I’m not sure I’m understanding you. You either want the Boulder 866 digital version or get a better streamer for the MA8900?
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You can approach streamer upgrade couple of ways, pair Node 2i with a better DAC before you upgrade to Boulder 866. The DAC inside McIntosh is likely no better than the DAC inside Node2i. You will get much better sound with a outboard DAC like MHDT Labs Orchid or Denafrips Pontus II.
If you go down the Boulder 866 route, look into Aurender N100 or N10 (used), either of these would provide substantial SQ upgrade over Node 2i.
Watch out for folks who are incapable of appreciating any differences between different streamers and DAC’s :-)
I recommend an Aurender, N100SC as a good place to start. I have owned a host of PCs and lessor streamers and an Auralic Aries G2. Aurenders are outstanding products and extremely good value for sound/price. They are audiophile quality construction and execution. You can use your DAC... and see which connection is better USB or AES/ SPDIF. The USB lets your DAC retime the bitstream. Likely the non- USB will be better. Their Conductor app that is used to operate it is very highly regarded. .
There flagship streamer is pretty much the standard at many equipment shows for sustems . It’s the kind of product you will have a very long time. When I bought my first Aurender it completely changed my attitude towards streaming. It pushed performance to the audiophile category and showed it was not just a novelty, but ready for prime time. I now listen to streaming 85% of the time and vinyl when I feel like fiddling and being a bit nostalgic. There is no reason to play a CD, streaming either sounds exactly the same, usually better because it is higher Rez (Qubuz recommended streaming service) But both analog and digital ends on my systems are equally satisfying.
Imo if you want a reference class dac $5-7 k you can get a great one .I have the pontus 2, Holo springs another great price performance . Denafrips terminator$6k+, or Holosprings top May dac $5k and outstanding price performance most would be thrilled to have either.
never count on the dac in a streamer or integrated to compete
with a reference stand alone dac.
Lots of good thoughts here, thanks for the responses. Is there any consensus on whether a stand alone DAC, say in the $3k range, will be better than the built in DAC in the MA 8900, or the Boulder 866, or both? In other words, how good are built in DACs, in amps in this price range? Are they manufacturer throw-ins, or of a high quality, considering the cost of the amp?
And finally, if stand alones are, relatively speaking, generally better than built-ins, would you upgrade the streamer first or the DAC?
@cosmic_charlie - I have the Node 2i in my system and use the onboard DAC, but I took a very different approach to improving sound quality.
I use very good cables i.e. both power and interconnect cables.
The resolution of the Node 2i is exceptional - i.e. when the cables allow it to be.
Unfortunately the cables I use are an extremely good DIY cable geometry, built from scratch using high quality parts/wires, so they are a little expensive and not for a novice DIYer.
But there are members willing to make them.
Take a look at this thread on the cable forum to give oyu an idea as to how good these cables are...
If you want to go with commercially available cables I recommend cables from
- KLE Innovations,
It may seem strange to equip, what is seemingly a budget streamer with expensive cables, but most of todays electronics is extremely good, but to keep costs low they skimp on power supply
- adding good power cables elevates the Node 2i to exceptional levels of performance
- adding good IC’s allow the Node 2i to convey its exceptional sound quality
FYI - I use the Node 2i connected via Ethernet - which improved sound greatly and I stream content from internet radio, Amazon Music and my NAS drive - they all sound amazing
I originally had the Node 2, but the Node 2i proved to be a lot better.
Another option would be to use one of the NAD streamers. The two companies are "related" and share a lot of the internal design approaches, but the NAD has a better power supply.
If you have any questions - ask away :-)
Regards - Steve