Upgrade advice please: Sonos + Arcam + Densen + Dynaudio

Sodsopera

Novice Member
Hi!

I wonder if I could ask the forum's advice please: I would like to upgrade the source component(s) of my hifi and I hope I have given enough information below!

Current system: Sonos connect >Arcam irDac > Densen DM-10 > Dynaudio Contour 1.3

Listening tastes: High bit-rate radio, Spotify / Tidal - rock, classical, jazz, electronic. Not necessarily interested in the high res race / MQA but more in toe-tapping enjoyment of music. Although I am open to the benefits of high res.

Background: I used to have decent CD player until it broke. I then used an old iPhone as a "temporary measure" to listen to Tidal / Spotify / high bitrate radio. Then I bought the irDac to improve the sound until I found what I wanted. Then someone gave me the Sonos connect for free... so here I am - still without a proper solution!

Issue: I consider the front end is the weak component. I don't want to get rid of my amp and speakers. My sitting room sounds decent and, while I acknowledge the value of room analysis and treatment, I don't want to look at this now.

Options: (and the eternal question of whether "digital is digital")

Option 1 - upgrade just the DAC

If "digital is digital" and the SPDIF output of the Sonos Connect is 'good enough' (whatever that means) then I can upgrade just my DAC to a 'better' sounding one (after audition) however I read almost as many articles saying that a 'good' network streamer is essential, as I do that it's all rubbish and "digital is digital".

Clearly the Connect is no longer supported by Sonos. Not sure what that means in practical terms. If it works now then presumably it will continue to work. The "upgrade" price is £279 if I wanted to get the Port

Option 2 - upgrade both the streamer and the DAC

I would only consider doing this if I was convinced that the Sonos did not deliver a 'good enough' digital output for a replacement DAC and so I would be better off replacing both.

Key question - what would be the benefit of a 'better' (perhaps / inevitably more expensive) streamer if I am using the SPDIF output of the Sonos?

Also a factor is that my budget has to be spread across two components obviously.

Option 3 - go with a one box solution

This obviously eliminates the interoperability issues between streamer and DAC (if there were any in the first place) but then I would need to find an all in one streamer + DAC which sounded "as good as" (whatever that means) Options 1 or 2.

Budget - £2,000 although I could stretch to £2,500

Apologies if there is anything I have left out!

Thank you all!

Best wishes
Sodsopera
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
You could have a look at something like the Novafidelity X45. Its within you're top end budget and is both a DAC and Streamer. It will play MQA files together with quite a few others file types plus it's offers a little bit more than all the other options on the market. Read more about it here.

As for plugging you're Sonos product into the DAC. I do this at home when I wish to link music around the house and from the hi-fi side, this simply plugs into my Teac UD-501 via coaxial lead. From their I just select the source from the front and its done. When I wish to hear music from my media server, I simply switch the source to USB and hey presto, its back to full quality.

I thought about suggesting the Teac UD-505, but that will still leave you with a streamer and then you end up with multiple boxes whereas the X45 just ticks the boxes your asking for
 

Sodsopera

Novice Member
UPDATE

I understand that Chord DACs reclock an incoming signal so, in this case at least, does this mean that any timing errors made by the Sonos are effectively removed / corrected?

I'm struggling to understand the difference in the SPDIF output between a £400 Sonos Connect and a £3,900 Auralic Aries G2 (I picked that purely because it does not have a DAC built-in and it's about 10 times the cost of the Sonos!) and, more importantly, if fed to the same 'good quality' DAC how different could they sound?
 

Jules Tohpipi

Well-known Member
Hi!

I wonder if I could ask the forum's advice please: I would like to upgrade the source component(s) of my hifi and I hope I have given enough information below!

Current system: Sonos connect >Arcam irDac > Densen DM-10 > Dynaudio Contour 1.3

Listening tastes: High bit-rate radio, Spotify / Tidal - rock, classical, jazz, electronic. Not necessarily interested in the high res race / MQA but more in toe-tapping enjoyment of music. Although I am open to the benefits of high res.

Background: I used to have decent CD player until it broke. I then used an old iPhone as a "temporary measure" to listen to Tidal / Spotify / high bitrate radio. Then I bought the irDac to improve the sound until I found what I wanted. Then someone gave me the Sonos connect for free... so here I am - still without a proper solution!

Issue: I consider the front end is the weak component. I don't want to get rid of my amp and speakers. My sitting room sounds decent and, while I acknowledge the value of room analysis and treatment, I don't want to look at this now.

Options: (and the eternal question of whether "digital is digital")

Option 1 - upgrade just the DAC

If "digital is digital" and the SPDIF output of the Sonos Connect is 'good enough' (whatever that means) then I can upgrade just my DAC to a 'better' sounding one (after audition) however I read almost as many articles saying that a 'good' network streamer is essential, as I do that it's all rubbish and "digital is digital".

Clearly the Connect is no longer supported by Sonos. Not sure what that means in practical terms. If it works now then presumably it will continue to work. The "upgrade" price is £279 if I wanted to get the Port

Option 2 - upgrade both the streamer and the DAC

I would only consider doing this if I was convinced that the Sonos did not deliver a 'good enough' digital output for a replacement DAC and so I would be better off replacing both.

Key question - what would be the benefit of a 'better' (perhaps / inevitably more expensive) streamer if I am using the SPDIF output of the Sonos?

Also a factor is that my budget has to be spread across two components obviously.

Option 3 - go with a one box solution

This obviously eliminates the interoperability issues between streamer and DAC (if there were any in the first place) but then I would need to find an all in one streamer + DAC which sounded "as good as" (whatever that means) Options 1 or 2.

Budget - £2,000 although I could stretch to £2,500

Apologies if there is anything I have left out!

Thank you all!

Best wishes
Sodsopera

I think you're going about this in a thorough and logical fashion. So let me share my thoughts in a similar way, albeit it makes for a long post.

Firstly, I'm very familiar with your Densen amp and Contour 1.3. I'm guessing there's some similarity to our tastes and approach to all this.

Amp and speakers
As you say, there's no need to touch anything here.

DAC
In terms of sound quality, the DAC market has calmed down since the 90s when each new release seemed to be leapfrogging its predecessor. Point being, just like you've discovered with your speakers and amplifier, you could throw big money at a DAC and be reasonably confident it will still cut the mustard ten years from now. How your current DAC rates against the very most recent latest and greatest at higher prices, that I can't offer any direct experience on.

Streamers
A situation that is evolving very rapidly is the streamer market. Not only in terms of the hardware but also the service provider technology and content. Can I interest you in an expensive streamer from five years ago? No, probably not, because it won't support things you want it to support now - even though it cost thousands. Such will be the future.

Solution?
I acknowledge this won't suit everyone's circumstances, but my choice has been:

1. Split the DAC off from the streamer hardware for the reasons above
2. Supply the DAC with the digital output from a Chromecast Audio (CCA)
3. Control it all from the MConnect app on the iPhone. See Cebolla's posts for lots more in-depth information on this particular topic, but in overview it works something like this. The MConnect app instructs the CCA to pick up itself the Spotify/Tidal/Qobuz streams directly from their own servers. It means the phone is not actually broadcasting the music to the CCA rather solely acting as a remote control for it. The aim being to keep the internet signal as direct and as pure as possible - avoiding any potential risks of it not being bit-perfect anymore e.g. affects of digital volume controls, volume normalisation, etc etc.

Anyhow, I have this iPhone, MConnect app, Tidal/Qobuz, Chromecast Audio, DAC, amp & speakers chain and it sounds fantastic. I've frequently compared my CDs with the 16/44 equivalents on Tidal and Qobuz. If there is a difference, and I'm not sure there is, then it really is minuscule - tiny enough that I'll never be getting my CDs out ever again. My amp and speakers are about treble the cost of yours; please understand that's not a brag, it's just to set the sound-quality-expectation context.

I also cast BBC radio streams to the CCA and that sounds great, too.

What did make a sound-quality difference along the way?
1. Moving from Spotify to Tidal/Qobuz CD quality sevices i.e. 16/44 FLAC sounds better than Spotify
2. Using the MConnect app on the iPhone sounds marginally better than using Tidal/Qobuz own apps.

Like I say, the above might not be for everyone, but it's worked for my needs.
 
Last edited:

Sodsopera

Novice Member
@Jules Tohpipi thank you for your reply!

I like your approach - amp and speakers which, unless they go wrong, can - and probably should - last a decade or more. That technology hasn't changed much. DAC next as there are advances and leaps now and then; and the Streamer technology changes the most frequently.

By the way you didn't say what DAC, amp and speakers you have in your system... :)

The quandary that I am in is that I can't decide (and I haven't heard any convincing argument either way) that "digital is digital" - or not. In other words the sound emerging from a given DAC, having been fed from a £4,000 streaming 'transport' will be 'better' than from a Sonos / Chromecast / Raspberry Pi.

Assuming it makes not enough difference then I could keep the Sonos Connect or trade in for a Port - £280 and get a Chord Qutest = £1,200 - underbudget which is always good.

One-box solutions

Chord Hugo 2 + 2Go = £2,800 - overbudget and for all intents and purposes a "one box" solution. Of course I could replace the 2Go when technology advances but that's a £1,000 streamer.

Naim ND5 XS 2 = £2,400 - one box solution. Does have digital inputs so if the streamer part of the unit became obsolete I could plug a different streamer in. Seems a waste of money to use it as a DAC only.

Mytek Booklyn Bridge = £2,400

Ultimately I want a DAC that sounds musical!
 

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