Help with up to $1500 streamer


Hi all,

I am new to Audiogon, I have been researching here and there but never posted anything.
I have been on a dilemma about a streamer, I don’t want to spend much money but the minimum acceptable products I could find are between 1000-1500 so I decided to ask more experienced people.

Most of my music is stored on regular CDs or FLAC on external hard drives, I initially thought it would be best to go all-in on CDs but I want the convenience of seamlessly switching songs, so streamer is my best choice.

I listen to mostly instrumental music like classical, movies and game soundtracks but a little bit of pop and rock too, my preference is for clear and fast sound, but I want to be able to distinguish instruments and get some good dynamic range.

just to give some perspective, my headphone system consists of an SMSL SU-8 DAC, connected with Mogami cables to a Massdrop THX AAA 789 powering a Sennheiser HD 650 with an original balanced cable, I would call it as nothing fancy but makes a good sound.

My stereo system is mostly a Bluray player Panasonic UB820, connected via HDMI to an Onkyo Receiver RZ 920, connected with Acoustic research cables to two mono Parasound A23s powering Focal Chorus 836v speakers, which makes an OK sound but I have to rely on TV being on to control music and it’s not very convenient.

all that said, I am looking for a streamer that has a good built-in DAC preferably balanced with an LCD screen that shows enough information about the track or at least a fully-featured APP that can seamlessly play FLAC from a USB device.

So far on my research, I came about Cambridge audio CXN and Azur 851N, Cocktail Audio X40 and NAD C658.

Please let me know your thoughts.
badgod86
sorry you're not getting more response to your question.  Most folks here are more interested in arguing about vernacular differences between "hifi" and "high end" or posting humorous anecdotes about what stupid things never to do with your equipment.That $1,500 area is tough to find a really nice streamer w/o considering used gear.  It seems you need to push over $2K to get into the features and the DAC quality I suspect you may be looking for. Check out some of the Auralic and Lumin products.  
I'm going to be also looking in the 1000-1500 range in a year or two as an upgrade for my bedroom system.  I'm hoping Cambridge Audio by then updates their 851N to have a better dac chip (32 bit, hopefully full MQA support, and hopefully good AK or ES model) at that price point.

Teac NT-505 is awesome at $2k if your budget creeps.  It's what I have in my main system.  Ethernet only (no wifi) and no fancy LED display showing artwork like some others, but sound is fantastic.

Good luck.
To augment my description of the Teac above, although the player itself doesn’t display the album artwork on its small screen (which shows input type and resolution, among others), the phone/tablet control app does and works well.
It doesn't have a Dac but there are some Auralic Aries streamers on Audiogon at great prices this is one:
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9fic3-auralic-aries-media-servers
I have no connection to the seller just a happy owner of the Arie's little brother the Aries Mini. I find Aurlic products to sound good and be very user friendly plus I really like the Lightning DS control app.
I use the SoTM SMS-200 Neo (Streamer) with a Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital (DAC), and quite happy with it.

If you have a NAS or other type of file share, where you host your digital files, you can use some of the various industry music management platforms. I use ROON and am quite happy with it (you get a free 60d trial when you buy the SMS-200, or can buy a one year license at heavy discount when ordering your SMS-200). There are other options for music management, each with their own "remote" (app), and of course each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Throw in an upgraded power supply and a good USB cable, and you're still under $1500.

https://www.sotm-audio.com/sotmwp/english/portfolio-item/sms-200/

https://www.pro-jectusa.com/en-us/products/pro-ject-box-designs/dacs-and-sources/s2-line/pre-box-s2-digital
Check out the Project Ultra Stream Box S2.  For $850 it is a bargin and gets some very good ratings. Check out the German fella on YouTube. Works very well for me.  
Hey there. I bought a Cambridge Audio CXN and saw little improvement over my Bluesound Node. So I upgraded to the 851n. Never looking back. I am very pleased with it. So much that I have one in my primary residence and my secondary residence in Miami. Highly recommend. The UI isn’t awesome but it works. The sound is pretty warm but analytical enough for those that want that. For $1500 I can’t imagine much better. In fact, I bet huge diminishing returns on much spend beyond that. My 2 cents. 
I have been doing some research into this as well.

There is the bluesound node 2i which uses an app for control and can access network or USB drive audio. it’s $500. They make a more complete version called the Vault 2i that adds a 2TB internal drive and a drive transport to rip CDs directly. It’s $1200. No screens though.

Sony also makes 2 server models, the HAP series. one has a 500GB drive, and the other a 1TB...but both do have screens and physical controls to choose your music. The smaller unit is $1000. The larger is $2000.

There is a company called smallgreencomputer that makes standalone streamers and servers with or without CD transport. their sonictransporter i5 is rack mountable and about $1300. It uses roon i believe, so again. no screen.

Melco makes a unit with a screen, but it’s about $1700. Good reviews though.

Of everything I’ve seen that isn’t $10,000...I think I’m drawn to the aurender N100. it has a screen and big chunky buttons (I’m a fan) but is about $2600 which is twice what I think something like that should cost.

Take a half-decent transport. Add an SSD. Add an monochrome screen and a few clicky nav buttons....sell it for $750 and rule the entire segment. Considering you can buy a cheap laptop for $400...is it really such a challenge? Like the old National Enquirer ads used to say, “Inquiring minds want to know...”
Might check NAD C658. I have one that I recently updated with. PS Audio Directstream. I have plans to use it on a second system.  Right at your $1500 budget max. Has a rich tube sound.  The BlueOS system they use works great and easy to use. Also has DIRAC room correction. Might check it out.
Elac Discovery, Roon ready... great streamer for about $1000.00 new. Half that used. 
@badgod86,

How about Bluesound Node 2i and a iPad. You get very good streamer and built in DAC with iOS app that displays album art work on your iPad that no built in display can compete with.  

The RCA single ended output from Node 2i to your Onkyo receiver will provide you plenty of high-fidelity sound.  

The above setup will cost you $829 if you don’t own an iPad. 
I have been using a LUMIN D 1 for over 4 years. My source is Tidal Hi Fi and decoded MQA files. Cost is $2,000. They now sell the D2. Interface is via their LUMIN app on my I Pad mini. Sound quality is amazing and ease of use is the best you can find. A little extra cost will go along way.
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Lumin d2 mini

Or a bluesound node 2 w an external dac.