Alternatives to streaming via Apple TV/iTunes

My current 2 channel setup in the main living room is as follows:
iMac (iTunes) --> Apple TV (via Airplay/wifi) --> Parasound P5 (via TosLink) --> Parasound A21 (via XLR) --> B&W CM10

I usually buy CDs and rip them (using ALAC) into iTunes.

I don't really have any major complaints, but I often wonder if this is the most optimal route given the rest of my system. I don't want to do a CD player for various reasons.

I've heard folks using a Mac Mini to preamp/DAC via USB, etc. Alternatively, I see dedicated music servers/streamers but some of them sound quite pricey. I'm not sure if dedicated streamers will be a major step up compared to the Apple TV.

I guess I'm interested in finding out if (a) there are better options out there (no CD player though), and (b) if the difference in SQ will be enough to justify the extra effort/expense?

Another thing I often wonder is, if I plan to play music via my computer (or streaming services ala Spotify, Tidal), do I really need to keep a dedicated preamp such as the Parasound P5? I don't think I'll ever do a dedicated CD player source or turntable.

Any advise will be much appreciated.
arafiq , I also store data in ALAC and use iTunes. From Mac Mini data is transfered over WiFi to AirPort Express, then by Toslink to Benchmark DAC1 and by XLR to power amp. I don’t know how good is the DAC in Parasound P5, but major problem I can see is AppleTV that outputs the data always at 48kHz while receives data recorded at 44.1kHz. This conversion in AppleTV, was reported to cause some loss of sound quality.

Main idea with WiFi, Ethernet or async USB is to strip timing from the music and send it as data, to recreate timing again on the other side, far from the computer. Computer quality, playback program etc. become irrelevant (cheaper that way), while computer’s electrical noise is further away. Recreated timing has to be perfectly steady with no jitter - otherwise music becomes "noisy". AirPort Express is decent on Toslink output but it still produces some jitter that is suppressed by Benchmark DAC1. It can also be done with reclocker.
I’m not sure what would be the best in your situation. You can go with async USB, but that requires async USB DAC, or replace AppleTV with something better. Squeezbox was decent, but no longer available. There are Sonos wireless bridges, but I don’t have experience with them.
Thanks, kijanki. I'm also looking at Bluesound right now. It's supposed to be a step up from Apple TV or even Sonos. One thing I'm not sure is whether a preamp (I have Parasound P5) is even needed in this case, since the Bluesound has a built-in DAC.
I use DAC straight to power amp, but I don't have analog sources. Sometimes it is better with preamp (that helps with impedance matching), but additional component (and cables), cannot improve transparency IMHO.

If you want to improve things, I would recommend putting a reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh between your AppleTV and your Parasound P5. The reclocker would have Toslink in and then S/PDIF coax out (I can recommend a very good cable). This will reduce jitter from the AppleTV for TV and stereo, improving imaging, focus and soundstage width and height.  About $600.

If you want to improve things even more, you might consider a dedicated server and USB converter. This is a lot more expensive, but will be better than the ATV. It would connect USB from the server to the USB converter and then coax to your P5. The reason for the USB converter is again to reduce jitter over what you would get directly out of the server.  Good servers are generally thousands of dollars, as are good USB converters.  You are looking at probably $4K to make a significant improvement.

A fairly inexpensive way to get both new server capability and low jitter is the Sonos reclocked with a Synchro-Mesh.  $1000-2000, depending on options.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Steve, thanks for some good suggestions. Since I recently made some major purchases (speakers, amp and preamp), I am very sensitive to laying out anything upward of $500-700 at this point, so a dedicated server is probably not going to be on the horizon for a while.

Buying a relocker is not a bad idea. I'll probably look into this. By the way, have you looked at BlueSound:

Looks quite promising. I'm very interested in hearing your take on it.