Is the audio quality of all streamers the same

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lokyc

Well-known Member
Given that they should all be passing the same PCM information, surely for the same format, all streamers should offer the same audio quality, no?

The differences are connectivity, format support and interface?
 

Cebolla

Member
If you really believe that and therefore deny any sound quality benefits of good build construction and the use of decent components (such as the power supply and DAC sections), then sure.

Hey, don't forget it's more or less the same argument for all CD players too, if the music CD being played is not flawed, so no error correction influencing the sound (following your argument, probably more so as the source is always the same - ie no differences in connectivity, format support and interface). Do you believe that they offer the same sound quality?
 

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
Depends.

If you're talking about a streamer that outputs an analogue signal (e.g. a Linn Akurate DS), then the streamer also includes a DAC and it's power supplies. In that case, I'm guessing a lot of people will argue that there will be differences as most people generally beleive that DACs can be made to sound different.

If you're talking of a streamer being used primarily from it's digital output, then in "theory", they could be the same "data", i.e. zeros and ones. Even then:
- Some people believe the jitter on a digital connection can impact upon sound quality. Jitter being the timing of how close to the "clock" that the actual data is. That in theory is influenced by design, quality of the PSUs. It can also be partially mitigated against using buffer technology
- Some kit offers the option of "filters". For example, Meridian using a filter they call apodising. It's added as an option during the "upsampling" of the data from 16 bit to 24 bit. The implications being that they're generating and manipulating the data.

So back to your point, is ALL data the same?
Chances are no on the most as many new systems include upsampling, and frankly we've no idea what they're ACTUALLY doing to the signal.
 

amcluesent

Well-known Member
Streamers that provide a bit-perfect S/PDIF output from lossless stream should sound the same when fed into a DAC.

But many can't do bit-perfect, not handling gapless for example. And in the limit, some have more jitter which some folks say is apparent with some DACs
 

Don Dadda

Distinguished Member
Not really otherwise we may as well sell the streamers we have and opt for a £10 job of the bay and complained that we've been duped and robbed.
Yes, they all can/do pass the same information, but its how they each individually deal with that data makes the difference IMO. So with that in mind they can sound differently and my ears tells me they are different because i have living proof in my kit which IMO is down to their dacs and its surrounding circuitry. My Logitech SB Touch sounds pretty close if not the same as my other streamer, CA NP30, but very different from a Logitech SB3 Classic i used to have, which in turn sounds different from my Oppo UDP which i use as a cdp, which in turn sound different from the dacs in my stereo and av amplifiers.

And i have no doubt that the likes of the Linn streamer will sound different again.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Chaps, if I didn't have doubts, I wouldn't ask.

But most high-end streamers are DACs, and reviews are usually focused on their analogue outs. So I'm just wondering is it the DAC which makes the biggest difference. But once that's out of the way, does the rest matter? How much does jitter matter?

So the streamers I'm looking at are the CA NP30/50, Bluesound Node, all the way up to the Naim, Linns and MIND. The thing though is hard to know purely in streaming how far I should go.

Any thoughts?
 

Jota180

Active Member
That's like saying everyone with the same ingredients would make the same quality meal. There's far more to it than the stream.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
I'm all ears.
 

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
All we can do is recount our experiences and what we've read elsewhere.
Personally I believe that jitter DOES have an impact upon sound quality.

The question is (a) whether you'd spot it and (b) whether you are willing to pay to minimise it.
My recommendation is to find yourself a good dealer, then go have a listen and prove it to yourself either way.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough, but I can't find much on the net regarding differences in streaming alone. DACs I understand.

Jitter I can believe. Would appreciate if you all could share your experience/opinions so I can narrow down the search.

Cheers
 

Don Dadda

Distinguished Member

Jota180

Active Member
Perhaps I haven't looked hard enough, but I can't find much on the net regarding differences in streaming alone. DACs I understand.

Jitter I can believe. Would appreciate if you all could share your experience/opinions so I can narrow down the search.

Cheers
Narrow down the search for what exactly? How is anyone on here supposed to know what audio equipment you're going to like the sound of anymore than they're going to know what food you're going to like the taste of?

Why not work out a budget then go and audition a few streamers that fall within it.
The best way would be in one shop or a home audition and only change the streamer. So have the same amp and speakers and play the same songs. You'd get a better comparison that way.

