Apple TV sound quality as a transport

I recently switched from a DVD Changer into a Channel Island DAC to an Apple TV into the same DAC. I was under the impression that the DAC was ultimately responsible for the sound but I swear it actually sounds better. The only change other than the Apple TV is the switch from coaxial from the DVD to optical from the ATV. Is it possible that the ATV sounds better than my DVD changer as a transport?
It's possible, what files is the AppleTV sending to the DAC? If they are ripped lossless files (AppleLossless or FLAC) then it could be better.

But if it sounds better to you, then it definitely sounds better.
It's very possible. The Apple TV and Airport Express make an excellent music source. I've designed them into systems for years and always get excellent performance and reliability. If the files are uncompressed or lossless and the DAC is worthy, the ATV can rival the finest CD players in the world.
the cables could make a difference. i switched from plastic to glass toslink from my apple tv's or airport express units and there was a difference. i also go to a jitter device between the apple tv and the dac. another big improvement over going directly from the atv to the dac.
The files are all applelossles, I am very happy. Does the CIA dac get rid of jitter? I don't hear any harshness, what does jitter sound like?
Rbstehno....yes, some of the glass cables sound better than plastic. Which glass toslink and jitter device are you using?

Macallan7....if it sounds good, leave it alone for now. Let your ears and mind get used to how it sounds and if you feel "itchy" in the future, introduce another DAC. I personally feel that most the jitter devices and "digital talk" is misleading. A good DAC can offer a big improvement, but I feel like most of it's character and presence is part of the "analog" design of the DAC. The "digital" side is important, but it doesn't seem to be the most difficult, and has very little to do with the character.

This goes against what most people think. A lot of focus is given to the "digital" aspect of the DAC, but as long as your music is uncompressed and/or lossless, and is clocked natively, everything just sings. The only DAC with jitter that really impressed me was the Altmann Attraction, but the DAC itself sounds wonderful, and when switching the settings on the Altmann, I (as well as several other listeners) could not determine what was better or not. I also really like the Naim DAC (which includes some jitter feature), but again, I like the character and presence of the DAC.

I have also heard subtle differences in different methods of getting a file to play (direct computer, Airport Express, Apple TV, Sonos, Linn DS, Naim DAC, Naim UNITI, NAS, etc....), but nothing major. I wonder how much is just in my head. I understand than some people have heard major differences in sources, and agree that some computers and streaming devices have issues. Some even go far into saying they can tell the difference in software used to rip/archive the file....I'm undecided on that claim for far.... ;)

The best thing I can recommend is keep it simple and have fun.... ;)
Jitter doesn't sound like anything. Jitter changes how sound/music sounds by misplacing and removing information. There are several mechanisms that can cause jitter. The CD format has a lot of jitter problems. Computers are better at controlling and eliminating some jitter, but they introduce other issues.
Macallan7 - CD can be ripped as data using programs like MAX (for Mac) or EAC (for PC). CDP cannot do it working real time and has to skip over piece of unreadable (wrong checksum) data. It is of course much worse with used or scratched CDs. I have few bad CDs that MAX set to "do not allow to skip" refuses to rip but CDP plays and Itunes imports.

Jitter is noise in time domain. When digital data is shaky (moving back and forth in time) it creates sidebands not harmonically related to root frequency - therefore audible even at very low levels. Since music is a bunch of frequencies jitter becomes bunch of sidebands - noise. It is strange noise because it is present only when signal is present. You can hear it as lack of clarity.
i use xld on the mac to rip my cd's to itunes.
hellofidelity - my cable is buried in my cabinet so i can't tell for sure, but i think it is the wireworld supernova series. right now, i use the monarchy dip jitter device. i used/owned other jitter devices for my other rooms from audio alchemy, and others. i use a cardas AES cable from the monarchy to the dac.
also, removing jitter does make a difference. for example, in my den system (jolida integrated, discovery cables, totem speakers, mac server for source, and a manley dac), when i hooked up the monarchy to this setup, everything came to life. it was as big of an improvement as adding the dac.
Yes, I've had excellent experiences with my Apple TV, also.

I rip everything to Apple Lossless (m4a) and stream to my 160GB Apple TV, then to my Proceed AVP. I've compared the sound very closely with my Oppo BDP-83 and cannot discern any consistent or substantial difference between the Oppo and AppleTV as a source.

I would say that the AppleTV does sound slightly less liquid as my old Theta David, but I got rid of the David because I could hear the transport spinning, and every 4 years it needed a $500 laser pickup replacement. Ugh. Suffice it to say, that the Apple TV is now the heart of my digital setup (with the Proceed AVP providing the soul.

Even the analog outs from the Apple TV are respectable, not great, but not terrible, and for anyone with "starter" hifi, may be enough.

The convenience and price of the AppleTV is excellent, and as a bonus, I rent movies for the kids, watch podcasts, and stream internet radio for background music.

Meridian makes a system that seems to greatly outclass the AppleTV in interface, but it also costs many thousands of dollars vs. the very cheap Apple TV, and I have not been able to compare the sound quality in any meaningful way.

Regarding the cable, there was a subtle, but noticeable and pleasant, upgrade when I replaced an older Ultralink plastic toslink cable with the Wireworld Supernova 6 glass toslink. The sound was better in every way.

