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Advice wanted on piecing together a "lossless" streaming turntable solution

Dogamondo

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Hey Folks,

I'm blasphemously trying to build (as close as I can to) an "audiophile grade" solution for digitally streaming my turntable.

I have an Apogee Element 88 audio interface connected to active speakers via a Mac workstation on one end of the room. Waaay over the other side of the room is my turntable (a Rega P3 with Exact cartridge).

What I'm wanting to do is stream the turntable to the speakers whilst minimising the deleterious fidelity munching components along the chain as much as possible.

The DAC in the Apogee interface is to my liking so I'd like to terminate the digital path there. Currently I have a Bluetooth aptX (HD/Adaptive) receiver going into the Apogee interface via optical in. So far so good.

I have purchased (but not yet received) a Pro-Ject Phono Box E BT5 (it's the Pro-Ject Phono Box but with an aptX transmitter built in). The intention was to use this to stream the aptX HD signal straight from the phono pre to the receiver and call it job done.

However, upon reading the lacklustre review of the standard Pro-Ject Phono Box here on this forum, I am now wondering if that piece of kit will be the weakest link in my proposed solution. I don't believe it's a head turning phono stage as it is, and further to this I'm not sure that the AD converter housed in it will be anything to write home about either.

So I'm now thinking about returning it and investing in a quality standalone phono stage (Rega Fono Mk5) and finding another solution to convert its analogue signal to digital before shipping it over to the Apogee converter on the other side of the room.

So my long winded question is, is there a high quality AD box that can transmit aptX HD or LDAC while also providing a line out that can connect to a headphone amp, for pure analogue listening purposes via headphones.

If such a device exists and is of good quality I'd love to hear about it!

Many thanks in advance

Cheers
 

JeremyFife

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Bold question :) But it's your system, so that's cool

First up - you do know that Bluetooth is lossy? Even the better implementations?
Have a think about that phono choice, Rega have not been measuring well. The Cambridge Audio Duo (reviewed on this site) is the current favourite and is in the same cost area as that Rega. Take a look a the Review Index for other recommended phono stages too though.

Now you've got the phono stage sorted ... how about a Wireless solution: WiiM Pro Plus (£230 ish GBP) has a decent ADC ... transfer wirelessly over your WiFi to a cheapo WiiM Mini (£90 GBP) and take its bit-perfect digital output into your favourite DAC. All reviewed on this site.

Quality of conversion will be better than the signal from your TT anyway, effectively lossless. You've also added a quality streamer into your system and started up a multi-room system! AND you now have basic, but useful 4 channel PEQ for some simple EQ. win, win, win :)

Edit ... sorry, yes, the WiiM Pro Plus will also give you good line out to a Headphone Amp (or better digital out to a DAC/Headphone combo)
 

Balle Clorin

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Start with replacing the Rega cartridge… Rega cartridges are far from linear and have a serious drop off at increasing frequency. If you want accurate reproduction a Ortofon will be better= a flat line below 10khz. Above 10 k hardly any cartridges are good, but even an old OM10 will be better than many
 
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Dogamondo

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Bold question :) But it's your system, so that's cool

First up - you do know that Bluetooth is lossy? Even the better implementations?
Have a think about that phono choice, Rega have not been measuring well. The Cambridge Audio Duo (reviewed on this site) is the current favourite and is in the same cost area as that Rega. Take a look a the Review Index for other recommended phono stages too though.

Now you've got the phono stage sorted ... how about a Wireless solution: WiiM Pro Plus (£230 ish GBP) has a decent ADC ... transfer wirelessly over your WiFi to a cheapo WiiM Mini (£90 GBP) and take its bit-perfect digital output into your favourite DAC. All reviewed on this site.

Quality of conversion will be better than the signal from your TT anyway, effectively lossless. You've also added a quality streamer into your system and started up a multi-room system! AND you now have basic, but useful 4 channel PEQ for some simple EQ. win, win, win :)

Edit ... sorry, yes, the WiiM Pro Plus will also give you good line out to a Headphone Amp (or better digital out to a DAC/Headphone combo)
Start with replacing the Rega cartridge… Rega cartridges are far from linear and have a serious drop off at increasing frequency. If you want accurate reproduction a Ortofon will be better= a flat line below 10khz. Above 10 k hardly any cartridges are good, but even an old OM10 will be better than many

Thanks very much Jeremy for the insightful reply - and Balle for also being the bearer of bad news! :D

After reading your replies I'm further intrigued and at the same time rather disappointed in myself!

Unfortunately the Rega turntable was purchased a couple of years ago and has spent its life in its box while we've been renovating so is now a long way from being returnable. Even more disappointing is that I originally purchased it with the Elyse 2 cartridge and have only just dropped an obscene amount on a new Exact cart which was installed by the Hifi shop only this week.

So when I made my original post I was certain I had a high end turntable solution - How I wish I had found this forum when I rushed into the purchase a couple of years ago! :facepalm:

Anyway, short of crying over spilt milk and selling the Rega, it looks like I'm stuck with it at least for the time being.

What I can change however is the phono stage. Right now I have a NAD PP 2e and an unopened Pro-Ject Phono Box E BT5. I can send back the Pro-Ject and sell the NAD if need be.

