I recently upgraded my home audio arrangement and wanted to be able to stream content via AirPlay. The seemingly obvious choice was the Apple AirPort Express as it has a TOSlink audio output. I bought one and found myself listening to a symphony of pops and clicks. It was unpleasant and totally unlistenable.
As I had used the AirPort Extreme with some success in the distant past I assumed the issue lie with the Parasound Halo Integrated amplifier (which includes a DAC).
Further research revealed that the Apple AirPort Extreme (current generation) is in fact, a piece of a shit. Its digital output is known to be very jittery and the ESS Sabre 32 DAC in the Parasound is not at all tolerant of this. I was then left with the question of what to do next.
I did some web searches on the topic and uncovered a company called HiFiBerry that makes a number of audiophile-grade products for use with Raspberry Pi. I was already familiar with a Linux distro called MusicBox which is a turn-key AirPlay receiver (among other things).
I ordered the HiFiBerry Digi+ Pro and waited anxiously for it to arrive.
I set it up (which was a breeze) and suddenly I had TOSlink and 75 ohm coax digital connectivity. I opted for coax. Since then streaming over AirPlay sounds amazing. I play a lot of lossless content and the performance is flawless.
I recommend this to anyone looking for a similar solution. My final solution was to use a Raspberry Pi 3 with the Digi+ Pro and HiFiBerry’s steel case. I am using Ethernet as latency is always better, but I did test WiFi and it worked well for me.
My HiFiBerry setup sitting atop the Parasound Halo.