Digital streaming options for my system are confusing
I appreciate your advise in advance as I am more of a old school vinyl/cd guy. I have a McIntosh MAC6700 integrated receiver. It has a DAC but tech in this area is evolving at such a rapid rate that I am confused as the best way to access a high audio quality streaming/digital playback source. I have heard hi end streaming services (Tidal?) are great but my Amp does not have a direct iPhone/iPad connector. What is the best way to go that will keep my system simple and easy for the whole family to access?
Bluesound Node 2 or 2i is an excellent choice. Wireless connection with simple setup provided in the BluOS app. Use your phone or tablet for control. Link for Tidal subscription is in the BluOS app. You also get for free, Radio Paradise and hundreds of internet radio stations.
Connection to your Mac can be rca from the Node to an input on the Mac or if you want to try the internal dac in the Mac a digital cable is required between Node and Mac. Both can be connected at the same time so you can toggle inputs on the Mac to see if you prefer the Nodes internal dac or the one in your Mac.
I have the Node 2i and am very much impressed with it.
If the 6700 has a USB input it is likely an early version that if I remember correctly was limited to 24/96 max so the innuous is probably overkill on that amp. Could be totally wrong of course but my McIntosh with built in DAC that looks very similar input wise to the 6700 was limited to 24/96.
I checked my owners manual and the optical and coax are only to 96 but via usb it does handle up to 192. I am willing to invest to optimize so are there specific cables and other details I should consider?
I can wholeheartedly recommended Bluesound. I have the Vault 2 but if you do not need or want CD ripping ability then the Node 2 or latest 2i should work. One other point on the Vault is that it takes hard wired internet only where the Nodes take wireless.
I used to run my Vault via spdif into McIntosh c48 pre which has very similar DAC to the mac6700 although possibly a generation earlier.
It sounded stunning is best word for it. Have since moved on many times on amps, DAC etc but still have the Vault as to better it I know I need spend a LOT more than the $1050 it cost me couple years back.
Another vote for Node 2. The newest version is the Node2i. If you get a Bluesound and stream Tidal and the MQA albums, you might be surprised at the quality of sound. Auralic, Lumin and Innuous have some high quality offerings but I have found NAD and Bluesound are really dedicated to customer support. To me customer support often gets overlooked when choosing brands. Some companies and dealers promise the world when you pay top dollar for the gear, but fall short with delivering service. I have had stellar IT support for networking issues with the modestly priced Node 2.
OP, what’s your budget? I also have a Node2 and like it a lot but there are better streamer/DAC combinations out there. You can even start with a $35 Chromecast Audio and use optical link into your existing DAC and see how you like it. As for 24 vs. 32 bits or 96 vs. 192k, by far majority of the best MQA encoded content from Tidal is at 96 so your DAC’s optical input will suffice.
I appreciate the love for the Node. Going to do it. My only stored digital files are about 500 CD's that I burned about 10 years ago. All my recent music buys have been vinyl but when I need to stream holiday music and my best option is an iPod touch with and old Bose Bluetooth portable it got me to wake up. I also heard a great female singer profiled on NPR not long ago and her music was only available via download. Time to shake off the dust old guy....
Go for it! You will find that the Bluos app you use on your iPhone to control any Bluesound product is a first rate piece of work. It is extremely powerful and both it and the Bluesound operating systems receive constant updates over the internet. And unlike some updates I have yet to experience one that was a backwards step. Good luck and enjoy!
Thanks for all the feedback. So leaning to the Node2i via an optical to my receiver. Wireless will allow everyone who has my wireless password and streaming can play yes? I however can stream/buy high quality audio files if I choose?
Thanks rh But I'm not exactly sure I understand from your previous post. My receiver has a nice 200 WPC into to Sonus Faber bookshelves. I am no expert on new tech so when and were is my next investment?
Or you could use the Internal DAC in the Node2i for MQA and the current DAC for everything else. If possible, I would use a wired connection. I had some issues with WiFi and Bluesound and the Ethernet works much better, but the Node 2i is supposed to have enhanced WiFi capability, so hopefully non important...
Ok, so I did do the album artwork thing when I burned my CD’s. Does that have any impact on anything unless I have a laptop/tablet open when I play? Seriously, Im just a 48 yr old trumpet player trying to make things easy for everyone and sound really good to me when I have a few moments to myself.
The Node 2i has both analog and digital outputs. The simplest connection is rca cables from the analog outputs of the Node to any input on your Mac. You now have music playing. This connection is using the internal dac of the Node and allows hi Rez audio files to be played via MQA decoding from Tidal. A separate digital only (just the 1’s and 0’s) connection using a digital cable (could be optical or rca) to your Mac’s built in dac will also play music but will not unfold MQA files from Tidal. You can have both connected at the same time and switch source inputs on the Mac to see which you prefer. Neither choice has anything to do with the amplifier output.