I had thought pairing the Rega with the Rega Fono would be a logical move but I'm eating sour grapes now so if you could help me get this part right it would be greatly appreciated!

Now back to the "lossless" solution;
First up - you do know that Bluetooth is lossy? Even the better implementations?
Yep I'm aware there's a hell of a compression algo at play even with aptX/LDAC codecs, but was under the impression that's as good as it gets and was the only way.. until:
How about a Wireless solution: WiiM Pro Plus (£230 ish GBP) has a decent ADC ... transfer wirelessly over your WiFi to a cheapo WiiM Mini (£90 GBP) and take its bit-perfect digital output into your favourite DAC. All reviewed on this site.

So I've never looked into doing audio over Wifi and am intrigued. How does this compare to BT in terms of compression, latency etc? Does it require a Wifi6E router or does it just patch into your existing network?

Quality of conversion will be better than the signal from your TT anyway, effectively lossless.

This is the kicker for me and in my mind the deciding factor. All my audio setup experience is from the home recording era (mid 2000's)where you lived and died by the quality of your AD/DA converters and mic pres.

Are you saying that the ADC in the WiiM will be transparent enough to not affect the signal from the TT + phono stage? And a better ADC would be overkill?

The other wildly obtuse solution I have available after digging around in the garage, is that I do have a spare Apogee Element 24 - Reviewed Here if you're unfamiliar with it.

I could place a headless Mac Mini ($150 used) next to the TT and go from the phono pre to the Apogee, reap the benefits of its excellent ADC and then use a software solution in the Mac to wirelessly stream the audio to either the BT or Wifi receiver connected to the other Apogee interface. This also gives the warm, fuzzy feeling of using the same ADC/DAC's on both ends.

Thanks again for the advice!
 

JeremyFife

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Hi,
Well, your wee NAD phono stage isn't bad Thread 'NAD PP 2 Review (Analog Phono Preamplifier)' https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...-pp-2-review-analog-phono-preamplifier.26866/

I'd suggest that you sort out the connection/streaming elements first and look at changing components later, if you even need to.

Standard WiFi, nothing fancy needed. Using WiFi is lossless: bandwidth and capacity exceeds audio requirements (unless your WiFi is really poor, but it would have to be bad!). Latency is not an issue with playback - worst case is a tiny delay before music starts, but it'll still be better than the inherent latency with Bluetooth.

I'm afraid you've gone beyond my knowledge with your suggestion of the mini Mac and a pair of Apogees.
Perhaps others here can help.

Having said that, if you know how to stream apogee output from TT to apogee input at your hifi then you should be fine... why not try.
 
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Dogamondo

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Thanks Jeremy,

After a lot of reading today I think I've finally found the solution (without needing to blow a whole bunch of money on new gear, sadly!)

Because the Apogee interface has to be connected to a mac, it opens up the world of a software based Wifi streaming solution. So here's the plan:

Going in:

TT ---> Phono ---> Apogee Interface ---> Apogee DSP EQ (optional) ---> Mac Mini

The magic happens in the Mac with some software called Airfoil, which can Airplay to any of my various Homepods and Airplay speakers around the house as well as a companion app on the second Mac (where the second Apogee is connected) called Airfoil Satellite. As long as one of the devices uses Airplay v1, I'll get a bit perfect 44.1/16bit ALAC signal across all devices. Sadly Airplay 1 won't go higher than this resolution for lossless streaming and Airplay 2 forces 256kbit AAC codec. I may look at other computer to computer streaming solutions if the red book quality is too low to adequately capture everything in the vinyl.

So going out becomes as simple as:

2nd Apogee Interface ---> Active Speakers, with the benefits of all the other Airplay enabled devices around the home.

So the aptX receiver, toslink switches and transmitters I've purchased over the last few days can go back to Amazon!

Now to decide on the phono stage and then I think I'm done!
 

JeremyFife

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Sounds perfect :)

If you apply DSP (and you should) then you'll be resampling your signal anyway so no need to fret about 'hi-res' or lossless. Benefits from DSP will far outweigh any purist desire to maintain a particular sampling quality... especially when your source is vinyl. If you can get 16/44.1 then that's better than human hearing, and way better than vinyl is capable of :) Even 256kb AAC should be close to inaudibly transparent.

Genuinely, only change your phono stage if you have a burning need to do that (or you need a feature like headphones ... but you're better off with a dedicated headphone amp anyway). That NAD's OK.

Perhaps research your cartridge if you do want to make changes. This is a brilliant thread: https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...he-phono-cartridge-measurement-library.46108/

Enjoy :)
 
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Dogamondo

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Hi all,

Well here I am a week later and the streaming solution is working nicely so far. I'm still undecided if I'm going to keep the headphone amp as I'm quite enjoying the sound coming straight out of the Apogee headphone out which has more than enough headroom for my cans. Streaming the audio from the Rega around the house was pretty much plug and play using the Airfoil app and setting it to stream straight from the Apogee inputs.

Here's my humble little listening booth so far:

IMG_3154.jpg
 

JeremyFife

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Nice - looks fab

Now ... add a little audio interface with digital out and start streaming from your headless axe too :)
 
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