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appleTV audio out to old amp with only analog audio

17397 Views 13 Replies Latest reply: Dec 3, 2012 6:58 PM by littletree76 RSS
Seri0usFun Calculating status...
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Oct 10, 2010 8:48 PM
I'm thinking about getting the Apple TV for both video and for playing my music on my home stereo system. I currently have an old amp with only analog audio capabilities, but the new ATV looks like it only supports digital optical out, and the digital to analog converters I've looked for seem pretty expensive. How can I get the audio from my music collection (iTunes) to play wirelessly through ATV through my amp?

I currently also have an Airport Express which I use for audio, but I was thinking of selling that and just using the ATV since the ATV can essentially do the same thing as the AX with added video benefit. I've seen some threads on streaming audio from the ATV to the AX, but do I really need both? Seems like there should be another way.

I was thinking of connecting the ATV to my TV via HDMI cable for audio, and then using an analog audio out from the TV to my amp. But, if I'm correct, that would only provide me with sound coming from the TV. It wouldn't give sound out from iTunes, for example. Is that right?

Are there any other options?
MacBook, Mac OS X (10.5.8)
  • littletree76 Level 1 Level 1 (55 points)
    All you need is a DAC between Apple TV (Toslink digital audio output) to your stereo amplifier (RCA analog L/R line inputs). DAC come in various prices and grades, you can always pick one to suite your budget and sound requirement (search in eBay with key word "DAC"). There are reasonably good models priced below USD 200 such as Sparrow offered by Audio-GD ( though it is designed and built in China.

    Using HDMI and analog cables to pass digital audio signal through decoder and amplifier built in your TV set probably will work but I doubt it will give satisfactory sound quality for music appreciation. Bare in mind that decoder/amplifier built in TV set must be cheap enough for competitive price in mass consumer market (they are not built for quality sound). So the scenario become output from cheap amplifier cascaded into expensive external amplifier and it will never sound good no matter how good is the external amplifier. Moreover your TV set must be remain on even when you only want to listen to music.
    iMac 21.5" 3.6GHz Core i5, Mac OS X (10.6.4), Airport Extreme/Express
  • kingjh Calculating status...
    For an interim solution use HDMI (audio and Video combined) to your TV, then use the audio out jacks on the TV to connect to your stero system.

    You won't get true dolby but then you didn't have it before since true dolby only truely works on optical. You will not likely be able to tell the difference if you have simulated dolby.

    I actually found this to be an easier set up for the non-techie members of the family who can't remember what all the device settings are, then I jut set it to optical when I watch it.
    Mac Pro, Mac OS X (10.5)
  • Geiger Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)
    Did you manage to get the pictures to go through ATV2 and sound through AX?
    MacBook Unibody 4GB 2.4GHz 320GB, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • bicycledave Calculating status...

    Thanks. I would not be using it with a TV, just for the audio. - Do you think that using a DAC with the AppleTV I will get better audio than with the Airport Express?



  • Winston Churchill Level 10 Level 10 (81,830 points)

    There are many that have found the Apple TV won't switch on (just for audio) unless it can detect a TV.

  • diademlee Calculating status...

    Just ordered a FiiO D3 Digital to Analog Audio Converter from Amazon, from all reports on the site it should do the trick and it only cost $30 with shipping.

  • Herbie_K Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    I have three Airport Expresses just for this purpose, playing audio on different systems in different rooms. The Express has both toslink and analog outputs in the same jack (which I find ingenious) so you can have either, if you get the special toslink/analog cable kit from Apple.


    I don't know why they did not fit the ATV2 with the same configuration as the Airport Express. It would let you connect the TV via HDMI and an analog source with the jack. If you're just going to use it for audio, stick with the Express.


    BTW check with Parts Express if you want to get a DAC. They have a buch of options.


    Good Luck!

  • goodmane Calculating status...

    Hey there,

    Did you ever get this to work?  I am considering the exact setup as yours, but am concerned that I will have to turn the TV on even if I want to play audio-only to my reciever.

    Can anyone else confirm that the TV does in fact need to remain on to use the ATV as a 'audio-only' target?

  • diademlee Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I used this product:

    FiiO D3 (D03K) Digital to Analog Audio Converter With Micca 6ft Optical Toslink Cable - 192kHz/24bit Optical and Coaxial DAC



    It works, though there is usually a bit of a hissing noise when it is first started up.  For under $30 I guess I cant compalin too much.

  • Herbie_K Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    I did a work around. I bought a refurbished airport express and used the analog cable 3.5mm jack to L/R RCA plugs it worked great at a reasonable cost. Actually with Airplay you can stream almost any content from any iOS device.

  • Herbie_K Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    Now that you've had it awhile, how do you like the FiiO D3?

  • diademlee Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Once it "warms up" it works great.  I have only had to reset it once the whole time i have had it.


    The period of 5 seconds of static when I first turn on my Apple TV is a little annoying, but once that is gone everything works.  I figure th $20 is worth that aggravation until I upgrade my sound system.

  • littletree76 Level 1 Level 1 (55 points)

    Followings are my observations in audio streaming with Apple TV 3 and Airport Express through AirPlay protocol:


    -- Apple TV 3 come with only digital audio outputs through HDMI and optical SPDIF outputs. If you connect optical link from the optical output to optical input of any DAC and HDMI cable from the HDMI output to HDMI input on TV set, audio output will be transmitted through both digital outputs. Thus is is not necessary to turn on TV set unless visual feedback is required. There is no audio analog line output for Apple TV 3.


    -- AirportExpress come with single combo mini jack (digital + analog) for audio output regardless of old/new models. You can connect either digital optical link (with Mini/Toslink adaptor) to digital input of DAC or analog line cable (inferior) to analog line input of amplifier. When analog line is used, digital-to-analog conversion is done by DAC built into AirportExpress for which do not expect quality is as good as most external DAC models. What do you expect from a single-chip DAC implementation vs standalone DAC models cost few thousand dollars ? Moreover analog line is susceptible to interference more than digital line.


    So the decision to use Apple TV or AirportExpress, analog or digital transmission for audio streaming depends on whether you need WiFi base station features of AirportExpress to establish wireless network and quality of your audio system to justify all-digital audio transmission. Followings are what I use in audio streaming from iMac/iPad mini /iPhone 5 to audio system in living room. Quality of audio output is comparable with Sonos Zone Player as audio source.


    Apple AirPort Extreme wireless base station (802.11n, 5GHz)

    Apple TV 3 (firmware 5.1.1, Xtreme HD Toslink optical cable)

    Antelope Audio Zodiac DAC

    Bel Canto power amplifier

    Bowers & Wilkins 683 speakers

    Yamaha YST-SW215 subwoofer


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