Advice for Streaming Newbies - Best Bang for Our Bucks

Hi All,

I'm currently building up my 'streaming only' system having read more reviews and forums in the last three weeks than in the preceding three months!

I'm a firm believer that I don't need to spend thousands upon thousands to get the best out of Tidal but conversely, there are good investments to be made to get the best sound.

I'd like to call on your collective wisdom for either general recommendations or specific product recommendations that give good "bang for the buck".

To start the ball rolling, my specific system looks like this:

Tidal Premium

5G Mobile Router with stock PSU (on separate extension lead)

Audioquest Pearl CAT6 Ethernet Cable to English Electric 8 Switch with stock PSU (on shared core extension lead with 2 x ifi AC iPurifiers)

Chord C Ethernet Cable to ifi Zen Stream with stock PSU (12v iPower 2) (on shared core extension)

Wireworld Chroma USB3.0 to ifi Zen DAC v2 with ifi iPower X  (on shared core extension)

ifi 4.4mm Connector to ifi Zen Can with stock PSU (on shared core extension)

Topping PA5 with stock PSU (on separate extension lead)

Audioquest Rocket 11 Speaker Cable to Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 Speakers

I have an ifi iPower Elite on Order and two more iPower X's

Possible upgrades I am considering:

Improved PSU for the Router

Improved Power Cable to the iPower Elite

More use of iPower Elite's

eno Ethernet Filter

Gigafoil v4

Improved Ethernet Cables

Improved USB Cable

Additional AC iPurifiers for other extensions

Starting from a basic system what areas of investment have yielded the best results? An improved PSU on the DAC or the Swtich? An ethernet filter? A better ethernet cable? etc.?

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Change the DAC to an E50 (with a LPS) for remote control volume and form factor match. Monoprice TRS jumpers are fine, proaudiowiring an upgrade. As an added bonus you can parallel a SPDIF connection to hear which sounds better from the streamer (switchable.) The Elite is a great add, I have one on a RasPi with a cheap AQ power cable.

I ended up with an ENO and ViaBlue RJ45s. And moved from Supra to Atlas for best buy USB cable.

Unfamiliar with your switch but reviews say that the stock SMPS is superior to most substitutions for my Silent Angel N8. Unless it is downstream of the ENO, I wouldn’t bother.


Actually you do need to spend thousands to get the BEST out of Tidal.  What's good enough for you, well that's a different story entirely You're obviously a tweeker, which when done the right way can yield good results.  Personally I'd start looking at putting some of that hard earned cash into better basic components.

Thanks @fuzztone. Interesting observation on the DAC. The Zen DAC has the same form factor as the Zen Stream and Zen Can so the PA5 is the aesthetic odd one out.

I'm not looking at changing components just yet but if I did I'd probably lose the PA5 as it is just too crowded at the rear with the power cable almost touching the speaker cables. Plus the external power brick is huge!

As an experiment today I have put an iPower X on the EE 8Switch and noticed a significant uplift in SQ; I'm going to test it with the iPower Elite when it comes too. The EE and the Bonn are based on the same circuit board, they differ in the modifications of course.


@marco1 - tweeker is probably a great word for me; I am a nerd and love to optimise within limits. I am sure a lot of people are the same too within reason.

I agree that you can't get good sound for under £1k but I don't believe you need to be spending NAIM money on a £13k streamer that needs a £7k power supply either. I am convinced that you can great sound for reasonable money but I'm not averse to spending more hard earned in the right places to maximise enjoyment (this word is key, it's not just about chasing perfection, I want to love what I'm hearing!)

Out of interest which of the components would you replace first? They are all very well-reviewed and regarded but I do agree that over time a few will benefit from an upgrade.

The purpose of my post was not to criticize but rather to make a general statement based on my own personal experiences. That is sometimes you can only improve performance so far and that same money can be better spent by upgrading the component rather than tweeking it.

That said, I've found the biggest bang for the buck is usually a speaker upgrade.

@marco1 your response was absolutely not seen as being critical my friend. On the contrary!

I've read elsewhere that the most money in a system should be devoted to speakers so I agree with you on that point!

My speakers are rather lovely (to me) and are currently the most expensive component in my setup. As time goes on I can see each component being upgraded. 


