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Is it worth buying an Apple TV for lossless audio?

ronnzi

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Aug 20, 2021
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Hi everyone,

I’m already an Apple Music subscriber, so I already have access to its lossless audio. However, I have no easy way to get lossless playback to my home theater/speaker system currently from the Apple Music service.

At the moment, I listen to music on the system using the Apple Music app on my Samsung TV, which doesn’t support lossless audio, nor does iTunes on my PC. I have an iPhone, but I don’t want to have to find a way to plug it into my AVR and would rather have something more permanent.

FWIW, my home theater setup includes an Onkyo RZ-810 AVR connected to a MiniDSP DDRC-88A-BM using Dirac Live, so I believe my system is limited to 24bit/48khz (limitations of the MiniDSP/Dirac).

Do you think there would be a noticeable difference getting Apple lossless working for the ~$150 cost of an Apple TV vs. the standard quality playback I’m currently getting through the TV app? I’m pretty picky and sensitive to these type of changes, but even I am questioning whether this is worth doing… My family and I are happy with the Netflix and YouTube apps on our TV, so I don’t really think I would be using the Apple TV for anything besides audio, though if I’m going to get one, I wouldn’t get anything lower than the 4K version.

I know I’d also get spatial audio support, which would be fun to play around with, but my system is only 5.2 and I don’t have huge expectations on that.

Anyways, just curious what everyone’s thoughts are. Like I said, I already have Apple Music, so I’m not considering getting another service for cost reasons. Just wondering if getting an Apple TV just for the audio upgrade given Apple’s lack of lossless/spatial support on its TV/PC apps would be worthwhile.

Thanks!
 
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TomJ

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Better to get the Wiim Mini which uses the Apple Airplay 2 chip (not Shairplay software emulation) and has excellent wifi stability for only $90 at Amazon. Just select the WiiM Airplay output option on your Apple Music player. I've tested it, works great today and next month they'll increase their Airplay 2 resolution to 48/24 in a firmware update. Their WiiM Home software app also supports many other online music services and web radio stations with lossless network streaming (not Airplay streaming) at up to 192/24 resolution on Toslink depending on your wifi signal strength. Highly recommended.
 
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mkt

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Spatial audio is worth checking out.
 
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ronnzi

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The Wiim Mini looks like a great option, but the only downside would be that it wouldn’t have spatial audio support from what I can tell. As mkt mentioned, if I want to check that out, it might worth the small amount more.

Hmm, decisions… The Wiim Mini just looks cool to have regardless, haha.
 

TomJ

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If you want a big jump in sound quality, then also try Dirac 3 digital room correction (DRC) on a miniDSP Flex. It essentially takes away the sound of your room and improves your speakers' frequency response and impulse response. You'll be amazed at the improvement in imaging and soundstage, also the differences in how recording studios and performance spaces sound now that your room acoustics don't mask them anymore.

You can use the Wiim Mini to stream network audio to the Flex on hi res Toslink. You can feed your Toslink TV audio signal to the Flex on a coax cable by using a Toslink-to-coax SPDIF converter, like the JTech Digital Optical Audio Switch on Amazon for ~$20 or many others.
 
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ronnzi

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If you want a big jump in sound quality, then also try Dirac 3 digital room correction (DRC) on a miniDSP Flex. It essentially takes away the sound of your room and improves your speakers' frequency response and impulse response. You'll be amazed at the improvement in imaging and soundstage, also the differences in how recording studios and performance spaces sound now that your room acoustics don't mask them anymore.

You can use the Wiim Mini to stream network audio to the Flex on hi res Toslink. You can feed your Toslink TV audio signal to the Flex on a coax cable by using a Toslink-to-coax SPDIF converter, like the JTech Digital Optical Audio Switch on Amazon for ~$20 or many others.
I agree - I already have Dirac Live applied to my setup (it’s 5.2, so I’m using a MiniDSP DDRC-88A). It definitely makes a huge difference!
 

soapsuds

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Do you think there would be a noticeable difference getting Apple lossless working for the ~$150 cost of an Apple TV vs. the standard quality playback I’m currently getting through the TV app?
I use an Apple TV 4k for this purpose with the TV’s optical port connected to a DAC. IMO, there isn’t that much difference between AAC and lossless, and no difference at all between lossless and Hi-Res (I tried the latter with a cable from an iPhone). If you have an iPhone or iPad, I’d recommend testing with a cable to see if you would value the difference.