Enjoy your Apple TV!
I've also been using an ATV to store all my music for several years now. I'm impressed with the quality, but always looking to improve. I'm considering adding an Adcom DAC. Will this improve my sound? I'm trying to decide between DAC, a good CD player, or maybe even considering vinyl. All my CDs are standard (not HD or SACD).

The rest of my system is Adcom GFP-565 preamp, Adcom GFA-555 II amp and Snell C/V speakers.

Thank you.
Are you using the Apple TV's analog outs? If so, a DAC will most likely improve things. I'm not very impressed with the Apple TV's analog outputs.

Make usre everything is ripped as either Apple Lossless or similar; no mp3.

What I've found in my system -

Synched music sounds better than streamed music.
Glass optical cables are better than plastic. I bought a $25 glass Sonicwave cable from Amazon and it sounds excellent.
The Audioquest NRG-1 power cable made a very good difference.
Thank you for the advice on the cable(s). I had no idea a power cable would make a difference.

Yes, I am using the RCAs now and they sound pretty decent.

Luckily when I first put all my CDs on iTunes, I didn't know there were different settings. Most are 128! The stuff I bought off iTunes is 256. I haven't heard how that holds up against CDs. I do have some ACC and Apple Lossless and need to go back and re-import.

I think this is a great vehicle to store music, but Apple really upset me that the new Apple TV has no hard drive. So now I decided I buy CDs and not content from Apple in the event they screw something else up and I have to make another change.

I'd also be interested in hearing any other storage suggestions where I don't need to leave my computer on the whole time.


Rip your CDs as Apple Lossless, and turn error correction on. It'll take a little while longer, but it's worth it IMO. Not a hhuge difference, but some CDs sound a little better.

I didn't think the power cord would make a difference either, especially using the optical out. Optical out means no electricity gets transferred to the DAC, meaning less noise. Yet it sounds better. I think it could be reduced jitter at the output, but I don't know. Then again, what difference does it make, so long as it sounds better? I bought the power cable from Music Direct. It cost $79, and they have a 30 day money back guarantee. Try one out if you've got an extra $79.
I recently switched from using an Airport Express to an Apple TV for streaming audio into my main system. I am using Apple Lossless files and feeding that into a Bryston BDA-1 DAC via the optical link. I did notice that when I switched the Byrston changed from showing locked on 44k1 to 48k0. When I play music onkyo dvd player through the BDA1 it also shows 44k1. Don't know if that can make the difference you are hearing but Apple TV apparently outputs at a higher sample rate that an Airport Express.
Most audiophiles believe that the DAC is the most important part of the source, but actually it isn't. It's the digital source jitter that is most important, whether it is coming from a transport or computer.

With a higher jitter source, yes most DAC's sound very different from each other. The reason for this is that the different DACs have varying levels of jitter rejection. Once you have a very low jitter source, most high-quality $10K DACs sound a lot like high-quality $1500 DACs. This is why it makes sense to consider a good USB converter.

There are of course poorly designed DACs that sound harsh on all material with all sources, but these get weeded-out fairly quickly by this crowd.

The ATV is not bad, but the Logitech Touch is a lot better as far as jitter in the stock box.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

Are you using the original ATV or the current one? My gen 1 ATV outputs at 44.1. I know this because my previous Theta DAC wouldn't decode 48, according to Theta's tech.

The current ATV reportedly outputs everything at 48. I haven't heard it in a system outside the Apple store, so I can't realistically comment on it's sound quality.
I can vouch for jitter being destructive. My AirportExpress has such a high jitter signal that my DAC.....a Cambridge Audio CA840 (redbook player w/dac inputs) sometimes looses lock. And makes an awful noise in the process.

Is the ATV better? Is it internally clocked? The AE is not, being an asynchronous device.
KBarkamiam, I am using the current apple tv.
Not sure about the jitter... Never had a problem my dac (Bryton bda-1) losing the lock.
I recently upgraded from ATV1 to the current ATV3 and I swear it sounds better into my Channel Island's VDA-2 Dac. Is this possibly because of the 16/48 upconversion? Placebo effect? Alcohol?
I use an Apple TV 2 and Netflix, Hulu, and DVD sound is fantastic.

Newer movie soundtracks are mostly High Rez 24 192 stereo!

I use a Sony Bravura into an ARC SP-14 line out, to a Son of Ampzilla 2000, into Magnepan MGIIIA speakers, 6 feet away, and am blown away at the quality.

For audio only, I use "Airplay" from an IMac (AAIF), and get CD quality out.

The "interface" on Apple TV 2 or 3, can not be beat.
Magfan, your AE might be defective. According to Stereophile review it produces respectable 258ps word clock jitter on digital output. Analog output is much worse. It receives compressed (ALAC) data and recreates clock. With my Benchmark DAC1 it sounds extremely clean.
The jitter of the source is actually more important than the DAC. I have heard lots of $1K DACs sound amazing with low-jitter sources driving them. Read the last 5 DAC reviews by Steven Stone in TAS. He concludes that when driven from the same low-jitter source, a number of DACs in the $1K-8K range sound virtually identical.

The thing is: Your transport had really bad jitter and the AppleTV has mediocre jitter. Putting a reclocker after the ATV and before the DAC will improve things even more.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio