Mid-priced Streamer desired

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 1059 times.

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Mid-priced Streamer desired
« on: 23 Feb 2021, 11:25 pm »
I've been pondering upgrading my streamer, as I find I'm using music streaming services more often.  I've had the old S1 Sonos Connect for 6 years, mostly using it for casual listening to Spotify 320K MP3.  Over the past few months I've had trial subscriptions to 16/44 Qobuz, Deezer, and Tidal and am coming to very much like the access to those catalogs. 

I've been running the Connect's digital outputs into a late 90s TOTL Parasound Ultra 2000HD DAC, and a bit into a Parasound Halo P5 preamp which has Burr Brown 1798 chips.  Not state of the art but decent quality gear.  And it sounds pretty good with good sources. 

I'm looking to have access to 24-bit material.  The Halo P5 can process up to 24/192.  The BB1798 is a competent DAC but not a premium one.  The older 2000HD DAC is fantastic on Redbook 16/44, but can't handle 24-bit. 

Looking to spend in the $500 to $800 range, but can go more if something seems worth it.  Just want streaming, no plans to run Roon or add a network server. 

From what I've found, my top three candidates:

Cocktail Audio (Novation) N15D $700 Has an ESS9018MK2 DAC, RCA outs, Toslink and Coax digital outs, supports MQA.  USB 3.0 inputs.

Orchard Audio PecanPi $550, Burr-Brown 1794A DAC, XLR & RCA outs, but no digital outs and no MQA support.

Bluesound Node 2i:  $550, Unknown DAC, RCA outs, Toslink and Coax digital outs, supports MQA.  But I don't like the idea of running 24-bit music through a DAC which is of lesser quality than what I already own. 

There's also an interesting looking Volumio Prima, but that doesn't appear to be sold in the USA.  ESS9038Q2M DAC, RCA outs, Coax digital out, supposedly can support MQA via an external USB attached DAC.

MQA is not a show stopper, but it is a plus to have the option.

The PecanPi looks like a very well put together piece.  Quality outputs, solid (if dated) DAC, multiple software choices.  Downside is that it isn't upgradable.  Can't add a better DAC later on.  Can't access MQA.  I don't know how much better the BB1794A DAC would be than the BB1798 DAC that's already in my preamp.   I do like the XLR outputs and the simplicity of the design.

The Cocktail N15D is the most versatile option.  Has a reasonably decent DAC along with digital outs and MQA support.  But reviews of their software options are mixed. 

I could just skip up to the Cambridge CXN V2, which employs dual Wolfson 8740 DACs (which are Wolfson mid-line), has both digital outputs and inputs (so could also be used as an external DAC), XLR & RCA analog outputs, and has Chromecast.  Some nice features there, but would it actually sound any better than the PecanPi or Cocktail N15D?   I believe it also is MQA compatible. 

Or drop even more for an Arcam ST60!

With the Cocktail N15D, I'd have the option of adding a very good quality DAC in the future.  Like a Topping D90. 

Or accept that the PecanPi sounds pretty darn good for $550 and just be happy with it running Qobuz. 

Any thoughts?  Experiences?  Some box worth considering that I missed?  I did eliminate several.  I liked the Primare NP5 as a high quality streaming device, which I could run into my Halo P5 whilst I consider buying an external DAC.  It doesn't have a DAC. 

http://www.hifiplus.com/articles/novafidelity-n15d-network-streamer/

JTF

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 97
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #1 on: 24 Feb 2021, 12:39 am »
Having tried a bunch of streaming options myself, I'd recommend going for something that's really good on the app/software side of the equation and using an external DAC. You're coming from a Sonos, which probably has one of, if not the best user experience for this sort of thing. The Node 2i is probably closest in that regard.

nature boy

Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #2 on: 24 Feb 2021, 01:00 am »
If you get a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 streamer/DAC you'll have a very friendly, ROON ready great sounding one box solution for $1099. Then when funds allow, get the ModWright CXN V2 tube modification w/ Lundahl transformers and you'll have one of the best digital front ends you'll ever hear, period. I am a CXN V2 owner and early adopter of the ModWright modification.

