Apple Airport Express to DAC


Hi,

I have an evolution 100A and 50CD. When I run digital audio through an apple express via toslink to the 50CD DAC, it sound great, but there is "skipping". I searched online and couldn't find an immediate cause of this.

I am running Apple Airport Express to a Creek EVO 50CD DAC via minijack to toslink optical cable.  There is intermittent "skipping" that I cannot figure out. If I run minijack to RCA on the amplifier (EVO 100A), there is no skipping.  I asked creek support and this was the conversation:

creek: It sounds like there’s an issue in using that type of cable. This is not a true way of using an optical signal. I would suggest using the jack to phono rca lead as this will use the DAC in your Creek unit rather than the built-in DAC of the Apple product.

me: I'm confused. Running optical signal to my creek DAC is wrong? You suggest running minijack to RCA on the EVO 100A amplifier? How does the EVO 50CD get the digital signal from the EVO 100A?

creek: An optical signal can only be transmitted down an optical cable that’s terminated with TOSLINK blocks at both ends.There are no digital signals past between the Evolution 50CD and Evolution 100A. The signal is only analogue; not digital between these devises. I would suggest running an RCA phono cable from the pre-amp output of your Evolution 100A and plugging that signal into the jack socket of the Airport Express.

me: but the minijack out on the airport express is a combo analog/optical output. (picture of back of airport express from apple website showing analog/optical port).

creek: /crickets

Can anyone explain what I'm doing wrong?  Thanks for your help.

Cable: FosPower (3 Feet) 24K Gold Plated Toslink to Mini Toslink Digital Optical S/PDIF Audio Cable with Metal Connectors & Strain-Relief PVC Jacket.

Airport Express: whatever the latest version was with firmware updated.

4a632b3f 5acb 4dfa 91c8 61fb41afa4e2pandrus
maybe the buffer is getting filled up, causing the skipping
If you have the right cable, try running the analogue output of the Express to an input on the pre amp. This will tell you if it's a network issue or a cable issue.

You're not alone with this problem...

There's a lot of info available on Computer Audiophile and other websites to help troubleshooting this. Google "Apple Airport Express Streaming Issues"


I think the creek 100a is integrated.  no skipping if I run analog/rca to the 100a.
FYI - I changed a bunch of apple express settings and what finally did it for me was reverting to an earlier firmware (7.6.2).  Humming along this morning without skips...
I'm running AE (7.6.8) with no issues.  I had Wi-Fi drops until I switched to 5GHz router (dual band).  The only thing I can think of is, that either optical mini plug on the Toslink cable, or mini/Toslink adaptor (I use adaptor) have bad contact (too much distance) or dirt - causing reduction in light intensity.  Try different Toslink cable or different adaptor.
What adapter are you using?
Don't remember the brand - mini optical to Toslink, then 3' glass Toslink to DAC.
sprayed the airport express and the toslink input on the DAC with canned air.  Still getting skipping using my minijack to toslink cable.  I ordered a minijack to RCA spdif cable before seeing your post.

if that doesn't work, the problem may be the airport express jack - i should try another airport express, huh.

i do like the look of the toslink/miniplug glass fiber cable at lifatec

http://www.lifatec.com/toslink2.html
Mini/Toslink cable might work better than adaptor+cable.  I found that blinking yellow light on the AE is a sign that firmware should be updated. (It stopped after update).  I'm not sure it changed anything since it worked fine before and after update.
Hi guys,

Were you ever able to figure out the problem?

I have an elcheapo Fiio D03 DAC that works well with the airport express. However I tried and Arcam irDAC, and and iFi iPurifier reclocker and neither will consistently lock with the signal.  I've tried several firmware versions...
Never resolved this. Relying on airport dac while the creek dac sits fallow. 
Bummer @pandrus.  Well I'd recommend a Fiio D03 - it's $20 off amazon and sounds way better than the Airport's DAC.  And it works.
Anybody else have success with certain DACs and the TosLink from an Airport Express?

Anyone try a Schiit DAC?

Thank you.
Any DAC that can support a 16 bit 48khz digital stream will work with the AE. 
HI @robr45 actually it seems to not be the case.  

The Arcam dac, Cambridge dac, Marantz dac, Creek dac all have trouble holding the lock from the Airport Express.  Some people think it is an issue with SABRE DAC chips.  CambridgeAudio was able to make some sort of update to the DacMagic that fixed the problem.

found on another forum, Cambridge apparently said:
"Basically, the Airport does not output a smooth SPDIF clocking. Every now and then, the Airport will sporadically adjust its output clock to track the desired sampling rate.
These adjustments are very sudden and are the cause of the noises and/or drop-outs describe". 

And from the designer of the M-DAC:
" First first Gen worked without Drop outs when set to High Bandwidth... With Gen 3 they changed the Chip set and its even worst then the first for Jitter performance - with large discrete jumps in clock offsets - these jumps throw off (unlock) any dac with decent jitter attenuation (Tight Lock Bandwidths) - ironically Dac's with poor jitter attenuation cope with the Jumps, but off course they have poor jitter attenuation..."

