wadsy

Streamer/amp questions!...

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Further to my “Streamer/network player suggestions/guidance please” thread, and my search for a new amp thread!....

I've been investigating combing the two and currently have a Hegel HG90 on home demo. I initially used it as an amp only and compared it to an old Rotel RA-820 I currently have my CD player (AA Maestro) hooked up to after my AA Pucinni SE expired.

The Hegel is set-up with dbpoweramp Asset upnp on my PC as a storage server and is run by Bubble upnp on a tablet.

I fully expected the HG90 to blow the Rotel away, and whereas the Hegel did clearly sound 'better', it wasn't the “night and day” extent that I expected.

I've also done back to back listening tests for various files and CD's. I found that the 'best' sound for me was from ripped FLAC files played through the Hegel, in comparison to my CD player playing through the Hegel; I'm assuming the Hegel on-board DAC is performing 'better' than that on my old Maestro.

This has got me thinking of maybe a more cost effective option and back along the lines of a separate amp and streamer.

I have a couple of demos lined up next week to try a few different options; including Audiolab 6000 series (amp and streamer), Cambridge CXA60, Rega Brio, Bluesound Node 2i, Rega Elex-R, Nait 5Si and Naim Atom.

I'd welcome thoughts on these (and/or other options) but also could do with assistance with a few questions that have occurred to me, as I'm also considering a Linn Sneaky DS and Auralic Aries Mini!...

Any thoughts on how the DAC in the Hegel would compare with those of the other streamers?...

Aries Mini

Node 2i

Sneaky DS

Thoughts on the sound quality and useabilty of them?...I'd read the Sneaky sounds good, but isn't very user friendly!...could it be used with the dbpoweramp 'stuff' I have in place?...the Asset and Bubble.

Are the DACs in these units upgradeable and are upgrades worthwhile or would an external DAC 'upgrade' them?

Do they support Spotify and/or Tidal?

General pros/cons of them?

Many thanks if you'd read my waffle and further thanks for any replies! :D

Cheers

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You've got a pretty wide range of options there :). I'm going to be really helpful and say if your budget stretches to £2k to also try to demo an NAD M10. It's a streamer/DAC/amp with the added advantage of Dirac Live functionality to give you scope to improve the sound in your room further.

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The Sneaky will work with Asset and Bubble DS fine. I used to own one. The Mk1 version. It also supports Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz.

I also played ripped FLAC files through it.

I sold it recently as I needed a DAC with more inputs and the Mk1 Sneaky didn’t have any. I also had issues with network connectivity. This wasn’t the Sneaky’s fault but I could not get a reliable Ethernet connection set up. I solved it by replacing it with an Auralic Aeries G1 and an Audiolab M DAC+.

So I now steam wirelessly and have no issues with hi res never mind CD quality which was not the case before.

As to the Audiolab combination you were thinking of I believe it streams via software running on a tablet which I think is called DTS play fi. Hi Fi World reviewed it and had trouble with it but Audiolab disputed the issues they found.

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Lyngdorf TDAI3400. Best of breed around the £4k mark. Has Room perfect which is full featured and works. Not recommend the NAD M10, very thinny sound and the Dirac is not a full version. Lovely screen though that my wife loved. Other option is the Linn DSM. Have used them all stuck with the Lyngdorf/Egglestonworks and Linn/JBL Ti5000 on my systems 1 & 2 respectively.

Cambridge, used the CXN then upgrades to the big brother. They are average.

Had Yamaha CX, poor app and muddled sound.

Auralic mini, average, sold.

Just ordered Innuos mini mk3 to handle my roon core and ripping service as fedup with my pc/dbpoweramp/Nas system.

Had blusound 2, poor support and never able to scan my Nas beyond 9360 tracks so failed. Marginal sound. Same failure in M10 and M12 which uses the bluos software.

Lots out there to play with. Have fun.

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1 minute ago, smcampbell said:

Not recommend the NAD M10, very thinny sound and the Dirac is not a full version.

The NAD comes with the low frequency (up to 500 Hz) version of Dirac Live but there is the option to pay to upgrade to the full frequency range version for about £75. However, the bass region is the area it is going to be of most use.

(I have very recently bought a unit with Dirac but haven't had time to try it out yet to comment more fully. My own experience with room 'correction' to date has been more manually applied, where I've found it clearly beneficial.)

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I asked someone who reviews hifi components in very technical detail (measures and listens too) ... asked him about streamers. Generally, do the more expensive ones sound better from the entry level etc. His answer was a resounding yes.

Question is how much do you want to spend and how particular are you with SQ?

I had the CXN v2, for the price and having preamp functions it’s a good buy. But SQ wise was not that impressed, neither was the 851n.

Bluesound Node 2i is great for the price. SQ wise, it’s just acceptable.

I at present I’m using the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge (DAC, streamer, preamp). Sounds detailed and lush. Could do with a bit more refinement at the top but to get that I need to go up another step, costing about £1,000 - £1,500 more. I’m very satisfied with the Mytek. It’s got a good DAC too. As a DAC, I will say it’s not as clean and clear as the Chord Qutest. But the Chord Qutest is not lush sounding. Trade offs.

Also have the now discontinued Oppo Sonica (DAC, streamer, preamp). It’s very good for the price. Clear and crisp with a taut bass but don’t have the lushness of the Mytek. The Sonica is a little neutral sounding. Downside is no headphone output or digital out.

