Previous 1 2 Next 16 Replies Latest reply: Jan 13, 2015 10:58 PM by kanna.sridharan
Eddie Strauss Level 3 Level 3 (990 points)

I purchsed the newest version of the Airport Express. I use it with AirPlay to stream music. I use a digital Toslink cable connected to a high quality DAC which converts the signal to analogue and then outputs to the speakers in the bedroom. All was well until I switeched to a newer, more expensive DAC (with a 'Sabre' chip).


The Toslink output would not 'lock' and the readout on the new DAC kept switching from 44.1k to ------ and back. When I called the DAC company the tech said he knew of the problem because the first AEx's had too much jitter for the signal to lock -- but that the problem seems to have abated with the next generation (the 'N' version). When I said I had the newest one he wasn't familiar with it. But told me it has to be a jitter problem.


I experimented. In the living room I have a different AirPlay Airport Express setup. This one contains the 'N' 'plug in the wall directly' version of the Airport Express. Guess what? It plays perfectly. He was right. The signal locks and the new fancy and expensive DAC works just fine.



So -- does anyone else have any experience with changing to the newest version of the Airport Express (the ATV size white square) and experiencing digital playback difficulties?


The real question is -- is there inherently better audio quality coming from version 2 of the Airport Express than version 3.

  • magnus from sweden Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have the same problem. I use a DAC and worked perfectly with the previous, wall-mounded airport express.

    Then I bought the new one and started to experience recurring losses in the sound. I switched to using the head phone output instead. I have a number of people reporting the same problem - the new Airport Express does not work with a number of high-end DACs. Apple has apparently not tested the product or having the industry helping them testing the product.

  • Eddie Strauss Level 3 Level 3 (990 points)

    This is not good. From what a tech guy told me at "Wyred4Sound" it's the 'Sabre' chip that will not lock onto the signal from the first and latest AEx. The middle one, he said, should be fine. Quite a few high end DACs use 'Sabre' chip.


    He suggested trying an alternate player; e.g. Audirvana, Decibel, Amarra, Pure Music. I have those but like the functionality of native iTunes. I still had my 'in the wall' AEx so I put it back into service.


    This week I receive a new DAC from Schiit (a U.S. company). It has a light on the front that shows if the signal incoming is bad. I hope to use that for some experimenting. In the meantime, as horrible as it is, it's good to have some corroboration. Now what to do about it, I don't know.

  • raym87 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Yes,  another here having issues.

    I can get it to work OK with my Moon 300D but not with my Teac UDH-01.

    I have an old AE and that works fine on both DAC's but with the new AE, the Teac just wont lock on to the Toslink data stream.

  • raym87 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Another point of interest is that the Teac UDH-01 uses Burr Brown Dac chips, not ESS Sabre so this problem may be more widespread than first thought.

  • Eddie Strauss Level 3 Level 3 (990 points)

    I found another difference between the AEx N version 2 and the newer square version 3. This time unquetionably in favor of the newer one. Here's the story.


    I put the N version back in my system because the Sabre chip DAC I have would not lock onto the signal of the newer AEx - the subject of this thread. I bought a new DAC with a different chip. I was listening to the new DAC on headphones. At some point in a classical piece, a soprano held a long powerful high note with little to no musical activity beneath. Clearly then I heard a repeating knock knock knock along with the note. It sounded almost mechanical. It was rhythmic. I heard it a few times but only when constant musical activity did not mask it.


    I suspected the new DAC. I made a 40 second clip of it and sent it to the manufacturer (Schiit). In a quick email turnaround he said there was no problem there. I began swapping. I bypassed the AEx and took USB out of a laptop. No knocks. I took out the newest AEx that I was not using and guess what? No knocks. Perfectly clean signal.  ----


    I went to another room setup I have (thank you Airplay) that has the same N version 2 plug in the wall AEx. Knocks in exactly the same places in the same way! So for the ultimate test, I purchased another new square AEx and swapped it in there as well. Perfectly clean signal.


    Yup, there is an audio difference to be found tetween the two AEx's if you can isolate it. If anyone here wants the sound clip I made feel free to ask. It's a small Apple Lossless file.


    So now I think the newest AEx is an improvement for the high end audio world using optical output to a separate DAC. But for the original chip compatibility problem.

  • raym87 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Good work there Eddie.

    I took the easy way out...I took the Airport Express back and swapped the  with an Apple TV.

  • Eddie Strauss Level 3 Level 3 (990 points)



    I've been tempted a few times. Did you know the ATV outputs its signal at 48k? I know nothing of high end TV audio but I think in that world of Dolby 5.1 and surround, equipment expects a 48k sampling rate. I'm pretty sure the HDMI cable receives the sound that way. But if you plug in stereo audio at 44.1k, it will be upsampled and changed to 48k. You can prove this on any DAC that shows you the rate it is receiving.


    Since 48 is not an even multiple of 44.1 there have to be changes to the signal. High end upsampling stereo DACs all upsample at even numbers so there are exact doublings.

  • dambor Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Plase check this thread on issues of the new AEx (square) when connected via toslink to a lot of different DACs

  • zzoebl Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have the same problem with optical connector to my B&W Zeppelin on the square airport express. Just wanted to let apple know.

  • HenrikNielsen Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I have the excact same problem with the new airport express. I use AudioLab DAC8000. The old airport have never done anything like this. There is no problems when using the analog output. But I am not satisfied with that.


    So now I consider to go for ATV instead. Have anyone discovered any problems with the ATV. I just don't want to buy one more box, that do not work probably.

  • Eddie Strauss Level 3 Level 3 (990 points)

    ATV has been proven to work in this situation with the new AEX. But there's one issue. The ATV upsamples the digital audio signal to 48kHz. It is being sent as 44.1kHz. They say that upsampling at 2x or 3x the original causes no artifacts to the original. But 48kHz is not a mathematical multiple. So there's that.


    I imagine the upsampling is because digital surround sound etc. for TV and movie sound eqipment expects a 48kHz signal.

  • HenrikNielsen Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Ok, thanks. Tjen I need to buy some used APX of the old version, if I want to use the optical output :-(

  • HenrikNielsen Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)


  • Eddie Strauss Level 3 Level 3 (990 points)

    Honestly, I'm not equipped to know if you'd hear a difference. I haven't tested it myself.

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