Airport Express Alternatives

Discussion in 'Computer Audiophile: Software, Configs, Tools' started by Tuck16, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. Tuck16

    Tuck16 Rando

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    Apologies if this is covered in an existing thread or is in wrong sub. I tried a search on my issue, but had trouble zeroing in on my topic.

    My home rig is based around my record player, but I also want to stream music through Tidal. My Tidal stream necessarily has to be done wirelessly (due to room configuration, I can't have a wired connection to a computer). My current set-up is Airport Express S/PDIF > Bimby > Yamaha A-S1000BL (which also serves as the pre-amp/amp for my vinyl).

    The Airport Express is driving me nuts. Are there other alternatives for wireless streaming?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Too many to list - a raspberry pi of some kind, possibly with a digital or analog output board of some kind, and one of a multitude of os for it, and we're just starting.

    Take a look at https://volumio.org/shop/ and keep in mind the real variety is orders of magnitude larger - and can cost several thousand dollars, if you want to.

    And let's not forget the humble Chromecast Audio.
     
  3. digitaldave

    digitaldave Acquaintance

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    If you want more info about the Raspberri Pi options, there’s a couple of threads over in the Digital sub forum. I followed this one:

    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...-based-streamer-a-guide-for-the-nervous.3969/

    Works well as an Airport Express replacement, and can be used for much more such as streaming from a NAS (although I haven’t tried that, I only wanted something to replace my Airport Express). And it’s quite easy to set up, and not too expensive - all you need is the Raspberry Pi, a power supply, an output board (e.g. the Hifiberry Digi+) and a micro SD card. I know almost nothing about Linux, but following the guide, it was very straightforward. Kudos to @Kattefjaes for writing it up :).
     
  4. bobboxbody

    bobboxbody Acquaintance

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    I'll put in a vote for CcA, it does the job well for lliving room rocking and/or cooking music.
     
  5. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    That's why we have threads like this. Just name your favorites.
     
  6. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    For creating an airport endpoint without airport express hardware, https://rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/mac/ is a software-only option that runs on OSX. It's been more reliable and easier to use than a Raspberry Pi ever was for me.

    If you have an old/spare Mac this can be a decent way to enable airport streaming. I have an old Mac Mini + Eitr and it's super convenient because I can stream to it via Airport, use Spotify Connect on it and control via phone, or have Audirvana play lossless FLACs and control that also from a phone. It's a pain when the computer takes a shit in the bed and needs to be rebooted, but that happens less frequently for some reason than my RPI did.
     
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  7. NekoAudio

    NekoAudio Acquaintance

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    I use Airfoil a lot.

    For standalone boxes, there are lots of AirPlay-compatible options besides the AirPort Express / Apple TV. Although it might help to know why you find the AirPort Express annoying (lack of first-class Tidal support?).
    • Sonore microRendu or Sonicorbiter SE
    • Auralic Aries / Aries Mini
    • Marantz NA6005 / ND8006
    • Yamaha WXC-50
    • Arcam rPlay
    • Lumin Products
    • Cambridge Audio Azur 851N / CXN
    And more I can't think of right now.

    One of the things I think about for network streamers is the potential security risk introduced by the software provided.
     
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  8. kukur9

    kukur9 Rando

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    From the YMMV department because systems (and ears) vary so much, I'm putting in a positive vote for the AEx (primarily on the basis of sound quality). No offense intended to the OP–simply offering a suggestion that the AEx is better than presented online (perhaps especially if your whole chain is "higher" quality front to back).

    I am more than happy with my AEx as an endpoint using iTunes and Apple Lossless and WAV files. Signal goes AEx optical out to a W4S Remedy (? it's R-something, not the USB) powered by an LPS-1 and BNC coax out via silver coax to the BNC coax/DAC. It's not quite a regular signal path because the W4S apparently upsamples, but I've compared it to the microRendu (Ethernet to mRendu to USB/DAC), and the (apparently upsampled) coax won by a hair. mRendu was sold and just happy, non-comparative listening ever since. (I also recently enjoyed four hours of high-end vinyl listening at my dealer and came home to compare with my vinyl and digital playback. My system was easily in the same ballpark.)

    I have heard "better" but to really better my system I'd have to spend $$$$$ and that's not including the home remodeling! I'm tempted to try an Auralic Aries as a replacement for both iTunes and AEx as endpoint, but it just doesn't seem that the return on investment is worth the effort/time/money until I'm forced to ditch iTunes. That said and judging by how Apple/iTunes/streaming is nowadays, I think that time is coming within a couple years. By then, perhaps the network side of audio will have settled down but if not then a used Auralic Aries/LPS and their front-end/player software seems to be a stable and inexpensive solution in the same league as other more spendy network solutions.

    So, if you can live with iTunes, maybe try giving your AEx better signal upstream or better reclocking downstream. Your wallet may thank you for it.
     
  9. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Actually @digitaldave - if I were doing it today, I'd try picoreplayer. It's tiny and boots really fast from a ramdisk image, so less likely to screw up if powered-down unexpectedly. It's also stupidly easy to back up/restore config etc.

    If you have a spare card for your Pi, you might want to give it a look. You can turn on shairport-sync in "tweaks" from the web interface.

    I avoided it at the time, because I didn't have an LMS running on my network (I do now, on my NAS). However, picoreplayer can also be its own LMS now, which is awesome for people looking to play files. Just add a control app, like Squeezer for Android, and it's good to go. (Obviously irrelevant for you, no need for LMS to just do Airport streaming)

    Oh, and I did an in-situ update of a couple of picoreplayer endpoints yesterday. Stuck a USB stick in to back up config, clicked "save". Told it to update, it rewrote the card with the download, rebooted, automatically pulled the config from the stick and used it.. and was ready to go. Painless and quick.

    It'd probably make a nice low-maintenance Airport target, assuming the included shairport sync is all present and correct.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
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  10. digitaldave

    digitaldave Acquaintance

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    Thanks for the extra info. I do have a spare card, so I’ll check it out.
     

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