I have 2 DACs going into the PA5 and the E50 holds its own with the $6K one. Remote volume (ir or rf) is a must for me. I run the PA5 at about 90% and adjust volume with the DACs remotes. CbLocking bananas work fine into the PA5. The Topping units stack perfectly.

The "best out of Tidal" is switching to Qobuz. Out being operative.

I had both on the same gear.

@fuzztone @laoman ++ Forget Tidal and go straight to Qobuz. Tidal uses MQA which you will soon find unlistenable. Others can speak more usefully about hardware for your particular situation. Most important advice is just get the better streaming source now, so you needn't wait until your ears force you into it.

Definitely, try Qobuz. I’ve tried all the streaming services and Qobuz sounds the best on my system. your iFi zen stream works with tidal natively. To work with Qobuz, you have to buy mconnect in the App Store for $6. I use iFi zen with the rme dac and it’s great with Qobuz.

I can certainly give Qobuz a try - nothing to lose. I will have to look into mconnect.

@gdnrbob - my setup is detailed in the original post.

However, this was intended to be less about me and more of a generic sharing of advice for all streaming newbies.

@panzrwagn - can you elaborate? are you seeing something that you believe is wasteful or unnecessary? all advice is welcome.

One thing to note, if you subscribe to Qobuz via a web browser rather than the Android App, it is £3 per month cheaper! There's obviously a Google Play Store tax there.

So Qobuz on Windows doesn't support DLNA. To make it work I'd need a subscription to Audirvana or another application. This is the very definition of a rabbit hole!

I am a "boomer" (if you like) who built a system for classic rock and R&B.

Although I have spent ~12k on my system, one simple upgrade this past week completely changed it. I replaced a more "budget minded" TEAC NT-505 network player/streamer/DAC with a Lumin T2. Amazing difference in soundstage and overall quality. Matched with my McIntosh MA8900 and a pair of JBL L100 Classics, my sound is so much better and the T2 balances well with the warmer McIntosh. I buy "quality" cables but would never dive into the real expensive cables or power supplies. Maybe you should evaluate that cost and use it towards your upgrades.

I use Tidal and Qobuz. From my experience much of the quality lies in the original recording itself. I only keep both for more diverse Hi-Res music from specific artists. 

FYI:  The T2 is being replaced by Lumin with the new T3. Buyers might find some really good deals out there on the T2 as it is slowly moved off the shelves for the T3, I sure did.

Great advice @badger_erich and something I definitely have in mind as time goes on. I'm not far behind you on the age front as I am rapidly closing in on my half-century.

I've heard many good things about Lumin and I'm certainly curious about the art of the possible with a better DAC (and Amp and Speakers!)

I too have read many many threads on this and am close to being at the same stage as you. I would recommend dropping Tidal and going to Qobuz. Many posters who have tried both day Qobuz is much better sound. Then look into this item to clean up your usb.


You are off to a good start, sadly it all matters in the streaming chain.


One thing worth trying for relatively little outlay is adding another switch between your router and your English electric switch. Cisco 2960 and Netgear GS105 switches can be had very cheaply (get a used Cisco). 

Both of these switches improved my playback when I used them between the router and an audiophile switch even with stock power supplies. I kept the cisco one, it edges the Netgear. 

The Qobuz movement is strong here! I am just slightly miffed that I need to purchase an additional piece of software to actually use it, not supporting DLNA/UPNP is pretty disappointing (to me).

I will give it a good go however, any recommendations on how best to use it (at the highest res) from both Android and Windows?

Good call on the additional switch @discopants - do you have the 2960 dedicated to the audio chain or do you use it for other networked devices too? Also, do you have any of the managed configuration options set or do you use it in a "plug and play" manner?

@sgreg1 - the Intona USB Isolator looks very interesting indeed. The Zen Stream and Zen DAC have built-in USB magic to reduce/remove unwanted noise however I've already considered adding an ifi USB iPurifier3 (though it is a USB 2 device it would still work).

With all of these things, we have to "suck it and see".



@jabbaman I had it reset to default by a friend. I use it near my system, I have it on a filtered mains block. I feed optical out to an uptone Etherregen with it. That then feeds a Lyngdorf TDAI3400, and I stream Qobuz and Spotify. Qobuz sounds better than Spotify.

I use bubble upnp for Qobuz to stream, it is worth the price of the app.


