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DLNA versus Airport Express
lolix
post Sep 4 2011, 20:06
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Hi,

On my way to build my network enabled Hi-Fi audio, I hesitate between two technologies : As you guessed : DLNA and Airport express.

I have the possibility to buy a cheap Apple Airport Express adapter and link its audio output to my Hi-Fi or to buy a expensive Hi-Fi amplifier such as the Onkyo TX-8050 which is DLNA enabled.

As far as I understand both technology, they work in two completely different ways (Please correct me if I'm wrong) :

- DLNA is an "home user friendly" file sharing : I mean that the file is either send ("W7 "play to") or grabbed by the DLNA device and they this is the device that process the file. The divce must have the codec. My DLNA TV works like this, at least.
So talking about Hi-Fi audio, the DAC is be done by the (expensive) Hi-Fi Amplifier, for good.

- Airport Express : The audio file is first decoded into analog by Itunes, then encoded again (in ALAC or lossy codec ?) and sent across the network to the Aiport Express plug which does again a Digital-to-Analog conversion. So I'm concerned by the DAC quality.
I'm also about various Apple proprietary requirements : Itunes w/o FLAC support.

This post has been edited by lolix: Sep 4 2011, 20:32
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mixminus1
post Sep 4 2011, 22:28
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I've never used DLNA, so I can't comment on that, but I do use an Airport Express for streaming, so I can give you a little more info there.

iTunes does not convert to analog when you stream via AirPlay - it converts whatever file you're playing directly to ALAC (that is, it decompresses the file to PCM and then encodes that on-the-fly to ALAC) and streams that to the Airport Express.

If you use the Airport Express's analog out, then yes, you're using its built-in DAC. However, that same jack can also output optical S/PDIF via a mini-TOSLink-to-TOSLink cable, which most home theater receivers made in the past few years can accept, and then do the D/A conversion using their converters, FWIW.


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soulsearchingsun
post Sep 4 2011, 22:32
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QUOTE (lolix @ Sep 4 2011, 21:06) *
The audio file is first decoded into analog by Itunes, then encoded again [...]

One thing I can say for sure, there is no analog stage in this part of the chain. The audio file is being reencoded, but reencoding means decoding to pcm (digital uncompressed audio) and encoding to another format. If it's done correctly, there is nothing to worry about in this step. This process can be totally lossless, like reencoding a flac file with another compression ratio. I don't know though what alogrithms are being used if you feed different sample rates to the airplay sender.

You are right though by the statement that airplay is basically streaming audio data, whereas DLNA is mainly pointing the sink/renderer/player (however you like to call it) to the location where the file resides. This doesn't allow to conclude, that there should be differences in (technical) sound quality. Perceived sound quality will be fine anyways.
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greynol
post Sep 4 2011, 22:44
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QUOTE (mixminus1 @ Sep 4 2011, 14:28) *
If you use the Airport Express's analog out, then yes, you're using its built-in DAC. However, that same jack can also output optical S/PDIF via a mini-TOSLink-to-TOSLink cable, which most home theater receivers made in the past few years can accept, and then do the D/A conversion using their converters, FWIW.

Is there any objective evidence indicating the DAC inside the Airport Express is audibly inferior to those found in other devices?


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mixminus1
post Sep 4 2011, 23:55
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FWIW, wink.gif Stereophile's measurements of the first-generation Airport Express in 2005 showed very high jitter on its analog output. Is/was it audible? See all our threads here on HA re: audibility of jitter, i.e. probably not, but it *was* unusually high - 2400 picoseconds.

OTOH, its optical output had very *low* jitter (around 1/10 as much), even lower than that produced by the S/PDIF output of the RME sound card in Atkinson's PC.


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2Bdecided
post Sep 5 2011, 15:09
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Check the DLNA implementation supports gapless playback, playlists, etc and that whatever push controller you intend to use has a suitable interface for managing however many hundreds or thousands of tracks you have.

Cheers,
David.
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Roseval
post Sep 5 2011, 19:38
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The big advantage of DLNA is that it is an very well supported industry standard.
You can choose from many brands.
Downside is that not all devices implement this protocol flawless.
Look for at least DLNA certified product.

In case of Apple it is of course reverse.
You are locked in but as the whole is in one hand it is probably stable.

