"Mini" to Optical for Airport Express

Is there such a cable as a "mini" plug to an optical to use from my Airport Express to my pre-amp? Would this be a better choice than the analog mini to RCA that I am currently using?

Thanks to all.

Does your preamp include a DAC? If not, it won't work.
Indeed there is and I own one made by Sony.
Fishbone222, I'm not familiar with this device. Does it specifically have a mini-toslink [optical] output? Are you trying to connect to a remote DAC with a toslink input? And is this a standard size [sort of square] toslink input?
fishbone, Since you are asking for a "to an optical" I have to assume (yikes) that you don't have a mini 3.5mm input on your preamp.
Therefore, I gather that you are trying to use the 3.5mm output of the AE and the optical input on your Preamp. If yes, then read on.... The good thing is that the 3.5mm output on the AE is in fact an optical output. What you need is a small adaptor that fits over the end of a standard TOSlink cable to allow you to connect it to the AE.

Or Some cables from monoprice have mini-toslink to standard toslink which would not need the adapter.

If you are trying to do this with a high-end glass TOSlink I don't have info on that.
Okay...so we have established that such an animal exists. Now the question is, sonically, am I better off using the analog out of the AE and the analog in of my preamp OR the digital out of the AE and the digital in of my preamp?


Assuming your preamp is expensive you may likely benefit most by using the digital out from the AE, however, in practice you might not be able to hear a difference (with the volume levels correctly matched.)
08-27-07: Fishbone222
Okay...so we have established that such an animal exists. Now the question is, sonically, am I better off using the analog out of the AE and the analog in of my preamp OR the digital out of the AE and the digital in of my preamp?



Essentially that would be comparing the internal DAC of the Airport Express (used with the analog to analog) to the DAC in your (unidentified)pre-amp. The internal DAC of the AE gets the job done but there are better (and probably worse too!) I can't make that quality call -even if you told me your pre-amp model.

I have used the AE's mini-Toslink output into my Denon receiver's TOSlink input and was satisfied with the sound. I am now experimenting with an external DAC. I think the quality of the connection type is very relative to your system components (eg their ability to expose the upstream signals). Check out monoprice[dot]com for inexpensive TOSlink cables so you can give it try for under $10.

enjoy your music ~ed
The only way to know is to listen to both. How good is the DAC in your preamp?
Once again, thanks to all.

The pre-amp is a Rotel 1066. However, I am considering an external DAC. The rest of the system is a Rotel 1075 and Paradigm Studio 60 V.3s (for two-channel listening, although these components make up part of a home theatre system as well).
The analog outs on the AE are junk, trust me.

Use the Toslink out with an adapter and a glass cable such as:

The jitter from the AE is quite bad, but this will bring it up to most cheap DVD player kind of quality. You can do a lot more to make it lower jitter BTW.

If you need the Toslink adapter, I have a bucket of them. Just send me a postage-paid envelope and I'll mail you one.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I have an airport express and love the wireless capabilities. I have the cable and adapter. What is the best way to go about using the airport express? How much better is it going with a usb cable/dac{ wavelength ] vs using the AE into a toslink dac{ie altmann}? I would like to use the AE if it sounds very close to the usb dacs because i don't have to run a usb from my listening chair to the dac. What do you think?
Streetdaddy - the AE with Toslink is not even close, sorry. The problem is high jitter. However, there are ways to make it even better than most USB solutions. For instance, if you put a Pace-Car reclocker between the AE and the DAC, the jitter is minimized.

Modifications to replace the power supply and clock in the AE and making it S/PDIF coax output is also quite good.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
ok, so how much for the full mods to the ae and which $1000ish dac would you recommend?
There are two ways to go:

1) Off-Ramp Wi-Fi - modded AE - $1200 with Superclock4 and S/PDIF coax output

2) Stock AE with Pace-Car reclocker - $1350 with both I2S and S/PDIF coax output

#2 is better.

