using airport express to feed itunes to my DAC - audio only.

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by scott911, Nov 18, 2016.

  1. scott911 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2009

    Disappointed that Apple has yet to support 4K in their Apple TV, I've decided to use my internal smart TV functions for video steaming.

    But because I have all my music on a MAC (itunes) I want to use an apple product to be the source for my Emotiva DAC which then feeds Thiel Speakers though a pair of monoblock amps.

    I was thinking an airport express would do it.

    Here's, finally, is my question: In the past, I used an apple TV (gens 1,2, and 3) and my TV monitor to scroll through the albums/songs. I don't use the iMac because it's in a completely different part of the house.

    I suppose I would simply use itunes on the ipad. Are there any other options, down sides I should consider? I'm kind of worried the ipod adds some instability - what if it losses network, does music stop, Or someone opens another app - does that mess with things?

    Anyone have experienced using this interface after becoming familiar with apple TV?
  2. vintagebob macrumors regular


    Jun 12, 2013
    San Jose CA
    I'm not sure if it is still the case but I remember that the Airport Express use to only play music at a sample rate of 256kbps (AAC) vs the full Redbook CD rate of 1411kbps (AIFF). Don't see a spec on the Tech Specs page for the current Express.

    I serve my audio to my high end stereo system with a Mac Mini to a USB DAC using Pure Music software. I rip CDs at full 1411 to my server.

    I did use an older Express to serve music to me second system in the bedroom. Don't use that system much anymore though.

    If you download your music from iTunes it will already "only" be 256kbps, so it won't matter.
  3. scott911, Nov 18, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2016

    scott911 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2009
  4. scott911 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2009
    I'm reading now that the airport express has been discontinued. that doesn't matter a huge amount - but it's gotten me to thinking maybe a headless apple TV would be a better option.

    Of course the current apply TV lacks TOSlink output, so I'd have to get a gen 3.
  5. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    Portland / Seattle
    I'm bummed as well about the demise of the Airport line, so easy to use in many cases. I may pick up a few of them just for their audio capabilities. Back on point, I move about a bit to two offices and my house - at each of the locations I have a Mini Server with a copy of my lossless music rips and my downloaded music (a base Mini would work fine here as well) generally with an iPad attached as a display (via Duet Display), talking to an Express on my desk, and I use the Express as a music listening device. The DAC in the Express is really pretty decent and IMHO Apple would have sold more if they'd pushed that point. I also use a different, pretty unique IMHO DAC in my 07 E550, which has a AUX DAC in the glovebox that I pair with my iPhone 6S+, a Celsus Sound Companion One, which connect via wifi (it creates its on SSID) and the DAC also has a decent battery so it works perfectly with short road trips.

    And, respectfully to jerwin, that reviewed device is the older Express, which had a pretty crappy DAC. A more-recent comprehensive review specifically of the DAC and Toslink output in the newer Express is found at Ken Rockwell's site: - jump straight to the Recommendations at the bottom of the page, then pore through the rest of the page to see some pretty impressive analysis. I've seen posts on the web of auto junkies putting and hardwiring an Express in their rides, just for the ease of use - my Benz has a fiberoptic harness so I'll stick with the Celsus...
  6. jumpingjackflash macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2016
    Or just get HDMI audio extractor with that Apple TV4 to get toslink signal for your DAC.
  7. FireArse macrumors 6502a

    Oct 29, 2004
  8. scott911 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 24, 2009
    sweet - didn't know those existed!
  9. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    I would use an Airport Express as opposed to an ATV, even if you have to buy an older model, or even if you were to buy a used much older model of the old power brick style. I've been using these for over 10 years to create a wireless sound system in my home, including connected to my high end systems. So long as your network is in good working order, these are excellent audiophile devices when connected via Toslink to a good DAC.

    I don't like the ATV option for a couple of reasons. One, they upsample everything to 48khz. Two, they are difficult to manage without connecting them to a monitor, and three, in my experience they are slower to react when I choose them as a source for music playback.
  10. bluespark macrumors 65816

    Jul 11, 2009
    New York
    Correct. It has always had optical output and works great with lossless music and an external DAC. It was my main source device for years, although AirPlay has been less consistent lately for me (not sure why).
  11. LiveM macrumors 65816


    Oct 30, 2015
    The Express line hasn't necessarily been discontinued. It's still being made and sold.

    The Airport team has simply been assigned to other projects... presumably they have finished whatever they've been working on over the last three years (the usual time between releases). Apple was recently awarded a patent for an Airport-looking Siri speaker so this seems likely to be what Apple's next router will feature.
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If you have an Airport Express it's internal DAC is excellent and you don't really need another DAC in its own box. And yes, the iPhone or iPad works really well, you select the music to play and tell it where to send the audio. The iPad picks up the digital files over WiFi from the iMac. Don't worry about using WiFi bandwidth. The audio data rate is way-slow compared to almost anything else.
  13. LiveM macrumors 65816


    Oct 30, 2015
    The Airport Express DAC is fantastic. It's just a shame that you need to use the Mac to direct audio to more than one at a time.

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