My PC Audio Question Journey

I finally took the step of getting an external DAC (Maverick D2) allowing me to stream iTunes from my computer via an Apple TV. So far, I have only used a PC, but purchased a Macbook Pro over the weekend that will become the primary computer in the near future.

My system is the following:
Computer with iTunes (Apple Lossless)
Apple TV
Maverick D2 DAC (tube and solid state outputs)
Yaqin MC-30L amplifier
Focal 836v speakers

As a baseline, I have been unable to tell a difference between the solid state DAC output and my Elite SACD player. I am also aware that the Apple TV streams 48 kHz instead of 44.1 kHz which, in theory, is weakness in the digital signal.

Overall, I'm satisfied with my current sound, but I could be convinced to upgrade the Apple TV to an Airport Express and also to use a parallel software that works with iTunes (as long as Airplay is still supported) if I was convinced that an objective improvement could be expected in my system.

There's several layers to the discussion so I thought I'd ask my questions one at a time in an effort to keep things focused.

The goal when ripping a CD is to create a "bit perfect" digital copy on the hard drive. Should it be expected that using iTunes will achieve this goal? If not, is there an objective way to validate that another software performs this step better? Is the primary reason that most recommendations are to not use Apple Lossless vs. other lossless formats is because it is propriatary to Apple making it the most limiting format in the future?
Use XLD on the Mac.

It provides a log of the rip and compares it to an online database (AccurateRip).

It also has a paranoid mode that reads/rereads/rechecks the data multiple times - a sure fire way to kill your optical drive :) but it's for the (as the name suggests) paranoid.

I usually rip to AIFF. It's uncompressed lossless and supports meta data.

AIFF is also a fairly universal standard. I also run JRiver alongside iTunes and get JRiver to read from the same folders.
I use Itunes with Airport Express for playback but MAX on the Mac for ripping. Conversion 44.1 to 48kHz on Apple TV is audible, according to few threads here but Airport Express is a little bit jittery. Is not an issue for me (with Benchmark DAC1) but you might look for jitter suppressing (reclocking)DAC or stand alone reclocker.

I'm not sure what format is used with Apple TV but Airport Express uses, AFAIK, ALAC. Storing files in different format would force computer to do additional conversion.
The file format is irrelevant to Airport Express or AppleTV - as long as iTunes can read it. It streams it as a PCM stream across wifi. It could even be MP3 (shudder) which gets converted to PCM on the fly for transmission.
Airport Express is connected by Wi-Fi and as such does not receive in real
time. Itunes/Airplay does not transmit PCM. Computer transmits ALAC data
in packets that are stored in AE in a buffer containing about few seconds of
music. Timing is added from internal AE clock (resulting in 258ps peak-
peak jitter) and S/Pdif PCM stream is created. In order to use format
different than ALAC computer would have to make on the fly conversion
that would not affect the sound since transmitted is data without any

read this discussion on APPLE support forum:

Interesting. Was not aware that they used Apple Lossless. Still the original file format isn't really relevant - they could even be MP3 as I said.

I still prefer to keep everything as AIFF in my library.
That's the beauty of the network bridge - computer, playback program etc make no difference since no timing is involved. PCM stream like S/Pdif coming directly from computer to DAC can be affected since computer creates timing.

Timing on the DAC side is recreated with new clock. AE is a little jittery and limitted to 16/44.1 but there are better choices. Logitech stopped making Squeezebox Touch but Sonos makes Wi-Fi Bridge.
The thing is that there is still inherent jitter in the devices, especially if you use a SPDIF connection again from the Sonos/Touch to a better quality DAC.

I can see the appeal of devices like the Sony HAP Z1ES, the Lumin network player and the PS Audio DS/PW DAC with the network bridge.
I would use XLD for the reasons stated and because it is still an active and evolving software with updates (though infrequent) and MAX to the best of my knowledge has had no updates in several years.
How does one look up the jitter spec on a given device? For example, I have had people make statements about the AE being ok for jitter using the optical output, but very jittery analog. What does "a little jittery" mean?
Mcelio, Stereophile measured 258ps jitter on Toslink output. Jitter
artifacts on analog output corresponded to about 2400ps jitter.

Little jittery is very loose term. To me 258ps is still OK (requires some
suppression) while 2400ps is pretty bad. I remember reading that 50ps is
already audible and very good clocks are much better than that.

Jitter is a system thing - even 1ps AE would still suffer higher jitter
created by system noise since Toslink transitions are pretty slow. Coax
output would be faster but then you have to pay attention to characteristic
impedance of the cable and impedance matching. I have both AE and
DAC plugged into power conditioner to avoid any system noise that could
possibly come from mains. In addition Benchmark DAC1 has pretty good
jitter suppression. Benchmark DAC1 in comparison to CDP (Cambridge
CD4SE) sounded too clean at first. Many people perceive jitter also as
poor image and harshness, perhaps because noise screws-up everything.

My AE is first generation (model A1264), perhaps I should upgrade to
second generation that has lower jitter (but not always) - discussion


Interesting review of latest AE:
After spending some time over the weekend sorting through my three similar but different iTunes files I have opted to just rip everything again rather than trying to identify the differences. It may be the longer process, but it requires very little thought and my CD collection isn't overwhelming.

After some reading I have opted to stick with the Apple Lossless format. I read in a couple places that people have heard positive differences with uncompressed lossless vs. compressed lossless and I simply cannot wrap my head around this so decided to just move on. I am perfectly satisfied with my current sound quality so I don't see any need to make any significant changes going forward.

Anyone hear a difference between compressed lossless and uncompressed lossless? If so, can you explain what causes the difference? Is it really worth the nearly double the storage space?

In theory it is possible to convert .WAV to Apple Lossless and back to .WAV with bit perfect accuracy so they should result in essentially identical results using iTunes and Airport Express.
Mceljo, Whatever lossless format you choose it will be converted to Apple compressed lossless (ALAC) anyway, before sending to AE. As long as it is bit perfect it is data - no timing difference (that could affect sound).
Then it would be pretty dumb to use anything other than ALAC for my intended uses.
That's what I concluded and ripped everything into ALAC. Batch converting to other format is also possible if necessary.