Expert Advise Needed on Streamer - DAC combos.


I am new to digital audio.  It was overwhelming at first because of years with Vinyl, then CD.  I love Music and unfortunately I have expensive ears.  I am over 60 years so when I made my DIY Speakers I gave it a strong top end with a 1" compression titanium tweeter with a butt check horn.  They are sounding great with a Google Chromecast and the old Crown DC 150A, SL1 Preamp.  I can tell the Chromecast is missing detail but is getting full frequency.  I had a bad experience with a Christmas Present to me which has made me a bit gun shy  of digital products. 
 I purchased a Bluesound Power Node 2i .  I was disappointed with the sound compared to what I have now.  It was a well made product and the Bluesound app worked well.  The Amp had plenty of power at 60W.  
Here was the problem.  Accuracy of the lower brass instruments on my system. Compared to the Chromecast device  (Which should not have been comparable) the brass instruments sounded narrow, no fullness, boldness, no rich tones.  This was especially noticeable when comparing the "White Tree" sound track from Lord of the Rings.  The old system crushed the Bluesound with Dynamics, thunder lows in comparison. (My speakers do 30HZ or lower) 
I compared with direct to router, Bluetooth. same result.  Bluesound support said that it is just 1's and 0's. (I thought no, it is how you process the sound from there!) The vendor I bought it from took it back, no questions asked. Their tech support could not explain it. 
So here I am trying to beat a Chromcast device and 45 year old kick but equipment. So funny!  I am to the point thinking that the DAC in the Bluesound Powernode was not good enough for what I like in sound.  Fred next door might love it.
It was extremely detailed, completely silent between notes, separation was good, voices shallow same as in the low brass, trebble was crisp and clear.  Was is the DAC? 

Questions now.  There are people I admire on this forum that are literal experts on sound, hardware, DAC's, you name it with audio. I need some opinions and guidance.  
1. My budget is $2,000 for a DAC and a network streamer device.
2.  I am thinking the Bluesound Node 2i streamer is good?  What are your experiences with it?  
3.  Does an external DAC make much of a difference?
4. What other streamers in that price range is competitive or better in someones opinion? And why?
5.  I have been looking at Innuos Zen mini mk3 Music Server as a possible upgrade?. (Competitor to the BS Vault)
6. I have been looking at the Shiit  Gungnir  DAC to match up with a steamer and also be able to take audio from an external SSD USB HD. (If I do not get the Innuos) 
7. Does anyone have experience with the Shiit Gungnir mulitbit with the Bluesound streamer, or other competitive product?  I have read many good things about Shiit and want to buy American and a company with top notch service. 

Your experience,  advise, recommended products in my price range is very much appreciated.  It is a rare to have this opportunity to get great advise without pressure to buy something on the spot. I very much value everyone in this forum.  Thank you!  Paul 



A36932ab 0d36 41cb 9296 01b0b72ee0d2pcrhkr
Congratulations... You have just confirmed that the Google Chromecast Audio is the biggest and best bargain streamer to be had period.
Very hard to beat for less than $100, I have two of them... Lol.
And yes as long time user of the Bluesound Vault2i I can confirm that the DAC is the weakest link.
So your results do not surprise me at all.

However as an all-in-one streamer DAC for just over $2000 the Lumin D2 is likely hard to beat.

I say likely as not tested myself, was going that route then went seperates.
I now use an Aurender N100 streamer feeding a MHDT Orchid DAC via USB and it gives me everything I was looking for.
However that combo with a good USB cable is closer to $3500 so.....
I went from a Node 2, bypassing the Node 2's DAC and using an Auralic Vega DAC (a $3500 DAC when new) to a TEAC ND-505.  I paid less than your budget and it was a noticeable improvement over the Node 2/Vega combo.  Music is a little warmer, less "digital sounding", and surprisingly (to me at least) the biggest improvement was a greatly expanded soundstage, very "3-D" like.
I would get an Ayre Codex. I own two for my systems.
It makes an incredible difference when using the Bluesound Node.
The only other way to go is an Aurender N100 with the Codex, but it only lets you use Tidal or Qobuz to stream.
If you were to go to Schiit, I would recommend the Gungnir Multibit or Yggy. The latter being close to the Codex.
BTW, used Codex's are close to $1K.
Bob
I like the interface of the Node2i,  bluOS but I found the dac lacking so I paired it to a Benchmark DAC3B since I had no need for volume control or headphone Jack in the DAC. The Benchmark is made in America as well. 
I agree with the used Ayre Codex.  Used one with a simple Logitech Touch feeding it via USB from Roon on a networked computer.  Excellent performance.  Only parted with it to upgrade to the Ayre QX5/20
I have had a Lumin A-1 and X-1....both above your budget.  I was able to get rid of my Emm Lab Dac and Laufer Teknik Memory player and just used the Lumin.    The suggestion Uberwaltz gave of the D-1 is good.  The Lumin app is so easy to use and the sound is such that you won't miss vinyl.  Now for your budget, please don't expect music nirvana.  There is a big difference between the Lumin D-2 and X-1.  You can find them used on Audiogon.  That is the route I would go.  
Lumin D2 or Teac NT-505.  I have owned both and prefer the DAC implementation in the Teac with the AKM 4497 chipset.  The Teac also has the ability to work as a stand alone DAC. As they use the same software the operation of the two devices is the same for streaming.  Priced between the Chromecast and those two are products like the Orchid and the Volumio Primo.
I been running a W4Sound Sonos unit for years, out to a Wadia 321 DAC I picked up new for half price. I just picked up a used Bryston Pi and it's a decent improvement over the hot rodded Sonos. Total investment for ~$2k
Post removed 
What I would say is after doing this for years.  Find a Streamer that does that only.  Then get a good external DAC.