Craigiedowding

Streaming Advice

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Good afternoon, I was after a little advice please regarding potential bang for buck improvements reference streaming.
I currently stream spotify/Mixcloud/soon to be tidal music utilising my MacBook Pro connected to CA CXA-61 by USB cable utilising the CXA-61 onboard DAC. The CA is wired to MA Bronze 6 floorstanders.

I guess my question is whether much improvements could be had from a dedicated streamer in the 5-700 pound budget i.e. Bluesound, instead of the MacBook? I understand that beauty is in the ear of the beholder but in your experiences, would I be getting 5-700 pounds worth of improvements with a streamer, or could the money be better utilised in another area e.g. DAC, or not at all?
Many thanks in advance
 

Regards

Craig

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If the Bluesound (or another streamer) is connected via digital out to the CXA-61, I would expect it to sound exactly the same as you have now. If you connect via RCA and therefore use the DAC on the Bluesound, then I'd probably just expect it to sound slightly different as opposed to better. - I've no experience of the CXA-61 DAC but given each's respective price point it doesn't suggest an obvious outright improvement.
If the primary goal is a sound quality improvement I think putting the money towards an external DAC is probably the way to go. However the Bluesound BluOS software is very nice to use, has native integration to all the main streaming services, is probably more convenient than the MacBook to locate and use, and of course can form part of a broader whole house music system if fancied. So still a great device (I love mine) and the onboard DAC to my ears has a full and rich sound - but I think lacking in outright resolution. I'm keen to add something like a Qutest DAC to make improvements to it, and I think that's the sort of level you should be looking at to improve on the CXA-61 DAC too.

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Good evening,

Many thanks for taking the time to write a detailed reply, very helpful and informative.  I’m currently content with utilising the MacBook as the streamer, I think saving my pennies to upgrade to the DAC you mentioned one day will be the next logical investment.

Very best regards 

Craig

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Hi Craig,

Firstly welcome to The Wam. Whilst I haven't heard your CA amp, or the Sabre DAC chip they've put in it, I do note that the DAC that was in the predecessor was a Wolfson 8740 as I've just read the review. This is of note as the Wolfson DAC chip in dual setup what they use in their CXN streamers, which are very well regarded and which sound great (and which I own - see sig). Therefore, for them to replace with a other I assume it will sound equally impressive.

My advice before spending big bucks, or even any bucks, on a DAC would be to listen to some. There are many opportunities to do so (perhaps not currently with us all being housebound), but a lot can be spent with a less than huge change in sound when it comes to DACs and you might find you like it less. Especially if you spend blind, always listen first.

I dont know where you are located, but if anywhere near Bristol you are welcome to plug my CXN into your amp for a listen sometime, once we are all no longer socially distancing.

Hope this helps a little and no doubt others will be along soon with more help.

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Keep streaming from your  MacBook..get a jolida valve dac..job done! 

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Do you mind having your Macbook connected by a USB cable all the time? I'm asking as a reason I'd consider a streamer is to avoid this, rather connecting wirelessly to the streamer either from the MacBook or a phone.

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Thank you for your kind responses.

Amormusic - Thankyou for the advice, I would definitely audition an option before spending that sort of money. Thank you for the offer of a test with the CXN maybe in the future after all of this. I’m located in the SW but am often passing through Bristol. 😊

MartinC - Thank you for your reply, I cant say I’m too bothered aesthetically about having the MacBook connected by USB to the CXA-61. I think it’s a nicer sound than via Bluetooth from the MacBook or iPhone. To my ears anyway.  😊

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, Craigiedowding said:

MartinC - Thank you for your reply, I cant say I’m too bothered aesthetically about having the MacBook connected by USB to the CXA-61. I think it’s a nicer sound than via Bluetooth from the MacBook or iPhone. To my ears anyway.  😊

Bluetooth is a different ballgame and should be avoided. With a proper streamer the phone/laptop etc acts purely as a remote control to tell the streamer what to do. The streamer then connects directly to the internet to do the actual streaming. You could turn the phone/laptop off and the music would continue as it's no longer actively involved in the process.

I streamed from my laptop for  a while but I much prefer the freedom to not have a long USB lead tethering it to my hifi, as well as the ability to use my phone instead as a controller when I prefer.

Not saying you definitely should get a streamer but just explaining some of the benefits.

Edited by MartinC

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Posted (edited)

Hi Craig, 

Welcome to the Wigwam.  With a £700 budget, I agree you’ll find better gains from upgrading your DAC rather than buying a streamer.  In addition to the suggestions above, the Topping DACs are very high performance for remarkably low cost.
 

For dramatic improvements you could buy a DAC with built-in EQ controls, such as the RME ADI-2 DAC (~£600 used), and a room measurement mic (MiniDSP Umik is about £100).  This would allow you to find and remove sound-colouring peaks due to interactions between your speakers and your room.


Also when you upgrade to Tidal, make sure you turn on Exclusive mode, as this will bypass all the laptop’s low quality sound processing and send an unsullied signal to be processed by the high quality DAC. 

Edited by jas0_0

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Good morning 😊 Again, thanks for the responses,

Martin - Appreciate your thoughts thank you. It would be nice to have the dedicated streamer arranged in the way you explain as this would be more efficient and look nicer I think. However, I wasn’t sure if I would gain much audibly at the price point of £5-700 steamer. 
 

jas0_0 - Thank you for your time. I think I may look to audition something along these lines when the current climate permits. At least then I will be able to determine how happy I am with my current setup.

With regard to bypassing the macbook’s internal processing, apart from Tidal’s own solution, is there a recommended software  media player I should try for using Spotify etc? I’ve read a lot about ROON but fairly sure there might be cheaper solutions out there? If I’m using a MacBook I may as well try and make it the best as possible.

Many thanks all and best regards

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Personally I'd be looking to upgrade the amp and speakers before sinking money in upgrading the front end. IMHO you won't hear any difference with those nice but quite budget amp/ speaks.

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