My router to Cisco is CAT 8, get the best service to the property you can afford. I went from a 32mb copper service to a 900mb FTP service. I no longer get dropouts which used to spoil the listening experience on occasion. 



Thanks, @discopants, that is all insightful.

I've found a 2960G (1Gpbs version) for a ridiculously small sum, great condition, Cisco IOS 15 and factory reset so I will deploy between Router and EE 8Switch.

I'm not sure you need CAT8 specifically as CAT6 is more than capable and has the advantage of being unshielded so won't inadvertently cause a grounding issue.

I'll look into bubble UPnP and see if I can get on with it though so far Tidal has sounded plenty good to my old ears!

The Etherregen does look great but they are not being manufactured at present which is a shame.

Have you looked at the ENO AG filter?

In terms of Internet service, I'd say reliability and latency are more critical. Bandwidth itself is less of a concern as digital audio files are pretty small. For example, Tidal MQA uses c. 7.5MB of data per minute which translates to c. 1Mbps.

My service is over 5G cellular and has stonking bandwidth but most importantly great stability and consistency.

I did read much on the ENO filter and I nearly tried one. I bought my speakers from Richard Truss when he wrapped up his HIFI store to focus on the network acoustics business. There are lots of folks who rate them very highly. I already owned the Etherregen I think I was in on the 3rd batch to go out. Uptone are working on a new design due to supply chain issues on the original bill of materials.

Cat 8 is more robust than CAT6 I have it running along my skirting. I used Kapton tape on the sides of the RJ45 jack going in to the Cisco so no shield grounding into my system.


I'm considering ordering an ENO AG Streaming Kit when payday arrives this week as an evaluation!

I'm also strongly considering evaluating the EtherRegen v2 when it is realised in the coming months. I absolutely love playing with kit!

Good shout on the Kapton tape, glad you've got that covered with the CAT8 to deal with the grounding.

Occam followed his own principle and switched to disposables some time ago.

However, it is all about what is necessary. If the listener hears an improvement and is happy with the cost-to-improvement ratio it is not an unnecessary multiplication.

If we followed Occam’s Razor in hi-fi the pre-amp, phono stage and mono block would not exist as integrated solutions are "good enough".

Another thought, you could use a Digital to Digital Converter like the Denafrips Iris DDC.....$535 at today's exchange rate


@vthokie83 - my mind is blown! Just how many USB re-clocker, de-jitter, and noise reduction widgets are there?

This wouldn't work with my current setup but it's great to know that there is something for everyone out there.

I've achieved something similar with Zen Stream to Zen DAC v2; the Stream has a reasonable femto-precision GMT clock and has "Active Noise Cancellation" on its USB out. The DAC has a low-jitter crystal clock and I've plugged an ifi iPurifier 3 into the DAC itself, effectively cleaning and clocking the signal on either end of a decent-quality USB cable from Wireworld (though I am tempted to upgrade the cable - someone please take my credit card away!). The result is pretty darned good and precludes me from needing any more USB magic in the chain right now.

Don't a lot of DAC's and/or streamers solve these problems without needing to purchase all this extra stuff? It's packets of data, correct? 0's and 1's.

It seems all this money spent on magic routers and cables and other doo-dads could just be spent on a better streamer and/or DAC?

Jabbaman, tru dat. Glad to see you've got it covered, and happy with your USB chain.

Atlvalet, I thought so as well until I kept hearing about the improvements folks were getting with USB filters, USB cables, re-clockers, and DDCs. I was thrilled with my Node 130 out to a Denafrips Pontuss II DAC, but again was hearing about major improvements made by adding one of Denafrips DDC devices. I had high hopes (in particular because Alvin Chee at Vinshine thought I'd be happy with it), and added an Iris DDC.....I am very impressed, and at $535 for the Iris it's a steal

@atlvalet - you are correct in that the data itself is packets of 1’s and 0’s. None of the tweaks we talk about alter the data itself in any way and Ethernet and TCP are reliable at getting the packets to their destination.

I am a lifelong IT guy working in networking, security and infrastructure. I’ve been involved in building solutions that a lot of people use in their daily lives. I’m not an ultimate expert but I do know a fair bit after a lot of years of learning and doing.

