Any good media streamers coming out, or just released lately?

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wink

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I was looking at buying a Cambridge Audio 851N, but I feel as though it's getting a little aged. Been waiting for a really decent streamer to be released around that $2k price point....what have I missed? Would mainly be used with my Synology Server.

Dan
 

amey01

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Following. It will be interesting to see what people say.

So far, I have not found any "good" media streamer. They are all compromised or limited in some way or another. There is no clearer example of how far behind hi-fi companies are at exploiting computer tech.

This led me to build my own with PiCorePlayer and a RaspberryPi.

SqueezeboxServer / Logitech Media Server is still by far and away the best streaming software out there and only now is it clear how well ahead of its time it was when it was released.

PiCorePlayer allows you to quickly and easily turn a spare 'Pi into a highly configurable and versatile player - and to be honest, it probably has better specs than the sort of processing hardware you get when you pay $multi-thousands to some snake-oil "would-be-if-they-could-be" hi-fi company. There is no shortage of hardware configurations either - I am using a PiFI Digi+ I2S digital out for my main listening room - but in "System 2" I am experimenting with DSD through the USB output.

If you're prepared to invest a small amount of time (it is by no means hard, but I'm not going to say it is as easy as handing over $3,000 to Aurender), it is capable of anything and will free you from virtually all the frustrating limitations.
 

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JonFo

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I think the NAD family has some excellent streamers, all with MQA capability, and driven by BluOS and associated apps.
From the very affordable $550 Bluesound Node2i to the mid-range, very high-performance NAD C658 all that way to the Master series streamer/server M50.2 (at $4,500).

I'd go for the sweet-spot C658 given your budget. I've also been eying it. But my JRiver MC24 setup does all I need.
 

JLasher22443

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I've been researching the same thing lately to upgrade the Bluos Node 2 in my system. So subscribed to see what others have to say.

I've been looking at the Innuos ZENmini and Zen Mk3 a lot. But I've also been researching the Lumin D2, Auralic Altair G1, and Roon Nucleus+. I was also trying to stay around the $2k budget.

After some research over the past month I'm now leaning more towards the Lumin D2 or the Innuos Systems; ZenMini and Zen MK3. The Innuos is taking a slight lead because of the CD ripping and storage. Within the Innuos systems I'm mostly leaning towards the Innuos Zen MK3 partnered with the Chord Qutest DAC. But that puts me way over the $2k budget. I've heard from multiple salesman and reviewers online that the Innuos paired with the Chord is phenomenal.

I'm looking to schedule a listening session to compare the two Innuos models side by side to see if the Zen MK3 is better sounding then the Zen Mini.
 

sleepysurf

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... SqueezeboxServer / Logitech Media Server is still by far and away the best streaming software out there and only now is it clear how well ahead of its time it was when it was released....
True! I'm still using my old Squeezebox Touch (with the Enhanced Digital Output app to handle up to 24/192 PCM). Even though Squeezeboxes are no longer manufactured, Michael Herger (still employed by Logitech), and the open-source developer community, have kept the Squeezebox/LMS platform up to date. Legacy Squeezebox owners like me, and a new generation of Rasberry Pi devotees, are forever grateful! I stream my music library, Qobuz, Pandora, and various radio stations, to my Touch, and six other Squeezebox devices throughout my house!
 

amey01

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True! I'm still using my old Squeezebox Touch
I am using a legacy Touch in another room too. An absolute classic. But granted, it does feel 10 years old. A 'Pi with PiCorePlayer on the other hand is bang up to the minute - with DSD512 and all the other bells and whistles.

I use Pandora, Tidal, my local music collection and internet radio - all seamlessly in all rooms of the house - with separate libraries for the kids.

My two favourite features of it are:
1. You have absolute control of the configuration - and you know (and can prove) exactly what it is doing
2. You can have a low powered server sitting in a hidden cupboard and don't have to have it stored locally in or near the listening room.

I'm looking to schedule a listening session to compare the two Innuos models side by side to see if the Zen MK3 is better sounding then the Zen Mini.
If there is any difference in sound between music servers, one (or both) of the systems is flawed or improperly configured. That would be tantamount to saying "I prefer the HP laptop, because it produces less spelling errors than the Apple did in my emails."

Computers and data transfer just don't work that way guys......no ifs / no buts. And it's easy to prove too.

Many years ago, I did exactly that. I checksumed a few seconds of audio from the bitstream from a CD in a CD-ROM drive. I then FLACed the disc, copied it to my server, decoded it through Squeezeboxserver, and played it through WI-FI, and captured the bitstream from a Squeezebox digital output (coax), captured the output through a cheap USB interface/ADC I had lying around, and back into the originating computer.

