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Why does HDMI sound so much worse than Wireless(Airplay)?

richard12511

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#1
I'm having what I'm sure is a technical issue, and I'm hoping there is a way around it.

For the past year or so, I've been using airplay over wifi to stream Tidal to my Yamaha Aventage receiver. It sounds great, and the mobile app for Tidal is basically on par with the desktop app.

Recently I've started using Idagio at work to get into classical music. I like classical music at work on my headphones, as I find that music with vocals distracts me while I'm writing code(software developer). I've actually been getting really into it, and so I decided to download the IOS app and use airplay to stream it to my main system at home. The problem is that the IOS app for Idagio seems to be very limited. To fix this I took an old Macbook Pro(2015) and hooked it up to my AVR via HDMI so that I could use my TV as a display to use the Idagio desktop app and since HDMI also carries sound, it should output to my loudspeakers.

I tested using Tidal(more familiar) after hooking it up. First thing I noticed is that it's about 4db quieter. Tidal and Macbook output volume are on max, so I would expect it to be the same. That said, even after adjusting for the sensitivity difference, there is still a huge difference in imaging and bass. The IOS over AirPlay crushes the Macbook Pro over HDMI, even when volume is equalized.

Any ideas what's going on here? I want to use my Desktop machine as my source, but it sounds so much worse.
 
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#2
When making a digital connection from one device to another, each device may have a different sample-rate configuration, and also these settings might not match the native sample-rate of your audio source material. The various devices will adjust for this mismatch by sample-rate conversion, and this process often has a detrimental effect on the final sound quality.

Google tells me that Idagio streams are 44.1kHz. Your MacBook Pro's default audio output is possibly 48kHz. You can change this in your Mac's "Sound" settings ...
but the HDMI interface of the MacBook Pro is probably locked at 48kHz. So at the outset, you should avoid HDMI altogether. HDMI is bad for other reasons too, see this detailed post by Amir -
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/a-deep-dive-into-hdmi-audio-performance.56/

If you want to stick with a cabled connection, s/pdif is the way to go. A 2015 MacBook should have a headphone jack which doubles as an optical s/pdif output. Connect this to the optical s/pdif input of your Yamaha receiver using a mini-TOSLINK to TOSLINK cable. Now configure your MacBook for 44.1kHz output, and your audio should sound much better.

But why use a cable at all? You should be able to use your MacBook as an AirPlay sender.
For Tidal, you may need to change the MacBook's "Sound" output setting.
For Idagio, I understand the Idagio app has its own AirPlay setting -
http://support.idagio.com/en/articles/389226-streaming-idagio-over-airplay
 

StevenEleven

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#3
I’m not sure that HDMI does sound (actually sound) worse for real world listening. Maybe, and if so, perhaps just a little.

However, I’m all in on Airplay and optical in. And if you want to match sampling rates between your Mac (I’ve done it with my MacBook just trying to system optimize) and your streaming service, all the better, you get rid of a resampling point. Audible? Doubtful. I find I do get a nice strong baseline input volume over optical or wifi into my receiver, as compared to some analog inputs and a maybe a little better than HDMI digital in. So that is going to buy you some S/N improvement if it‘s the same for you. Audible? Mmmmm, I kind of doubt it, but we are improving measurably at multiple points in the signal chain now. So to the extent confidence in sound quality is an issue for you, the experiences of @linuxfan match mine, and the implementation costs you nothing.
 
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richard12511

richard12511

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Thread Starter #4
When making a digital connection from one device to another, each device may have a different sample-rate configuration, and also these settings might not match the native sample-rate of your audio source material. The various devices will adjust for this mismatch by sample-rate conversion, and this process often has a detrimental effect on the final sound quality.

Google tells me that Idagio streams are 44.1kHz. Your MacBook Pro's default audio output is possibly 48kHz. You can change this in your Mac's "Sound" settings ...
but the HDMI interface of the MacBook Pro is probably locked at 48kHz. So at the outset, you should avoid HDMI altogether. HDMI is bad for other reasons too, see this detailed post by Amir -
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/a-deep-dive-into-hdmi-audio-performance.56/

If you want to stick with a cabled connection, s/pdif is the way to go. A 2015 MacBook should have a headphone jack which doubles as an optical s/pdif output. Connect this to the optical s/pdif input of your Yamaha receiver using a mini-TOSLINK to TOSLINK cable. Now configure your MacBook for 44.1kHz output, and your audio should sound much better.