1’s and 0’s aren’t everything, there is jitter, there is EMI and there is RFI. Domestic power is noisy due to the dozens of things we have plugged in such as our boilers, our fridges and freezers, our Alexa’s, and our neighbours too! Our houses are noisy from Wi-Fi and Mobile Phones too.

All of these things can affect the devices that receive the data packets adding noise to what we hear. I was sceptical too as I’ve read a lot of conflicting opinions. The main thing I noted is that the people that say these tweaks can’t work "because of physics" etc. haven’t actually tried them in their own homes, with their own kit and most importantly their own ears.

Are there preconceptions and biases when we listen to upgrades? Of course, there are! When I change something I expect a difference, however, I don’t assume it will be a difference that I like in my setup.

So as a lifelong techie and a bit of a sceptic, everything I have purchased has come with a money-back guarantee so if I don’t like the difference i.e. I don’t find it positive to my enjoyment of music back it goes (and I have done this).

To your main question, why don’t the expensive boxes we buy as DACs and Streamers etc. do this for us? Yes! Quite so! Well some do have a good crack at it, and the more you spend the better the clock, or the better the PSU, and in some cases, the better network interface with some noise reduction tech.

But, there are some very well-respected audio experts out there with no commercial incentive to like these extra magic boxes and doo daa’s and they have very high-end systems, often with dedicated power etc. and they still hear improvements in their music that they like with these widgets. Therefore investing in them now doesn’t make them redundant when I can afford to spend more in the future on better components (though my budget gear is starting to sound marvellous).

And on that note, I’ve ordered a better USB cable and a SotM ISO-CAT7 Ethernet filter :D

@jabbaman even though I am not a big fan of ASR, I find myself caught between two sides with regards to streaming. Like, a lot of people say they loved their EtherRegen, but ASR was like, "This thing does nothing." Same for some of these audiophile routers.

Higher end pieces have linear power supplies, so that should fix the "dirty power" issue. Good DACs incorporate galvanic isolation. I totally get the jitter thing and better clocks. Shit, I just paid Parts Connexion to upgrade the clock in my old Sonic Frontiers SFT-1, but good DAC’s incorporate good clocks.

I also get RMI and EFI because, in my old place, one of my speakers liked to broadcast low levels of a local radio station. I tried a whole bunch of stuff, but only thing that fixed it was an SET integrated amp. No idea why. A push/pull valve amp and SS amp both had the same issues.

I mean, I’m willing to try things, but a lot of streamers and/or DACs already have the upgraded stuff people are paying extra money to add on. And I agree ears should be the final judge, but short term memory is a terrible thing to use to determine audible changes.

I don't disagree with anything you have said. Some people have £4k network transports and £4k DACs and they need very little love in the digital chain though good clean power and a decent Ethernet cable do help. 

My entire rig is less than £2k with all the tweaks so it's a bit of apples and oranges.

For what it's worth, I love how my rig sounds!

I turned off the WiFi on my Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra streamer. That was a BIG improvement in sound quality. Not too big of a surprise.

Switching from an AmazonBasics Cat 6 Ethernet cable to a $64 Supra Cat 8 Ethernet cable yielded an additional improvement that was about 60% of the improvement heard from turning off WiFi on my streamer. The amount of improvement was quite surprising to me. 

The Supra Cat 8 cables are available via eBay here with an 30-day return policy so you could plug it in and see if you hear any difference. I heard an immediate improvement to my streaming sound quality.


Great observations. I too have disabled WiFi on my network transport and have some nice quality Ethernet cables. I see Supra mentioned a lot so may well take a look in due course. 

If you are after outstanding sound quality then the key is a high quality streamer and high quality DAC. You can take inexpensive equipment and incrementally improve performance, but if you want real performance you want a carefully chosen streamer, DAC, preamp, and amp of roughly the same investment level. 

I have owned streaming solutions at the $1K, $2K, $3K, $5K, $10K, $20K, and $50K. If you are serious about sound you start with the best possible components and then add infrastructure enhancements… like an EtherRegen… which I added to my main system.

My advice: buy the best DAC and streamer you can possibly afford and then start thinking about tricks to get a bit more out of them. 

Rose rs250 $2500 or Rose rs150 $5000. They have an internal DAC. You get internet streaming stations from all over the world. The 250 is half the size and half the money and sounds just like the 150. I haven't heard the others mentioned so probably good idea to audition as many as possible.