The technologies differs.
DLNA devices exchange information over the network.
They might act as a server, a renderer, a control point, etc.
AE is a push technology, you need a Mac to push the data to the AE.
AE is limited to 16/48 (I believe, you won’t find to many specs at Apple)
DLNA has a device dependent resolution.

In principle all DLNA devices can play the content of a server.
If a renderer don’t support the codec, the server is supposed to convert on the fly to a format the renderer does understand.

Probably Apple’s AirPlay is more like DLNA but of course a hermetically locked proprietary standard too.


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lolix
post Sep 5 2011, 19:48
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Hi,

Thanks to all of you for your responses.

At first I thought that the tip about the digital outup of AE being great. The thing is that I don't have a input for that. So, either I cop with Itunes / ALAC / Airport Express DAC and my current amplifier
or
I buy a new amplifier. Then why not buying a DLNA enabled one ? Appart form Onkyo, who does DLNA Hi-Fi amplifier ?



This post has been edited by lolix: Sep 5 2011, 20:09
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suur13
post Sep 5 2011, 22:35
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I'm using both solutions parallel in same environment, so I can compare:

My vote goes clearly to AEX when talking about listening music only. Why ? It is way more convinient.
For example choosing songs and playlists from my laptop when siting on sofa in same room of AEX/Amp/Speakers,
or using iPhone/iPod as remote when playing tracks from NAS or streaming internet radio. Reacting fast (when not using Linux). Gapless playback. And I find it rock stable (when not using Linux).
And I needed router anyway when connecting wirelessly may office (computer + NAS) to living room (TV + Amp), so I tought why not buy AEX and never regreted afterwards.

So what's that Linux thing ? You are not tied to MAC ! Even better, you are not even tied to iTunes !
On my Windows machine I use AirFoil. It is official application, not some hack. It's cheap and if you want to try that first, there are possibilities... Through AirFoil I can stream ANYTHING. Foobar, WMP, Songbird. All formats - FLAC, ogg/vorbis etc. It is stable as iTunes.
And then there is Linux and Pulseaudio module RAOP. Does same thing as AirFoil. You can stream mplayer, DeaDBeeF, AmaroK, whatever... but this pulseaudio module has few second delay and drops connection sometimes. Sometimes it skips, cracles and pops, but I have noticed that it depends on player (and it buffer settings maybe ?). I have found Clementine and AmaroK completly stable, but DeadBeef skips quite often.

Down side with both (AirFoil and Pulseaudio) is that I can not use iPhone as remote. Maybe there is an app for that, I do not know. And if not, maybe theres an app in Android.

DLNA ? It is nice for movies and showing pictures to quests in big screen. Regarding music, only plus is that is shows album art in TV screen. Otherwise it is crummy. Choosing songs from my Samsung remote is PITA. Sammy does not support FLAC, OGG or anything. Every songs loads five seconds, even from playlist (why can't it buffer before, during previous track ?). Of course NO gapless playback. Maybe the experience will be better with Squeezbox, Sonos, CA, Naim or Arcam. Maybe not. DLNA is industry standard ? Whoa. Search internet. Everybody and their mother are crying about compability issues. I'm relatively lucky - combination of minidlna in my NAS, WMP11 in my W7 machine and Sammy C-series TV works as nice threesome. With some glitches (only some movies from W7/WMP11 appear in TV and minidlna does no update herself voluntearly). But my brother could not pair Sammy B-series with Windows Vista and gave up. There are lot of servers which do not work correctly with all clients and vice versa. Search, read and choose carefully if you decide to go that route.

Quality - same to me, as both, AEX and TV are optically connected to A/V receiver-amp, which does D/A conversion.

Hardware. TOS #8 or not, but use external DAC/amp for D/A conversion. Buy cheap DAC from Ebay if you do not want buy new amp straight away. 30 €/$. Later when buying new amp/receiver with DAC, you can use this small DAC as external soundcard for your computer/laptop and/or headphone amp.
If you go DLNA, you can check Marantz or Denon new universal players (Blu-Ray, DVD, SACD, CD, SDCard, mp3, USB, DLNA) as an option for client and DAC in same time. I'm also thinking that direction to remove my Sammy TV from equation.

