New Apple TV & Airport Express

Today, I got both an Airport Express hooked up to my Audioengine A5+ speakers and an Apple TV connected to my home theater setup. I've been sitting on the couch for the past few minutes doing a quick comparison between a CD playing via HDMI from my Sony blu-ray player and the same album playing from Apple Lossless files through the Apple TV via HDMI.

Am I correct in assuming that in both cases the A/D conversion would be in my receiver which, should in theory, be virtually identical? They sure should nearly identical, but if I had to pick a winner it would be the CD. Obviously, the PC to Apple TV adds a few more links in the chain so one would expect there to be more degredation introduced to the final result.

My biggest reason for the comparison was to see if I should get interested in a stand alone D/A unit for my tube amplifier. At this point, I think I'll stick to CDs for the critical listening and use the Apple stuff to replace the 6-disk CD player for whole house background listening. I'm not sure why I didn't get these before, they are sweet!

My wife already loves being able to stream music from her iPhone to the Audioengine speakers. I also already love the mirror feature on the Apple TV, I can already see many ways for this to be useful and fun.
Mceljo, Both, Apple TV and AE have problem:

AE has huge jitter artifacts on analog outputs (much better on digital out) while Apple TV converts 44.1kHz CD sample rate to 48kHz loosing sound quality on conversion - subject of many complaints to Apple. Apple elected to use 48kHz since it is native TV rate but CD audio suffers.
The best way to use the AE is optical out to a DAC. Any DAC is better than the one inside the AE. Jitter measurements of the optical out are very good so even an inexpensive DAC will do. Then you and your wife can be happy.
The AE is connected to my Audioengine A5+ speakers and since my wife (mp3 files) will be the primary user of these speakers AND they are not used for critical listening, the analog connection should be fine. Certainly not worth spending the coin for a stand along DAC for that application.

The Apple TV is currently connected to my receiver via HDMI which is the best way to keep the remote controlling everything easily. I may be able to use the optical connection for music only (i.e. airplay only). I have not had a chance to play with it much to see what it will and won't do.

Any suggestion for an inexpensive DAC? I might be intersted to go that route into my tube amplifier, but I doubt it would be as good as my Elite SACD player so that battle is already half lost...
I would recommend auditioning a dac and compare it with the airport express analog out. You may be surprised.
AE will sound much better with optical output to a DAC. There are hundreds to choose from. I like Music Fidelity, Schiit, and Wyred4Sound just to name three. Jitter is low if digital but high if analog out.
I don't think I am interested in a DAC for my AE with Audioengine speakers simply because of how they are used.

I may have to get another AE and DAC to connect to my tube integrated. Would it be reasonable for PC iTunes to AE to DAC using Apple Lossless files to equal the quality of CDs through my Elite SACD player?
I will be picking up a used Maverick TubeMagic D2 DAC tonight for a nice price. I made an inquiry with one of the local hi fi shops and discovered it. The tube option just adds to the fun. It has the NOS tube and an upgraded chip, I don't know much about either. I think they are upgrades, but might just be upgrades compared to the D1.
After picking up the unit and doing a little more online research, what I have is a Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2 DAC w/ OPA627 OpAmp Upgrade & GE5670W tube. I don't even have the necessary cables to hook it up so it will be on the shelf for now.
I found my toslink cable today along with a pair of SPDIF cables to use temporarily for my stereo RCA cables and the sound from Apple Lossless files on my iPhone via the Apple TV to tube DAC to tube amplifier resulted in a great sound that at first listen appears to at least match what I get from my SACD player.

Very happy with my initial results, but have to wonder if I just passed judgement on my ears, SACD player, or my entire system with this new gateway. I wasn't anticipating that it would sound this good.
Last night I had the opportunity to turn up the music and do a more careful comparison of my SACD player and the new DAC. In an A/B comparison I could tell a small difference, but am positive that I would be pretty much guessing if I were forced to identify one without a direct comparison. I noticed the sound becoming slightly more clear switching from the tube DAC to the SACD player, but didn't always notice the reverse effect when switching back.

Today I switched to the DACs solid state output and really cannot distinguish any difference. I had to turn the volume down on my computer to match levels (which isn't ideal) and there is no chance that I could tell a difference in sources in my system.

My paradigm is shifting slowly as my expectation of my SACD player being superior appears to be incorrect.

I am comparing the SACD layer on the disks to Apple Lossless files in most cases and the Redbook CD when that is the only option.