I like the Rose 150B. It has everything I’d want in a streamer, except I don’t need the DAC (I’d get it anyway because that screen is hard to say no to (outside of all the other benefits).

Can someone explain to me like I’m 5 what the benefits of adding a switch to the Internet router supplied by the service provider can do? Assuming the clocks are good in my streamers (Audiolab 6000N and an NAD M50.2) and are galvanically isolated, what will the switch/router provide?

Also, I’m at the point where I have 3 systems. One uses PlayFi and the other uses BlueOS. I need to buy a 3rd streamer. I like the Aurender stuff, but don’t feel like dropping that much coin just so I can have the same interface. Leaning towards a Node (each system has a separate DAC). Has anyone else run into this problem, or am I an outlier?

Boy oh boy, am I glad I have not gotten infected with the DIGITAL bug. Audiophiles have ALWAYS been pretty crazy dumping truckloads of money down a (perceived) 'making it better' path (they DID sell speaker cable for $100/ft even back then). 

But DIGITAL brings the craze to a whole new level. Reading the 'atom splitting' (hair splitting was a thing of the analog times) discussions, aren't we 'missing the boat', 'barking up the wrong tree', 'not seeing the big picture'?

Granted, my 'listening ear' (i.e. critical skill level to judge performance) is not even close to what it was 40 years when we going down the deep end of audio performance improvements, but even with my current limited skill level, I am convinced that you get 10x the improvement for every Dollar spent on the ANALOG side of the sound chain (for example speaker, room, etc). 

So if 'bang for buck' is in the discussion: think analog improvements first. 


For me the absolutely unsurpassed, blow everything else out of the water streamer is a BlueSound Node.




(Full disclosure: I'm deaf and have to listen to all my music using braille).

No doubt streaming is big rabbit hole, so many variables!. But the more I experiment the more I become convinced simpler is better. This has certainly proven to be true on network side of thing, although I continue with two computer setup, separate server and dedicated streamer.


Most insightful experiments have been with the beginning stages of network starting at feed from ISP into the house. Locating modem close to system, extend coax cable vs long runs of ethernet. Broadcom chip based modem vs Intel chip modem, Broadcom less jitter, also modem with external power supply so can use LPS on modem.


Now experimenting with removing wifi from audio streaming chain, already disconnected antenna from server. Two ways to go here, present experiment with enterprise level router (no wifi) will have feed that serves audio system only, another bridged feed goes to Netgear wifi/router for wireless devices throughout rest of house. Point is to get wifi and all it's attendant emi/rfi out of audio chain. The other way would be to forego wifi altogether, simply use audiophile switch in place of wifi/router. Point here is wifi/routers are likely the noisiest device in most streaming chains, getting out of audio chain should pay off in lower noise floor and jitter. Seems to me adding audiophile switches to chains while maintaining wifi/router upstream is a band aid at best. What's upstream of these switches is entirely critical to streaming performance, one can never get back what they lost with long runs of ethernet, bad modems and wifi/routers.

Streaming digital music doesn't have to involve extreme componentization and endless tweaking. The dollars invested? Well, there's a lot of latitude there, particularly wrt DACs. I have two suggestions for keeping things simple above Bluesound economics and well below exotica prices.

1/ Auralic put extensive engineering effort into their triband WiFi implementation in the Aries G1 and G2.1 streamers, to eliminate noise and remove the mandate for Ethernet. So much as to recommend that unless you have an unusual RFI environment or other practical reason to connect via Ethernet, WiFi should be the default, though the Ethernet option remains present. It works as advertised and is silent. Both of these streamers also have a 1GB memory cache so all dejittering, MQA processing, reclocking is done in memory. Effectively, you have a memory player, even if you connect a USB optical drive for CDs. I have yet to find a DAC that isn't improved by the Aries G1 and G2.1 streamers, compared to streaming via computer + USB or other intermediate streamers.

I have two hifi systems and after 14 years with the great mhdt DACs I did go richer on DACs than some people, Bricasti M21 Platinum on my primary system and Bricasti M1LE Gold on my secondary. An Auralic Aries G2.1 is upstream of the M21 and an Aries G1 is upstream of the M1LE Gold. But the entry level Holo, Denafrips, any mhdt, even RME DACs can all be improved by paying attention to the streamer first, while keeping things affordable. Oh, and the Auralic streamers have a linear power supply built in. Further, while the Auralic streamers are Roon ready, best sound is by using the free, native Auralic Lightning DS iOS app, no core computer needed.