Stream Qobuz 24 bit recordings via ROON and you'll be in listener heaven. Plus plenty of digital inputs on the CXN V2 for hooking up other sources too!

NB

nyrocker

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 11
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #3 on: 24 Feb 2021, 01:04 am »
++1 on the CXN V2 even in stock form

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #4 on: 24 Feb 2021, 01:45 am »
I appreciate the comments about the Cambridge CXN V2.

I have a question about Roon.  If I am not going to store music on any type of storage device and have only 1 audio system - in which all devices will be hard-wired to each other, then why run Roon?   In all likelihood, my streamer will be exclusively streaming Qobuz, or possibly Tidal if I purchase a MQA-compatible device. 

I've read only a couple of articles about how Roon works. 

JDoyle

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 291
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #5 on: 24 Feb 2021, 02:23 am »
Hi Tom, no , you don’t need to run Roon, if you’re streaming either of the two services (Tidal/Qobuz), but it’s such a wonderful player to search, read up on artists, find new related artists, listen to Radio stations all over the globe, create playlists and easily filter them by title/artist/album, plus so much more.

My system is pretty much the same as yours, with the exception that I can Bluetooth Roon to a receiver in my garage system.

Considering that you can try it for free, why not give it a go? I absolutely luv it.

There’s a bunch of videos on YouTube if you would still like to see how it works first.

displayname

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 69
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #6 on: 24 Feb 2021, 12:49 pm »
I've had the CXN V2 for several years now, and I am still very impressed. The Modwright upgrade is also intriguing, but I just wish I could hear it first. Maybe I'll jump on it, maybe not.

But as a standalone unit, it's really hard to beat in my opinion. I like that it also easily serves as a digital hub. I run a CD transport into mine, stream Tidal, and I like the option of having a USB slot on the front if I ever get a wild hair to plug in an external drive.

I do think the main limitation with the CXN is it's value when using it purely as a streamer. If I wanted to upgrade to an external DAC down the road, I would likely sell the CXN and move to the Volumio or a Lumin. But that's also more money all in. 

I know the CXN doesn't have MQA, but personally I don't ever feel like I'm missing it. I think you should read up on MQA and decide how important that is to you. For me, it's not a decision maker. At best, it's a tie breaker. And that's even with Tidal being my main digital source.  BUT the CXN does use Tidal Connect, which I REALLY enjoy. It's so much easier to work within the Tidal app instead of in the StreamMagic app for Tidal. I think that should be a consideration if Tidal is your streaming service of choice. 

There's also an interesting looking Volumio Prima, but that doesn't appear to be sold in the USA. 

Speaking of the Volumio, it is now for sale in the US! I would reach out to Skip at Audio Thesis. He is now carrying the Volumio, the CXN V2, and Lumin. He can talk you through the differences, and help you land on what will work best for you.

https://www.audiothesis.com/product-page/volumio-primo-music-streamer

I appreciate the comments about the Cambridge CXN V2.

I have a question about Roon.  If I am not going to store music on any type of storage device and have only 1 audio system - in which all devices will be hard-wired to each other, then why run Roon?   In all likelihood, my streamer will be exclusively streaming Qobuz, or possibly Tidal if I purchase a MQA-compatible device. 

I've read only a couple of articles about how Roon works.
If you're only using Tidal or Qobuz, I think Roon doesn't offer a lot of value. Roon seems to really come into play when you've got a library of your own files, and multiple streaming services.

But without Roon, the streamers software becomes a major factor in the decision. A great sounding streamer can still really ruin the fun of streaming if the software is clunky, complicated or frustrating. That's where Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect become a true power feature, allowing you to bypass clunky device software entirely.

