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The best of everything, a system review: Apple TV 4K 2022, MiniDSP SHD, BlueSound Node, SMSL M400, Benchmark AHB2, Clarity M

cheapsoundguy

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I wanted to share my system setup with everyone and provide a brief review of the component parts of the system.

First, my goals in building the system: 1) Sound quality / room correction 2) reasonable ease of use for my wife and kids 3) ability to extract HDMI audio from my Apple TV for both TV and Apple Music, 4) ability to support high-res bit perfect streaming for both Apple Music and Amazon Music / Tidal.

Apple TV 4K: Excellent 4K streamer, also supports Apple Music (non-high res). Also integrates with Siri and a voice activated physical remote. Perfect for the kids to just say "Play Baby Shark" or whatever.
BlueSound Node: This pulls the HDMI signal from the TV and converts it to an SPDIF signal for the MiniDSP. It also fully integrates with Amazon Music, Tidal, etc. (But not Apple Music).
MiniDSP SHD: This is connected before the DAC and provides frequency/room correction for my speakers. I use this to switch from USB (iPad for high res Apple Music) to SPDIF (TV/BlueSound Node).
SMSL M400: Excellent "top of the chart" AKM 4499 DAC. Not much needs to be said. The remote buttons feel a little mushy. I may replace the remote with something better. I effectively use this as the "preamp" to control volume. It is directly connected to my amp.
Benchmark AHB2: Excellent "top of the chart" amp. It eliminated the hiss from my speakers. I believe it has more bass control and less fatiguing treble compared to my previous amp as well. No proof, but I like it.
tc electronic Clarity M: This is just a fun little "eye candy" toy. It is basically a 7" graphical display that grabs the 2nd SPDIF signal from the MiniDSP and outputs a graphical metering view.
Teac turntable: Fun toy, connected via a passive analog switcher. Entire signal path is analog from the turntable to the amp.
Radial SAT2: Passive volume control for the turntable.

Overall I love it. I leave the input on the MiniDSP on SPDIF, which allows the BlueSound Node to automatically switch from music to HDMI/TV automatically. My family just has to turn on the Apple TV and it's all automatic for them, music, TV, movies etc.

When I want bit perfect, I just walk up to the system, switch the MiniDSP to USB, and use the iPad wired with whatever streaming source I want.

The other benefit of the Apple ecosystem is that I can use a WIRELESS iPad to stream to the Airplay 2 on the Apple TV (or the BlueSound Node) as well as other systems in my house (such as a smaller system attached to a Roku also with AirPlay 2). It can stream to multiple Airplay 2 receivers at once for parties (main system, dining room system, back yard).

Love it! And so does my family!
 
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Rednaxela

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Very nice!

Why the SMSL in the chain though? Peace of mind?
 
OP
C

cheapsoundguy

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Re the SMSL M400 — partly because I already owned it, partly because the MiniDSP resamples everything to 96khz and is not bit perfect, and partly because it technically has better specs/chips than the MiniDSP. (I sometimes plug directly into the M400 with an iPad via USB).
 

McFly

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You missed the best feature of the blue sound node I just discovered. It controls the volume of its digital outputs. You can literally use HDMI arc from the TV to an external DAC and just use your TV remote for volume, and the trigger out can switch yours amps on and off (15 minute off delay worth noting). No more DAC remotes. I even power my topping e30 from the USB socket and use the coax output of the node to the E30. Amazing little streaming box.
 
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cheapsoundguy

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You missed the best feature of the blue sound node I just discovered. It controls the volume of its digital outputs. You can literally use HDMI arc from the TV to an external DAC and just use your TV remote for volume, and the trigger out can switch yours amps on and off (15 minute off delay worth noting). No more DAC remotes. I even power my topping e30 from the USB socket and use the coax output of the node to the E30. Amazing little streaming box.
I think I knew that, but I set it to fixed output. But upon reflection, I hate my DAC remote.

I will have to try this!
 

jaymarnz

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Dec 31, 2022
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You missed the best feature of the blue sound node I just discovered. It controls the volume of its digital outputs. You can literally use HDMI arc from the TV to an external DAC and just use your TV remote for volume, and the trigger out can switch yours amps on and off (15 minute off delay worth noting). No more DAC remotes. I even power my topping e30 from the USB socket and use the coax output of the node to the E30. Amazing little streaming box.
Totally agree. That has really simplified our operation. I set the Node to auto-detect and switch to the HDMI. And the TV turns itself on too although I'm not sure why. My setup is Chromecast>TV->Node->DAC->Amp. To watch TV you just stream something to the Chromecast. That turns the TV on and switches the Node to HDMI input. Control the volume with the TV remote. To listen to music use BluOS app or Tidal Connect, etc. and control the volume with either app. The only niggle is the volume level of the TV is much lower than other sources so it's easy to forget to turn the volume down when done watching TV and you get a surprise when you next turn on some music. I've at least made that a bit more protective by setting a max volume on the Node.
 

Sw00p

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Since I'm currently trying to find an optimized set-up for our living room, I am very interested in your system.
My plan currently is a simplified version of your system:

Apple TV4K (and other sources) --HDMI--> TV --HDMI-ARC--> Bluesound Powernode (or Sonos Amp)

One of the main advantages of the Apple TV for my understanding is, that it not only can be an AirPlay-Receiver but can stream Apple Music by itself. The question for me is, if than the TV has to be turned on at all times, to use the Apple TV as a Streaming Source?

Thank you
 

JoachimStrobel

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You can play Apple Music from you IPhone to your AppleTV with the TV off. At first it will play via Airplay, then it will launch its build in Apple Music App and plat by itself. You may have to start/stop the music once ore twice to trigger that.
 
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