A few weeks back, I was on the phone with Technology Tell Network publisher Rick Albuck, talking — as we usually do — about technology, when he started telling me a pretty interesting story about how he uses Apple TV in his distributed audio system at home, and how the lack of analog inputs on the new Apple TV threw a bit of a monkey wrench into that setup. “This is a cool story,” I said. “You should write about it.”
And he did! What follows is the first of what will hopefully turn into a series of guest posts from Mr. Albuck.
I’ve been a big fan of Apple TV since the first-generation media streamer came out in 2007. It instantly became such an integral part of my daily entertainment lifestyle: the movie rental hub; the music server for my living room; even a portal to share YouTube videos with my family. One of the big benefits of the original Apple TV was its RCA outputs, which I hooked into my Marantz ZS5300 Multi Zone Selector Amplifier, and via the remote app dialed up multi-room tunes on my Paradigm in-ceiling speakers in the kitchen, and Paradigm Rock Speaker and Niles outdoor speakers on my deck outside. For me, it was the perfect distributed audio system.
After years of using that Apple TV without issue, though, I found myself tempted by all of the new content available on the updated Apple TV: Netflix, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, cooler photo steaming, and—perhaps most of all—AirPlay!
But, to gain access to all of that new content, I had to give something up. Or at least I thought I did. The connections on the first generation of Apple TV had HDMI and Component for video, along with Optical digital and analog RCA jacks for audio. It made connecting my multi-room system easy and seamless: HDMI carried audio and video to my Anthem MRX 700 receiver; and the RCA jacks carried a separate audio stream to the Marantz multi zone amp. My wife could watch television in the living room while I listened to my music in the kitchen or outside via the same Apple TV. She had the remote; I had the Remote App. Nice, easy, and best of all, simple!
So I was apprehensive about purchasing the new Apple TV—not because the experts said the old generation was better and had an internal hard drive, because I’m fine with streaming media, especially at 802.11n wireless speeds—no, I was apprehensive because the new generation does not have the analog audio outputs of its predecessor. Aside from the HDMI output, it only has TosLink for audio.
The problem with that is that my multi zone amp only has analog inputs (which isn’t a knock against the system. It rocks!). I initially thought that to gain all of the enhanced features of the new Apple TV, I would have to give up my multi-room experience. But thankfully there is a solution. After some research, I found that a Digital-to-Analog Audio Converter exists, and best of all, it only cost me less than twenty bucks. I simply ran the digital optical cable from the Apple TV to the adapter and RCA cables from the adapter to the Marantz.
Granted, that used up an extra power outlet, but the adapter works great! Now I can access all the new content that Apple TV has to offer without sacrificing my multi-room audio experience.