New Apple AirPort Express Bit Perfect But Still Limited
My new AirPort Express, white hockey puck version, arrived this morning. The first thing I did was connect it to my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC and run several bit perfect tests at different sample rates and bit depths. The good news is the new AE is bit perfect at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. The usual (bad) news is the new AE will play all other popular PCM sample rates but doesn't transmit the data bit perfectly. I hoped the new AE would at least transmit some 24 bit data but when I sent 24/44.1 music to my Alpha DAC it wasn't bit perfect. In the interest of due diligence I tested 24 bit / 44.1 through 192 kHz and none of the music was sent bit perfect. Only 16 bit / 44.1 was transmitted unaltered. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
One minor improvement that doesn't go far enough is the addition of an extra Ethernet port. This enables use of the AE as a wired router in addition to a wireless router. Unfortunately both Ethernet ports on the new AirPort Express only operate at 10/100 Mbit/s. Maybe Gigabit ports aren't needed as all audio is sent at 16/44.1, but using the new AE for other data needs will be a bit limited compared to almost all other routers including the AirPort Extreme.
The USB port is also still limited to printers only (no audio output).
I really like the default external power cord for the new AE. The previous Express units required the purchase of a separate power cable to use the device without plugging it directly into an outlet. I always hated plugging the entire AE into an outlet with a hanging digital cable. The look of a wall wart and the fact that the AE never fit tightly enough into the outlet were "first world" annoyances but annoyances nonetheless.
[*=left]16 bit / 44.1 kHz music -> Bit Perfect
[*=left]16 bit / 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz -> Not Bit Perfect but does play through the AE at 16/44.1.
[*=left]24 bit / 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz -> Not Bit Perfect but does play through the AE at 16/44.1.