Laggy Experience With Apple Music via Chromecast on Uniti Atom

Hi All,

I have been demoing various all-in-one streaming devices at my local dealer, and while I have found that, from a sound perspective, the Atom is superior, I am rather frustrated with the Apple Music experience via Chromecast, particularly regarding buffering and poor responsiveness. In more detail:

  1. When switching songs, there is generally a 3-4 second lag before music from the following track starts playing. Most of that looks to be buffering time, as I can see in the Apple Music app on my phone the horizontal bar under the album art sliding back and forth.
  2. About 1 in every 5 instances, when switching songs, the music starts to play after this 3-4 second lag, but then has a brief sub-second stutter, as if it had not buffered enough.
  3. Though still apparent, this lag is far less noticeable on the Atom using Spotify over Chromecast, or Soundcloud over Chromecast, for instance.
  4. This lag is also barely noticeable when Chromecast-ing Apple Music to other Chromecast devices, namely the new Google TV with Chromecast and the EVO 150

Here is some additional information:

  1. Atom firmware version 3.7.1.5275, on ethernet connection
  2. Apple Music version 3.7.1(1154) on Android 12

Questions:

  1. Can this issue be overcome by a future firmware update?
  2. Given that the Atom is an older device, is it expected that the older Chromecast hardware may provide a less optimal experience than that of newer streamers which may have newer Chromecast hardware?

Thanks in advance for any input!

Copying @Stevesky here for input.

Cynically, i’d say Apple and Google are never designed to mix well together… Apple Music works well on Apple AirPlay to my Uniti, for example!

Are there any plans for Apple Music to be integrated on the uniti Atom Atom app?

Hi @StevefronBath

Re: integrating Apple Music into the Naim App

No - Apple only offer Airplay2 as the official mechanism to play Apple Music to third party audio products. We keep the products on latest versions of the Airplay library, but functionality is strictly controlled by Apple.

Best wishes

Steve Harris
Software Director
Naim Audio Ltd.

Hi @Stevesky , thanks for your response. So Airplay2 can’t stream 24-bit/96kHz then? So, in terms of sound quality, what’s the best way to play Apple Music Hi-Res Lossless from an iPhone to a Unity Atom?

Hi @StevefronBath

Apple have left things in a bit of a no-mans-land when they launched the feature, but currently have not provided key ways to use it to hifi products.

At the moment the only real way is connect a suitable usb to spdif interface to an Apple product and if the planets are aligned it will work as intended. In practice only Qobuz are providing a true lossless streaming service that goes beyond 16/44.1 and doesn’t have disclaimers attached.

From Naim’s side we’re key Apple partners, so as and when Apple open up the eco-system then we’ll be able to do it. Using the current software stacks a lossless 24/44.1kHz is possible over airplay2 if the source side (ios/osx) supports or allows it.

Best regards

Steve

Hi @Stevesky, just wanted to bump the original question about the Apple Music <> Chromecast experience. Are you able to reproduce the issue or provide any insight on the fixability of this issue? Thanks!

Hi @lianga

We’ll give it a go and see what the deal is. It’s a bit of an unusual combination - I assume this is Apple Music via their Android App, which in turn is Chromecast to the Atom.

Typically the general rule for best usability / performance when using connect services is:
Apple Music → Airplay2
Spotify → Spotify Connect
Tidal → Tidal Connect, or from Naim app.
Youtube Music → Chromecast
Qobuz → Naim App. (Chromecast can be used but no gapless etc)

Best wishes

Steve

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Hi @lianga

Have had a look at Apple Music on Android → Chromecast → Atom.

The reason it is slow is that on every track change it tears down the chromecast link, brings it all back up again, renegotiates all the security keys and eventually plays a 256kbit lossy AAC file. All totally unnecessary and incorrect implementation on how to do Chromecast from the Apple Music app.

The time to do this comes down to how quick the CPU is to do this vast amount of computation on each track. Google dongles use a quad core CPU, while we have a single core 1GHz CPU. The above uses all the processing power of the CPU and hence more cores and faster CPU = quicker to change track. In our case its about 4secs of CPU at 100% doing tons of actions and maths.

Unfortunately in this case we can’t make it any faster, as its a mix of Apple code and Google code. I would recommend just not use that combination. See my earlier message on combinations of choice for best experience.

Best wishes

Steve Harris
Software Director
Naim Audio Ltd.

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Hi @Stevesky. Thanks for the detailed response. Yeah, I’d love to use Airplay, but I’m on an Android phone, so I’m stuck with using Chromecast.

Hi @lianga

If the quality of Apple Music AAC is acceptable, then I would suggest trying out Spotify. Spotify Connect is class leading as a connect solution (fast, gapless playback, reliable, multi-platform), sound quality a bit better than Apple Music, a massive library + good user apps for all platforms.

Best

Steve

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