For me, Tidal Connect or an exceptional UI are now requirements, not features. That might change if Spotify Hifi lives up to its promise in the near future. Whatever you do, look into how your streaming service of choice is integrated into the streamer. If that's your main use of the streamer, the software is very important.

JLM

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 9843
  • The elephant normally IS the room
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #7 on: 24 Feb 2021, 03:11 pm »
Have been researching a streamer/DAC combo at a higher price range. 

Agree to shop for the operating system first.  The DAC chip should be way down on your priority list as output circuit and power supply make bigger sonic differences.  I use MQA and have a fully compliant MQA setup, but find it sonically pointless.  Trialed Roon briefly and personally got little from it.  Was into mods for awhile, but $1500 to mod an $1100 CXN v.2 seems financially backwards although ModWright is well respected.  Have tried tubes a few times and again, meh.

After 40+ years at this I value vendors with deep R&D resources, have a relatively long history, and that manufacture in-house or at least have direct input into the production.

JDoyle

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 291
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #8 on: 24 Feb 2021, 03:48 pm »
If you're only using Tidal or Qobuz, I think Roon doesn't offer a lot of value. Roon seems to really come into play when you've got a library of your own files, and multiple streaming services.

While it’s true that Roon helps manage your own ripped music or purchased hi-rez downloads, I rarely use it for that... Where it helps me is the ease of discovering of music that I like. I’ve discovered literally dozens of artists that if not for Roon, I don’t think I’d ever found just by using Tidal (or Qobuz) on its own. Not that it’s impossible, it’s just sooo much easier (and fun) with Roon.

And for $10 bucks a month? (Billed $120.00 annually) To me it’s a no-brainer, of course YMMV.  :D

To me the only obstacle of Roon is where do you run the Roon Core. It has to be a a networked PC capable of running it, or a streamer that’s also a computer (with a hard drive if you have your own ripped music). I’m using a Salkstreamer, but there are others too.

JD

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #9 on: 24 Feb 2021, 06:23 pm »
Yes, the music streaming software seems to be all over the place in terms of usability and features.  I've been using Sonos Connect and Spotify for years and found them easy to use.  Although when using Tidal or Qobuz through the Sonos app those have seemed crude as compared to Spotify.  Much more difficult to find new music.

One of the attractive features for the simple Orchard Audio PecanPi is that one can use Volumio software on it.  That seems pretty nice.  The same goes for the Volumio Primo streamer. 

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #10 on: 24 Feb 2021, 06:25 pm »

Speaking of the Volumio, it is now for sale in the US! I would reach out to Skip at Audio Thesis. He is now carrying the Volumio, the CXN V2, and Lumin. He can talk you through the differences, and help you land on what will work best for you.


Good to know.  I searched all over, including on Volumio's dealers page, and found nothing. 

displayname

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 69
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #11 on: 24 Feb 2021, 08:02 pm »
I use MQA and have a fully compliant MQA setup, but find it sonically pointless.
This was my takeaway the few times I've tried MQA in various systems. And the way the money flows with it doesn't please me either.

Was into mods for awhile, but $1500 to mod an $1100 CXN v.2 seems financially backwards although ModWright is well respected. 
I don't think the price is out of line based on the upgrades, but that's a fair criticism. I keep going back and forth if it makes more sense to upgrade my CXN, which I already have an enjoy OR go to with something like Volumio + a higher quality DAC. Pros and cons to each.

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #12 on: 24 Feb 2021, 08:59 pm »
Going with a 2-box solution has its benefits.

For instance a Primare NP5 Prisma streamer with a Topping D90 DAC. 

The NP5 is a high quality box with Chromecast, Bluetooth, Roon-ready, Spotify Connect, Airplay 2, WiFi, Ethernet, and USB-A connectivity.   Can control network connected devices.  Has Toslink and S/PDIF outputs. 

The combination is priced at $1350.   $1450 for the D90 MQA model. 