The checksum was the same.

Spending $10,000+ on a music server is not going to net anyone an intrinsically better sound.
 
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TDIMike

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I'm on a long time Sonos user. While its great for a lot of things its definitely not a reference grade piece of equipment. I tried Bluesound devices, but found the Sonos interface far superior and I had issues streaming over wifi (which was my only choice at the time). I owned a Naim ND5 XS a couple years ago, and it was hands down the best digital source I'd ever heard. My living situation was kind of up in the air after a divorce so I sold it. I've since replaced it with a MacMini running Audirvana directly into my Parasound P6 DAC. I'm very very happy with the results. The UI is outstanding on the IOS, and it has no issues with any file type I throw at it. I'd say its 90% of the Naim, with a better UI (my Naim was Gen 1) and a fraction of the cost.

I really like the NAD and the Cambridge (at least the specs) but, I'd probably doubt the preamp section would be better than my Parasound. McIntosh just released a streamer thats supposed to be very good right at $2,000.
 

amey01

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MacMini running Audirvana directly into
Another great option.

The only issues I see with this (over something like the 'Pi) is that you have a noisy fan and possibly a noisy (and vibrating) hard disk sitting in the listening room with you. If you can get around those two issues, you should be set.

Oh, and I'd imagine it would be harder (or nigh on impossible) to get coax or AES output, if you need/want that.


After all that though - the basic architecture you need is essentially the same - a headless/capable/quiet low-end computer in the listening room to serve up the digital data to a capable DAC of your choosing, and a server/controller/data storage somewhere else, far away from the listening room.


Another real issue is that you need to be sure the server you choose is going to be around to support/maintain (and maybe even improve) the interface. That's where you really need to buy from a larger company, or something open source. The longevity of the open source architecture of Squeezebox demonstrates exactly that. Larger companies like Naim/NAD/Yamaha/etc are arguably a gamble worth taking. Smaller companies like Aurender/Auralic/Innuos, or those who don't have an open source or sufficient installed base to self-perpetuate might be problematic.
 
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zigman

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Aurender is great if you have an extensive library already and you don’t use Roon. Lumin is fantastic for streaming and Roon, though you can connect an external HDD to access existing libraries. I have owned both the D2 and T2 and they are great. T2 is one of the best quality streaming DACs out there for its price. Rock solid and great support.
 

TomDac

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I'm still using my Oppo BDP105D as my streamer and with the iOS app, controlling it is easy. I've also used Synology's AudioStation to send music files to my Oppo, but I prefer to just use the Oppo natively. I've looked at Lumin, Aurender, etc. and wonder how much better could they be than what I have now... and the prices on some of these streamers is crazy. I don't use any of the streaming services like Qobuz, Spotify, etc. and never will, so that's not important to me..
 

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It may depend on exactly what you’re going to use it for...
I like the Linn DS range, having begun with a Sneaky (the discontinued lead-in model) and now upgraded to an Akurate.
The high prices at home here in the UK get even higher when exported, but there’s a steady used market over here.
Naim have already been mentioned, and are worth checking out too.
I favour the Linn because my main use is streaming Qobuz in high definition. I hate having to run a PC at the same time, but others don’t mind! It’s easy to control with an iPad and there are several different apps to choose from, including two of Linn’s own.
It will handle a NAS too, but I don’t use one.
Bluesound is a good lower cost option.
Whatever you choose, an interface you like, and support for the streaming service you favour is vital. There’s nothing worse than a clunky app, when there are few mechanical controls. (Linn still offer a remote, though I never use it).
 

Len44

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Love this thread! Must confess to much of this being a bit confusing to me. I am basically interested in a music server, I guess. If the device incorporates streaming, that's great. However, I want a device that has a great quality ripper (a must-have), that is very easy and intuitive to use, and does not require a computer to make it all work, or even e ion the same room, for that matter. I started with Innuos, after reading some very favorable reviews, and have looked at the Zenith MK III, Statement (Ouch!), and more recently Aurender, owing to the number of CDs we own (as Zigman mentioned above).

Innuos is a problematic choice because although they have been talking about having their own interface "that is just about to come out" for over a year now, nothing has been produced and they have no timeline they are willing to state. Their product line seems to have pretty much stopped, as far as I can see, except for their Re-clocker. And with Innuos, a DAC will be required as well.

Aurender look to have some pretty fair solutions, with their own interface, and apparently rock-solid (trouble-free) performance, and a quality signature as well.

