Home Airport Express firmware update = terrible

Attirex

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 8, 2015
578
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Have a 2014 Mini running 10.13.6 and recently installed the firmware updates on my two AEs, which are connected to 5Ghz WiFi network. I have Mini connected to an ancient Onkyo 5.1 receiver via optical, with two fronts, two rear, and a sub.

Previously, everything worked fine. Connecting to both AEs was quick and trouble-free. After the update, connecting is slooooow, iTunes displays wonky playback controls in the AirPlay menu that then disappear as you connect (still don't understand point of them), audio to AEs goes out of sync frequently, and even worse, I swear when I stream audio through the AEs, it kills the levels on the Mini's output (ie, weak bass and no high-end).

Anyone else have these issues or heard of them?

(mods, if this isn't correct location for topic, pls move)

Thanks!
 

Milesc2

macrumors newbie
May 22, 2018
22
6
After getting everything updated to 7.8 I now have distortion in the audio being outputted by the Airports.
The sound quality is just not there. I downgraded the firmware back to 7.6.9 and the output is again perfect.
Hopefully this can be resolved in a future update.
I really can't get over the night and day sound quality difference between the two firmware versions.
 

Attirex

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 8, 2015
578
1,230
How do you downgrade? I need to do that. 7.8 is crap.

Edit: Figured it out. Buh-bye 7.8.
 
Last edited:

pup

macrumors regular
Dec 31, 2009
146
76
Airplay 2 in general seems to be riddled with bugs, and not very robust when it encounters anything unusual. I've had best luck hardwiring my airport express and apple tv then playing via iTunes and the remote app, but even then it takes a while to connect to speakers and often takes multiple attempts to get all the speakers going.
 
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cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,554
1,873
My experience has been the opposite. AirPlay 2 connects to the AirPort Express quickly and I getting a copy of the song to the receiver (PCM stereo 44.1kHz sample rate Apple Music stream) via Toslink just as I was with AirPlay 1.

I do have the Express setup to "Join the network" since I only use it for speakers in my bedroom. Not sure if that makes a difference.
 

Milesc2

macrumors newbie
May 22, 2018
22
6
My experience has been the opposite. AirPlay 2 connects to the AirPort Express quickly and I getting a copy of the song to the receiver (PCM stereo 44.1kHz sample rate Apple Music stream) via Toslink just as I was with AirPlay 1.

I do have the Express setup to "Join the network" since I only use it for speakers in my bedroom. Not sure if that makes a difference.
Mine are setup the same way.
Strange that your not having any issues.
I can A B between two devices one on the new FW and one on the old.
The new firmware one sounds like trash every time.
Didn’t matter how they were connected or what they were connected to for me.
 

pup

macrumors regular
Dec 31, 2009
146
76
Mine was originally set up that way as well, and I encountered multiple problems. I suspect that either Airplay 2 requires much more bandwidth for some reason, or it can't handle signal dropouts elegantly, so it needs a strong wifi network without much interference to work well. In my case - old home with heavy plaster walls - I've always had a marginal wifi signal in many areas which i assume was much of my problem.
 

Attirex

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Apr 8, 2015
578
1,230
Hm. I wonder if the new firmware will work better with Mojave and whatever version of iTunes is part of it....? I plan to update my Mini, maybe I'll try 7.8 again post-update.
 

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,554
1,873
Mine are setup the same way.
Strange that your not having any issues.
I can A B between two devices one on the new FW and one on the old.
The new firmware one sounds like trash every time.
Didn’t matter how they were connected or what they were connected to for me.
That is odd, in this circumstance AirPlay is lossless and nothing was changed about that between AP 1 and AP 2 in that aspect. There is something seriously wrong if you have difference in audio quality.

If your setup is similar to mine you are getting what is otherwise a bitstream all the way into the receiver.

What device are you using as the source device? What OS version is it using? Where is the audio from? What are the specs of the audio (codec, sample size, bit rate etc)?
 

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Milesc2

macrumors newbie
May 22, 2018
22
6
That is odd, in this circumstance AirPlay is lossless and nothing was changed about that between AP 1 and AP 2 in that aspect. There is something seriously wrong if you have difference in audio quality.

If your setup is similar to mine you are getting what is otherwise a bitstream all the way into the receiver.

What device are you using as the source device? What OS version is it using? Where is the audio from? What are the specs of the audio (codec, sample size, bit rate etc)?
Source devices are an iPhone 8 Plus running iOS 12 and a 2014 MacBook Pro on HS.

Source audio is from iTunes on the Mac and Spotify on the iPhone.

Test tracks were all 320 Kbps.

This should be irrelevant however because the same tracks and devices in the same locatiaon and configuration sound great on the old firmware.

