If you want to stream Apple Music there aren't as many options. Given you're also using iTunes, it kind of sounds like you're best off getting an Apple TV.
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the Apple universe is not the bar to better sound. nor is it a problem for streaming.
an apple TV is not the answer at all. unless it is a second gen ver. after the second gen, all ATV use only HDMI outputs. no other interface for audio out. the second gen had an optical out and HDMI. now only HDMI.
the trick is to get the files converted into analog so the amps du jour can make pretty noises.
if no possibility of ethernet connectivity is available, the converter has to rely upon WY FY.
I’m not up on all the streamer options out there and there are DACs which allow connection via wy fy… and or LAN… I think.
for full wireless connectivity folks here tend to mention Blue sound Node 2 as a starting point for $500 retail. I’ve not found another less expensive option yet, and there are those whose fidelity are significantly better, but at higher prices.
another moderately priced path could be to use a later model Oppo as 100 or 200 series, a DLNA or UPNP player, if whatever app can see it, ala J River, ROON, Fubar 2K for MAC, etc. Oppo also says there are free third party server apps which work on MAC platforms. and their disc spinners.
those are the two least pricey choices as I understand it. I’m sure there are others for more $$$$.
the likely prefered path is getting a D/A in the mix to feed your amps. even with the BSN II feeding its signal to a DAC would be at the very least a step I’d have to employ even if it were for an office rig.
maybe Shitte has a solution that will work for you.
Yeah, at it's price point the Bluesound Node 2i is hard to beat. Great feature set, including AirPlay 2. Use it as is and add a DAC later if the urge strikes. I have the Node 2 (now in my work system) and used it for a couple of years in my main system. Coupling with a nicer DAC than it's on-board one can elevate the sound quality substantially. Best of luck with your search.
Thanks to all who have responded. I went to a local stereo store and they demonstrated the Cambridge Audio Azure 851NQ network player along with the 851W which allowed WiFi streaming from a local iTunes library as well as Apple Music. It was touted as extremely easy to set up with little hiccups. This would exclude the need for a separate pre-amp as the 851NQ is an all in one streamer, DAC and preamp. I also saw on their website the equivalent higher end Edge NQ and W models. The Azure line has pretty favorable feedback. Has anyone had experience with the Edge network player and amp?
@ymc226 if you liked the sound quality of the Azur 851N, the Edge NQ would be a step up in quality (although perhaps not as pleasing to your ears—as you'd have to make that determination yourself).
However I assume when the 851N was demonstrated to you that Apple Music was playing via AirPlay, and not with native support. Just something you should be aware of. If you're willing to use AirPlay from the iPad app, then you have a very large number of options because almost everything supports AirPlay these days.
@ymc226 there isn't any issue with data being converted to ALAC for transmission, but there will be resampling if necessary like @melvinjames mentioned. The iPad or whatever you are using to send audio data to the receiving device is what is involved in the streaming work.
Native audio playback typically involves sending the actual audio file to the network streamer, which then decodes the original file and plays it back. Depending on where the audio file is coming from, the control device like your iPad may only be acting like a remote control and never touch the actual audio data. Slightly different in theory, but potentially the same in practice in your specific case.
It's not so much the audio data format that people have an issue with when it comes to AirPlay, but rather something else to do with the transmission protocol or device implementations that sometimes doesn't sound as good as playback back on the same device from a different source.
It could be that this is not an issue at all for the Cambridge Audio devices. But I've sometimes experienced it myself on some devices, and also have heard similar from people I trust to make informed judgements.
In any event, it does sound like AirPlay will work great for you, in which case there are lots of device options.