AppleTV as my main digital source. Opinions?

Now that my NAD CD player is one its last legs (thru a decent but cheap DAC) I think its time to move on from CDs and take the plunge into a digital music server. Have an old iMac and wireless network - sounds like AppleTV is an inexpensive and user friendly solution. Found a 320 GB drive at Fryes yesterday for only $99! and have already started loading my CDs onto it. If figure this thing could hold 1000 CDs(!) using apple lossless encoding (non-lossy) - and a lot more if I compress the less important stuff (the wife's pop albums...) at AAC 224 or 320kps.

I played with the AppleTV interface at my local apple store and found it easy and fun to use and nice eye candy - looking forward to not having to get up and look for CDs and mess with those jewel boxes. I have this condition that makes it difficult to remember to put things away when done using them. ("laziness"?).

Sounds like a great solution for 300-400 bucks. They just came out with a 160 GB model for 400 - I figure I'll load all the CDs onto the drive before purchasing the unit. Going from its optical output to my DAC I think this will be a true audiophile/cheapskate/lazyman's dream come true. But I welcome your opinions.

I was a diehard vinyl person until about 16 months ago. I'm using an iMac into an M-Audio Audiophile Firewire and have loaded all 1,400 of my CDs onto the Mac harddrive and an OWC Mercury Elite Pro 400G harddrive. iTunes keeps everything organized between the two drives. While I won't argue that it is as good as an excellent vinyl system when the planets are all aligned (good pressing without innergroove wear or wow etc.), I will say that I enjoy playing more music than ever before.

Random is great so you can hear some stuff you forgot that you own. You can create your own mix by calling up words like "fire" and see what kind of interesting random things appear.

The sound is as good as any CD player I have used. Going through my Almarro A205A or Sam Kim circuit in a Heathkit 151 and then to my Cain Abby/Bailey system, I have had many sublime listening experiences.

You are on the right track brother!


My understanding is that the USB port is a "service port" only and is not configured for audio. I expect that you may find the "optical out to DAC" an acceptable but not very high-quality solution. I am wondering why you would not simply use your old iMac as your source and forgo the AppleTV.
T-Bone - you are correct, the USB out is not currently configured for any consumer use or output. I don't understand why you think outputting the digital stream to any high quality DAC would not be a high quality solution. Or why the USB port on the same system or an Imac would be any higher than the optical out (OK some people prefer the coax dig out which this does not have - is that your issue?). Once you've got the bits - it depends what you do with them in terms of processing, DAC conversion, jitter control, etc...
The only times I have ever used the standard toslink optical out of anything, I have preferred the coax (and that's a fair number of times, on both decent and far from decent digital sources). Both times I have heard a toslink vs USB implementation out to a DAC (not a huge sample but you takes whatcha got), the USB has been a no-brainer. From everything I have read, the culprit is the toslink optical interface which is jitter-prone. The USB interface is in many cases prone to power supply interruptions. I expect that it is probably a "pick-your-poison" kind of situation unless you can adequately isolate things.

I have not tried it, and have no affiliation, but if your DAC has a coax (S/PDIF) INPUT, you might try the Hagtech USB-to-SPDIF-converter. You could use your iMac USB out to this device, and from there into your DAC. Wouldn't need an AppleTV, though that would require using the iMac as your "interface," and the AppleTV is quite a bit sexier as a box (though does that mean if you use AppleTV and not the iMac that you have to use your TV when you want to choose your music?)