Help! Please recommend me a streamer

hufggfg

Standard Member
Hi all, just wanting some advice. I like my music, but am certainly not up to speed with all the latest and greatest gear.

I'm running a separates system that I got myself a little over 10 years ago (full details below) that I'm generally very happy with. It comprises of:

Roksan Caspian M1 integrated amp
Roksan Caspian M1 CD player (which probably hasn't been used in 3 years 😳)
Monitor Audio GS10 speakers
Cambridge Audio DACmagic
Apple Airport express (optical out to the DACmagic)

Given that we now stream the vast majority (ok, the entirety) of our music, I think it makes sense to upgrade the streaming side, so wanting some advice on streamers to look at. Budget around £2000, but happy to hear if people think budget doesn't match the rest of my system.

Absolutely must have Spotify Connect, and Apple Airplay 2. Otherwise, I like the idea of a decent screen, but it's certainly not a must.

So, what should I look at? Thanks for any input!
 

mseve1

Active Member
Excluding DIY and barebone solutions one could argue that the current standard benchmark of audio streamers is the Bluesound Node 2i. At £500 rrp it provides a good performance, user friendly interface and access to many commercial streaming services. However, it has to be used with a smartphone or tablet (there is no display on the device) and some find the DAC to be just 'adequate'. In order to remedy these points you need to look at something like the Cambridge CXN v2 at £800.

However, raising the budget further to £2000 creates a dilemma for you though as there are 3 different options depending upon your viewpoint (and whether to use your existing DAC) :-
  1. Stick with a solid mid-price streamer like the CXN and buy a superior add-on DAC for £1200
  2. Go for a transport-only streamer such as the Auralic Aries G1 (£2000) and use this with your existing DACMagic
  3. Consider a superior all-round streamer such as Mytek Brooklyn Bridge or Naim ND5 XS2 (both ~ £2300)
I really couldn't say which is the best option. 1 is probably the cheapest since you could start off with using the streamer as is and compare with your existing DACMagic (and you might find you're happy to leave it there). 3 is the most expensive and least flexible route whilst 2 is a bit of an unknown quantity - how well would your existing DACMagic respond to the better digital signal provided by a top class transport?

I think you really need time to explore the different options and gather more (conflicting :() advice.

EDIT : Thinking about this again option 2 would only make sense as a stepping stone to coupling with a high performance DAC such as a Chord Qutest. Consideration of the more complete Auralic Altair G1 (£1900) as an alternative type 3 option would make much more sense to the OP.
 
Last edited:

Hianholland

Active Member
Take a look here for some ideas:

Spending 2k maybe a mismatch for your system. Are you looking just for a streamer, or would you have a streamer/dac and replace the CA dac? This would be well within budget. Or you could go further with something that combines CD, dac, streamer and HDD such as:
 

Southern soul

Active Member
bluesound node sounds good for streaming or alternatively innuos zen mini mk3 for added storage.
 

hufggfg

Standard Member
Thanks guys, some really useful input there.

I hadn't considered re-using my DACmagic. I'd assumed that even lower end network streamers would have a better DAC these days, so I'd get better quality by just getting an all-in streamer and DAC. Is that not the case?

I already have a NAS at home, and to be honest play almost all music from Spotify these days (maybe will move over to something higher quality at some point). So have little need for HDD, and already have the CD player covered.

Am I correct in thinking that as streamed files are digital, the streamer itself actually makes no difference to the sound quality, it's all down to the DAC (and the rest of the system)? Or have I missunderstood something? If that is correct, does that mean I'm best just to go with whatever streamer meets my needs (such as a Node 2i), and then spend more on a standalone DAC if I want?

In further searching I noticed Arcam have the ST60 coming. I assume it's too new (/unrealeased) to have any reviews done yet? Seems like maybe a decent price point for me.
 

mseve1

Active Member
I hadn't considered re-using my DACmagic. I'd assumed that even lower end network streamers would have a better DAC these days, so I'd get better quality by just getting an all-in streamer and DAC. Is that not the case?
DACs have definitely improved in recent years but it's difficult to say whether those used in lower end streamers are better or worse than your DACMagic.

Am I correct in thinking that as streamed files are digital, the streamer itself actually makes no difference to the sound quality,
Intuitively you would think so but many believe that there are factors other than the DAC which also have a significant impact on the sound quality. For example, higher end streamers will tend to have much better power supplies and higher precision clocks to reduce noise and jitter in the digital signal which ultimately impacts the D to A conversion. This assertion leads to vigorous debate but you simply need to use your ears to determine for yourself whether higher end streamers sound any better than budget ones when feeding the same DAC.
 

