Shootout Apple TV vs Logitec Duet

I read recently where I could load up to 25,000 songs into the apple iCloud with a $25 per year program through iTunes called Match and then play them through my apple tv with my computer off and without having to actually have any of the music on my hard disk. I also read that I can listen to my entire music library from my ipad, ipod, or iPhone wherever there is wireless. The catch is apple will convert all the music to 256kbps AAC when storing the library in the iCloud. Don't like that, but OK, I'll bite and see where this goes.

So, my computer took about 10 hours to upload my 23,500 songs into the cloud (around 480 GB, and around 2000 CDs). I kept getting stuck in step three which was sad as apple crashed when almost done in step three after 5 hours and started again at the beginning. I was able to add icloud status to my iTunes heading under songs and found a corrupted track and removed it. However, perhaps not only corrupt data, but actual repeats within the same album along with bad apple installation programming was the problem. Everything loaded the second time after cleaning up my music and removing the corrupt track.

Today I ran down to the apple store and bought the $100 apple TV. I wondered how good the music would be up against the squeezebox duet as the squeezebox listed at $400 new and was made for music whereas the apple tv also streams movies etc for less.

I managed to get my ipad to display on my tv what is on its screen using the apple ipad mirror option (nice feature, but not necessary). However, the tv need not be on or even connected once the apple tv is set up to play from the cloud. With both the duet running with apple lossless streamed from my computer (high quality, no info lost) and with the apple tv music from the cloud at 256 kbps from the ipad at the same time and the songs on repeat, I did my A-B comparison.

I suspect that you already know where this is heading. The same song with high resolution from the Logitech duet streaming from my computer sounded much much better. Clearer, more natural, greater depth and soundstage, all of that. Voices instruments, everything was much better. A snap from a conga or sizzle from a drum or richness of voice etc became a little dull in comparison through the apple tv from the lower quality icloud.

I am now curious what a 256kbps mp3 song already in my iTunes library on by computer through the duet sounds compared to the same 256bps song from the cloud though the apple TV (albeit with AAC format cloud songs, supposedly a little better than mp3).

I suspect that you already know again where this is heading. The Logitech duet spanked the apple tv sound wise, with the apple tv sounding duller and not as natural. I would call the apple tv 'adequate' but not real good and certainly not great sounding like the Logitech duet.

So, what if I wanted to stream music from my iTunes library on my computer directly through the apple tv with no icloud compression? A direct duet and apple tv shootout with high audio quality and no cloud? The apple tv direct from iTunes is supposedly around 800kbs+. How does that compare to the duet from iTunes? I turned on home sharing on both iTunes and apple TV. It appears that I must have my TV on to stream direct from my computers iTunes library and not the ipad. One thing nice about using the TV is that rather than like the duet and the icloud ipad play, all the clip art is there and is hugely displayed along with the apple menu which allows a fast forward or alpha search through lists of artist, album, playlist, genre etc.

So, I suspect that you again know where this is heading. Although the apple tv sounds better directly from the iTunes library at the much higher minimally compressed 800kbs than from the cloud, the duet sounded much better again. The duet provided an additional layer of depth and soundstage and quality of tone. The apple tv again sounded a little dull in comparison, although seemingly not quit as bad this time.

I will definitely keep my Logitech duet as well as the backup Duet that I bought until a new better streamer comes along with either a built in hard drive or one which uses higher quality cloud storage at a reasonable price. As far as the convenience of not needing to turn on the computer at home or have the music on a hard drive using apples cloud and match program, that will be nice on an airplane with a headset or whenever wanting to listen where Wifi is handy (or internet if you have wireless data). I may also install iTunes on the computer at work and use the cloud there to play music without having to load my 500gb library on the hard drive.

Since my Tivo already streams my videos, unless I see something much richer for video playing using my apple TV, I will probably take it back to apple. I imagine those with a lesser system or ear or who really don't want to turn on their computer and who don't care too much for the high quality sound for casual listening, will appreciate simply turning on their ipad, ipod, or iPhone to play their music from the cloud through the apple TV. By the way, according to the sales rep at apple, two apple tvs will not synchronize like the squeezebox or sonos streamers.

I for one, will probably just leave my computer on and set up the power settings so it doesn't fall asleep or hibernate and simply have the hard drives power down after 30 minutes of non use. My computer system expert who installed my server at work told me it is his and others opinion that turning your computer system off and on is harder on it than just leaving it on.

One caveat, my duet was modified and improved by Steve Sank in Tucson, so comparisons with a regular duet is a little unfair. However, I suspect for obvious reasons that a non modified duet with its superior singularly music driven construction and corresponding cost would still win the shootout with the relative cheap multi-function apple tv.

Although curilousity almost demanded it, this attempted tweak took a lot of my time and did not yield productive results - which as of late is typical for my already highly refined music system (see "Zu Druid Almarro 318B Tube Heaven" review under Audiogon "Forums, Virtual Systems, Done for Now"). I think it is time to let system tweaking take a back seat for awhile again for other higher priority life interests (including just listening to music)...

BTW, I haven't heard the Olive One and it intrigues me, although I hope there are quality aps to control it as its predecessors programming several years ago was so buggy that I abandoned it.
I use a Compulab Fit-PC2 for a music server. It's not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. It draws about 5 watts when idle and 6-7 watts when sending out multiple streams to my Squeezeboxes. With that kind of power consumption, it's no expense to leave it on 24/7. Oh, it's air cooled, so no annoying fan noise. I have a 1TB SSD in it with over 2700 CD's ripped in loss-less. It's not the fastest, but more than adequate for what I'm using it for.

Compulab just announce some new Haswell low powered PC's. About the size of a router, 15 watts under load and quick enough to replace the desktop rig.

The Duet has lower jitter than the ATV and it does not resample the data to 24/48 or stream in ALAC like the ATV does.

Jitter is your enemy, making the SQ poor. I would recommend staying with the Duet and maybe even adding a reclocker like the Synchro-Mesh with Dynamo power supply to make the jitter REALLY LOW. Its an easy experiment and has money-back guarantee.

You can even try it on the ATV. You might be surprised.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio