Sorry about the typos. It's the auto correction on my phone. One correction: "I have decided to feed the DAC..."
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The streamer will not contribute meaningfully to the sound, and certainly not compared to a laptop with usb. If it sounds hard you either have to blame the DAC, or reality (music can sound hard), or look into the gain (mis)match between DAC and pre amplifier. The default output level for a DAC would be 2.0 Volt, like a cd player, but many give more output to impress in the demo room (the Codex is one of them). This can be too much for some/many pre amplifiers, causing clipping of the input. Are you using the variable output of the Codex (which would not normally have such high voltage unless you fully turn up the wick) or the fixed output into a pre amplifier (which would mean trouble)? The cure would be simple, fortunately: just insert some inline attenuators.
sotm can be finicky where the node will be very simple in using. the node has its own interface to use where sotm is only a bridge to other interfaces. I have both and the node is my backup if im having trouble with the sotm. You will want a Mac mini or something connected to the sotm at all times on as it can be finicky if the computer connected to it is turned on/off a lot. I keep my MacBook in sleep mode and it seems to do the trick. Im also not very computer savvy and know the basics' wish I got an surrender if I could go back to have the ease of use.
Wait up. The Codex can be used in preamp output mode with USB input; that’s one of its features. Check the manual https://www.ayre.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Ayre_Codex_Manual.pdf
You’re making the assumption that the brittle sound is due to the MacMini source, which might be the case. However, it might also be that the Codex is to blame. I’d try to determine which (if you can get something alternate on trial or loan).
In the meantime, try running the Codex straight into your power amp using its preamp mode; you will find out if it’s a Codex issue with your preamp, at least. Most Ayre gear (well not just Ayre) also sounds heaps better using balanced outputs.