is there audio quality difference between the airport extreme and Apple TV

I want to bring the iTunes library to my stereo, and googling on this there were a number of posts that suggested that Airport Extreme had better decoding for CD quality audio then did the AppleTV. All the iTunes files are of course digital, and I am intending to use the optical output of either the Airport Express or AppleTV.

To really hear a difference I would need to do an A/B test of one against the other - which I do not intend to do, but I do have a very high end system so when things are not as they should be there is no hiding it.

I don't need the AppleTV right now for the theater setting - so video streaming ability would be on hold there, for now but likely added sometime in the next year or so.

It's really a matter of which device is going to be better for delivering the iTunes music library to the stereo system. Why there would be a different between the Airport Extreme and the AppleTV is not clear to me. The limiting source would seem to be the bit rate of the files in iTunes - but perhaps I am missing something. Perhaps there is a difference in DA converters - though that too would seem strange, but with the use of the Digital Optical Out I would think that there should be no difference.

But certainly better to know about it before I buy the device and get it set up - appreciate any thoughts and suggestions.

AirPort Express

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  • Best Answer:

    I just got an ATV 3rd Gen and experimented with it's TOSLink audio out compared to the optical out of the Express. My Moon Simaudio amp indicates that it's receiving an input from the ATV at 48KHz compared to 44.1KHz from the Express. Given this is a higher sample rate, you might expect some benefit but as far as I'm aware, it'll depend on a number of factors such as the integrity of the digital signal (incl. error correction capability) from the source i.e your Mac, over your wireless network to when it enters the digital input (Toslink, SPDIF etc) of your amp. Then there is the issue of the quality of the DAC in your amp or separate DAC unit. After all, a high quality DAC will over sample sufficiently and deal with other digital artefacts to minimise noise etc etc and not suffer the effects of a steep LP filter.

    If anyone else with an audio engineering/digital audio background can explain further then that would be great! I can't help but think that there is a lot of unnecessary myth and confusion created in the digital domain (esp optical) I.e applying techniques to preserve the integrity of analogue signals carried over copper/silver to those in the optical digital domain. Why? How is a digital optical signal adversely affected by electromagnetic interference and in any case, even if it were, aren't errors corrected?
    Just a thought and would love to hear from others.

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