Basic streamer advice

Eclipsed

Member
Hi all, second thread here after posting my rig in the Post Your System forum. As mentioned in it, I am thinking of upgrading my streaming set up. At present I am using Spotify and also trialling Tidal (which I am liking very much) from my Windows laptop via an Audioengine B1 connected to my Arcam SA20 via optical Toslink. The sound is great but I am interested in upgrading to get even more enjoyment.

Someone mentioned the Bluezone Node as being very popular and I can see it receives a lot of praise. That looks interesting but I also want to explore streamers around the £1,000 mark. Although the B1 has served me well for a few years I'm a real novice at this kind of thing. However I would like to continue to control the streamer on my laptop rather than my phone but looking around it seems most are controlled via the latter. I think the Bluezone Node can be controlled via a pc though. I assume that with streamers the files are accessed over the Internet and the connection to a phone/pc via Bluetooth is merely for control (as opposed to the B1 where the files are Bluetoothed to it from another device which is itself connected to the Internet).

Could anyone recommend anything? Just to recap my requirements:

  • around £1,000
  • Windows pc controlled
  • supports Tidal
  • wifi connectivity

Apologies if these all seem rather basic questions.
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
A streamer is a pretty simple bit of kit, it's the DAC that does the magic. It sounds like you're very happy with the DAC in the SA20?

If you do mean streamer (not DAC) that a Pi based device is probably the way to go, personally I invested in a ProJect S2 ultra with Tidal streaming via Roon. This meets all my streaming needs into a relatively decent system.
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
May I suggest that you have a look at a Raspberry Pi v 4 (about £60 incl a basic PSU), running (say) Moode or Volumio, with USB out into your amp (assuming that the Arcam has a USB input and internal DAC).
If of any interest, I can provide further details of my set up.
 

gava

Well-known Member
A couple of us at least on this forum have just ordered the new Allo Boss2 Player.

Including power supply it came in just over £200, I expect there will be duty when it lands too, but certainly under 250.

 
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muljao

Well-known Member
You really probably don't need to spend 1000 to get an improvement because if I understand correctly you are now listening via bluetooth. Is this correct?

Are you happy to connect your computer directly to your amp with a wired connection. It's down to the dac and the one you have is quite good. If you are happy with the way it works now you could experiment with different dacs. However this may cost. I'd recommend trying non bluetooth before your start spending bigger money
 

Mindhead1

Standard Member
May I suggest that you have a look at a Raspberry Pi v 4 (about £60 incl a basic PSU), running (say) Moode or Volumio, with USB out into your amp (assuming that the Arcam has a USB input and internal DAC).
If of any interest, I can provide further details of my set up.
I second this recommendation. IIR the SA20 doesn’t have a USB DAC so an RPi 4, Power Supply, Case and a Transport HAT like the Hifiberry Digi+ Pro or run COAX or optical into your SA20 DAC will net you a nice improvement over Bluetooth for under $200.
 

wayden

Active Member
I believe the first thing that should be looked at is the navigation. Is there an App available? How does it organize your music? What are the features available. A lot of excellent streamers have had bad experiences only because of the app. Easy of use is always key
 

Eclipsed

Member
Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm leaning towards the Bluesound as it seems to tick all the boxes. The SA20 doesn't have USB input which cuts out some options. What I'm thinking is I'd use the Bluesound's DAC and then connect my Arcam Alpha 7SE CD player to the digital input via Toslink to utilise the SA20's DAC which presumably is better than the one on the 20 year old 7SE.
 

muljao

Well-known Member
Amazon product

This allows usb to spdif connection on your amp
It's maybe not entirely correct to assume the new dac is better than the old dac
 

CalvinandHobbes

Standard Member
I like the Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra which is based around a Raspberry Pi but with power supply and USB input/outputs optimized. Compared to a typical RPi streamer, it seems to be more turnkey out of the box with a custom version of Volumio installed already. You can control it via the Pro-ject Play app on an iPhone or Android or via Web browser on PC, Mac or tablet.

In terms of sound quality, the Pro-ject + Qutest DAC sounded better than a SimAudio Moon 280 streamer-DAC to me (better pace, better able to follow the tune). The Pro-ject + Denafrips Pontus II DAC is engaging to me in a way that a Naim NDX-2 was not (fuller sound, more natural tonal quality of instruments, less "digital" sounding).