I would not purchase an expensive streamer then use an external DAC. A waste of money. 

Don't bother to upgrade the streamer unless it’s just a good external LPS. My Mytek with an external LPS sounds better than using the internal SMPS.

When I had the CXN v2, I was also using the Chord Qutest. From CXN to Qutest it sounded better. But that’s an extra £1,000 in the chain.

My take on streamer is ... how serious are you and how far do you want to go? For me, I want a good streamer but not at the £3,000 - £4,000 level. To me it’s kinda like a radio only. 😬

Still ... I dream of a Cary DMS-600 or the Lumin A1

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If you want to try the M10, ping me. Might just get rid of it. It might work with your setup better than mine(JBL Ti5000). Funny, I have not tried it as a streamer only into my MF amps, as this defeats the purpose of a all-in-one box. It's 9 month old with original receipt(£2199). Make me a silly offer and you might just tip me over to move it on.

Based on the pleasure I have with the Linn DS, really musical, I have requested a home trial of the new Select DSM with internal Catalyst DAC as my next step up. Must get something with a big screen to keep the wife happy....

Since moving to Roon, I am so pleased with the internal DSP that I can setup for each zone that now the need for individual boxes to have room correction is of lesser importance. I stream from my NAS, use Qobuz and Tidal and my sons love Spotify Connect(bless them) to my Lyngdorf, Linn and M12 so everyone is covered....

Why don't you also consider the Novafidelity X35 or X45? Seen them at Harrow Audio and got the urge to be inquisitive of their capabilities.... I think they sell for up to £1749 - the pro is over priced.

Still having fun.....

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20 hours ago, wadsy said:

Many thanks if you'd read my waffle and further thanks for any replies! 

Well you've had options from £100 all the way up to £4000.

A lot of the joy/frustration of streaming can be caused by the operating software not just the sound quality of the streamer. You can have the best sounding streamer in the world and the whole experience ruined by a rubbish user experience.

Unless you hit the jackpot first time around with a higher priced system I would actually recommend something cheap and cheerful that offers a lot of functionality and good app support, and work your way up once you know exactly what you want.

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Many thanks for all the replies chaps. :^

When I said in my original post that I was looking for something more cost effective, I was meaning in regard to the Hegel, which at £1500 is at the top of my budget (sorry, I should have been clearer). I'd love to try some of the more expensive suggestions, but it wouldn't get past the financial controller! ;) 

I'm reckon my main usage would be to play FLAC files from PC/server, so primarily a network player. I think I'd just browse for new music on Spotify (free?) or Youtube on the PC, and when I find something I like I'd buy it on CD and add to the FLAC collection for listening.

I think I was more looking for answers to the questions of the pros/cons of the Node 2i, Aries Mini and the Sneaky DS (sound quality and ease of use) and suitable amps to go with them, rather than suggestions for much higher cost units. :)

I'd also be interested in thoughts on steamers with external DAC combinations; as mentioned I'm looking for good sound quality after my experience of the FLAC files played through the Hegel sounding better than my CD player.

Thanks again.

Cheers

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2 minutes ago, wadsy said:

I think I'd just browse for new music on Spotify (free?)

I'll just comment on this one small point. If you're happy to have a PC connected to the streamer then you'll easily be able to do this. If instead you're looking to use a streamer that directly streams Spotify then this almost exclusively requires a Spotify Premium account to work. (There was one very unusual exception that came up in another thread recently but I'm afraid I can't remember what it was.)

Spotify Premium has better sound quality too of course.

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3 minutes ago, MartinC said:

I'll just comment on this one small point. If you're happy to have a PC connected to the streamer then you'll easily be able to do this. If instead you're looking to use a streamer that directly streams Spotify then this almost exclusively requires a Spotify Premium account to work. (There was one very unusual exception that came up in another thread recently but I'm afraid I can't remember what it was.)

Spotify Premium has better sound quality too of course.

That was my intention, if that would work ok - just for browsing for 'stuff' then buying on Cd as requierd to rip to FLAC.

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5 minutes ago, wadsy said:

That was my intention, if that would work ok - just for browsing for 'stuff' then buying on Cd as requierd to rip to FLAC.

Buying a CD specifically to rip it sounds like a waste of time to me. I believe you heard a difference between a CD using the DAC in a CD player as compared to a FLAC file played via a different DAC? The difference is more likely to be down to the DACs that the CD/FLAC difference. If you want to be browsing your music collection as computer files rather than physical CDs then great but I'm just checking you're deciding this for the right reasons.

Oh, and at the start of the thread you also mentioned Tidal, which has a lossless (FLAC) stream ableit for £20 per month (although right now you can get a trial of 5 months for a one-off payment of £5). This is another option to consider long term for new music.

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Perhaps you can stream directly from your PC or Media server using a suitable DAC connected via USB to the PC/Server. An Arcam irDAC II could work in that respect and give you a Bluetooth streaming option. You could add a cheap digital source (Chromecast) with Spotify connect if you wanted instead of using Bluetooth.

Edited by t1no

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Super Wammer

My free tidal subscription has run out. I use MQA for most listening but not everything is MQA . is qobus  better before I sign up to anything

The cambridge edge has chromecast and spotify built in

Kindest regards Julian 

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