But looking at your initial question again, couldn't we apply that to every piece of the hifi jigsaw? Surely all amps sound the same. Surely all CD players. Surely all loudspeakers. The fact that they don't shouldn't then make it surprising when different streamers sound, well, different.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Its an honest question. I can appreciate how different components matter in a CD player, amp etc. Streamer and digital sources, passing digital data, the picture gets more hazy.

For example, many CD players differ in price and sound quality largely due to their DACs. As transports, modestly priced CDPs seem to do the job.

By that same analogy, aren't media streamers a form of digital transport?

My query encompasses both techinical and personal preference aspects. Of course if I am commiting to getting something, I will go audition them myself. But would be nice to know if its worth the effort in the first place.

There aren't many dedicated music streamers around beyond the cheap and cheerful media streaming boxes like Roku, WD, ATV. Most have onboard DACs and there aren't any back to back comparisons of their streaming functions alone.

Given I'm using Anthem's onboard DAC, I suspect I won't be looking at anything beyond £1k.

So I'm looking at the Sonos, Bluesound Node, CA NP30/50, CA SM6, Pioneer NP30/50, and Simaudio MIND.

I won't be averse to splashing out more than 1k on the Naim UnitiQs and Linn DSs if the SQ proves to be superior when using analog bypass.

I know, the Anthem despite being a musical AVR is still an AVR, and therefore may not bring the best out of the Linns and Naims. My power amp accepts XLR inputs so that's another idea with the MIND, Linn DS and Naims to use them as preamps, bypassing the Anthem.

The latter options seem a bit OTT to me, given my current setup. But I've been proven wrong before, so I don't discouint anything.

Realistically its the former, dedicated streamer with digital output under £1k.
 

Jota180

Active Member
I don't use mine as a digital transport.

Why don't you just set up a server on your PC or NAS and push the stream to your amp using a control point like BubbleUPnP? A lot of these servers are free or donation ware like Minimserver, some are paid for like JRiver. That would save you several hundred pounds if you have no intention of using the full capabilities of a dedicated streamer.
 

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
I've heard a few of the better units, including the Linn DS range.

Based upon your comments, and to make it easy, go have a listen in a Linn dealer at a Linn Akurate DS. If you like it, buy it. If it's not, then at least use it as a benchmark against which to judge other kit.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Heh heh. its upwards of 5k? Better sound good. But yea, sounds like a decent strategy. They all come with HDMI passthrough, so will integrate with HT better?

The Sneaky is priced feasibly. as is the Naim Uniticute.

I'm using the WD TV live now as transport through an NAS. But its a bit of a pain to turn the TV on to navigate the playlists. Can't organise on the fly as well.

Really like the Sonos interface, but wonder if I'm paying all that just for the interface with no perceptible difference in audio quality. The Bluesound offers something different because of Qubos. And supports all bit-rates for a player under 1k.
 

amcluesent

Well-known Member
They all come with HDMI passthrough, so will integrate with HT better?
Nope, dedicated music streamers have no need to integrate with HT and all that video circuitry wouldn't help SQ either.

OP, not quite sure where you're going with this thread? As with all hi-fi, you pay and you get but with the law of diminishing returns. ONly you can determine where value-for-money is on your budget.
 
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lokyc

Well-known Member
Thought its a simple enough question.

Do more expensive streamers improve SQ, when used purely as a digital transport; or above a certain price point, there are diminishing returns as its the DAC in them which justifies their premium.

And as a secondary question, what are the technical reasons behind improved SQ.

More money doesn't necessarily more quality. That has been done to the death with speaker cables where the weight of the opinion is clearly one way; at least on this and a few other forums.

I am not asking for the absolute TRUTH. But what ppl's opinions are. I am opening up discussion and exchange of ideas.
 

limegreenzx

Banned
Thought its a simple enough question.

Do more expensive streamers improve SQ, when used purely as a digital transport; or above a certain price point, there are diminishing returns as its the DAC in them which justifies their premium.

And as a secondary question, what are the technical reasons behind improved SQ.

More money doesn't necessarily more quality. That has been done to the death with speaker cables where the weight of the opinion is clearly one way; at least on this and a few other forums.