The reality of this is that the Node is a good device, we have the Node and have done extensive tests vs the higher end Innuous products and there is really no comparison.
The integrity of the data in the Node is not the same as what you get out of an Innuous even their starter Zen Mini will be a superior product and if you add in the cost of a Node plus a vault you are at the same money as the Zen Mini.
When you factor in the ability to upconvert your data to high resolution via Roon, and add in that Roon and Tidal will also give you MQA first level unfold to 24/96k as well, and you also get a dedicated Roon Core, you have a much better solution all in one solution then a Vault +Node.
However with that being said you have a $500 Node 2i going against a $1,400.00 Zen Mini if you don’t add the Vault.
One of the OP biggest concerns is sound quality and ease of use and yes without a shadow of doubt the Zen Mini plus a good USB cable going into the 6700 will give the OP the best possible digital stream.
The Node will only allow 16bit 44k digital with the Zen you can get 24bit 192k upsampled digital for all sources which means the OP's storred CD's can also benefit heck the OP can probably store his entire collection on the Zen Mini as well.
One of the biggest pluses of the Zen plus Roon is using it is so simple and can be played back via any Android or Iphone or Android or IOS tablets.
In terms of a user experience nothing beats Roon, and Roon is completely intuative and offers a much more indepth music surfing experience than the blue sound OS, another plus with Roon is the ability to talk with music devices thoughout your home which includes a $35 Google Chrome which you can connect to other devices throught the home for an integrated solution also Sonos devices can be controlled via Roon as well.
Dave and Troy Audio Doctor NJ Bluesound and Innuous dealer,
1. pick network streamer -- I love the Bryston BDP Pi (no DAC) $1200 or the Modified Sonos from Wyred4Sound $399 or CCA for $15+$60 modifications 2. subscribe to music service --I love Tidal Hi Res in particular free trial, but $20 per month 3. pick software management -- I love Roon’s interface annual fee, but you can find free trial codes online 4. Load Roon on to your computer making it a server for your music. Check to make sure your computer can handle it. You can find Roon computer specs on their site 5. Load the Roon app/remote to your tablet or phone
Sit back and enjoy. Check out John Darko’s site for more information.
I use a Bryston BDP Pi. It’s just a streamer without a DAC. Contains optical out and is also a ROON endpoint. You can connect it to the ethernet or use wifi. Highest resolution is 24/192. Sounds excellent. Chromecast is nice too and much cheaper. You can run Toslink as well and it’s a ROON endpoint. Same output resolution. Here’s a link on how to supercharge your Chromecast audio. If you have higher res files than 24/192 or DSD files then the systems below would be better suited.
The Innuous is very easy to setup and does require a Roon subscription which is $120 a year or $500 lifetime.
I am a newbie, so someone please correct me if I am wrong. I have a Innuos ZenMini MK II (Demo for $800) with iPeng connected to a Chord Qutest and no Roon running (iPeng instead). Now I dont know if I am losing a lot by having iPeng and not Roon, but a one time fee of about $10 and format looks good and easy to use (I am 50, VERY new to the HiFi) but save 120/yr or $500/lifetime reducing cost if this is a reasonable alternate to Roon
Bluesound is an entry level product. There are people that think this is a high end audio product and it isn’t even close. If you want to dabble into streaming knowing that you can’t access the best formats available and any money spent now will be thrown away when you want better, then go for bluesound. For $500, I would recommend the Auralic mini over bluesound. If you don’t go with Roon, the software DS Lightning that comes with the Auralic mini is better than the bluesound interface. I have gone the route of Mac mini server hooked up to an external dac over 10 years ago, then using the Auralic Aries music server hooked up to an external server, then getting rid of all that crap (usb connection to an external dac, music server, external dac, you never want to use wireless because you are never guaranteed of the quality of the connection) to a much simpler with much better sound quality using a dac with a network card in it and using Ethernet to connect to the dac. I use a standard Apple Mac mini to hold all my ripped/purchased music and the Mac runs Roon. I use my iPad in my music room to access all my ripped/purchased music along with streaming MQA from Tidal. Very simple to implement and use, it is not the cheapest, but it is much better than most of what was talked about in this thread
Thanks Rohan. That breakdown is a huge help for me. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion and given where I live I basically have to pick and choose based on online ratings and feedback from people like you. The best sources I have for live demo for stuff as basic as speakers beyond KEF and B&W (no offense because I have owned both brands and they are great) is 5+ hours each way. Other than buying and ultimately selling how else can you compare? Too bad audio doesn't have the 90 return if you don't like it policies like mattress makers, golf club/tennis racquet designers etc. I know this stuff costs a lot less to make but at the same time you would think a try before you buy attitude would be a big feature for someone waffling on a large purchase?? Why don't the Music Directs/Crutchfields of the world have demo gear? I worked in IT for years and you could demo a $100K Bluecoat (for example) hardware appliance if you were in the market. Sorry for the rant... Just a little frustrating.
