Budget Music Streamer

I've been trying to get my head around best sound out of a budget streamer. All my CD collection is now in my portable 2TB hard drive as FLAC files and I also have subscription to Apple Music (large playlist). Currently using Apple TV and Airport Express (airplay limiting to 16 bit/44.1kHz) and Apple TV streaming at 48kHz. I have a revealing system and know I can get better sonics by upgrading my digital source. Unfortunately I have been blessed with a good ear for music.  

There are quite a few options out there, each having it's limitations, specially the ability to play Apple music directly from iTunes using a remote without limiting the sampling rate. Do I consider a Mac Mini or build my Raspberry Pi source? Will I get a spdif connection (preference) out of the two? Is there remote control capability to view playlist (I don't intend to hook up a monitor). Or is there a better solution out there for both listening to FLAC files on hard drive and streaming Apple Music? I plan on selling my OPPO player - no use to me, to fund a better DAC (schiit Yggdrasil or BorderPatrol) - hence the digital source is on a budget. Experts chime in..

Simaudio W5 poweramp
Von Schweikerts VR4 
OPPO 105 
Apple TV (using Kanexpro HDMI de-embedder to extract audio - coax in DAC)
Airport Express (optical in DAC)
Benchmark DAC1 (no USB) - used as preamp
Marantz AV7701 preamp
Morrow Audio interconnects 

Showing 2 responses by big_greg

I've been really happy with my BlueSound Node 2.  I have 2 of them.  I'm using one with my Auralic Vega DAC and I have the other connected to my Oppo 105D so that I can use its DAC if I want.  You might consider that option. 

Since the introduction of the Node 2i, used Node 2 units seem to be popping up for around $300. 

The main improvements in the 2i according to whathifi.com are:

"What’s easier to understand are the bonus features Bluesound has added to its streamer, including the dual-band wi-fi, Apple AirPlay2 and two-way Bluetooth, which means you can use wireless headphones via the BluOS 3.0 app, as well as a faster processor for a more seamless user experience."

The DAC is the same, but there is a claim that the sound is better because of the way the circuits are laid out in the new unit.  

I'm using a wireless access point and don't use Airplay or the bluetooth, so none of the "improvements" mattered to me.  I can't speak to whether the 2i actually sounds better, not having one to compare to.  

Using the Oppo and the Vega's DACs definitely improves the sound quality.
Not sure if I see value in the aftermarket digital streamers like Auralic Aries or Node2. First I plan on using an external DAC and secondly they all use Airplay which down samples to 44.1kHz. So where's the value unless you are using Hi-Res streaming?
The Node 2 can play FLAC files and does MQA.  You don't _have_ to use Airplay (I don't).