I am not asking for the absolute TRUTH. But what ppl's opinions are. I am opening up discussion and exchange of ideas.
IMO If using an external DAC, the difference in sound quality between cheap and expensive will be minimal. BUT, there is more to a streamer than sound quality. The biggest and most important differences are with support and reliability. I'd happily suffer a drop in sound quality over a streamer that gets interrupted every half hour. Support for subscription services, FLAC, Internet radio, gapless playback are as important as overall sound quality. Which is the reason Sonos is so popular.
 

Jota180

Active Member
A streamer is a waste of money if you're intent on using the Anthems DAC. There will be no sound quality benefit if the streamer is just a 'digital pipe' from the NAS to your Anthem amp's DAC.

Install Minimserver on your NAS (free but nice to make a small donation). Download Bubble UPnP to your Android phone to control Minimserver and you don't need your TV or even the PC to be running.

bubble upnp - Google Search
 
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Jules

Distinguished Member
Assuming that we are talking about a streamer as a TRANSPORT only, then the differences are pretty much negligible. IMO, it's very much like 1080p24 video material from Blu-ray is pretty much identical between players costing £50 and £5000.

... And I should know... I used to own a Denon A1 spinner! Lol. What a waste of money !

My personal view is that if you are dealing with audio, you CAN tell a difference ... JUST...between disc transports on a very high end system, but given there are no 'physical' challenges to overcome with a digital streamer (e.g. No wobbly spinning disc timing errors, or motor noise interference), the differences between high and low priced models is IMO largely placebo.

One more thing... As someone who spends a lot of time producing music, and monitoring on a very revealing studio based setup, I believe more and more that high end digital audio is a bit of a con.
There's so much that can be done in the mixing / mastering chain, that talk about jitter in the replay medium feels horrifically insignificant.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Many thanks chaps. That's what I wanted to clarify.

Was reading a review of the Bluesound Node on another site and the reviewer swears the £900 Simaudio MIND is a better streamer compared to the BS Node, using the same DAC. Got me scratching my head. These 2 items are not easy to compare back to back. the MIND is retailed by really high-end audiophile places while the BS only at Sevenoaks.

The reviewer did qualify that the improved sound stage was using an AES digital connection and differences weren't as apparent when on coax/toslink.

But I'm willing to keep an open mind about these things.

And as you do, one query generates other lines of thought. Seems like combined streamer DAC solutions are the bees knees; and its either Naim or the Linn Majik DS. Quite a lot more than what I thought I would spend, but always good to know what's over the horizon.

Unfortunately the Anthem is not networked, so I can't connect the NAS directly.

I wouldn't be surprised a proper dedicated music streamer such as the Sonos or BS Node, or even Squeezbox touch will sound better than my WD TV Live as I am passing audio through HDMI it is a cheap and cheerful device.

The BS node is interesting because of Qubos support.

Demo time.
 

Jota180

Active Member
Can you use your amp as a power amp? You could use something like a Naim Unitiqute 2 using it's inbuilt DAC and pre amp and your anthem amp as power amp.

I have the UQ2 linked to the NAP 100 and it's a great combo. I find myself listening to Radio Paradise 320 AAC about 90% of the time these days when I bought the streamer to listen to my CD collection ripped to NAS!

The N-Stream app for iPhone/Pad makes it easy to use. I have Minimserver on my NAS and use the N-Stream app to control it but you can use BubbleUPnP just the same if you don't have Apple gear.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Heh heh, as i said, you guys have started me on a slippery slope. I have been thinking about streamer/DACs.

I'm already using a power amp for the Anthem. So the options are to use the analog bypasss feature, or to be even more purist and radical, have a preamp/DAC that have XLR outputs into the XLR of my PA and manually switch between the 2. Unfortunately the Naim only has pre outs.

But overall, looks like a worthy competity to the Linn Sneaky.

I heard the UnitiQ with B&W 805 Diamonds and really like the sound. Don't want to start a Naim vs Linn skirmish, and I know there is a lot of love for the DS series, but it seems like Naim is a bit like Anthem. the sound is a bit more expressive; while Linn is more like Arcam. Subdued, subtle and neutral.

Hmmm...
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Hmm, no android Nstream...
 
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