I am looking for the weak link to improve sound quality. Seems logical it is the Apple TV as a source. Would a moderate streamer inside of $1500 make much of a difference when streaming Tidal and the like?
Current Equipment: Speaker: Dali Euphonia MS-4 AMP: Modwright KWA 150 SE Preamp/ DAC: Peachtree Grand Integrated Source: Tidal / Apple TV
ATV does not support 24 bit streams and resamples everything to 48 khz so it is not a "bit perfect" device. This in itself doesn't mean that it doesn't sound good, but it leaves room for improvement especially considering your paying for Tidal. Additionally you can improve general usability by getting into a prettier and more robust streaming GUI.
The BlueSound Node or Auralic Aries Mini would be good places to start looking and both are under $500. Alternatively, you could swap out your Peachtree integrated amp for a true preamp that incorporates this type of functionality. This could further improve usability by folding proper volume control into the same app.
If you are committed to going further upmarket, You could take a look at Roon as a front end. This would allow you to use a network audio adapter like a sonore microrendu or SotM device. Even the BlueSound and Auralic gear would allow for this. Roon opens the door to a world of cool functionality and nearly infinite flexibility.
It really depends on what you want to do and your predisposition for tinkering and upgrading. You have some very nice gear.
I would dip your toe in the water and have fun with it. Streaming is the best thing to happen to high end audio in years.
The Apple TV is a great device and can sound wonderful when connected to a well designed system, but because of how it samples/clocks, a dedicated AirPlay source/stream can sound better when properly implemented.
I mention AirPlay because it’s a high quality (bit perfect) transport/network source that is integrated into all of Apple’s operating systems and applications. You can use Tidel directly into a nice AirPlay/DAC if you use Apple Mac or iOS (iPhone/iPad).
If you move away from the Apple TV interface, how would you prefer to control your music?
@Kalali -With an Apple mobile device or computer, you basically just hit play and then choose the Apple TV box to send the music to. Per robr45, it is truly one of the main reasons I listen to music as much as I do. It changes so much about what you can experience in listening sessions. -*Even though it may hamper the sound quality to some degree.
Curious why you say Tidal is only cd quality after all? Or are you of the opinion, as some are, that the MQA titles do not offer any improvement over 16/44 redbook content? Just my 2 cents but I can hear a considerable difference on some MQA titles compared to the "regular" 16/44 stream offered on Tidal. But a lot of that could be the rest of my system, who knows?
Imo-A cd in my $200 lg blue ray player sounds much better than the Tidal. This is what sparked my feeling that the source was the weakest link. Is a cd always better than streaming? I ask because I think I would be satisfied if a streamer could offer a similar sound quality.
Mastering from the original source is the most important factor in SQ! And with streaming and downloads the provenance is never certain, compared to LP's and CD's! Authenticity is given up for convenience! A bad bargain, indeed!
On most MQA contents my DAC shows 96 and sometimes 192 rates. And they do sound better than the same music when played using my CD player through the same DAC. The rest of the system is a constant. So streaming can sound better than CD and in my system does most of the time.
There are no streamers that will deliver 8psec of jitter at the end of a coax cable. The only way to get there is the Synchro-Mesh. Cheaper than buying another streamer. If anything, get a Sonos Connect and reclock it with a Synchro-Mesh.
I use an Apple TV with an optical out into my DAC. I also have several Airport Express devices (with optical out) that I can use. I cannot tell the difference between the bit-perfect Airport Express (16/44.1) and the upsampled Apple TV (16/48). In my casual testing, the sound quality of either apple device equals the sound quality of the CD I ripped the files from. As long as I'm not concerned about high res (higher than redbook) or "fully unfolded" MQA I am completely satisfied with the sound quality.
I guess I don't have the gilded ears (or revealing enough system) to hear jitter. As much as I have obsessed over this, I have come to the conclusion if I cannot hear it (including long listening sessions), I won't worry about it. My observations match other observers who have written about this on the internet. I'm sure that somewhere along the line, it makes a difference. That said, I do think I notice a difference between USB and SPDF (at least with my equipment). After much listening I prefer the SPDF connections over USB. Before I invest in a Remedy reclocker or USB "Decrapifier", I think it's more likely I'll move to a Micro Rendu (or something similar), or an asynchronous USB input DAC (lots of upgrade options here, and more hitting the market every day).
Note that the newer Apple TV and AEX units do not have SPDF out. Plenty of older models of both available on the used market for around $50 or less.
As an adjunct to what I wrote previously, I must admit that I do enjoy Tidal MQA when running directly from a Mac mini>DAC (no AEX or Apple TV). It's my opinion that most of the difference is in the mastering. When I switch over to the AEX (limited to 16/44.1) and play the same Tidal files, I think it sounds the same. When I compare the same Tidal tracks to an older CD (different mastering), I notice a difference.
I have the same experience when I listen to hi-res files (direct to the DAC from the Mac Mini) vs. the same files streamed through the AEX or Apple TV (downsampled to 16/44.1). I just thank my lucky stars that either my ears aren't good enough or that my system is not revealing enough to merit worrying about anything higher than 16/44.1!
Apple device > DAC (I have several, my current favorite is Schiit's Bifrost multibit) > Odyssey Candela pre-amp > Odyssey Khartego power amp > Harbeth P3esr speakers. Also have desktop system with Audioengine DAC and A2 speakers, and a headphone system consisting of AEX > Schiit Modi Multibit DAC > Schiit Vali amp > Senn 650 or Grado SR325e. I probably notice the difference between file types most with headphones (no pesky room acoustics to deal with).
Full disclosure: when I really want to raise the hairs on my neck, I play records (another discussion)!
Kahlenz: I agree with your assessment.Both, the AEX and ATV, can sound excellent when using a nice DAC processor. I also enjoy and prefer spinning vinyl sometimes. It’s a great time to be a music listener!
You have a wonderful system, I bet your Harbeth speakers sounds amazing. They are one of my favorites.
I tried the Apple TV for the first time for music streaming from Tidal in my bedroom system and I think my Chromecast Audio ($35) is a better option as a budget streamer. I think it sounds a little better through the same DAC, is more compact, is cheaper, and is just a bit easier to select on the phone/tablet. Of course its audio only. It does need a mini-optical to optical cable which may not be as useful in other systems.
Ditch the Apple TV for Tidal and use an older Mac mini. HDMI out to the TV for the video, USB DAC of your choice. Set the correct output device via the MIDI settings. I'd keep the ATV for the video content just route the TVs digital output to a proper DAC. Could even use the same DAC you have for Tidal if it has switchable inputs.
***buy an old Mac mini off ebay or wherever. You do not need a new one. I have a 2012 model with a busted ethernet card so I know you can easily stream MQA masters via wi-fi.
puffbojie: I have not been able to get streamed hi-res files to sound anywhere near as good as my CDs and LPs. I really wish that wasn't the case. I have a great MF dac, and a good asynchronous MF V-link to get the files to the dac from my computer. But the hi-res sounds flat and very little sound-stage. Whereas the CDs sound almost as good as my vinyl. Different, but almost as good. Very large. accurate. sound-stage. Great vocals etc.
I guess I don't have the gilded ears (or revealing enough system) to hear jitter. As much as I have obsessed over this, I have come to the conclusion if I cannot hear it (including long listening sessions), I won't worry about it.
There must be something else holding your system back if you don't hear the benefits of lower jitter. Active preamps are the usual culprit.
The uRendu is a good choice BTW, but I have gotten away from USB after designing 6 generations of it. Ethernet is easier to make stellar.
Steve N (and anyone else with streaming experience): Thanks for the info, Steve, I've been trying to decide whether to expand my CD collection (which can be very affordable right now), or begin streaming, where there is unlimited music available. The issue is that I like a large, room-filling, sound-stage, with good detail in the instruments/vocals, and so far, CDs and LPs are the only sources that have provided that for me. And from what you are saying; even with a leading streaming service, and a good playback software, it's still not going to be as good as my CDs. Would one of the new DSs help? The good ones are kinda pricey, tho.