Decent DAC's in the $1000 range - IMO, there arent any, but you can get close with dAck2!, Benchmark DAC-1 or Lavry Black. Probably the most listenable in stock form is the Lavry Black. There are others, like the Channel Islands or PSAUDIO digital link III, but I have no experience with these.

Steve N.
Which dacs do you recommend?
I recommend the turbomodded DAC-1 or the modded Northstar 192. Completely different animals with mods. Both are in the $2750-$3K range though.

Steve N.
So, let me get this straight. I go from my AE via toslink to your pacecar, then Is2 to a modded dac. Is this correct. I looked at your website and didn't see a optical input on your pacecar.
Also, what is Is2 and why is it superior?
Streetdaddy - the Toslink input is available, I have not updated the website yet. I'm currently evacuated to a friends house by a 10K acre forest fire in Oregon. The Pace-Car also now has S/PDIF output as well for standard DAC's.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Streetdaddy - I2S is the native interface for most D/A chips. Whenh you send a S/PDIF signal to a DAC, it must be converted first to I2S before going to the D/A chip. The fact that this conversion is not necessary reduces jitter.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Thanks Steve once again for being so generous with knowledge. I'm very interested in the Pace-Car as my wife and I are mostly enjoying music at home using iTunes. We have an iMac G-5 streaming to an AE, to the Toslink input of my Marantz prepro. A curious glitch we've had with the AE is we get annoying noise bursts between tracks on occasion. I've unfruitfully petitioned Audiogoners for answers. But you're the man I believe knows what the fudge is going on. Would the Pace-Car eliminate the sound bursts and let me hear signifcantly lessen jitter in one swell swoop?
Hals_den - This is the first time I've heard the "sound burst" complaint from an AE. Since it only happens between tracks, this is at least a clue. I need to know if it ever happens when playing long playlists or only when manually selecting a new track. Also, are you double-clicking on the track or using the mouse select and then the play button?

If it is the iTunes player injecting these, then the Pace-Car will probably not eliminate them. It is probably bad data bursts and the Pace-Car just sends through whatever data you input to it.

Steve N.
Thanks for the honest answer Steve. The noise does happen when playing from a large playlist. Lately, we've been using the party shuffle mode of iTunes and the problem happen in that mode as well. It seems to happen more with large music files as in AIFF encoded and longer songs.
How much for the turbomod with is2 if i provide the dac?
Streetdaddy - the DAC-1 Turbomod is $1200, the I2S interface is $500.

I would also recommend the op-amp upgrade for $300

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I'm new to this, I'm not sure if this pertains to the original question...but here's a review of toslink vs co-axial digital cables.

review (six moons):


AE only has the analog 3.5 mini out (to RCA), and a mini-toslink digital out. You can't stream via USB. Van Den Hul Optocoupler (one of the cables reviewed) has a mini-toslink to square toslink cable for $100. I have no idea if using an mini-toslink adapter would affect the signal. I imagine it would.

Van Den Hul:


Hope this helps.

I'm going mini-toslink from AE to the square toslink of my DAC, RCA cables from DAC to a NAD 325bee.....
OH just to clarify, the six moon review claims that the signal out of certain toslink cables (Wireworld superNova and Van Den Hun Optocoupler $100) are at least equal to much more expensive co-axial cables.

Since the AE only streams digital out of it's mini-optical (toslink), there is no USB audio out (only printers), this pretty much rules out all the USB and co-axial DACs.

The Pacecar you put between your DAC and your pre-amp/integrated amp is like $1000+ dollars. That's a lot of cash. And I really don't know about spending thousands+ dollars on an external DAC.

I'd rather use that money for a quality turntable if I really wanted a superior listening experience, because no matter what, dollar for dollar, analog is going to sound better than digital.

I use a Macbook, and sitting on my couch being able to stream audio wirelessly while I'm surfing the net is pretty wicked. There's no way I'm running a USB cord to my stereo.

Also for all you non-itunes users, there is the Airfoil program (google it) that allows you to stream programs other than iTunes through AE.

Hope this helps.