I use Summits and OPPO 205, and some odd amplifiers (ARCAM P1s, Yamaha MX-2000, etc.

Guidance / thoughts for a poor, down-trodden, somewhat confused fellow ML user?
 

JLasher22443

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I am using a legacy Touch in another room too. An absolute classic. But granted, it does feel 10 years old. A 'Pi with PiCorePlayer on the other hand is bang up to the minute - with DSD512 and all the other bells and whistles.

I use Pandora, Tidal, my local music collection and internet radio - all seamlessly in all rooms of the house - with separate libraries for the kids.

My two favourite features of it are:
1. You have absolute control of the configuration - and you know (and can prove) exactly what it is doing
2. You can have a low powered server sitting in a hidden cupboard and don't have to have it stored locally in or near the listening room.



If there is any difference in sound between music servers, one (or both) of the systems is flawed or improperly configured. That would be tantamount to saying "I prefer the HP laptop, because it produces less spelling errors than the Apple did in my emails."

Computers and data transfer just don't work that way guys......no ifs / no buts. And it's easy to prove too.

Many years ago, I did exactly that. I checksumed a few seconds of audio from the bitstream from a CD in a CD-ROM drive. I then FLACed the disc, copied it to my server, decoded it through Squeezeboxserver, and played it through WI-FI, and captured the bitstream from a Squeezebox digital output (coax), captured the output through a cheap USB interface/ADC I had lying around, and back into the originating computer.

The checksum was the same.

Spending $10,000+ on a music server is not going to net anyone an intrinsically better sound.

So now I'm really confused.

Amey01, am I understanding you correctly with your comment in that you are stating all streamers sound the same? From my understanding and from research; not everyone believes or promotes that belief? What am I missing? Is Streaming music snake oil when it comes to streaming audio?

As for the Zenmini and Zen MK3 sounding different as a stated with a side by side test; how could they not sound different. One has a built in DAC(Zenmini) and the other does not? Why wouldn't one sound better than the other?Don't cell phones sound different with different DACs when it comes to audio playback? What am I missing and why do companies charge so much for music streamers and most have different levels or even Reference? Not disagreeing with your statement; just asking because now I'm really confused. Some users here even told me to upgrade to a better streamer from the Bluos Node 2 I have instead of buying a turntable. But if the Bluos sounds just like the next streamer why upgrade? Again just asking not arguing.
 

Spike

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I want a device that has a great quality ripper (a must-have), that is very easy and intuitive to use,
Len, I went down this road before and made the decision to use my computer laptop as a ripper to store my audio files onto my NAS. The rationale is that the internal drive of the off-the-shelf ripper will eventually fail and I will need to re-rip my CDs. So, the best solution for me is to rip my music onto my Synology NAS, running RAID5 to protect my data. Yes, 1 of my drive in the NAS failed a couple of months ago and all I had to do was to pop in another drive and rebuild.

As for the Zenmini and Zen MK3 sounding different as a stated with a side by side test; how could they not sound different.
Specific to the Zen Mini vs Zen Mk3, there are differences between these 2 boxes. Of course, the DAC from Zen Mini is completely different than the outboard DAC like the Chord. Assuming that we're talking about both Zen units feeding digital data into the same DAC, Zen Mk3 has USB output to DAC and this is a much better digital interface than the optical or SPDIF output of the Zen Mini. The USB interface carries timing information to keep the DAC and Mk3 in sync. The optical or SPDIF interface do not carry timing information. Now, if you're comparing 2 source boxes Zen Mk3 vs Aurender where both have USB output to DAC, I doubt that you will hear any differences.
Cell phones sound different with different DACs for the same reason if you're hooking up the phones via SPDIF adaptor. If you hook up your phone via USB to the DAC, the phone will just act as a glorified USB memory stick and all the work will be done by the DAC.
 

JLasher22443

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Len, I went down this road before and made the decision to use my computer laptop as a ripper to store my audio files onto my NAS. The rationale is that the internal drive of the off-the-shelf ripper will eventually fail and I will need to re-rip my CDs. So, the best solution for me is to rip my music onto my Synology NAS, running RAID5 to protect my data. Yes, 1 of my drive in the NAS failed a couple of months ago and all I had to do was to pop in another drive and rebuild.


