Went for the high end Wireworld 5 Supernova. Have not spent a lot of hours with it yet but my impression is that if anything the Toslink is a bit more detailed, albeit drier - don't know if this is a "sound" of the cable or if I am not hearing the "sound" of the Stealth since everything else has remained identical.
Can't imagine that its the USB adding the color.... Or the Toslink is taking something out???
My impression in limited tests with the Waveterminal using the Toslink was that it was also a bit brighter, call it more forward than the SPDIF - this was before I had the Stealth.
What is for sure is that 802.11g is not nearly as good a way to do this as ethernet - I run the Toslink from my keyboard in my office but access the same iTunes library from a SLIM Squeezebox in my living room HT rig
Both SLIM and iTunes are wonderful ways to manage your library
Finally you may find this link helpful, in particular the Stereophile review
In regard to the question about the mini Toslink, you are correct, the review notes that "at the innermost end of the 3.5mm jack is an optical S/PDIF transmitter"
Enjoy the music
Well, I've hooked up the ARC DAC-5 and it's very different to the Musical Fidelity A3.24. It is far more detailed in every respect, but it is definitely not as warm sounding. In the end, it drove me to change my preamp to an ARC SP16L and at that point everything just fell into place. With other ARC gear, the DAC-5 feels right at home.
I've moved the MF A3.24 upstairs into our bedroom with my Exposure 3010 and Spendor S3/5se's and am using my Airport Express there. The main system in the living room is still being fed via USB extenders into an M-Audio Audiophile USB into the DAC-5.
This is now the true beauty of such a system: I have access to my complete (digital) catalog from two systems. I'll be adding the Airport Express Remote soon too.
Now we just need Apple to figure out a way to import SACD's and DVD-A's into iTunes at full quality! Obviously, the problem is more legal and political than technical. I dare say that if they crack that nut, the digital audiophile world is theirs.
Guys - many, many thanks for the information - it is much appreciated.