Many streaming apps work with it. 

https://primare.net/product/np5-prisma-network-player/

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #13 on: 26 Feb 2021, 09:02 pm »
Thinking that perhaps upgrading might be not worth it, I decided to put myself to a little test

I had a friend over and had them use my phone to control my Sonos Connect.  I selected 8 songs, which I know well and which have very good sound quality.  I had them switching between playing the songs from Spotify at 320K and from Tidal at FLAC 16/44.  I had them flip a coin each time to determine which one I heard first.  Then I attempted to identify which was from Tidal. 

Thinking that if I can't tell the difference between 320K and FLAC that why think about spending more to have 24-bit capabilities?  From my readings I have found that a lot of people can't hear a difference, or at least can't hear a difference on the typical home audio system or their wireless earbuds. 

In 8 trials, I selected the Tidal stream 8 times.  Spotify wasn't bad, closer than I expected.  But when listening to Tidal the sound was more natural, more open.  The music was more involving.  That's what I was listening for, not to focus on hearing a better defined bass or more detail on highs.  Just lean back and listen and see if I was pulled into the music.

Now as to whether any of the 24-bit streamers / DACs do this any better than my Sonos Connect into the Parasound D/AC-2000HD Ultra, I can't say.  I suspect that most of the gulf which exists between 320K MP3 and 24/192 is crossed by getting to 16/44.

rotarius

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 414
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #14 on: 27 Feb 2021, 02:22 am »
Look into the Denon Heos Link HS2.  Excellent connectivity and sounds fine.  The app could be better but it is stable.  I have been very happy using it for streaming Amazon HD and for the flac files on my portable hard drive.  Has a decent dac too.

firedog

Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #15 on: 27 Feb 2021, 07:30 am »
Good to know.  I searched all over, including on Volumio's dealers page, and found nothing.

https://volumio.org/product/volumio-primo/
I'm pretty sure you can order it direct from Volumio at the online shop linked to from the page.

Other candidates:
Stack Audio Link II (no DAC)
pro-Ject S Box2 Ultra
Matrix-Audio (matrix-digi.com) also makes a couple of steamer DACs in the $1000 range that are well regarded.

JLM

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 9843
  • The elephant normally IS the room
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #16 on: 27 Feb 2021, 02:49 pm »
I own a NAD M10 ($2750 streamer/DAC/integrated amp) that has made my audio life mind blowingly simple.  A bit out of your price range, but the NAD C658 (similar to the M10 without the power amp feature) is killer in terms of ease of use, features, and sound quality.  Just the addition of Dirac alone is worth the extra price.  Again, the operating system should be paramount in picking a streamer and NAD's Blue Sound is acknowledged as being one of the very best.  It also does MQA, not important to me but a bonus.  Here's a positive review:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=NAD+C658+Hans+Beekhuyzen+review&docid=607990262559670386&mid=D1988B5EDA4D9BF2A285D1988B5EDA4D9BF2A285&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

artur9

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 263
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #17 on: 27 Feb 2021, 07:24 pm »
Anyone here tried the Elac Discovery?  Comes with Roon.


https://www.elac.com/series/discovery/ds-s101-g/

lcrim

Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #18 on: 28 Feb 2021, 12:37 am »
I have the Andover Audio Songbird Internet Audio Streamer  only $129 Besides Tidal it gets Spotify, Qobus etc.Phone based controller. It replaced Volumio on a Raspberry Pi that was glitchy.
Larry

Tom Bombadil

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 170
Re: Mid-priced Streamer desired
« Reply #19 on: 28 Feb 2021, 02:04 am »
I have the Andover Audio Songbird Internet Audio Streamer  only $129 Besides Tidal it gets Spotify, Qobus etc.Phone based controller. It replaced Volumio on a Raspberry Pi that was glitchy.
Larry

I know that is inexpensive and supposedly processes 24-bit file internally through some kind of DAC.  I've also heard from two sources that it's digital out stream is just 16-bits, not 24.  Even if streaming 24-bit files.