• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Apple Music direct USB vs Airplay 1

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
Today I got a lightning to USB-B cable from Amazon and was able to connect my iPhone directly to my MiniDSP SHD Studio USB input.

I am able to stream 24bit 192Khz from Apple Music Hi Res. When connected to Topping D90SE I can see this. I wanted to see, however, if 16 bit 44.1Khz streaming via Airplay to SHD and direct USB connection is the same. I have to confess first, I’m a bit biased since I always felt AirPlay was not the same and degraded sound.

I decided to do an A/B testing to see if I can hear a difference. I kept the iPhone volume 1 notch below max and normalized SPL using UMIK and REW. Airplay played about 2.5dB louder than direct USB. My son would play a 10 second song on iPhone, either output to SHD usb or SHD Airplay with volume adjustment on SHD.

here are the results for streaming a losses 16 bit 44.1khz song from Apple Music:

My son Alex: 17/30 correct
Myself: 14/30 correct

Did the same usb connection streaming the same song from Apple Music and Qobuz.

My son Alex: 13/30 correct
Myself: 16/30 correct

I’m surprised, I could swear I heard usb playing cleaner, but when I had to choose, it was very difficult.

Logic tells me I really do not need the USB connection, unless I want Hi Res streaming, which I will test also, next. Still, my brain tells me usb is better even after this test.
 

HiFidFan

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 22, 2021
Messages
730
Likes
878
Location
U.S.A
Today I got a lightning to USB-B cable from Amazon and was able to connect my iPhone directly to my MiniDSP SHD Studio USB input.

I am able to stream 24bit 192Khz from Apple Music Hi Res. When connected to Topping D90SE I can see this. I wanted to see, however, if 16 bit 44.1Khz streaming via Airplay to SHD and direct USB connection is the same. I have to confess first, I’m a bit biased since I always felt AirPlay was not the same and degraded sound.

I decided to do an A/B testing to see if I can hear a difference. I kept the iPhone volume 1 notch below max and normalized SPL using UMIK and REW. Airplay played about 2.5dB louder than direct USB. My son would play a 10 second song on iPhone, either output to SHD usb or SHD Airplay with volume adjustment on SHD.

here are the results for streaming a losses 16 bit 44.1khz song from Apple Music:

My son Alex: 17/30 correct
Myself: 14/30 correct

Did the same usb connection streaming the same song from Apple Music and Qobuz.

My son Alex: 13/30 correct
Myself: 16/30 correct

I’m surprised, I could swear I heard usb playing cleaner, but when I had to choose, it was very difficult.

Logic tells me I really do not need the USB connection, unless I want Hi Res streaming, which I will test also, next. Still, my brain tells me usb is better even after this test.

Interesting. Looking forward to the hi-res tests
 

acbarn

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 11, 2020
Messages
1,768
Likes
4,212
Location
California
Today I got a lightning to USB-B cable from Amazon and was able to connect my iPhone directly to my MiniDSP SHD Studio USB input.

I am able to stream 24bit 192Khz from Apple Music Hi Res. When connected to Topping D90SE I can see this. I wanted to see, however, if 16 bit 44.1Khz streaming via Airplay to SHD and direct USB connection is the same. I have to confess first, I’m a bit biased since I always felt AirPlay was not the same and degraded sound.

I decided to do an A/B testing to see if I can hear a difference. I kept the iPhone volume 1 notch below max and normalized SPL using UMIK and REW. Airplay played about 2.5dB louder than direct USB. My son would play a 10 second song on iPhone, either output to SHD usb or SHD Airplay with volume adjustment on SHD.

here are the results for streaming a losses 16 bit 44.1khz song from Apple Music:

My son Alex: 17/30 correct
Myself: 14/30 correct

Did the same usb connection streaming the same song from Apple Music and Qobuz.

My son Alex: 13/30 correct
Myself: 16/30 correct

I’m surprised, I could swear I heard usb playing cleaner, but when I had to choose, it was very difficult.