Streaming is FLAC files so far, so it will never be quite as good as wav files. The difference I hear with wav files is soundstage and high-frequency reflections off the venue. Whether you will hear this difference depends on your system.
I personally like owning my content rather than renting it, however it is nice to have access to a lot of new material.
If you stay with a transport and DAC, at least lower the jitter by adding a good reclocker in the coax cable, like the Synchro-Mesh. 8psec of measured jitter.
If you go with a streamer, it is critically important to get low jitter. The kind of imaging and soundstage you are wanting has everything to do with extremely low jitter.
Here is a renderer that gets you to ~10psec at all sample-rates from 44.1-192:
Steve N: I agree with your assessment regarding my apparent inability to distinguish between "hearing jitter" and "not hearing jitter". If "less jitter" means more accurate spatial clues, then I may have quite a way to go with my room acoustics before I can appreciate lower jitter levels. I am also curious about going direct from DAC to amp.
It is also entirely possible I simply have not experienced "low jitter" playback. All of my experimenting with digital playback has involved either a Mac>optical out>DAC or an AEX/ATV>optical out>DAC.
Any suggestions for a cheap "low jitter" solution?
This thread has been an interesting read. I currently have my Appletv hooked up via HDMI to my Oppo105D (to use its DAC) and it sounds like I could have a better quality experience if I used a different streamer?
Will I even notice the difference if it were a Blunode hooked up to the Oppo?
Personally it sounds pretty good to me but I'm curious as I do not have something to compare against.
I have no experience with the DAC in the Oppo but I’ve found streaming Tidal through Chromecast Audio ($35) had better sound quality as compared to the AppleTV. My comparison was running both through a Schiit Modi Multibit ($250). I used the optical connection in both cases. I also tried the same comparison with my Bluesound Node2 from my other system and Node2 was better than the Chromecast Audio but not by an order of magnitude. However, the user interface and the access to options from the Node2 are significantly better and much more robust. You may want to try the optical port since HDMI connection to got audio content is less ideal than coax/optical.
Hello and thank you for all your feedback on this topic. :). In keeping it simple, does anyone has any recommendation on a simple cable that can be purchased to hook up the ATV4 via HDMI out to my Canary KD2000 Dac, preferably USB as it supports all music files, as well as DSD64 and 128.... If USB is not an option, AES/XLR or Coax works just as well. I think.... Thanks HP
AppleTV resampling to 48k makes highs sound tizzy. It doesn’t sound good. Do yourself a favor and get a decent streamer, like a Blusound Node 2/2i as others have suggested. If you’re going to use an external DAC and don’t need the enhanced wifi of the 2i, save a few bucks and get the Node 2. Node 2i DAC section sounds better than the older Node 2, and the wifi is faster.
I'm using ethernet connect my Node 2, and also using an external DAC so only need the streaming features. Don't need the enhanced wifi and don't plan on using the internal DAC so I went with the older Node 2 and saved $175.
There are some streamer products in the $700-$800 range such as cocktail, marantz, Cambridge and others that offer additional functionality etc. Are these good options in terms of comparable sound quality as the node? Any in particular as you go up the price scale slightly?
I would get the Node 2 used. If you decide you want to upgrade you'll pretty much make your money back when you sell it. The next step up price wise if the Auralic Aries, but it is limited to Apple devices for remote control and from what I've read it only sounds better than the Node 2/2i if you splurge for the better power supply which significantly increases the price to ~4x that of a used Node 2.
Jeenam55 - You mentioned Auralic Aries, it supports dsd up to 256. Good option. G1 is the latest version which supports 512. Thumb's up :) either one is better than ATV. My KD-2000 supports 64/128. Is there another component you know of that can be used to downgrade dsd 256/512 to 128?
No idea regarding DSD capabilities. I've never heard a single piece of music that was DSD encoded. I have a Job Integrated amp that can decode DSD128, but I do not have any DSD encoded music to give it a try.