Specific to the Zen Mini vs Zen Mk3, there are differences between these 2 boxes. Of course, the DAC from Zen Mini is completely different than the outboard DAC like the Chord. Assuming that we're talking about both Zen units feeding digital data into the same DAC, Zen Mk3 has USB output to DAC and this is a much better digital interface than the optical or SPDIF output of the Zen Mini. The USB interface carries timing information to keep the DAC and Mk3 in sync. The optical or SPDIF interface do not carry timing information. Now, if you're comparing 2 source boxes Zen Mk3 vs Aurender where both have USB output to DAC, I doubt that you will hear any differences.
Cell phones sound different with different DACs for the same reason if you're hooking up the phones via SPDIF adaptor. If you hook up your phone via USB to the DAC, the phone will just act as a glorified USB memory stick and all the work will be done by the DAC.

Ok so just so I'm understanding this correctly; I can go purchase a New Mac Mini ($850), a Chord Qutest ($1700) and some cables for around $3k and its going to sound the same as the Mark Levinson NO519 at $20K? Or the Lumin X1 at around $14k? Or the PS Audio Diectstream DAC at $6k when using Roon with Tidal and Qobuz? If so how can these companies justify the prices? What makes them that expensive? And why do people post videos and articles stating the sound is night and day over the last product?
 

amey01

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From my understanding and from research; not everyone believes or promotes that belief?
Correct. Everyone has a different belief. Everyone also has different reasons for their beliefs - that's why it's valuable to come together and discuss on forums.

What am I missing?
Well, I was referring to stand-alone streamers - that is, the act of streaming digital data over a network - not streaming DACs. If you're using the ananlogue output, then of course - streamers will sound different. Even if you use a digital output, it is conceviable that you might get a difference in sound due to jitter and digital inconsistencies. But every halfway competent DAC made in the last 10 or so years is immune to that, so I omitted it from my reasoning.

But I was referring to streaming intrinsically - not manufacturer implementations thereof - which may include DACs, power supplies and analogue output stages.

Spike above, also made the same assertion:

Spike said:
Now, if you're comparing 2 source boxes Zen Mk3 vs Aurender where both have USB output to DAC, I doubt that you will hear any differences.


As for the Zenmini and Zen MK3 sounding different as a stated with a side by side test; how could they not sound different. One has a built in DAC(Zenmini) and the other does not? Why wouldn't one sound better than the other?
Of course - my oversight. If you're comparing DACs then of course you're gonna hear a difference. But contrary to the thread title - you're not comparing purist streamers - you're comparing streaming DACS. To each their own when they build their system - but personally I would never want to spend big $$ on an awesome DAC that was integrated with a streamer. Streaming tech is too volatile, and changes too quickly.

For me: It's best to have a cheap streamer (and as above ^^^, no impact to sound quality) that you can upgrade/change/swap out as you please. And as the digital and music-service landscape changes. And spend your money on the DAC as a separate component. But we all build our systems differnetly.



Some users here even told me to upgrade to a better streamer from the Bluos Node 2 I have instead of buying a turntable. But if the Bluos sounds just like the next streamer why upgrade? Again just asking not arguing.
The BluOS will sound just fine. It's a great product. But should you upgrade to a better DAC??......Absolutely!

Hope that helps.
 
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amey01

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Ok so just so I'm understanding this correctly; I can go purchase a New Mac Mini ($850), a Chord Qutest ($1700) and some cables for around $3k and its going to sound the same as the Mark Levinson NO519 at $20K? Or the Lumin X1 at around $14k?
NO its not!

The Levinson and the X1 have top notch DACs in them. It is primarily the inclusion of the DAC (and the associated requirements of power supplies and analogue output stages) that is what drives the cost of these units (and no doubt a good dose of hubris, but that's debatable and completely off topic).

BUT!.........if you plugged the either of these uber-expensive streamers into the same Chord Qutest......nup, unequivocally no difference at all.
 

amey01

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The rationale is that the internal drive of the off-the-shelf ripper will eventually fail and I will need to re-rip my CDs.
Any ripper that doesn't allow you to easily back up your music is not worth using. Not even if it was gifted to you.

running RAID5 to protect my data.
Please understand, RAID is not backup. RAID does not "protect data".

RAID is what is termed as "high availability". It allows your system to continue on in the event of some (note: some, not all) types of hardware failure modes.

There are many scenarios that could take out your RAID data.
For example:

a physical strike to the enclosure which damages two heads at once
Theft of the unit
controller failure
a power failure during a write operation
virus
...even just a software glitch which corrupts your data
spilling water on the unit or flood
power surge
Fire
Power supply failure resulting in voltage fluctuation (or any number of other anomalies)
Knocking the RAID enclosure off a shelf.
A bad power connection resulting in arcing which damages two or more drives.
A pure software glitch which corrupts the RAID-set.
accidental deletion



In the end - RAID is absolutely no substitute for multiple backups, and at least one off-site.
 
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