At some point in time, I'll look to compare the Pro-ject to more expensive streamers such as those from Innuos, Auralic, and Aurender, but I'm highly impressed so far given the very reasonable price of the Pro-ject streamer.

BTW, you will get a very substantial increase in sound quality of the Pro-ject streamer by:
  1. Turning off the Wi-Fi & the HDMI output (Reduces RF interference in the streamer), and
  2. Using an Ethernet cable. If you don't have an Ethernet access point easily available you can create an Ethernet access point easily with a Wi-Fi extender such as the TP-Link RE230 that I have. (~£25-30)
  3. You can get additional improvement by going to a better shielded Ethernet cable. I'm using a Supra Cat 8 cable (~£50-60)
This is a way to get the benefits of Wi-Fi (i.e., not having to run 50 metres of Ethernet cable through your house.) while getting all or most of the sonic benefits of not having the RF interference from a Wi-Fi receiver in your streamer.
 

CalvinandHobbes

Standard Member
I assume that with streamers the files are accessed over the Internet and the connection to a phone/pc via Bluetooth is merely for control (as opposed to the B1 where the files are Bluetoothed to it from another device which is itself connected to the Internet).
Yes, that is correct in general. The one notable exception that I know of is the Audiolab 6000N streamer with the DTS Play-Fi Technology that uses your phone or computer as the source of the music stream. What this means is that if you shut off your phone or computer, the music stops. From what I have heard, I would avoid any streamers based on the DTS Play-Fi Technology for this reason.
 

Sleuth

Active Member
Plus one for the Allo Boss2 suggestion by @gava, I ordered mine from the Pi Hut in the UK and it's very, very good for the low cost.
 

Eclipsed

Member
Thanks very much for the advice everyone, which has been really helpful. In the end I've decided to go for the Bluesound, based on the reviews and ease of use. I have it on order so looking forward to getting going.
 

Pauel

Active Member
Some weeks ago I had an audition of Node 2i plus Arcam sa20. Compared optical vs digital coax - the difference is amazing. Coax sounds significantly better.
Bluesound has really good software and therefore has few rivals in this field.
 

Eclipsed

Member
Some weeks ago I had an audition of Node 2i plus Arcam sa20. Compared optical vs digital coax - the difference is amazing. Coax sounds significantly better.
Bluesound has really good software and therefore has few rivals in this field.
Interesting thanks. Do you think using a coax to the SA20, using the SA20's DAC would be better than RCA and using the Node's DAC?
 

Pauel

Active Member
Interesting thanks. Do you think using a coax to the SA20, using the SA20's DAC would be better than RCA and using the Node's DAC?
Exactly! Sa20 DAC makes difference. More detail, better bass, stage, space.
I'd tell if I had this audition before I snatched my Naim amp it is an open question what box I brought home :)
 

Pauel

Active Member
Node 2i has almost the same DAC as WXAD-10 which I'm upgrading at the moment. I would tell that the difference is negligible. However, this WXAD costs just about 150$
So, I would not bet on Node's DAC if you afford sa20
Arcam has ugly buggy software. So, st60, sa30 are not an option, but sa20 is!
 

Gaspar74

Novice Member
I have the Boss2 with a RPI4 and I’m powering the boss dac separately with a linear supply. It’s installed in my second system. My main system has a Bluesound Node2i which is amazing by the way. I have to say that the combo of the RPI4 and Boss2 is excellent and I’d say it’s almost as good as the Node if not equal. I’m considering selling the node and buildnn in f another RPI streamer. I use mine as a Roon endpoint and also can Airplay etc to it. It came with a lcd screen and remote. Setup was not difficult.
 

gava

Well-known Member
I have the Allo Boss2 Player. It sounds fine to me.

The output gain played through my Marantz amp's aux input is a bit lower than the Marantz's own DAC, after a volume adjustment I can't tell the difference blind. Going A/B there seems to be a very slight clarity and airiness boost on the Marantz DAC, but it's just slightly different, not obviously better.

Our ears aren't really up to the job of telling the difference when playing music, most DACs and streamers are "good enough".

ASR has measured the Boss2 Player and the Node 2i. The measured difference is staggering. The Node2i measures so badly that it should actually be fairly audibly worse, but clearly owner experience as evidenced by reviewers and people on this forum doesn't really reflect that.