Logic tells me I really do not need the USB connection, unless I want Hi Res streaming, which I will test also, next. Still, my brain tells me usb is better even after this test.
It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to pick out the hi-res files.

I think you’ll find it liberating to realize a lot of what we think we hear is imagined. It can provide relief from the obsessiveness that has us always looking for that last bit of sound quality that doesn’t actually matter and often doesn’t even exist.
 

Chrispy

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
3,461
Likes
2,714
Location
PNW
I'd just go with the convenient method and not worry about it....

ps Did you try and alleviate the level difference by using something that approximated matched levels?
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
I'd just go with the convenient method and not worry about it....

ps Did you try and alleviate the level difference by using something that approximated matched levels?

Yes, I matched the levels with a mike in REW. Not perfect, but close.
 

BitPerfect_

Active Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2021
Messages
131
Likes
24
Interesting. Any news regarding the Hi Res testing? It will be great to find if there is an audible difference between AirPlay 1 (16/44.1) and USB cable 24/192. Thanks,
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
Interesting. Any news regarding the Hi Res testing? It will be great to find if there is an audible difference between AirPlay 1 (16/44.1) and USB cable 24/192. Thanks,

I did the tests with several songs, and the results are a mixed bag. Short answer is we could not really tell apart the Apple lossless from Apple hi-res lossless. Are accuracy ranged from 12/30 correct to 20/30 correct.

My take is that if you encounter a high quality recording mastered at 24/192 kHz originally, you may be able to hear a difference.
 

max_and_amelia

New Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2021
Messages
3
Likes
0
I did the tests with several songs, and the results are a mixed bag. Short answer is we could not really tell apart the Apple lossless from Apple hi-res lossless. Are accuracy ranged from 12/30 correct to 20/30 correct.

My take is that if you encounter a high quality recording mastered at 24/192 kHz originally, you may be able to hear a difference.

I just bought an SHD and my iPhone doesn’t seem to recognize it via USB. I can’t get it to
connect. I’m using an iPhone 11 Pro w iOS 14.7 to apple’s official lightning to usb CCK to the USB cable supplied with the SHD. When I plug it in, music from Apple Music just plays through the phones speaker. I previously connected my same phone to a Modi via usb using the same set up without any problem and I can connect and play music on the SHD via usb using my MacBook. A couple others on the minidsp support forums have shared the same problem. Could you link to the cable you used and share the details of your phone and iOS version? Thanks!
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
Works as intended without any glitches

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FLWN6G...abc_2P6PK2AC84QYG6067EKM?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

751FB2A5-FBC0-4246-8F54-52B7A732283B.jpeg
 

max_and_amelia

New Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2021
Messages
3
Likes
0
Thanks, I'll give this a try. I'll be really disappointed if I can't get iOS to USB to work on the SHD. I had been planning to hunt for a discounted iPad Mini to use as a dedicated streamer. Airplay is convenient but the implementation in Volumio is too finicky to be a permanent solution.
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
Thanks, I'll give this a try. I'll be really disappointed if I can't get iOS to USB to work on the SHD. I had been planning to hunt for a discounted iPad Mini to use as a dedicated streamer. Airplay is convenient but the implementation in Volumio is too finicky to be a permanent solution.

The connection needs to be direct with the above cable. You need to ditch the lightning to USB adapter. Even if you try to connect Mac to the SHD using an adapter, it won’t work. I initially was not able to connect my MacBook Pro to SHD with the CCK adapter, even though other things like UMIK-1 mic connection worked. I had to get USB-c to USB b type direct cable for it to work.
 

max_and_amelia

New Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2021
Messages
3
Likes
0
Strange based on my experience w other favs but I can live with that. Will put it to the test tomorrow when cable is delivered. Thanks.
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
So my son and I finally finished another blinded listening test comparing a high quality recording playing by Roon Rock to SHD via USB at 192Khz FLAC file, iPhone connected to SHD via USB at 192khz ALAC converted file, and iPhone to SHD via Airplay 1.

