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Finally enjoying 24 bit 96 and 192khz from Apple Music on my AVR...just need to buy a non-Apple product to do it (smh) (2 Viewers)

Carlo Medina

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As many of you know, Apple last year upgraded most (all?) of their Apple Music catalog to lossless, and have started to upgrade some albums and songs to high resolution lossless (HRL), anywhere from 24-bit, 48khz all the way to 192khz.

Polite request: we can argue the merits of high res audio in another thread, I'd like to keep this one solely focused solely on how to enjoy the full HRL 2-channel experience that you're paying for on Apple Music on your home system. Spatial Audio/Atmos is a whole other subpar implementation by Apple which this thread isn't going to focus on.

Here's my frustration point with Apple's implementation of HRL. All of their devices are handicapped against allowing you to stream out to your non-Apple ecosystem device the full benefits of 24/192 HRL. Want to enjoy it on your HomePod or iPhone and AirPods Max? Sure no problem, Apple says--though obviously both are highly compromised playback chains compared to what most home theater nuts and audiophiles have in terms of non-Apple equipment such as dedicated receivers or pre/pros, amps, speakers and headphones. Bluetooth isn't even truly lossless so that's a bit of a joke, eh Apple? And while I love my HomePod, either of my dedicated HT/stereo systems destroys it in audio fidelity.

Want to use your existing high-dollar non-Apple audio equipment to enjoy full HRL? Don't look to Apple products for support.
  • AppleTV4K? Doesn't support HRL (as of this writing). And its implementation of Spatial Audio is horrible (first second or so dropout while your AVR senses the Atmos signal, no gapless playback support so enjoy all those split second audio gaps between songs that should run seamlessly together).
  • HDMI out from your Macs? Also doesn't fully support up to 24/192. I tried my 2021 M1 13" Macbook Pro and my 2019 16" Macbook Pro and when I looked at the bit rate my Denon 4500h was receiving it never got to 96 or 192 khz (I've forgotten the exact spec but I think it capped at 48khz)
  • iPhone lightning to 3.5mm dongle? Same.
So I finally took the plunge and purchased an external DAC. And let me say, I'm thrilled with the purchase. Normal standalone DACs can be as cheap as under $100, and some well reviewed ones hover around the $200-$300 range. I actually purchased a combo DAC and headphone amp, because I have some notoriously hard to drive headphones (Beyerdynamic DT880 250 ohm) so I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. I used to only use my DT880s on my receiver, which had a more robust headphone out than my iPhone (which couldn't drive them at all) but I still felt like I wasn't getting everything out of the Beyers. Turns out, headphone outputs are generally an afterthought even in $1500 MSRP receivers like my 4500h. This new DAC+amp has made me realize I've been sitting on some of the best headphones for over a decade and just have never supplied it enough power to really bring it to life (and no I don't listen at loud levels). It's just like power-starving 4-ohm speakers. Even if you listen at reasonable levels, an amp that can drive a 4-ohm load will give you a fuller sound at lower volumes than one that can't.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Topping DX5.
IMG_1614.JPG


I'm waiting on a couple of longer interconnects to arrive today from Amazon before putting it in its final place in the system, so it's on the floor for now. I actually overbought (it was only $450) so this model supports up to some crazy specs that no one releases audio at (32b, 768k I think) and it also decodes DSD and MQA (I don't subscribe to Tidal so don't need it). I figured it was better to future proof.

Now when I select the DX5 as the audio output on my Mac I can select the appropriate resolution. The sad thing is that on a Mac, you have to choose the output (i.e. 24b 192k). If the Apple Music file is lower than that, it will send out that signal anyway (upscaled). The Mac is at fault here, it doesn't dynamically change the signal to match the file (i.e 24/96, 24/48). So if you want to avoid any upscaling you will have to choose the matching bit rate as you change albums. Or you can just let it upscale everything to 24/192 (not sure what harm that does, I haven't heard any sonic impact from just leaving it at 24/192).

I wish they implemented dynamically matching output because apparently if you hook up an iDevice to it (iPad for example) then the iPad does send out the native signal and the DAC then auto-senses the correct bit rate for that file. The only problem with this method? You guessed it, power to the iPad. With only one USB-C out, that's going to the DAC (and it doesn't charge back to the iPad).

