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Old Nov 22, 2010, 06:56 AM   #1
netdog
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AirPlay/AirTunes: Jitter or No Jitter?

I am on the verge of buying a Cambridge Audio DACMagic DAC.

One of the things CA claims is that optical audio from computers (like Macs) is not metronomically syncronous -- i.e. that some bits are delivered out of order, yielding unwanted overtones.

With AirPlay or AirTunes, is there such jitter present? Will a good DAC sort this problem out? Will there be a noticeable sound improvement?

My signal is ultimately being played through B&W 685s. I have to say that, at the moment, I think the sound has room for improvement that has little to do with my my speakers. Current setup is AirTunes playing ALAC > integrated amp > 685s.
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Old Nov 22, 2010, 08:03 AM   #2
zhenya
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This is a rather complicated question, and like many 'high-end' audio issues, probably able to be beat to death without coming up with a clear answer. I'd suggest you try it out for yourself and see if the sound meets your standards. It's only $100, has lots of other uses even if it doesn't meet your needs for this spot in the house, or can be re-sold easily.

My experience is that I've been using the Airport Express to relay music around the house for years - including one to my DAC Magic in my bedroom hooked up to a high-end headphone amp. I find it to sound great, and I can't tell the difference between a CD playing through the DAC Magic, and music served from iTunes. The latter is certainly more convenient! In general, the Airport Express has been considered a minor audiophile hit over the years, as it transfers a loss-less digital signal cheaply and easily. The only major criticism I've heard of it is that it is not compatible with high-res formats.
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Old Nov 22, 2010, 08:06 AM   #3
netdog
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But to be clear, do you think that the DACMagic improves the sound coming via your AirPort Express?

It's 200 here for a DACMagic, or something over $300.
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Old Nov 22, 2010, 09:09 AM   #4
zhenya
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Ah, sorry. Now I see what you are after. Honestly, either I don't have the best ear for digital changes, or they really are so subtle that it's insignificant. I might be able to tell the difference in a double blind test, but I wouldn't bet anything on it. I'd say the DA converter is about the last place I'd spend money on my audio system.
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