I hardwired the airport and still no change.

Something is definitely screwey with this firmware or AirPlay 2 in general.

Chill Bill by Rob Stone is the track I am using to test. There is some whistling at the beginning of the track and it is incredibly distorted on the new firmware.
It’s almost like only certain frequencies or tones are subject to the distortion. Some of parts of songs sound fine.
The distortion is very consistent and relatable however. It’s also completely nonexistent with the old firmware.
 
Last edited:

pup

macrumors regular
Dec 31, 2009
146
76
Be sure on the airport that you turn off its radio in addition to hard wiring it. My experience is that AirPlay will go wireless if you give it the chance.
 

garotemonkey

macrumors newbie
Mar 10, 2005
27
33
After getting everything updated to 7.8 I now have distortion in the audio being outputted by the Airports.
The sound quality is just not there. I downgraded the firmware back to 7.6.9 and the output is again perfect.
Hopefully this can be resolved in a future update.
I really can't get over the night and day sound quality difference between the two firmware versions.
Same thing here, except the firmware downgrade didn't fix the problem. The new version of iTunes just seems to be irretrievably confused about its internal levels. I'm playing out of an Airport express that is wired directly to a Mac Pro via an ethernet cable, and regardless of the volume setting I choose now, everything is appallingly distorted. I'm playing lossless tracks into a freaking Nova 150 amp and I'm used to it sounding excellent. Right now it sounds like someone is drilling sand into my ears. (And before you ask: If I plug headphones directly into the line out on the AE it still sounds like garbage, so no, it's not my speakers or my amp or any other amp that is the sudden source of this problem.)

What gives, Apple? Trillion dollar company, running your own audio codec in your own music player on your own operating system on your own hardware, over a wired network to your own device, and you just completely freaking bungle it. You didn't test this? Not even ONCE? iTunes is THE most important computer application you ship. Music is a cornerstone of your business. And no one, anywhere, bothered to test this configuration, ONCE, before you fired off this software to tens of millions of people?
 

LiveM

macrumors 65816
Oct 30, 2015
1,161
546
So far I’ve only used mine in Client mode with Apple TV, first as a multi-room setup which was perfectly synced with my 4K ATV but out of sync with my ATV 4, and then for my home theatre which had lower levels and less treble than running from my TV’s headphone out. I will next connect it to my LAN and see if there is any difference.
 

Plussi

macrumors newbie
Sep 27, 2018
1
2
Same here, I use APE via "extended Network" over Wifi connected to my AVR, streaming my iTunes library on my iMac and often control volume and music via iOS app "iTunes Remote". Once updated APE to 7.8, the sound was not getting worst or so, but sometimes I observed sync issues (music also plays on my iMac in a separate room) and more annoying: volume control doesn't work after few sec on the remote app. After going back to 7.6.8 everything went back to normal. Except I have the APE blinking yellow (but still functioning) sometimes, requesting update....also annoying and only restart can solve the blinking LED to green. Anyone else have this issue?
 
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cameronaus

macrumors newbie
Aug 10, 2019
1
0
Same thing here, except the firmware downgrade didn't fix the problem. The new version of iTunes just seems to be irretrievably confused about its internal levels. I'm playing out of an Airport express that is wired directly to a Mac Pro via an ethernet cable, and regardless of the volume setting I choose now, everything is appallingly distorted. I'm playing lossless tracks into a freaking Nova 150 amp and I'm used to it sounding excellent. Right now it sounds like someone is drilling sand into my ears. (And before you ask: If I plug headphones directly into the line out on the AE it still sounds like garbage, so no, it's not my speakers or my amp or any other amp that is the sudden source of this problem.)

What gives, Apple? Trillion dollar company, running your own audio codec in your own music player on your own operating system on your own hardware, over a wired network to your own device, and you just completely freaking bungle it. You didn't test this? Not even ONCE? iTunes is THE most important computer application you ship. Music is a cornerstone of your business. And no one, anywhere, bothered to test this configuration, ONCE, before you fired off this software to tens of millions of people?
Well said garotemonkey. , I have the same problem. Airport express airplay audio has distortion in the treble and sounds like total crap. I know it's not my system as everything else sounds fine. I play the same track from a hard wired connection and its all ok. Did you managed to find the solution to this, as it's driving me nuts.
 

Milesc2

macrumors newbie
May 22, 2018
22
6
Well said garotemonkey. , I have the same problem. Airport express airplay audio has distortion in the treble and sounds like total crap. I know it's not my system as everything else sounds fine. I play the same track from a hard wired connection and its all ok. Did you managed to find the solution to this, as it's driving me nuts.
7.6.9 firmware is the solution for me. All of my airports connect wirelessly with no issues and sound great now.
 
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