But why use a cable at all? You should be able to use your MacBook as an AirPlay sender.
For Tidal, you may need to change the MacBook's "Sound" output setting.
For Idagio, I understand the Idagio app has its own AirPlay setting -
http://support.idagio.com/en/articles/389226-streaming-idagio-over-airplay

Thank you. I will try this. I've used Airplay with my MacBook before, but the problem is that is has to stop and buffer every 30 seconds or so. Seems the wireless connection is slow. Internet is 400mbps down here and my phone never has to stop and buffer, so I'm not sure what that's about.
 
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richard12511

richard12511

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Thread Starter #5
I’m not sure that HDMI does sound (actually sound) worse for real world listening. Maybe, and if so, perhaps just a little.

However, I’m all in on Airplay and optical in. And if you want to match sampling rates between your Mac (I’ve done it with my MacBook just trying to system optimize) and your streaming service, all the better, you get rid of a resampling point. Audible? Doubtful. I find I do get a nice strong baseline input volume over optical or wifi into my receiver, as compared to some analog inputs and a maybe a little better than HDMI digital in. So that is going to buy you some S/N improvement if it‘s the same for you. Audible? Mmmmm, I kind of doubt it, but we are improving measurably at multiple points in the signal chain now. So to the extent confidence in sound quality is an issue for you, the experiences of @linuxfan match mine, and the implementation costs you nothing.

I have no idea what's causing it, but it's very, very audible. For one, it's 4db quieter(tested with pink noise and spl meter). It also neuters the bass, almost sounds like my two subs are turned off, but they aren't(just much less output).
 

LeftCoastTim

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#6
My MBP's hdmi also sometimes sounds quiet. Turinng up the volume doesn't fix it, but turning it DOWN does. I would press up, up, up, and then down, down, and it would get very loud all of a sudden. Clearly a software bug.

Also might be worth checking the sound section in the settings and play with the volume settings there.
 
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#7
I've used Airplay with my MacBook before, but the problem is that is has to stop and buffer every 30 seconds or so.
A common fix for AirPlay buffering with older MacBooks is to turn off bluetooth. Try this first, it could be a simple solution.
If this doesn't fix the problem the next thing to try is to connect your MacBook to your router via ethernet cable - this will eliminate any potential wifi issues ...
but for the MacBook you will need a thunderbolt-to-ethernet adapter or USB-C-to-ethernet adapter, and if you don't already own such an adapter, you might as well buy a mini-TOSLINK-to-TOSLINK cable, and connect via s/pdif as I mentioned earlier.
 

Koeitje

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#8
Thank you. I will try this. I've used Airplay with my MacBook before, but the problem is that is has to stop and buffer every 30 seconds or so. Seems the wireless connection is slow. Internet is 400mbps down here and my phone never has to stop and buffer, so I'm not sure what that's about.
You only need 1.44mbit for Redbook, you wireless has got to be really slow to have issues with audio.
 
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richard12511

richard12511

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Thread Starter #9
You only need 1.44mbit for Redbook, you wireless has got to be really slow to have issues with audio.
I've only got one option here where I live. I pay for 400 down, but I only get 250-350, generally.
 
D

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#10
Macbook can do airplay. Airplay doesn't works connected to the internet, it sends the signal from one device to the other. So you can use your own offline files, or tidal, but the airplay transmission is internal. Google chrome for example, works differently in some cases, so it can continue streaming from the internet, even if you shut down your phone.

No clue why hdmi not working well, I do know airplay, with 1411kbs files, works awesome, great sound for a wireless system.
 
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richard12511

richard12511

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Thread Starter #11
Airplay does work well after turning bluetooth off, but it doesn't really solve my original use case.

When guests come over and want to listen to music/watch youtube videos, I usually just let them pass my phone around and use the Tidal and Youtube apps on my phone. My only gripe is that it's kinda cumbersome to switch back and forth beetween Tidal(airplay) and Youtube(cast to TV) as I have to change the input on the AVR. I had an old Macbook Pro lying around that has a broken screen, but is functional, otherwise. I figured I'd hook it up via HDMI and get an external mouse keyboard and that way we could switch back and forth between Tidal and Youtube more seamlessly.

The crappy sound from HDMI kinda pooped on my idea :(.
 
D

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#12
I´m not sure I have the knowledge about HDMI to help you properly, at all. I do notice, airplay in my apple airport express, sounds louder indeed. Louder than my other input from my regular dac... a bit annoying actually.
 

Berwhale

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#13
Is it possible that the Mac is outputting multi-channel audio via HDMI? Can you force it to stereo?
 

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