This post has been edited by suur13: Sep 5 2011, 22:52
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SCOTU
post Sep 6 2011, 03:32
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I believe suur's comparison is not especially valid. While I have not used Airport Express, I have used several DLNA techs, and his interpretations of it are a bit skewed.

Apparently the major advantage of AEX to DLNA is that it's "more convenient" because you can just use your laptop/smartphone to control playback vs. DLNA which allegedly you must use the remote to awkwardly navigate your device's playback. I will admit that using a remote and interface like that can be kind of awkward, but by no means is that the only way to do so. There are tons of software that will allow you to use your computer as a control device. For smartphone control, if you use android, at least, there's an app called 2Player which lets you play music from either your phone or from any DLNA server on your network to any DLNA player on your network. There are probably other DLNA apps for other smartphone OS' but I don't know them.

As for compatibility, many DLNA players support a wide range of formats/specs, and DLNA servers are capable of taking anything they can convert and pushing it in a format your player can play. Got an ogg? FLAC? dtswav? Push it out over DLNA. I don't know what AEX servers can handle.

As far as Denon goes, my Dad's Denon AVR's network stability is a total pile of ass, don't go with Denon for this.
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2Bdecided
post Sep 6 2011, 09:57
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QUOTE (Roseval @ Sep 5 2011, 19:38) *
In principle all DLNA devices can play the content of a server.
If a renderer don’t support the codec, the server is supposed to convert on the fly to a format the renderer does understand.
The DLNA specs strongly recommend this transcoding capability, but don't assume that it's present, or works properly etc.

With DLNA, check explicitly that each piece of equipment does what you want it to do.
You can search DLNA certification on the DLNA website - but most devices support far more than they were certified for, so this isn't particularly helpful.

DLNA support will improve though - and there's DLNA and UPnP software for all kinds of devices. You're not tied into a single implementation. This could be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.

Cheers,
David.

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lolix
post Jul 1 2013, 17:43
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Hi, so one year and a half later I've finally bought a Pioneer N-50.

I've installed Serviio for Windows as DLNA server (because the build-in W7 dlna server doesn't recognize FLAC files).

I'm testing also Winamp "remote speakers" plugin by Eric Milles using Airplay protocol. Sounds OK, but it's not free and I'm not sure I get the best out of my N-50 DAC.
Who's doing the DAC ? Winamp + my PC as the term "Remote speakers" would suggest or at the N-50 ? Well I should probably be able to figure out by listening carefully.

Using BlueStacks for Windows I can also use my PC to remote control the N-50 through the Android app. Definitely not as easy as Winamp but it does the job

This post has been edited by lolix: Jul 1 2013, 17:48
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rick.hughes
post Jul 1 2013, 19:53
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QUOTE (lolix @ Jul 1 2013, 11:43) *
I'm testing also Winamp "remote speakers" plugin by Eric Milles using Airplay protocol. Sounds OK, but it's not free and I'm not sure I get the best out of my N-50 DAC.
Who's doing the DAC ? Winamp + my PC as the term "Remote speakers" would suggest or at the N-50 ? Well I should probably be able to figure out by listening carefully.

Using BlueStacks for Windows I can also use my PC to remote control the N-50 through the Android app. Definitely not as easy as Winamp but it does the job

I am using Remote Speakers (paid for it years ago) with MediaMonkey, my wife uses iTunes. We have multiple AE installed around the house. The great thing about this approach is you get wireless access points and your audio output devices can be dumb. Even powered speakers, such as used with computers, will work. I can use Windows Remote Desktop from a laptop to control the playback application on another computer.

As for "who's doing the DAC?" Airplay is digital even with Remote Speakers since it is following the Airplay protocol. Since your N-50 supports Airplay, it is the DAC in your case.

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lolix
post Jul 1 2013, 20:03
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QUOTE (rick.hughes @ Jul 1 2013, 20:53) *
As for "who's doing the DAC?" Airplay is digital even with Remote Speakers since it is following the Airplay protocol. Since your N-50 supports Airplay, it is the DAC in your case.


Yes I don't feel any difference between a Winamp AirPlay streamed output (flac source) and the actual CD (played on a Pionneer BDP-320). I'll probably buy the plugin.

This post has been edited by lolix: Jul 1 2013, 20:04
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