Some audiophiles love vinyl. Others love Compact Discs but one trend that can't be ignored is the increased use of Apple products as source components by in-the-know audiophiles and top audiophile companies.
At this past Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this trend finally became mainstream. Wisdom Audio was rocking an AppleTV much like the audiophile savvy reviewers at HomeTheaterReview.com Dan D'agostino as packing a Macbook Pro or much of his audiophile demos as he was opening dealers for his new line of ultra-high-end electronics. Jeff Rowland carries lots of old-school audiophile gravitas and he was using a modified Apple Mac Mini computer outfitted with a fancy DAC. iPods, iPhones and iPads could be seen in nearly every other room. Noticeably missing from the discussion was anything Window-based. Call me an Apple fanboy if you want but I am just reporting the news. If you want to be the cool guy these days - you rock an Apple source component in your audiophile system.
Buyer beware: while Steven Jobs is rumored to be a Wilson-Audio-owning audiophile himself his iTunes music files are anything but HD. David Chesky's HD Tracks or Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound do a commendable job of bringing real HD music to audiophiles. The problem is making it work in your system. Apple's strength is the fact they can allow you to affordably and easily rip your existing music collection in a lossless format that is really hard to differentiate between the actual Compact Disc if, if, if you rip the file correctly. They also offer you a place to buy music via iTunes although I prefer to buy CDs from Amazon and EBay. They offer Internet Radio which is getting better and better overall as well as through Apple.
It's important to note that Apple products like AppleTV are consumer grade products. What this means to an audiophile is - if you plug in an AppleTV to you audiophile system - be sure to run it into a top performing DAC. Personally, I use Benchmark Media's top of the line DAC from an AppleTV going into a Krell integrated amp and PSB speakers. Steven Stone runs his 1st gen Apple TV's Toslink output into Monarchy Audio DIP Combo and then into his Lexicon MC-12 HD. Andrew Robinson uses a Cambridge Audio DAC Magic which is a very affordable solution. Dr. Ken Taraszka use both the uber-high-end Ed Meitner EMM Labs DAC as well as Wadia's PowerDAC 151 in his systems. Dan D'agostino in his system ran his laptop into a very high-end dcs DAC. Jeff Rowland was showing off his stunning digital to analog converter. Nobody uses the internal DAC on an Apple product in a demanding system.
It's one thing to be jamming to Magical Mystery Tour on your iPad on an airplane and using the internal DAC but when you are at home you need the goods. Even the internal DAC of a top level HDMI AV receiver will pack a meaningful upgrade for your audio.