Streamer or Laptop?

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karlsushi

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Feb 1, 2022
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Looking to avoid constantly swapping my laptop between my two systems and thinking of getting something to provide a digital source in my second system.

I currently use the same laptop running J:River or Qobuz, which I connect via USB to a SingXer USB interface, then by coax to my standalone DACs).

I absolutely feel the need for the laptop in my main system because I use Dirac Live room correction for my living room (which is essential). But in my second system in a small room with nearfield speakers, I have the option of anything that can send a digital stream to the SingXer/DAC.

Within the context above and a budget of around £500, what I am asking myself is whether a dedicated streamer (e.g. ifi Zen Stream or Bluesound Node 2i) is actually going to be worthwhile over simply purchasing another laptop?

In my mind, the laptop has many more advantages in practical terms, so the only question then comes down to sound quality.

Has anyone compared a streamer to a laptop in this kind of scenario and felt that the streamer offered them more in terms of musical capabilities?
 

DomT

It’s all about the music
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Jul 23, 2019
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Dom
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Streamer no question. In my stand mount mega shoot out thread I had signifiant problems with the ATC speakers that I had on demo because the sound was hard and fatiguing. This problem was solved the instant I disconnected my new MacBook Pro running Audirvana/AudioQuest Cinnamon USB cable to Benchmark DAC2 and instead used my Auralic Mini with the Benchmark DAC2. I had wasted three days of speaker demo just because the laptop sounded, *by comparsion*, so terrible. In both cases I was listening to the same ripped FLAC files.

I use USB from laptop now only when watching Netflix as I don't have a TV in the UK.

And just to add that I compared the Auralic Mini to an Innuos and they sounded quite different. As did both by adding a dedicated power supply. There are others who are quite happy with a laptop but you couldn't pay me to go back to that!
 

karlsushi

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Feb 1, 2022
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Melton Mowbray, East Midlands
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Thanks @DomT

I suppose my main difference to your situation is that I currently use a USB interface between my laptop and DAC, the purpose of this being to reduce jitter, re-clock and most importantly, minimise the effects of internal electrical noise associated with laptops.

Adding the SingXer F-1 (or particularly the SU-2 in my main system) between the laptop and DAC has a notable impact on reducing the digital harshness which I experience when connecting the laptop direct to a USB input, so I suspect the gap between this situation and a streamer may be less noticeable. Maybe not.

I also wonder if part of your perceived improvement might relate to the use of a Macbook Pro. I'm no apple expert, but I get the feeling that ensuring you are using a proper bit perfect driver isn't always obvious with apple devices, but I may be wrong.

Of course I know that getting hold of a streamer and comparing for myself is the obvious way to check, but thought I'd see if anyone had undertaken a similar comparison as mine with a decent USB converter in the chain.
 
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MartinC

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Jul 29, 2005
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I absolutely feel the need for the laptop in my main system because I use Dirac Live room correction for my living room (which is essential).

Streamers with Dirac Live exist. I use one. A laptop is needed for the measurements and to design the filters but in routine use there is no laptop connected.

Using a streamer is much nicer than always having to have a laptop connected via a cable as far as I'm concerned. I control my streamer with either my phone or laptop.
 

karlsushi

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Feb 1, 2022
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Melton Mowbray, East Midlands
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Streamers with Dirac Live
Is that the miniDSP SHD you're referring to?

My hesitation with that and the likes of the NAD or Arcam units that now have Dirac, is that I don't want to be fixed with the streamer's internal DAC.

What I'm really liking in the main system is that Dirac comes right from the source, so is implemented into whatever box swapping I do upstream, be it DAC, Preamp or whatever.

I do get the appeal regarding convenience, but it's the question over sound quality I'm not sure about.
 

MartinC

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Jul 29, 2005
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Is that the miniDSP SHD you're referring to?

My hesitation with that and the likes of the NAD or Arcam units that now have Dirac, is that I don't want to be fixed with the streamer's internal DAC.

What I'm really liking in the main system is that Dirac comes right from the source, so is implemented into whatever box swapping I do upstream, be it DAC, Preamp or whatever.

I do get the appeal regarding convenience, but it's the question over sound quality I'm not sure about.

Yes, my SHD. As you say there is the NAD C658 too, which for many may be the better choice. There is a miniDSP SHD Studio model that is all digital, so you'd send it's digital outputs to whatever DAC you wanted.

I use my SHD as a DAC and pre-amp too, with the latter being essential given I use a subwoofer too.

Many would be reluctant to use a laptop on sound quality grounds by the way, although I've never faffed about trying to make comparisons myself.

Not pushing you to change your main system here but just making you aware of options.
 
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StingRay

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Apr 27, 2016
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Ray
HiFi Trade?
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Not used a laptop but did go from a computer to a Bluesound Node2 which I bought used and I would do it all over again. I use an external DAC and an iPad to control it. I stream Tidal or Qobuz.

So yes I think the Node is worth getting as it’s only about £250.

There are very little differences between the different Nodes and they all get updates.