There are quite a few stereo manufacturers who give trial periods for their merchandise. Unfortunately, Bluesound isn't one of them. And offering demo gear would not be a way to go, given the current moral state of our society. B
The OP has many choices at many price points, that is always a good thing. One person mentioned using a Mac mini as a simple solution. I am not knocking any audio setup, but I think it ironic because I moved away from a computer (multi-functional device) because I wanted a device designed, engineered and built as a music server for audio. All the music servers mentioned have great audio, so it may just be your price point. Again I picked Bluesound for the good engineering and customer service at a good price. It fits my needs, I am not one to spend thousands of dollars on a music server. If I wanted to upgrade the DAC, I can do so by adding a much better one like the Ayre Codex.
I hear you but seriously. A demo pool for the big retailers could be negotiated with the manufacturers. Basically they should look at it as a value added service. I would lay down my CC # as collateral and know that there could be a waiting period as long as I knew I would get functional equipment with all the basics that I could try side by side and a paid return label. Manufacturers provide gear and the retailers handle logistics and minor costs to ship, market and maintain. They already make 20+ pts just for basic marketing and managing the purchasing process.
You just illustrated the biggest difference in sales philosophy. You make money on your services but lack volume. You offer value-add but don't make your vendors pay for it. Big box retailors offer marketing but little else. Ask more from your vendors but give them value by having your technicians offer demos etc. Make them sale engineers.
@OP, As a small business owner, I can safely say that what you are asking for isn't financially feasible. As I posted before, our current society is definitely lacking a moral compass and will often resort to the courts to justify whatever behaviour the feel they are entitled to. Why would a small business owner open themselves up to this potential aggravation? And, why should the vendor shoulder this expense? The big box retailers have volume, and a large bank account backed by a slew of lawyers. The vast majority of high end manufacturers might qualify as 'medium' business owners, not large, and do not have the financial reserves to offer such terms. B
re gnrbob. So you are saying that if you ran my CC for an authorization of the depreciated value of demo gear in case I choose to scam you and keep the stuff) and offered me the same cost for new gear as the on line guys but as a result got me to buy from you that its a bad business decision? The morality question aside... why wouldn't you do this? And if you had vendors that would kick in a box or two for you to demo that got someone like me who has never heard of the majority of these manufacturers to buy there stuff?
If you want to make your $$ back for the shipping offer me a free tech walkthrough to make sure I have my system optimized and then suggest an upgrade somewhere? Seriously? I and about 500,000 other guys who love music would pay $50 for a better cable than I can get my local "magnolia" store....
Anyway, sorry this thread is dead. I appreciate your feedback and guess I am as frustrated at the overall process as I was in my lack of basic digital audio knowledge. I appreciate you all taking the time to reply.
OP, at the risk of being redundant, I just don’t believe that once a certain price point has been reached, that there is much of a difference between streamers when they are inputted into the same DAC. The improvement obtained going from a $500 Node2 to a $5000 will not be a factor of 10, more like a 2%....it is asymptotic. My suggestion is to start with the Node2 and compare it’s DAC vs the DAC of your McIntosh. After a while if you get upgradeitis, my next move would getting a killer DAC, that will enhance all of your digital sources. After all that, if still not fully satisfied, buy a higher end streamer
I went a very inexpensive route by using a Raspberry Pi as my renderer. Took a bit of work to get it stable, but now it is flawless. A new user will find recent versions easier to use than I have for the past few years, for sure. I use Max2play on the Pi. Wired to my Orbi satellite. The Pi has a Digi+ on board to send digital signals to my dac via coax or Toslink. I use JRiver on a desktop on the main floor as my server. Connects to living room, sunroom, and Pi. All points controllable with any Android or Apple device. Total cost with the Orbi network included is right around $400. Not including Dac, of course. I would challenge anyone to listen to my system and find fault. At my level ($15k system), it is more than sufficient. There isn’t a server/computer/streamer worth the $10k that one company charges! Nuts! It is digital audio! In 5 years it will be totally different. Also don’t buy into this high res stuff. Most recordings are made at 24/96. And this is only done to allow digital headroom for EQ, Compression, etc.