Given how much press Apple's been giving to HRL and Spatial Audio, they really need to put their money where their mouth is and fix these things. The first, and most obvious would be to release either a software update if it's possible, or if not a new hardware update, to the Apple TV 4K so that it outputs up to 24/192 via HDMI to your receiver, and to fix the initial audio dropout and add gapless playback support for Spatial Audio/Atmos music files. Second would be to allow that same 24/192 and Spatial Audio output from our Macs via the USB-C to HDMI dongle, rather than capping it at 24/48 for 2-channel, and no support for Spatial Audio/Atmos out from your Mac.

Oh, fair warning, if you do purchase this (or something similar) most DACs still support the old USB-B input (the one that looks like a square). It will come with a USB2.0 type A to type B connector so you can either purchase the USB-C to USB-A adapter, or do what I did and just bought a USB-C to USB-B cable for $9 from Amazon. I made sure to buy one that supports USB 2.0 (480mbps) which is more than enough bandwidth for 24/192 files, but I think if one end is USB-C by definition that cable will support USB 2.0 spec.

I'm actually so happy with the music quality coming out of this I may buy a second DAC only (no headphone amp) to leave plugged in to my main system all the time, so I don't have to keep unplugging and switching to headphone setting when I go to the other rooms.
 

Wayne_j

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So I finally took the plunge and purchased an external DAC. And let me say, I'm thrilled with the purchase. Normal standalone DACs can be as cheap as under $100, and some well reviewed ones hover around the $200-$300 range. I actually purchased a combo DAC and headphone amp, because I have some notoriously hard to drive headphones (Beyerdynamic DT880 250 ohm) so I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. I used to only use my DT880s on my receiver, which had a more robust headphone out than my iPhone (which couldn't drive them at all) but I still felt like I wasn't getting everything out of the Beyers. Turns out, headphone outputs are generally an afterthought even in $1500 MSRP receivers like my 4500h. This new DAC+amp has made me realize I've been sitting on some of the best headphones for over a decade and just have never supplied it enough power to really bring it to life (and no I don't listen at loud levels). It's just like power-starving 4-ohm speakers. Even if you listen at reasonable levels, an amp that can drive a 4-ohm load will give you a fuller sound at lower volumes than one that can't.
You think that's hard to drive? I have the DT880 600 ohm. And yes, a good headphone amp is crucial.
 

Carlo Medina

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You think that's hard to drive? I have the DT880 600 ohm. And yes, a good headphone amp is crucial.
Lol good lord! Thank goodness that wasn't the option available when I bought mine back in the day. I have the original version, before the "premium" and "pro" delineation and before they offered any other resistance (now they have 32/250/600 options). With 600 ohm cans I might have had to go the separates route and buy a dedicated headphone amp lol.
 

JohnRice

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I am surprised you've been trying to drive difficult headphones with a receiver, but glad to know you heard a benefit from the topping DAC/amp.

I haven't dived into high res streaming, but I do buy high res music from HDTracks and listen to that on the speakers. My original playback system (nVME drive, Oppo BR player and external DAC) doesn't serve me well any more since the Oppo app bricked a couple years ago. That forces me to use the HT monitor to control playback. So, I'm planning on getting a high end streamer/DAC. I'll still use the nVME drive as my prime source, but a streamer/DAC returns the ability to control playback with an iPad or iPhone. It's going to be a pricey upgrade, but crossing my fingers. Once I have that I can at least try some of the HR streaming services, though I doubt I'll be using any of them long term.
 

Carlo Medina

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I am surprised you've been trying to drive difficult headphones with a receiver, but glad to know you heard a benefit from the topping DAC/amp.
I actually had put away my Beyers for a while thinking maybe I'd just made a bunk purchase. I have some Sony MDR V6 and Grado SR60 as my daily drivers and both are easily driven by even portable devices. In fact I just upgraded to some SR325x and I'm a big fan of the new 4th gen Grado drivers. I know Grados are far from flat but sometimes I just enjoy their presentation and the new 325x restores a lot of the bass that previous Grado were lacking (both low bass extension and volume).
 

ManW_TheUncool

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Wish I could use my iPhone to control my ATV4K for music streaming w/out needing the use of a (separate) monitor... but that's probably too low priority for Apple, if it's even remotely on their radar...

_Man_
 

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