I have a metaphor:
Imagine trying to test the speed difference between two cars. Compare the average Hatchback to a Rally Car. The top speed of the Hatchback is a wobbly 65mph, the top speed of the Rally Car is is 150 mph. But there is a motorway speed limit of 70mph. And most of our driving is on A roads with a 60mph limit. Is the Rally Car actually any faster if you are buying it for use on the road? The hatchback looks nicer, has air conditioning, leather seats, etc.

Our hearing is the 70mph speed limit. Simple everyday listening is the 60mph A road journey.
The Node is the hatchback, properly built Pi systems are the rally car.
 

juglandblues

Active Member
My take is that unless you have an amazing setup I doubt most folk could tell the difference between different DACs. I have a pi4 running moode with a HiFiBerry hat into a dacmagic dac and it sounds great to me for under £200 all in. Ive also just bought an Allo boss dac from eBay, attached it to another pi4, installed volumio and have done tests with the exact same files and can't tell a difference to my ears. The pi is a great little thing, whether you use it as a dac or even just a streamer into a dac.
 

Pauel

Active Member
ASR has measured the Boss2 Player and the Node 2i. The measured difference is staggering. The Node2i measures so badly that it should actually be fairly audibly worse, but clearly owner experience as evidenced by reviewers and people on this forum doesn't really reflect that.
I'd tell that ASR measures just particular instance and I don't think their methodology is perfect. I.e. when they reviewed Parasound zamp v3 that was absolutely opposite to what I heard and saw on the audition.
I've compared node 2i toslink vs coax. Ok, there is an audiable difference. Yes, arcam sa20 does much better with coax. However, I would not tell that the toslink is awful.
 

gava

Well-known Member
I'd tell that ASR measures just particular instance and I don't think their methodology is perfect. I.e. when they reviewed Parasound zamp v3 that was absolutely opposite to what I heard and saw on the audition.
I've compared node 2i toslink vs coax. Ok, there is an audiable difference. Yes, arcam sa20 does much better with coax. However, I would not tell that the toslink is awful.
Yes, there are a lot of variables involved.

Not least of which is that our hearing isn't very good compared to the equipment.

I wouldn't discount the Bluesound products on the basis of the ASR reviews alone.
 

SoundVision

Well-known Member
My take is that unless you have an amazing setup I doubt most folk could tell the difference between different DACs. I have a pi4 running moode with a HiFiBerry hat into a dacmagic dac and it sounds great to me for under £200 all in. Ive also just bought an Allo boss dac from eBay, attached it to another pi4, installed volumio and have done tests with the exact same files and can't tell a difference to my ears. The pi is a great little thing, whether you use it as a dac or even just a streamer into a dac.
I don't have an amazing setup but I can definitely tell the difference from the Wolfson Dac in the Cambridge CXN network streamer compared to the Sabre Dac in the Arcam SA20.
Arcam SA20 Sabre Dac is quite a bit clearer, with more detail in instruments and voices
 

killiefan

Active Member
I don't have an amazing setup but I can definitely tell the difference from the Wolfson Dac in the Cambridge CXN network streamer compared to the Sabre Dac in the Arcam SA20.
Arcam SA20 Sabre Dac is quite a bit clearer, with more detail in instruments and voices
I do not doubt you can hear the difference between the Cambridge and the Arcam, but how do you know it's down to the DAC? Each is the sum of its parts, and the DAC is but one (yes, important) part. Look at the circuit board, all those little connections/capacitors/power supply etc. etc. Only if everything in each box was exactly the same other than the DAC could you compare the sound of the DAC.

Then you might change only say the power supply, and the result might be that the DAC losing out first time comes out on top.

My point is, there's so much more to sound quality than the DAC itself.
 
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SoundVision

Well-known Member
I do not doubt you can hear the difference between the Cambridge and the Arcam, but how do you know it's down to the DAC? Each is the sum of its parts, and the DAC is but one (yes, important) part. Look at the circuit board, all those little connections/capacitors/power supply etc. etc. Only if everything in each box was exactly the same other than the DAC could you compare the sound of the DAC.

Then you might change only say the power supply, and the result might be that the DAC losing out first time comes out on top.

My point is, there's so much more to sound quality than the DAC itself.
Well I have listened to the Cambridge CXN over QED RCA cables, so that means you are hearing Cambridge CXN Dac, then I listened to the Arcam using Chord Co Coaxial Cable using the Arcams Dac and have come to the Conclusion that I prefer the sound of the Arcam using Chord Co Coaxial Cable. So going with that
"At The End Of The Day It Is Only You, Who Has To Enjoy your System"
 

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