What I don't understand is why a reclocker, like the iPurifier, would lose the lock as well.

But I know many people have also had success with this set up, so I'm wondering what specific model DACs they've used.

@pandrus did you try updating the firmware on your integrated or reaching out to Creek?
Might I suggest replacing the airport express with something that can properly output a digital singal then? Seeking a dac that can cope with a poor implementation of spdif doesn't seem to make sense. A gen 2/3 Apple TV has no such issue and can be had for less than $50.  
@leemaze I did speak with creek - see original post - their customer support seemed entirely clueless.

@robr45 I do have an old apple tv lying around - I'll try it out.
Also @audioengr posted this in another thread...


audioengr
2,934 posts
03-14-2013 10:14pm
It will work however it has the highest jitter of any digital source. This can be fixed with an in-line reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh. This will make it equal or better than the best transport.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

Good idea @robr45 !

@pandrus any luck with the apple tv?

Regarding @audioengr comment - I don't think it's the jitter.  It must be something else, because i tried a reclocker between my airport express and the Fiio D03 DAC - the iFi SPDIF iPurifier - and that couldn't hold the lock either.  But when i took the iPurifier out of the chain the DAC holds the signal fine.

Very strange....
I have the apple tv (3rd gen) set up next to the creek evolution 100A and 50CD.  The apple out is HDMI. The 50CD has USB, coax and optical inputs...
I think the apple tv is 2nd generation - just a little usb out and an hdmi out
okay - was very confused - my spare apple tv is a 4th gen (non 4K) with only usb and hdmi outs.
Regarding @audioengr comment - I don’t think it’s the jitter. It must be something else, because i tried a reclocker between my airport express and the Fiio D03 DAC - the iFi SPDIF iPurifier - and that couldn’t hold the lock either. But when i took the iPurifier out of the chain the DAC holds the signal fine.

You have more serious signal integrity problems I think. Maybe a bad DAC or cables. Maybe you tried the wrong reclocker.

I use two SPDIF iPurifiers for my home theater SS processor and they work flawlessly. Not good enough for my 2-channel though.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I use both an older AEX and an Apple TV.  Both have optical outs.  I'm currently sending the optical signal to either a Schiit Modi mutibit or an early model DACMagic.  I use an iPad for control of Roon or TIDAL.  Recent model Mac running Roon Core.

TIDAL works fairly well, drop outs where the sound stops for a few seconds up to about 20 seconds occasionally (once an hour or so).  When I use Roon, it is much worse:  more frequent drop outs and sometimes does not reconnect;  sometimes I need to re-choose my output device from the iPad.  Very discouraging, as I think Roon is great, but at present only using it from the core computer optical out to Audioengine A2s (using a AE D1) one my desk.  Not complaining, but I would really like to use Roon on the better systems (I can't string cables across the floor, so it will need to be wireless).

I spent WEEKS researching this, swapping cables, swapping DACS, reconfiguring the computers, updating firmware, buying different model AEXs, etc.  The only thing that seemed to work was going analog out from the AEX or Apple TV.  But it doesn't sound as good.

My hunch it has something to do with how the computers handle the output through the AEX/Apple TV, and how each DAC responds to the digital stream in its own fashion.  I have no way of telling if the digital signal is "losing lock" or whatever (I am not an engineer).  All I know is that any configuration sending wireless digital signal to any of my outboard DACS results in occasional drops in the signal.  I finally figured I spent so much time fretting about this that I will upgrade to a Bluesound Node or Sonore Micro Rendu (or something like that).  If the device doesn't work, it goes back.

I'm in no hurry, and am waiting to see how this wireless and streaming stuff sorts out before I buy anything.  I'm not terribly interested in anything above CD quality (another whole conversation;  I will spare you), but if I could get the AEX or Apple TV to stop dropping out I would be ecstatic!

DAC>Odyssey Candela>Odyssey Khatego (KISMET)>Harbeth P3esr.



Anyone using Apple TV for streaming Tidal? If so, how do you interface with the Tidal app for making your music selections?

My hunch it has something to do with how the computers handle the output through the AEX/Apple TV, and how each DAC responds to the digital stream in its own fashion.  I have no way of telling if the digital signal is "losing lock" or whatever (I am not an engineer).  All I know is that any configuration sending wireless digital signal to any of my outboard DACS results in occasional drops in the signal.

May be your power causing this.  If you are using multiple outlets and they are different phases of the AC power, this can cause a lot of common-mode noise on signals.  Try using the same outlet for the source, reclocker and DAC, no conditioners.

Another thing is if you have a cable box and the ground from that is not isolated from your house panel ground.  Use a Jensen transformer isolator in the RF cable if you have this.


Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@kalali I use Airfoil which can broadcast tidal from your computer to multiple airplay speakers. It will also send to Bluetooth and chromecast devices. 

The Apple TV set up properly just becomes an airplay speaker.