I have lots of supposed hi-res music, but one recording that has stood out for me was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by The Avison Ensemble. I had bought this from HD tracks a while back.

If you have not heard this particular recording, I recommend doing so. It is by far one of the best quality classical tracks I have heard. See photo below.

this time, instead of matching levels, which would be more complicated, we played the song for 1 minute at various volumes. Then we had to guess whether it was Roon playing, iPhone via usb, or Airplay. We did 30 tries each, one of us changed the input on SHD and played the track, the other would guess which of the three. The results are telling, we could not tell the differences.

My son Alex: 8/30 correct
Myself: 7/30 correct

41E8C7E7-BDEE-4168-8DBF-1B5F31214C95.jpeg


7C127763-59A2-499E-8A26-572E693B7BEA.jpeg


Edit: in case wondering about the equipment. SHD is feeding AES to Topping D90SE to McIntosh MC462 to KEF R11s. Also sending AES to Schitt Modius to a Rythmik 15” sealed sub.
 
Last edited:

NiagaraPete

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Messages
823
Likes
661
Location
Canada
You say Air Play 1 but I think you mean Airplay 2. As for listening all I can say is prior to high rez on Apple I found I got listening fatigue quite quickly. With high rez I don't suffer. The only thing that bugs me is the clicking when the bit rate changes.
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
You say Air Play 1 but I think you mean Airplay 2. As for listening all I can say is prior to high rez on Apple I found I got listening fatigue quite quickly. With high rez I don't suffer. The only thing that bugs me is the clicking when the bit rate changes.

I really mean Airplay 1. SHD Volumio only supports older version. There has been lots of talk on the net and tests that argue Airpay 2 downgrades files to AAC when casting. Airplay 1 casts at 16 bit 44.1khz.

Either way, I truly thought AirPlay did not sound as good when knowing where the music was coming from. When blinded, I could not tell the difference.

BTW, have not heard any clicking when changing bit rate, but AirPlay 1 does drop out occasionally if you use the phone or try taking photos.
 

NiagaraPete

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Messages
823
Likes
661
Location
Canada
I really mean Airplay 1. SHD Volumio only supports older version. There has been lots of talk on the net and tests that argue Airpay 2 downgrades files to AAC when casting. Airplay 1 casts at 16 bit 44.1khz.

Either way, I truly thought AirPlay did not sound as good when knowing where the music was coming from. When blinded, I could not tell the difference.

BTW, have not heard any clicking when changing bit rate, but AirPlay 1 does drop out occasionally if you use the phone or try taking photos.
Interesting, I’ve tried Volumio but my DAC is not supported. The click problem was largely fixed with the last update. I’ve been told that Air Play 2 will soon support the higher frequency but who knows. Right now it’s 24/44.
 

Crunchynut

Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2022
Messages
13
Likes
2
So my son and I finally finished another blinded listening test comparing a high quality recording playing by Roon Rock to SHD via USB at 192Khz FLAC file, iPhone connected to SHD via USB at 192khz ALAC converted file, and iPhone to SHD via Airplay 1.

I have lots of supposed hi-res music, but one recording that has stood out for me was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by The Avison Ensemble. I had bought this from HD tracks a while back.

If you have not heard this particular recording, I recommend doing so. It is by far one of the best quality classical tracks I have heard. See photo below.

this time, instead of matching levels, which would be more complicated, we played the song for 1 minute at various volumes. Then we had to guess whether it was Roon playing, iPhone via usb, or Airplay. We did 30 tries each, one of us changed the input on SHD and played the track, the other would guess which of the three. The results are telling, we could not tell the differences.

