AVR with Airplay 2 vs Chromecast vs HifiBerry vs Bluesound Node

I have a Denon AVR X1600H that by default uses Airplay to play my Roon-based music (album store and Tidal hi-def). I think the Airplay is a limiting factor and am wondering if an upgrade is warranted. I’m testing a Chromecast device connected to the AVR via hdmi and it sounds good, maybe better(?). Other options I’m considering are a HifiBerry digital transport using the AVR’s DAC or a HIfiBerry DAC. Finally, Crutchfield recommends the Bluesound Node. Any opinions out there as to which of these options would deliver the best sound quality?

I’m using the iFi Zen Stream to feed my Denon AVR 4500 with spdif input via Ethernet. Works pretty slick, do a search about this device to see what’s up with it.

Ideally you’d use Roon’s RAAT protocol to get to your endpoint - which gives you the full benefits of Roon’s approach.

So Roon bridge or a roon ready endpoint would be best.

I use quite a few Ropieee raspberry Pis - which run Roon bridge including some with Hi Fi Berry DAC2 HATs.

The only downside is they can click when changing sample rate ( I set mine to always upsample to 192 to avoid this).

Audio Science Review felt that the DAC2 HD wasn’t enough of an upgrade to the less expensive HATs to justify the cost, but they are still good.

The Allo BOSS2 HATs were very well reviewed - but don’t know if they are still available.

What’s wrong with Airplay?

I’m no expert but isn’t Airplay limited in the resolution it can support?

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AirPlay is wholly reliant on a stable sending device tablet, phone or Mac it has no handoff. The Clock rate is reliant on the sending device and DAC. Audio can end up being resampled at the device end to match clock rates. Only supports 44.1 if that bothers you, which for many it does.

I’ve used
A pi feeding DACs via USB into an amp
Pis with a dac hat feeding an amp
A chromecast into an amp
A node as a dac feeding analogue into an amp
A node feeding a dac via optical into an amp

Not sure it made massive amounts of a difference which one I used in sound quality I think the node (current firmware version glitch aside) is the best sounding and certainly the most versatile but also costs a lot more.

Chromecasts have a habit of dissapearing out of Roon, I’ve had it happen as have many others on the forum.

Pis used to be the cheap choice but that’s not as true anymore. Ropieee makes it very plug and play.

As a side note ASR spends hardly any time, it seems to me, on listening to the equipment compared to measuring it; seems the wrong way round.

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This one, I wouldn’t worry about, too much. The protocol seems to have an extensive set of bidirectional mechanisms for synchronizing clock rates. Seems no worse than USB Audio.

From a software architecture point of view, I have always found these “two HTTP stream” setups somewhat distasteful.

USB doesn’t resample the audio to reclock it it relies on the DACs clock, Airplay uses the devices clock then resamples if its off. This part of the reason why Roon doesn’t count it as lossless as well as that some devices only support 48khz and will be resampled as well such as Apple TV’s you dont know exactly what its doing under the hood.


Again, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I’m sure some devices, particularly Airplay 1 devices, do have certain flaws. But I’d bet more modern players use it merely as a bit transport mechanism and buffer the bits using the same mechanisms they use for other inputs. It would be dumb not to do that.

I prefer to use Roon RAAT to the DAC. It means roon is in control and accurately reports any sample rates changes etc.

It’s not always clear what Airplay is doing (and some devices don’t support all sample rates).

Roon was written by audiophile purists who care about this stuff…

Does it really matter - who knows!

The mechanism is no different for Airplay legacy or Airplay 2 its how its been designed, UPnP and RAAT respect the DACS clock and this is what the stream clocks to. Airplay its a tussle between the two.

A tussle? Or a collaboration?

Danny talks about it here (and in the posts that follows a few posts later)

You can read about the RAAT design goals here:

Thanks, Greg. Interesting link.

Note that the third-party reconstruction of how Airplay works basically says it’s an implementation of RFC 2326, Real Time Streaming Protocol.. RFC 2326 is fairly antique, in Internet time: 1998. It has been updated as RFC 7826 in 2016. But it’s also been widely implemented, with many separate codebases. And many different extensions to the base protocol.

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