Airport Express->???-> HD650 for $250?
Nov 27, 2008 at 7:49 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

tumbleweed

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I picked up an Airport Express last week and have finally got it set up on the bedside table to stream airtunes. With my iPhone and the Remote app, it's actually incredibly cool-- it will stream lossless music from my desktop at the other end of the house, all controled right from my phone (including volume).

For experimentation purposes, I've simply plugged the HD650's directly into the airport's mini jack. It sounds surprisingly good- solid base extension, little distortion in the highs even at higher volume. Obviously, there's a lot not to like too-- the sound is quite flat, with almost no soundstage and the lack of detail causes me to run the volume up, which in turn is pretty fatiguing.

Most of what I listen to these days is Apple Lossless, but I still have VBR mp3s and 256k AAC (from iTunes) on rotation. My taste is also all over the map-- Sigur Ros, Arcade Fire, Girl Talk to Aaron Copland and bluegrass.

Can anyone recommend a relatively inexpensive desktop dac or amp that would be a solid, middle-of-the-road upgrade to this setup? I've been researching up on the Headdirect EF1 (on sale right now for $299) but it's a tiny bit more than I want to spend. Conversely, I wonder if an upgraded Zero DAC might be a better 1st step now, with a better amp later on.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

(edit: as might be gathered from my sig, the only amp I have now for comparison is the Predator, and I'm relatively new to the sickness :)).
 
Nov 27, 2008 at 8:07 PM Post #2 of 16

Rico67

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i use a Spitfire from fubar as dac and it's a cool solution.
You have to choose a dac with an optical line in.
 
Nov 27, 2008 at 11:07 PM Post #3 of 16

Bigjppop

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I have a Yulong DAC (amp and DAC combo) and I use it via USB out of my laptop and run my HD650's out of its amp section and its really a great option for what you're looking at. The Yulong has USB, Coax, and optical connections and is a great one box solution right at your price point.
 
Nov 28, 2008 at 3:24 AM Post #5 of 16
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The Airport Express has a mini-optical connector built into the output/headphone jack, so 2x a DAC/amp combo with optical input. Get yourself a decent mini-optical to Toslink connector of the length required from here possibly (it's the only place I could find other than Van Den Hul that does them).
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 1:24 AM Post #6 of 16

tosehee

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Currawong /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The Airport Express has a mini-optical connector built into the output/headphone jack, so 2x a DAC/amp combo with optical input. Get yourself a decent mini-optical to Toslink connector of the length required from here possibly (it's the only place I could find other than Van Den Hul that does them).


Is this cable any better than any other mini to toslink? I've been searching for glass mini to toslink, but ended up saying that for such a short distance, it doesn't really matter what kind you get..
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 6:04 AM Post #7 of 16

tumbleweed

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Thanks all for the suggestions, especially for the special cable which I'm sure would have left me spinning my wheels.
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 6:15 AM Post #8 of 16

royewest

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monoprice.com has a great selection of optical cables at great prices.

Before anyone goes to any lengths to add hi-end gear to an Airport Express, make sure you understand the limits of its optical out. I use one exactly as other folks describe, but I think there are limits to what it can feed a DAC from its optical out, regardless of the source on your Mac, etc.
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 8:17 AM Post #9 of 16

krmathis

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Quote:

Originally Posted by royewest /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Before anyone goes to any lengths to add hi-end gear to an Airport Express, make sure you understand the limits of its optical out. I use one exactly as other folks describe, but I think there are limits to what it can feed a DAC from its optical out, regardless of the source on your Mac, etc.


Yeah, they need to read up on the facts.
The AirPort Express' digital out have been stated to be bit-perfect, so no real worries needed. AirTunes don't support anything above 16-bit/44.1Khz, so no dice playing back those 24-bit/192Khz files without loss.

/me love the AirPort Express.
bigsmile_face.gif
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 10:04 AM Post #10 of 16
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Quote:

Originally Posted by tosehee /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Is this cable any better than any other mini to toslink? I've been searching for glass mini to toslink, but ended up saying that for such a short distance, it doesn't really matter what kind you get..


It's on my list of things to do to order one and compare it to my Van Den Hul Optocoupler. I could hear, even with quite a cheap DAC (the Zero) a clear difference between optical cables. I completely wasn't expecting to hear a difference at all. I suspect part of the problem could be the cheap and nasty $2 Toslink to mini adaptor that came with one of them, so my current theory is that a proper terminated optical cable will be better than one with the nasty adaptors.
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 6:34 PM Post #12 of 16

tumbleweed

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The Sterophile article is what swayed me to pick one up in the first place. I understand the 16/44 limitation, but given where I'm at with my motley music library, I've got several thousand dollars worth of mp3/aac music to repurchase before I'm in a position to worry about it :)
 
Nov 29, 2008 at 8:49 PM Post #13 of 16

krmathis

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^ No worries then!
smile.gif

Just hook up and enjoy music..
 
Nov 30, 2008 at 5:19 AM Post #14 of 16

tosehee

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Well, I couldn't resist the temptation to test it out myself. I have an old monster cable optical that I hooked up from Mac Pro to VDA-2. I believe I treated this cable rather nasty, so I have no clue about the actual condition of the cable.

In any rate, I ordered Wire World Super Nova 5+ today. So it should arrive next week sometime, a perfect time as I am getting back to US.

I am a noob in this world, so I really don't have any trained ear. But, I will try to see if I can hear the differences. If not, look for "FS" in cable section for the new cable. :)
 
Nov 30, 2008 at 8:16 AM Post #15 of 16

krmathis

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tosehee. Nice, and keep us posted.
I heard a difference when I switched from the Monster Cable to the Van den Huul Optocoupler MKII, so I wont be surprise if you hear a difference as well.
 

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