Playback stutters repeatedly

Core Machine (Operating system/System info/Roon build number)

Macbook Air 1.7 GHz Inter Core i7
macOS Mojave 10.14.6
Applications and Music library on Start Up disk

Roon version 1.7 Build 511

Network: *Airplay from host via Airport Extreme version 7.9.1 to two Airport Express units (stereos in 2 different rooms) both running version 7.8.1

Audio Devices (Specify what device you’re using and its connection type - USB/HDMI/etc.)

Toslink from Airport Express mini plug output to Cambridge Audio Azur 840C Toslink input through the DAC in the Azure to an Audio Research SP-9 preamp to Odessy Khartago power amp to Rogers Ls3/5a’s.

Description Of Issue

When playing files from the Mac Airbook hard drive, playback repeatedly exhibits brief (less than a second) interruptions or glitches.
Happens consistently with different kinds of files, AIFF, m4a. mp3.

This problem does not occur when playing from iTunes.

Hi @James_Mitchell1,

If you play to System Output does the same behavior occur?

Did this setup work for you previously?

get the MBA attached to Ethernet and see if this fares better…wifi is not the greatest when you are sending to multiple devices

Hi Dylan, thanks for your prompt response. when I play to system output the audio plays through the speakers in the Mac Book Pro. It does not appear to be stuttering when played through the system output.

I am setting up Roon for the first time. So, no, this set up has not worked previously with Roon. It has successfully worked with this setup playing from iTunes.

Any recommendations as to how I attach via ethernet? I have no ethernet outputs on the MBA, and no ethernet input to my DAC. Only USB and Thunderbolt outputs on the MBA. I only have toslink optical and S/PDIF coax inputs to the DAC.

apple sells ethernet adapters and you have a 14day no questions asked return policy. Given that your MBA only has USB and TB you could use ethernet cable should be cheap enough.

One of the issues with Wifi is that its a rather narrow bandwidth. If this is also happening to the DAC on the Headphone/toslink output then it could be performance related to the speed of the MBA playing to too many devices concurrently.

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Hi @James_Mitchell1,

As @wizardofoz noted, you could try using a USB -> Ethernet adapter to see if the WiFi is part of the behavior here.

Also, do you have TIDAL/Qobuz by any chance? Do you experience the same behavior when you’re playing files not on your hard drive?

I have followed the suggestion to connect via ethernet. Note that my DAC (which is in my Cambridge Audio Azur 840C) does not have an ethernet or USB input, only toslink and spdif coax inputs. So my connection is from the MBA thunderbolt output through a converter to ethernet plugged directly into the Airport Express. The Airport Express connected to the DAC via Toslink. I have turned off wifi on my MBA and confirmed that the connection is through the ethernet cable by unplugging and replugging in the ethernet. The stuttering still persists with this configuration.

I do not have Tidal or Qobuz to try as an alternative. Playing through the System output to the speakers internal to the MBA, there is no stuttering. But that is no fun.

Any suggestions as to how to connect the MBA via usb or thunderbolt directly to the DAC which only has spdif and toslink inputs?

You could get a simple USB->Toslink DAC such as a Topping D10 (USB input and either Toslink or S/PDIF output) or if you can find one, an Emotiva Big Ego USB DAC that has the option for Toslink output; both are bus powered. I also have used both as USB to optical converters for local connections to my other DACs. I’m sure there are additional options also.

This gadget might do the trick. If not, you can always return it to Amazon.

The MBA has optical output in the 3.5MM jack as I recall, is that an option?

I don’t think that MBA iteration has the optical output option, although the OP doesn’t detail the year of production of his Mac.

You might be right…anyway lots of USB to TOSLINK/SPDIF options out there in Ebay Alibaba etc

Yes indeed. Although every time I see someone with a Roon problem it seems 50% of them are using an Airport Express…

… Since I switched to a Synology router, all spurious network issues have disappeared. Now all we need is for someone to lay cable to our little part of the world so we won’t have to rely on the cell phone network (not going to happen). Even with downloads of 1-20 MBps Roon (inc. Tidal streaming) works flawlessly 95% of the time.

There are a lot of network issues, rather than Roon issues, that are feeding these support forums.

I dumped Apple networking gear a few years back, even they dumped it a while back too. The only thing worse is Ethernet over power

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Hi @James_Mitchell1,

As others have noted, I would try using a different USB -> SPDIF device (in case the Airport Express is playing a factor into this behavior).

You may also want to try using a different SPDIF cable in case the current one is damaged (unlikely but still a possibility).

Thank you for your support. Through the process of elimination I am convinced that my Apple wireless network is the cause of the stuttering. However, I am not prepared at this time to replace my network, nor am I eager to tether my laptop to my stereo via a USB connection. When I acquire a computer that I can dedicate to music, I will reconsider using Roon.

Hi @James_Mitchell1,

Understood and no worries. When you are ready to pick this up again after replacing the hardware, do let me know and we can proceed troubleshooting further if necessary.

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