My son Alex: 8/30 correct
Myself: 7/30 correct

View attachment 151288

View attachment 151290

Edit: in case wondering about the equipment. SHD is feeding AES to Topping D90SE to McIntosh MC462 to KEF R11s. Also sending AES to Schitt Modius to a Rythmik 15” sealed sub.
Very informative. Thank you.
 

dufferdan

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2022
Messages
29
Likes
11
I do appreciate the honesty with this analysis. No false “golden ears” here.

It would be interesting, if you re-ripped the Vivaldi from 24/196 to 16/44.1. Then do a comparison. I have compared, in another thread, Appple hi-res lossless and lossless vs ripped CD lossless and one example of Bluetooth streaming to my Topping D70s MQA. The BT stream was clearly inferior.

What I experienced between 24/88.2, 24/96 and 16/44.1 was more an issue with different masters. I could tell different masters, but NOT different resolutions.

I say this as someone who has spent money on HD Tracks 24/96 hi-res downloads. I don’t regret it as most of what I purchased was new music to me. But, if well produced, well mastered and not compressed to compete with bad headphones and ambient noise, CD quality is more than adequate for 60 yr old man.

My son did 2 years of audio engineering at university, spending a ton of time in the studio, producing, mastering and all aspects of music production. He know different mic’s, cables, programs, etc. He is also quite young and knows music. His educated contention is 24/96 or 24/92 is great for mastering to start from the highest quality original, but once cleaned up, whittled to the final form, 16/44.1 is more than fine for 99.9% of humanity. We can’t tell the difference.
 

Head_Unit

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 27, 2018
Messages
760
Likes
377
My son Alex: 8/30 correct
Myself: 7/30 correct

View attachment 151288
(1) Huh, those results are so poor it seems actually statistically significant (???). Any statisticians here? And yes, level matching properly requires a voltmeter, accept no substitutes. Noise and SPL meters are NOT accurate enough to get down to what I understand should be like 0.5 dB.
(2) I can't find this in Apple Music, it's only in HD Tracks? I found some other interesting stuff by that ensemble though.
(3) Back to the first post, I can understand why you'd feel the direct USB connection would be somehow "better." However if you think about it, the phone in your home is connecting to the stream over WiFi. The AirPlay receiver connects to the stream over WiFi. It's the same! (OK, once is an internal connection and the other is coming via a USB input, but neither can be assumed to be more "pure").
 
OP
G

gags11

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 8, 2019
Messages
318
Likes
462
(1) Huh, those results are so poor it seems actually statistically significant (???). Any statisticians here? And yes, level matching properly requires a voltmeter, accept no substitutes. Noise and SPL meters are NOT accurate enough to get down to what I understand should be like 0.5 dB.
(2) I can't find this in Apple Music, it's only in HD Tracks? I found some other interesting stuff by that ensemble though.
(3) Back to the first post, I can understand why you'd feel the direct USB connection would be somehow "better." However if you think about it, the phone in your home is connecting to the stream over WiFi. The AirPlay receiver connects to the stream over WiFi. It's the same! (OK, once is an internal connection and the other is coming via a USB input, but neither can be assumed to be more "pure").

It seems I had not explained the setup carefully.

1. The file is a hi-res FLAC file downloaded from hdtracks and resides physically in my Roon Rock that connects to my DAC.

2. The file has been also converted to ALAC 24bit 192Khz, and the actual file is residing on my iPhone. Apple Music streaming is not involved. I connect my iPhone via usb to the DAC, in which case you have bit perfect 24bit 192khz file getting to my DAC.

3. When I use Airplay, the actual file sitting in my iPhone, again no Apple Music streaming incvolved, gets streamed through my wifi to the DAC. This involves resampling from 24bit 192khz file to 16bit 44.1khz. Hence, one may expect better result with the higher bit rate file.

I agree the setup is not perfect in terms of level matching. Regardless, the results were poor, you are correct, arguing my point that we could not hear a difference. I do not need to show that there was no statistical significance, it is pretty obvious that there is not, we could not tell what was what.
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom