PC or Streamer with DAC?

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senna1a

Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #20 on: 3 Feb 2021, 01:39 pm »
I’m with you. I heard a friends setup about a year and half ago that convinced me it actually sounds good. As for the musicians, I see it was a way to quickly hear a broad variety of options; there’s also the flexibility to purchase / download files where I want to own it outright (using Qobuz), so I can still support the industry a little bit.

JDoyle

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #21 on: 3 Feb 2021, 02:50 pm »
...I don't feel it should be the only factor. I'm not a "listen with your eyes and not ears" kind of person and am also considering some of the tube and ladder dacs. That being said I am leaning toward one of those Uber transparent under 1k dacs and investing more in the pre amp...

Totally agree with this! (as you had mentioned in a previous post about your intentions).

For comparison, I demoed a private sale Decware “Rachel” tube amp last year using my personal headphones. I listened to my CD’s in his setup as well as his streaming music (nothing he had was anything special).

It was just Wonderful!
I didn’t buy it, but I’m going Tubing someday soon  :D

The downstream can absolutely effect what’s upstream  :thumb:

mcgsxr

Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #22 on: 3 Feb 2021, 03:06 pm »
The answer for you is likely driven mostly by what level of fidelity you want to achieve vs what $ you want to spend.

I'm happy with a Raspberry Pi with a hardware HAT (Allo Digione) running PiCore.  It outputs coax to my DAC.

I stream music I have inside my own house via Logitech Media server s/w and a cheap old netbook as the "server".  I use an app called iPeng to control the music I stream this way.

I stream Apple Music from my phone to the Pi by Airplay.  Phone then controls the tunes this way.

I'm lucky enough to be able to ethernet connect my router, server and PiCore (player) so it all runs great for me.

Best fidelity?  Nope. 

Well under $500 including the netbook, Pi, HAT etc?  Yup.

Worth it to me.

VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #23 on: 3 Feb 2021, 03:11 pm »
I'm leery of the value of super low distortion figures.  Decades ago the industry adopted distortion measurement standards that were in the whole number percentage range and they correlated with what was heard.  Now we measure way below that and I doubt if the correlation still holds.  I run a NAD M10 "streaming amplifier" which is a throughly modern all-in-one piece (streamer, DAC, preamp, power amp, even includes Dirac).  Amazing how simple life can get.  Operates from PC, tablet, or smartphone, wired or wirelessly, accepts analog and various digital inputs, has preamp and subwoofer outputs, has a nice big screen, is relatively small and lightweight, and of course needs no interconnects.  I've forgotten the issues involved with servers, cables, DACs, etc.

But when I say throughly modern the also need to include glitches.  Load time (from a flash drive or Tidal favorites) is slow.  Tidal Connect is supposed to help but have given up trying to get it to run.  Now it reverts back to playing the same album each time an album ends plus it fads out/in briefly shortly after the music starts up (with the latest firmware/reset).  And since a reset (recommended after each firmware update) I can't get Dirac to complete the room measurements, so am running without it.  Have also read of lots of other minor complaints of NAD gear.  But it provides the best sound I've ever had. 

So casually looking into "mid-priced" streamers/DACs with volume control like Arcam ST60, and Cambridge Audio 851N to go with straight analog balanced active monitors for a really simple system.

I think the market is very aware of this and we are seeing the influx of cheap overseas products engineered to do just this, measure well.

Another concern I have is the quality of the parts. We all know how much these parts play a role in the overall sound and synergy. Again if the design goal is to measure well, it may not sound as good as other products that don't measure as well but have the design goal to sound good. You see products that still beimg designed with "inferior" measurements like some of the NOS, R2R ladder, tube dacs. The one thing that always seems to get glossed over is the filters implemented with these dacs. After all that dramatically affects the sound, and how much goes though goes into filters with a 500.00 product? Hey..but it measures good.


VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #24 on: 3 Feb 2021, 03:13 pm »
The answer for you is likely driven mostly by what level of fidelity you want to achieve vs what $ you want to spend.

I'm happy with a Raspberry Pi with a hardware HAT (Allo Digione) running PiCore.  It outputs coax to my DAC.

I stream music I have inside my own house via Logitech Media server s/w and a cheap old netbook as the "server".  I use an app called iPeng to control the music I stream this way.

I stream Apple Music from my phone to the Pi by Airplay.  Phone then controls the tunes this way.

I'm lucky enough to be able to ethernet connect my router, server and PiCore (player) so it all runs great for me.

Best fidelity?  Nope. 

Well under $500 including the netbook, Pi, HAT etc?  Yup.

Worth it to me.

For discussion sake...what would achieve the best fidelity?

JLM

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #25 on: 4 Feb 2021, 03:11 pm »
Loudspeakers and the room have the biggest effect on sound reproduction quality.  Next comes synergy between power amp and loudspeakers.  Everything else is secondary. 

That said, reportedly layout of the circuits can make a difference, so small/cheap pieces could have a disadvantage. 

mcgsxr

Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #26 on: 4 Feb 2021, 04:59 pm »
I couldn’t say what the best fidelity approach would be, as I’ve explicitly stayed in the shallow end of the spending pool on this.

Power supply attention would yield some improvements I’d bet. 

Moving up to the Digione Signature would also improve this.

Beyond that I’m confident in the compromises I’ve made and the resultant sound quality.

Important to consider the context of the system too.  I’m using Totem Model 1 speakers and a Sugden integrated amplifier.  Retail in the 90’s for that package was likely around $3500-4000.

It’s not a super high end setup, but man it delivers for musical enjoyment just the way it is.

Ice10

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #27 on: 4 Feb 2021, 06:38 pm »

It’s not a super high end setup, but man it delivers for musical enjoyment just the way it is.

To me this is what it’s all about!

S Clark

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #28 on: 4 Feb 2021, 06:42 pm »
Loudspeakers and the room have the biggest effect on sound reproduction quality.  Next comes synergy between power amp and loudspeakers.
  Everything else is secondary. 
It's that last part I have a problem with.  Great speakers, well matched amp, and a crappy recording sounds like..... a crappy recording.  The quality of the source is also of primary importance.

Escott1377

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #29 on: 4 Feb 2021, 07:10 pm »
I’ll explain my route and maybe it will be helpful.  I use a Drobo that has about 18 T of 16 or 24 bit FLAC on it.  I have a dedicated listening room so I did not spring for Room.  I bought a relatively inexpensive Lenovo laptop from Ebay (sub $200) and swapped to a SSD and upgraded the RAM for less than $100.  This feeds a galvanic isolation device from iFi to clean up the USB signal into my DAC.  There are millions of quality DAC’s in the sub $1k range right now if that is where you are hunting.  I scored a used MHDT Orchid that I feel is superb.  It is as close to a vinyl sound that I can find and it is my sixth DAC.

I run JRiver on my PC and have the app on my IPad.  I can control my music library from there.  I cannot manipulate volume bc of the galvanic isolator in the middle.  If it were not there, I would be able to control volume as well.

I do not stream any of Tidal / Amazon / etc. to my device.  JRiver will allow you to do this but I have access to enough digital music that I am OK for now.

Lots of ways to skin the cat on this 1 and you probably will not get 2 answers to be the same.

Have fun and good luck!

VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #30 on: 4 Feb 2021, 07:47 pm »
It's that last part I have a problem with.  Great speakers, well matched amp, and a crappy recording sounds like..... a crappy recording.  The quality of the source is also of primary importance.

I think its all pretty important. You put crap in you will get crap out. Its all important: source ...player....ICs....pre/amp...speaker connectors...speakers. Only as good as your weakest link as they say.
« Last Edit: 4 Feb 2021, 09:45 pm by VinceT »

VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #31 on: 4 Feb 2021, 07:49 pm »
  I scored a used MHDT Orchid that I feel is superb.  It is as close to a vinyl sound that I can find and it is my sixth DAC.


That is good to know, if I can get close to my vinyl rig soundwise I woulkd be very happy. I have been looking at tube dacs, even if they don't measure all that well  8)

routlaw

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #32 on: 4 Feb 2021, 11:04 pm »
FWIW, I've been using computer based music servers for around 20 years plus or minus, mostly Macs, quite a few in fact. Thus far I have yet to hear a music server sound as good as a transport to DAC combination with physical media. Subscribed to Qobuz for about a year and might do it again at some point, but I never found it to perform nearly as well as physical media. I liken it to FM radio in its heyday, great to listen to casually and learn about new music, but no contest for serious listening. Granted I have not bellied up to the bar and bought an actual streamer, ie Blue Sound, Lumin and that sort of thing. The idea of becoming an IT specialist just to listen to music doesn't appeal to me and from all I can determine once you go down this rabbit hole that is what you'll become or nearly so. Doubt this then head on over to audiophilestyle forums and read about all the chicanery and decrapifiers they all implement to make the most of their systems. The notion of convenience vs sound quality holds no appeal but it may for the OP.

In summary physical media runs a very far distant second place in the convenience category. Sound Quality? I'll take a cd or vinyl disc any day.

VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #33 on: 5 Feb 2021, 01:24 am »
Escott1377 and routlaw.

Are you guys ripping CDs or do you subscribe to any of of high rez download services?

I read this a few times that certain hq high rez downloads equal vinyl. It seems like streaming can get very very close. What interests me about streaming is the convenience for the family and the ease of exploration of new material.

I have been thinking about one the streamers with a few terabytes of storage and maybe do both.