You could simplify further by going with the Auralic Altair G1.1 or G2.1 streaming DAC, which combines the Aries functions with a sigma-delta DAC in one box.

Even with the RFI shower from my solar / Powerwall system, the Auralic WiFi connection is rock-stable, quiet, and musically truthful. Incidentally, Auralic decodes MQA via their own proprietary software instead of licensing MQA. It's effective and it means that if you have one of their streamers, you don't need an MQA DAC to get MQA hi-rez (variable) benefits.

2/ If you truly want to keep things simple, consider the Astell & Kern ACRO CA1000 streaming DAC/headphone amp/preamp/etc. I bought one of these to move between my chairside Stax headphone amp indoors and my outdoor patio system and it surpasses expectations, even when I put it into my primary, six-figures system for vetting. The A&K is a "carryable headphone amp/DAC." There's nothing else quite equivalent on the market. In one, palm-sized $2100 exquisitely-crafted package you get everything and it is powered by a 10.5 hours Li-polymer battery. No power supply add-ons nonsense. Wifi works great, no Ethernet needed nor accommodated. You also have the current hifi Bluetooth options. Touchscreen control is built-in, with the option of a tablet app for remote control.

The A&K includes output jacks for every variety of dynamic headphone, has 256GB of internal memory plus can accept one microSD card up to 1TB capacity, has USB, S/PDIF Coax, Toslink and analog inputs so it can function as a preamp, and if you use a USB PD2.0 charger, its 10+ hours battery can be fully charged in 2.5 hours or to 50% in one hour. You can also run it plugged in.

The A&K control software is Android-based so performance isn't quite as snappy as in the Auralic Lightning-based streamers, but responsiveness is good enough -- better than the wretched BluOS. I am generally and musically unimpressed with ESS-based DACs, but A&K has done a fine job with their ESS 9068 quad-DAC implementation, which sounds refined and toneful. A roughly 4" x 6" footprint from a 2 lbs. package and you are done. This too is Roon-ready if you roll that way, but Roon isn't necessary. The A&K decodes MQA. Having a full headphone amp, streamer, DAC, preamp, memory player all-in-one is awesome enough but its price is easily justified if you use it as a streaming DAC alone.

Auralic and Astell & Kern are true engineering-driven innovators in service to music. They aren't the only ones but they engineer holistically so you don't have to cobble-together enhancements where you shouldn't need to. I have 40 years in IT. I suggest you buy gear that obviates the need to bring enterprise networking into your home and hifi.


Re: Tidal Master v. Qobuz. I run with both. Each fills some content range gaps in the other. Tidal MQA is variable in SQ recording to recording. Qobuz 24/192 is consistently more refined and beautiful than MQA but where some Qobuz content is only 16/44 Tidal has Master versions. Tidal does a fab job compiling personal playlists algorithmically and dynamically, greatly aiding discovery. Qobuz does a great job with thematic playlists uninformed by your personal activity. Together they are complementary in selection, range, SQ and exploration.


I have been thinking about switching fro Tidal to QObuz.  I have heard the difference.  If I were to do so would I have to re-enter all my artists and music.  I also like the appearance of Tidal on my iPhone.  Wish I could see how it looks:

One option for not having a long run of Ethernet cable is to create an Ethernet access point with a WiFi extender. I think this sounds better to me than using the WiFi receiver built into my streamer since the source of RFI/EMI is removed from the physical proximity of the streamer.

@kraftwerkturbo-tt225 Before listening, I would have agreed with you on the relative theoretical opportunity to improve digital vs analog signal paths.

My ear, however, tells me that things like interconnects and power cords can yield quite significant improvements in digital music while the magnitude of improvement of trying the same range of power cord on analog components can yield changes that are either much smaller in magnitude or not even perceptible.

The reason is that for digital audio, the bits remain the same, but the theory is that RFI / EMI can affect whether bits are being delivered with the right timing. But, I will admit that the true test is hearing a difference which is also a positive difference With digital tweaks, I often hear a difference, but that difference may not be a positive difference even when going from less to more expensive components.