Baobr

Active Member
Hi, I and quite a few others I believe on this site have the node2i,I think they have dropped the price to 400 now,..makes it a bargain, so easy to use via tablet or phone you can try it with your dac magic but IMHO I doubt it will improve it indeed the general theory is you would need to spend approx 1500 2k to get an improvement..
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
I'd certainly advocate spending a bit more, the DAC's in the Blusound and Cambridge Audio CXN have been underwhelming to say the least. I'd checkout the Matrix Audio range, very highly regarded and well reviewed DAC's / streamers and combination boxes.
 

RayP

Well-known Member
I'd certainly advocate spending a bit more, the DAC's in the Blusound and Cambridge Audio CXN have been underwhelming to say the least. I'd checkout the Matrix Audio range, very highly regarded and well reviewed DAC's / streamers and combination boxes.
Your opinion and recommendation would carry more weight if you listed your hardware. Many consider the DAC in the Node2i to be excellent.

As for a wholly Chinese product... no thanks.
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
Your opinion and recommendation would carry more weight if you listed your hardware. Many consider the DAC in the Node2i to be excellent.



Sure thing, recently started with -

NAD 368 with a BluOS module with PMC DB1+i speakers
Moved to Musical fidelity AMP M5si with PMC twenty5.21 speakers and tried the following DAC's streamers -
Blusound node 2i
Cambridge Auto CXN v2

Both didn't really give satisfactory results so went to -

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA and Project S2 ultra streamer

As for a wholly Chinese product... no thanks.

wow...
 

RayP

Well-known Member
@FaxFan2002 , thanks for listing your kit. Amp is comparable to mine and speakers would appear to be a step up.

That’s a £2K DAC. Did you consider or trial any from Chord like the Hugo 2?
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
@FaxFan2002 , thanks for listing your kit. Amp is comparable to mine and speakers would appear to be a step up.

That’s a £2K DAC. Did you consider or trial any from Chord like the Hugo 2?
Actually the speakers I have are the "i" series, I'm sure this makes no difference at all ;)

I did but it just came over a as portable type device and the colour coding seemed somewhat confusing, I got a fairly decent deal as well on the MA. The dealer was also seriously impressed with it (Audio Affair).

I found this resource incredible useful -
Very sciencey but then DAC's are....
 

RayP

Well-known Member
@FaxFan2002 , agreed that all those lights on Chord DACs seem a bit OTT for the enthusiast. Kids might appreciate them but I don't see the need. Something more subtle would be better.

Whilst the BlueSound Node 2i seems the go-to streamer for under £1K is there a go-to DAC for £500-£1500?
 

Maccaboy10

Standard Member
i would recommend trying the Bluesound Node 2i. Try with it’s internal dac and your dac magic first, if you find you want better try a Chord Qutest. Usability/features/support are important with a streamer and BluOS is very good in this regard.

Qutest is very simple to operate, built like a tank and sounds better than most other dacs under £2k IMHO. There are only two functions to change input and the filter, these are controlled by clicking the laminated control ‘balls’. Btw Chord recommends the optical connection as best.

FYI if it helps. My system is Bluesound Node 2i - Chord HugoTT2 - Norma IPA140 - Sonus Faber Olympica 1
 
Last edited:

bogart99

Well-known Member
I find this stuff all so very confusing. I was looking at the Node2i now it is at £399but there seems to be no Alexa control, am I correct in this? And not happy in having to have a phone or tablet in charge.
 
Last edited:

mseve1

Active Member
I was looking at the Node2i now it is at £399 but there seems to be no Alexa control, am I correct in this?
As @Maccaboy10 says a BluOS Alexa skill is available for voice control but user reviews are rather mixed to say the least.

And not happy in having to have a phone or tablet in charge.
An optional remote is available for basic functions (or you can assign keys from an existing one) but this won't be much help for media selection. If you really need full operation without a smart device then you will need a decent screen and hard controls on something like the CXN V2.
 
Last edited:

RayP

Well-known Member
As someone who has been into hi-fi since the 70s having to use a smartphone to select music did come as a bit of a slap in the mush. :D But if you think of it as a really nice remote with a great screen it's far superior to the old-fashioned remote.

For a start after selecting a track to listen to you can press ... and choose Info. That gives you a background to the artist amongst other things. Really nice feature if you have a lot of music from the 70s onwards and want to know how they are doing now. And no more getting up to listen to a new album. :thumbsup:
 

bogart99

Well-known Member
Right I have no idea what CXN V2 is or if I did if I could comprehend its use. So I will start at the beginning and hopefully you knowledge gurus might point me in the correct direction. Like RayP I have had hifi of one description or another since the early 70s. What I currently have is turntable, amp, cd player and speakers in a sitting room that is used purely for music. Dotted around the place are various Alexa units Echo 3rd gen and some dots also 3rd gen. I have sitting in my study where the wifi router resides I have a Synology NAS with a pair of HDDs. The latter , NAS and drives were bought on a whim as cheap at the time. Now what I want is a smart speaker in various rooms where I just have to say play xyz. I have Amazon music and Spotify. I also want to put all my cds into storage so that I can say play me such a track. Now I believe one cannot use Alexa to do that. I do not want to fuff with remotes, smart phones or the like. I was thinking of a Marantz NA6006 until pointed in the direction of the Bluesound Node 2i. I am unsure how the latter works, if at all, with Alexa. I was also considering the Quad Venn Play II but seemed pointless as I already have a perfectly good amplifier. The tv , soundbar and all that can stay as it is all I want is music around the house. I have read reams and reams of stuff about music networking, the more I read about it the more confused I become.
Any thoughts gratefully received.
 