JDoyle

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #34 on: 5 Feb 2021, 02:01 am »

...Are you guys ripping CDs or do you subscribe to any of of high rez download services?

I read this a few times that certain hq high rez downloads equal vinyl. It seems like streaming can get very very close. What interests me about streaming is the convenience for the family and the ease of exploration of new material.

I have been thinking about one the streamers with a few terabytes of storage and maybe do both.

No affiliation with the seller, but this might be worth looking into.  I’m pretty sure that it can also work as a Roon core

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=174723.0

JLM

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #35 on: 5 Feb 2021, 12:50 pm »
It's that last part I have a problem with.  Great speakers, well matched amp, and a crappy recording sounds like..... a crappy recording.  The quality of the source is also of primary importance.

Note that I stated sound "reproduction".  Yes, the old adage Garbage In Garbage Out (GIGO) still applies. 

routlaw

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #36 on: 5 Feb 2021, 03:24 pm »
@ VinceT, yes I do rip cd’s to an external HD. In the early days this was the only way of dealing with digital audio outside of a CDP and traditional spinning of physical media. As downloads became available with companies like HD Tracks I gravitated toward this method. Understand too I will also re-burn a CD onto a Mitsui Audio Master gold disc and will play those as often if not more so than using my computer music server. FWIW I use Audirvana on a Mac Book Pro currently but have used Mac Mini’s in the past. Room seems to get a lot of mixed opinions with sound quality and I don’t like the idea of subscription based players so have staid away from This one.

Lately I have also been down sampling high res downloads to CD quality, burn a disc with superb results. I use DB PowerAmp to accomplish the sample rate conversion due to its superior algorithms compared to others.

Regarding your comment about family convenience for music, it may be a fools errand. Very few young adults let alone teens and earlier age people care for nothing more than an iPhone and a pair of earbuds. My wife till this very day will not touch our HT combined music system but rather prefers her iPhone with earbuds listening to books on tape. She will not even touch the remote. The thing is she is not alone this attitude. The point being all of this stuff has become on an order of magnitude far too complex and rife with issues.

Hope this helps.

VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #37 on: 5 Feb 2021, 03:47 pm »
@ VinceT, yes I do rip cd’s to an external HD. In the early days this was the only way of dealing with digital audio outside of a CDP and traditional spinning of physical media. As downloads became available with companies like HD Tracks I gravitated toward this method. Understand too I will also re-burn a CD onto a Mitsui Audio Master gold disc and will play those as often if not more so than using my computer music server. FWIW I use Audirvana on a Mac Book Pro currently but have used Mac Mini’s in the past. Room seems to get a lot of mixed opinions with sound quality and I don’t like the idea of subscription based players so have staid away from This one.

Lately I have also been down sampling high res downloads to CD quality, burn a disc with superb results. I use DB PowerAmp to accomplish the sample rate conversion due to its superior algorithms compared to others.

Regarding your comment about family convenience for music, it may be a fools errand. Very few young adults let alone teens and earlier age people care for nothing more than an iPhone and a pair of earbuds. My wife till this very day will not touch our HT combined music system but rather prefers her iPhone with earbuds listening to books on tape. She will not even touch the remote. The thing is she is not alone this attitude. The point being all of this stuff has become on an order of magnitude far too complex and rife with issues.

Hope this helps.

Thanks routlaw it is very helpful

As far as family convenience, my kids don't have cell phones. My kids have my old technics 1200, with marantz and ads 570 book shelf speakers in their room and spin records and play cds daily. Minimal TV, some family movie time on the weekends and music always playing. We currently do the Spotify through the firestick routine quite a bit and reserve vinyl playback for weekends by the fireplace when my wife and I have a day off together. So for us this would be a great thing.

Escott1377

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #38 on: 6 Feb 2021, 12:55 pm »
Escott1377 and routlaw.

Are you guys ripping CDs or do you subscribe to any of of high rez download services?

I read this a few times that certain hq high rez downloads equal vinyl. It seems like streaming can get very very close. What interests me about streaming is the convenience for the family and the ease of exploration of new material.

I have been thinking
 about one the streamers with a few terabytes of storage and maybe do both.

I sent a hard drive to a friend.  That’s how I was introduced to high rez audio about 4 years ago.  Before that, it was only vinyl and mp3 with a Logitech Squeezebox.

1 thing that I have learned is now all high rez sounds great.  A lot of time they compress the hell out of a recording and I have seen DR (dynamic range) ratings as low as 4.

I do not stream from any of the subscription services.  And for my family, Amazon’s Alexa is their go to source :)

VinceT

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Re: PC or Streamer with DAC?
« Reply #39 on: 6 Feb 2021, 03:11 pm »
Here is the issue I have with high rez downloads. If I am going to spend 30 dollars on an album, it will be on vinyl not a download.