What I like about the Apple TV is that it turns the TV into a great playback control device with familiar Apple UI. In fact, I don’t use the smart features of my TV and stream all my audio and video with the Apple TV.

I also have a WiiM, but I use that to bring an old analogue stereo into my multi-room AirPlay setup.

I am considering upgrading my stereo to an AVR for spatial audio. Tracks mastered with that are noticeably different on my MacBook Air speakers or AirPods Pro. I suspect some of them would be great on a proper surround system.
 
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ronnzi

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I use an Apple TV 4k for this purpose with the TV’s optical port connected to a DAC. IMO, there isn’t that much difference between AAC and lossless, and no difference at all between lossless and Hi-Res (I tried the latter with a cable from an iPhone). If you have an iPhone or iPad, I’d recommend testing with a cable to see if you would value the difference.

What I like about the Apple TV is that it turns the TV into a great playback control device with familiar Apple UI. In fact, I don’t use the smart features of my TV and stream all my audio and video with the Apple TV.

I also have a WiiM, but I use that to bring an old analogue stereo into my multi-room AirPlay setup.

I am considering upgrading my stereo to an AVR for spatial audio. Tracks mastered with that are noticeably different on my MacBook Air speakers or AirPods Pro. I suspect some of them would be great on a proper surround system.
This is incredible useful - thank you! I’m going to try to track down a cable for my iPhone - did you just the 3.5mm jack? I assume that’s the only way. ‍♂️

As for using the Apple TV purely for its UI, smoothness, I was thinking about this yesterday too. If I could completely get rid of my Samsung remote, this would be a no brainer. However, I sometimes use my PC, in which case I’ll still need the TV remote to switch the input back and forth. If Apple had included an input button, I wouldn’t think twice. I suppose it’s not that big of a deal though just to keep it handy in my cabinet for those instances.

Thanks - this is exactly the kind of experience I was looking for!
 

soapsuds

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This is incredible useful - thank you! I’m going to try to track down a cable for my iPhone - did you just the 3.5mm jack? I assume that’s the only way. ‍♂️

As for using the Apple TV purely for its UI, smoothness, I was thinking about this yesterday too. If I could completely get rid of my Samsung remote, this would be a no brainer. However, I sometimes use my PC, in which case I’ll still need the TV remote to switch the input back and forth. If Apple had included an input button, I wouldn’t think twice. I suppose it’s not that big of a deal though just to keep it handy in my cabinet for those instances.

Thanks - this is exactly the kind of experience I was looking for!
If your iPhone still has a 3.5mm jack, it may not be new enough. If you are talking about the Lightning to 3.5mm dongle, that will work. That dongle was reasonably well rated in a test on this forum, but isn’t the best example of a DAC. In my case, I used a Lightning to USB cable to connect a Topping E30 and then RCA phono to my amplifier.

Regarding the remote, the Apple TV uses HDMI to turn the TV on and off, but you will need the TV remote to switch inputs to connect your PC.
 
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ronnzi

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If your iPhone still has a 3.5mm jack, it may not be new enough. If you are talking about the Lightning to 3.5mm dongle, that will work. That dongle was reasonably well rated in a test on this forum, but isn’t the best example of a DAC. In my case, I used a Lightning to USB cable to connect a Topping E30 and then RCA phono to my amplifier.

Regarding the remote, the Apple TV uses HDMI to turn the TV on and off, but you will need the TV remote to switch inputs to connect your PC.
Yes, I meant I would use the Apple lightning to 3.5mm dongle, I have an iPhone 13 pro max, so I’m good there.

Thanks!
 

Astrozombie

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I used my Samsung it was a giant PITA and would drop the Wi-Fi all the time (needing to insert the password again) I ended up with a Roku. If this was my endgame setup I would definitely be looking at a Nvidia Shield or Apple TV. I just noticed the other day my newer Roku doesn't even have Wi-Fi AC........much less AX
 

soapsuds

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Yes, I meant I would use the Apple lightning to 3.5mm dongle, I have an iPhone 13 pro max, so I’m good there.

Thanks!
If you decide to go down the Apple TV route and your AVR can tell you, it would be great to know what resolution you can get out of it on HDMI.
 

soapsuds

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Everything is resampled at 48kHz / 24 bit.
Thank you. I suspected it did, but I I go through my TV optical that would do that resampling anyway. May I ask what device you used to verify that?
 
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ronnzi

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So I ended up buying the latest model Apple TV 4K (32gb) with the new remote. To be completely honest, the audio quality difference using standard lossless over AAC is negligible. Maybe I notice the difference? Without back-to-back comparison, which I haven’t spent time doing, it’s hard to say. So far, I haven’t found much spatial content to be excited about either, though I’ve only scratched the surface there.

With that out of the way, I have to say my money for the Apple TV 4K was DEFINITELY money well spent. The remote feels great (especially with the Spigen case that I bought for it), the UI is great once you get used to it, and there’s a cohesiveness while running all of the apps on it that simply isn’t there using the native TV apps. I love how the Apple TV can change the refresh rate of the TV to match the content being played, the color calibration feature is excellent, and its overall a much more enjoyable experience using the TV now.

My only complaint is that it does sometimes hitch up, which can be frustrating, especially when it either doesn’t register or over-registers button presses. I was expecting it to run as smoothly as my iPhone, which isn’t the case, unfortuantely.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with my purchase. While the audio upgrade in and of itself wasn’t that big of a deal, it’s everything else that has really impressed me. Using my TV feels like much more of a premium experience now. Can’t recommend it enough if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem.
 

DavidMcRoy

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Everything is resampled at 48kHz / 24 bit.
Are you sure about this? HDMI is the “only” output port on the Apple TV 4K and Apple says that’s a recommended way to get lossless.
 

DeLub

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Are you sure about this? HDMI is the “only” output port on the Apple TV 4K and Apple says that’s a recommended way to get lossless.
I think what they mean is no compression (AAC). The info screen of my Denon app always says the received input is 48kHz no matter what I’m playing.

Wouldn’t worry too much about it, though. From principle standpoint this may not be correct, but in practice I doubt if it’s audible.
 

Lsc

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Hi everyone,

I’m already an Apple Music subscriber, so I already have access to its lossless audio. However, I have no easy way to get lossless playback to my home theater/speaker system currently from the Apple Music service.

At the moment, I listen to music on the system using the Apple Music app on my Samsung TV, which doesn’t support lossless audio, nor does iTunes on my PC. I have an iPhone, but I don’t want to have to find a way to plug it into my AVR and would rather have something more permanent.

FWIW, my home theater setup includes an Onkyo RZ-810 AVR connected to a MiniDSP DDRC-88A-BM using Dirac Live, so I believe my system is limited to 24bit/48khz (limitations of the MiniDSP/Dirac).

Do you think there would be a noticeable difference getting Apple lossless working for the ~$150 cost of an Apple TV vs. the standard quality playback I’m currently getting through the TV app? I’m pretty picky and sensitive to these type of changes, but even I am questioning whether this is worth doing… My family and I are happy with the Netflix and YouTube apps on our TV, so I don’t really think I would be using the Apple TV for anything besides audio, though if I’m going to get one, I wouldn’t get anything lower than the 4K version.

I know I’d also get spatial audio support, which would be fun to play around with, but my system is only 5.2 and I don’t have huge expectations on that.

Anyways, just curious what everyone’s thoughts are. Like I said, I already have Apple Music, so I’m not considering getting another service for cost reasons. Just wondering if getting an Apple TV just for the audio upgrade given Apple’s lack of lossless/spatial support on its TV/PC apps would be worthwhile.

Thanks!
I have ATV4K and it does make listening to music very easy for Apple Music. It does play lossless audio up to 24/48 I believe.

I use it all the time just because of the convenience. I also have Amazon music that I can use my old iMac and use exclusive mode w the app - this sounds much better than Apple Music thru the ATV4K but it’s much much less convenient.
 

DavidMcRoy

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I think what they mean is no compression (AAC). The info screen of my Denon app always says the received input is 48kHz no matter what I’m playing.

Wouldn’t worry too much about it, though. From principle standpoint this may not be correct, but in practice I doubt if it’s audible.
Yeah, I “think” I can hear something “different” about so-called HiRes when I’m actually getting it, but I’m sure I couldn’t pass a double-blind listening test of it. And further, the difference I perceive (if it’s really there) isn’t worth bothering with for me personally, jumping through hoops with elaborate connections to get Qobuz and TIDAL files out of my iPad and iPhone and into a competent external DAC. Being able to verifiably hear the real deal was a ridiculous chore.

There are so many far less ethereal problems in audio recording and production on most cuts that completely swamp whatever minutia it is that some seem to get excited about in comparing formats, HiRes seems like a misplaced priority to me. Forest for the trees. The whole debate is pretty meaningless to me, and I worked in broadcast TV audio production for over 30 years.
 
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