RayP

Well-known Member
@bogart99, I can only answer part of that extensive list.

Rip your CD collection to FLAC files and store them on your NAS box. Having done that you next need to decide if you want a smartphone or iPad to choose your music. If you don’t want to then that’s where my help ends as I have no experience with other methods.

If you accept a phone is the ideal way of choosing music then I would recommend the Bluesound. The alternative is the Cambridge CXNv2 which has a front display and (possibly) a remote control. It still uses an app which is not as good as the Bluesound.

Whatever streamer you buy needs connecting to your amp via RCA interconnects. If feasible connect the streamer to a homeplug via Ethernet cable and do the same with your router. If that isn’t possible use Wi-fi and hopefully your signal is strong enough.

As for Alexa I’ll leave that to others.
 

mseve1

Active Member
Rip your CD collection to FLAC files and store them on your NAS box
Or if you want to save yourself some effort just forget about your CD collection to begin with and stream everything from Amazon or Spotify. You could always rip your CD collection to your NAS as a longer term project.

Whilst you don't sound keen on using a smartphone or tablet they're actually the most efficient means of navigating your music libraries - even where players themselves have screens and physical controls.
Voice control using a smart assistant sounds like a great alternative but, in my opinion, has far too many pitfalls to make it usable.

Control of the streamer(s) in your traditional hi-fi systems or standalone wireless speakers is then configurable as exactly as you want - since each device has a unique identity and is linked through your router to your home network you can control streaming to each one independently or in groups from a single smart device.
 
Last edited:

bogart99

Well-known Member
Hi
Thanks for the info guys. I perceive that asking Alexa to control all my music is not on because as far as I am aware it cannot control music on a NAS or similar local storage. The house wifi is strong enough as I am using a mesh system.
RayP the streamer has to connect to my amp physically I assume so that networked music can play over the hifi speakers. This obviously means both have to be in reasonable proximity, which I had not thought of, told you I am in way above my head on this sort of thing. Having said that the router then is not far from where the streamer would be so I can probably run an ethernet cable. Still need the mesh though to reach all parts of the house.
If I have to I suppose I could use my phone or tablet but that obviously means I need to carry with me if visiting various rooms, I can often never find my phone!
mseve1 yes ripping my CD collection will be a ongoing project, I will get there one day, I will.Finally you suggest the Bluenote2i or the CXNv2. Having read the review of the CxnV2 it mentions how nice the
display is, yes but that is only if you are in the room it is in surely. I threw in the Marantz NA6006 as it
seemed a good bit of kit also.
 

RayP

Well-known Member
RayP the streamer has to connect to my amp physically I assume so that networked music can play over the hifi speakers. This obviously means both have to be in reasonable proximity, which I had not thought of, told you I am in way above my head on this sort of thing. Having said that the router then is not far from where the streamer would be so I can probably run an ethernet cable. Still need the mesh though to reach all parts of the house.
If I have to I suppose I could use my phone or tablet but that obviously means I need to carry with me if visiting various rooms, I can often never find my phone

If you have a mesh system the Bluesound will be fine via wi-fi if you don't want extra cables. A smartphone is mandatory for the Bluesound. Once you start using it to choose and play music you'll soon accept it's the best way. The software is clever and allows you to choose by album, artist or even personal playlists with your favourite tracks.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
Once you start using it to choose and play music you'll soon accept it's the best way.
I agree. Equally it could be a tablet.

I'd rather use a smart phone/tablet, than have a screen on the piece of kit.
 

RayP

Well-known Member
I agree. Equally it could be a tablet.

I'd rather use a smart phone/tablet, than have a screen on the piece of kit.

I did briefly consider the Cambridge streamer with its nice display but then realised I wouldn't be able to read it from across the room and sadly it didn't ship with binoculars. :D
 

The latest video from AVForums

Are the TCL MiniLED TVs better than OLED? TCL Interview with Marek Maciejewski | AVForums Podcast
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Latest News

iFi Audio launches NEO Stream music streamer with DAC
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Musical Fidelity launches M6x 250.7 multi-channel power amplifier
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Is Google set to rival Dolby Vision and Atmos?
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
'Tizen TV by Samsung' brands coming to UK?
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Denon announces five new 8K AV receivers
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom