I've been sitting on the fence re streaming for years now, getting splinters you know where Lol. Time to get off the fence.
So here's my dilemma. I love lp, have a heavily-modded analog rig that serves my 3k lp collection v well.
Critically, I have a special cdp, the Eera Tentation, that after 2 decades of searching for digital to sit happily alongside my tt and not be shown up, target achieved. I love playing my 1.5k cds.
Throw into the mix that I am a real stick in the mud on computers, hate them with a vengeance, w streaming leaving me cold as a personal human activity, I am a hugely reluctant adopter.
Plus, SO many streamer setups I visit just have a "cold" sonic signature, akin to cdps from 80s (which I know is a lot to do w noise and hash associated w how streamed music enters the home). Only exception being an SGM 2015/Aqua Formula rig...at £30k all in. ...and lack of confidence I'll find 00s or 000s of albums to make the foray worthwhile.
Hence, my series of trade offs on streaming, choices, how much to spend, is far and away my biggest challenge in decision making in 22 years in this hobby.
Spend too little (Bluesound Node)...have a sound I'll wear of l/t Spend too much (SGM, Innuos Statement)...have no cash to spend on lps and cds (yes, I still love cd collectors editions) Don't spend enough (Innuos Zenith or SGC/Rendu maybe base level to not go below) and streaming is a sonic missed opportunity.
Throw in my "all fingers and thumbs" w using a tablet, and total lack of knowing what, and how much, is out there in my deep genre loves of prog, fusion, electric jazz, avant garde, prog ambient electronica, and there you have my intersecting pressures on a decision. Although, more and more, I'm confident I'll find at least 250 albums I never would have easily on cd, and deffo not on lp.
Last issue is Roon. To Roon or not to Roon, conflicting advice here too. ---- So here I am, open to all suggestions. I could go Bluesound Node. I could go all in one Linn or Lindemann. I could go to Zenith or SGC/Rendu plus commensurate dac like Holo Springs Kitsune.
However, my eye is drawn to MHDT dac as my option. Not a bad word on SQ reported. Indeed users are punch drunk ecstatic on their choice...at under $1.5k, if it really isn't embarassed in any way by a 10x pricier Lampi GG, it seems a no brainer. Certainly a big contrast to the Chord Qutest I'm considering. So at MDHT level, and knowing my reticence on this subject, but not wanting to shortchange myself on the streamer, which to consider?
I could go Chord2go/Hugo all in one. I could go Stack Audio The Link. Limetree Network Bridge. DCS Bridge Innuos Zenith. SGC i7/Rendu. Obv, can look to save cash here buying used.
Dacs I'm looking at...MHDT Orchid or Pagoda (maybe w BBQ Audio mods), Holo Springs Kitsune, Schiit Yggy w USB update, Chord Qutest or Hugo TT.
Is there a streamer at the affordable end that performs out of it's skin, would be a great complement to the MHDT, easyish to use...and thus at an affordable but performance-led level, get me into streaming affordably...and keep me interested 12 months down the line.
Thanks for bearing w me guys, and the inside of my fevered mind Lol.
There is a used Lumin U1 Mini with the linear power supply mod and included Sbooster LPS on Ebay for $1800. It would be hard to find better at that price - in my opinion.
I was going to buy one myself, but then I found a used DCS Network Bridge at a very good price. DCS had just added streaming support for Deezer to the NB - which I wanted to continue using. But I was very close to dumping Deezer and buying a Lumin U1 Mini and going Qobuz/Tidal.
I have only heard the Lumin T2, so I can't say how the Lumin U1 Mini sounds, but it would definitely be on my short list if I were in your shoes. I highly recommend the MHDT Labs Orchid, especially with your preference for analog. I've had a lot of DACS and it is probably the best. I say probably because I don't have an easy way to compare it to my TEAC NT-505. The TEAC is also worthy of consideration if you're open to a streamer/DAC combo.
I am using a Sonore Ultrarendu as the network bridge/streamer into an Orchid Dac. As many have said very analog sounding, mine just has the popular WE tube upgrade and a very good power cord. I am using Roon right now but I admit I am a recent convert as I did not like the $119 fee for a year but so far I can say I am very happy with the service and the features. However I have also just bought a Metrum Onyx to go head to head with it, should be here tomorrow as very intrigued by this and depending what I hear I may step up and buy the matching Metrum Ambre bridge and connect via i2s.
For the cost of the rendu and Orchid though it is hard to go wrong and as you say there are always Grannyrings mods to boost the sq even higher.
The Holo Spring Kitsune Edition was also on my short list to, all are excellent DAC,s from all accounts.
Of course you can always go the route of a Lumin D2 which is combined DAC and streamer available lightly used for well under $2000.
I have an MHDT Pagoda that was heavily modified by the previous owner. Before that I had the Havana. MHDT products are highly musical and very engaging. I am using the Pagoda with a Lumin U1 Mini. It was a very noticeable step up over the Bluesound Node 2i. For what you want, I think you want to skip right over the Node because it can be clinical sounding to my ears. The Lumin has a more natural tone with instruments.
The Holo Spring Kitsune has been on my radar too. But I'm not sure if it would be anything more than a lateral move.
I agree with Ozzy about skipping over the Bluesound. I wish I would have done that. It's a great bargain and sounds pretty good if you're not overly critical. I still have one in my bedroom system. It can easily be outclassed by spending a bit more. I had mine paired with a $3500 DAC, the Auralic Vega. The TEAC NT-505 was a very noticeable upgrade from that combination. The MHDT DACs are very good and the most "analog like" of any I've owned. The downside to the NT-505 is that there's no way to connect it to an external DAC, otherwise I would probably have the Orchid in my main system with it.
I think most any good quality streamer will do well for you with a mhdt dac. I am still quite happy with my SS mhdt Constantine. The sound is similar on many ways to that off my Linn phono setup. I use an ARC tube preamp with both.
Mapman, the phrase "most any good streamer" isn't narrowing things down too much Lol.
I'm sliding twds Innuos Zenith. Have had feedback from Grannyring here that the combination w MHDT really sings. There is good backup in UK. It's RoonCore and Endpoint. It utilises good LPSs. It leaves the avenue of Phoenix USB reclocker for the itch on going further. More than one user feedback online prefers Zenith to SGC/Rendu.
I say that because most devices capable these days are quite good including even most modern commercial devices like smart phones, tablets and other general computing devices. Its the source quality, software used to stream, DAC and overall setup that will make 99% of the difference in most cases I have found, not the hardware.
Features vary widely with streaming devices and the apps you run on them so that is a much bigger consideration than sound quality variations IMHO. Having experienced many streaming devices over teh last 10 years or so, its the features and overall value that drives my streamer decisions these days.
FWIW I still use Logitech Squeeze devices to stream in-house. Also Amazon, Google and Roku dedicated A/V streaming devices plus a variety of smartphones, tablets, and other general purpose computers to stream in-house, in car, or even away from home from a variety of sources including Plex, Logitech server and Spotify which is pretty good but not as good as other services that offer high res audio streaming.
My ref system for streaming at home is Logitech Squeeze Touch to mhdt Paradisea DAC to ARC sp16 pre-amp to BEl CAnto ref1000m monoblocks to Ohm Walsh speakers.
Hard to see going wrong with the Zenith. I’d consider going with the Audio Mirror Tubadour Mklll SE over MHDT. @teajay just reviewed it very favorably on Stereo Times, and it replaced the Orchid as his new reference DAC. Either way I’m sure it’ll sound pretty darn good, and as someone who recently got on the streaming train myself I think you’re gonna be thrilled with all the new music you’re about to discover. I’ve never had more fun as an audiophile. Best of luck.
There are so many good DACs these days that it must be hard to pick a reference.
I am a fan of mhdt for their overall "musicality". I also tend to like the concept of NOS DACs.
I had a mhdt Paradisea (tube) and Constantine (SS) both at the same time for comparison for awhile. I found myself rolling tubes in the Paradisea to get it to sound more like the Constantine, and ended up keeping the Constantine, which I still use.
Perhaps if I had a SS pre-amp, I might have gone the other way....don't know.
I have not heard the newer mhdts but have no reason to expect anything but good things from them as well.
WHen the time comes, I plan to try a BEnchmark DAC and see how I might like that in comparison. I would expect that to sound more like most good DACs these days.
I also have a Bel Canto c5i digital integrated with built in DAC and Chord Mojo portable DAC that I have plugged into my main system on occasion and those each have a unique sound, both good but in different ways.
But there are various levels of SGC and especially Rendu...up to close on $8k for the fully loaded SystemeOptique. For me, this is not a simple case of wanting the cheapest option for cheapest sake...if I did, I'd just stream YT or use a Bluesound Node. For me, I have to find a common landing point for reconciling multiple decision factors. A real aversion to the whole computer audio world (that's my personal failing, but is what it is); this rig not replacing lp or cd, but in parallel (I'll still buy as many lps and cds as ever); total ignorance of what material is out there in ætherworld re specialist genres; lack of confidence I'll get a computer audio rig to be as fully satisfying as my well established and hugely optimised lp and cd spinners.
That's why discovering a killer dac at $1k unlocks the whole equation for me. If Innuos Zen Mk3 at $2k or Zenith at $3k mates well, I can now see a landing strip where modest outlay could provide a more than modest outcome.
With MHDT box ticked, do I go Innuos w it? Or Lumin Mini, SGC/Rendu, Limetree or DCS Bridges?
The Limetree Bridge has some lovely feedback, $2k w the MDHT.
And for a little more, Chord all in one solution 2go/Hugo.
@spiritofmusic I haven’t tried the optical yet. I have my Roon nucleus connected via USB and my Oppo 105 connect CoAx and it sounds amazing. BTW. Check the mart. A really nice unit was just listed with a upgraded WE tube.
Should you decide to use Roon, be aware that Innous are about the only streamers that can also function as the Roon Core. With the other streamers, you’d need another computer on your network running Roon Core. Also consider a streamer that has USB out (don’t think Limetree does) in case you want to try an MQA DAC sometime. Most DACs only do full MQA unfold through their USB input. Good luck!
To Roon or not to Roon does remain a consideration. And I'm really unsure how decisive this is. For me, this option is gonna run alongside my preexisting formats, not instead of, or taking over from them. I have no interest at all in upsampling, dsp, multi room or fancy archiving. All I want to do is find new music on deep dive genre searches.
Another streamer that looks interesting is the Bricasti M5 - $2400 new.
There's a positive review here, and the reviewer also provides a link to his review of the DCS Network Bridge. There are a number of Agon members that have posted their impressions of the M5 and the consensus appears positive.
The Bricasti M5 does not have any native streaming capabilities of music services (Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, etc) - so you would still need a server running Roon or JRiver. No wifi in the M5, either.
To keep things simple, I was looking for a single box solution that had native internet streaming capabilities - without requiring a separate server.
In addition to the Lumin U1 Mini, the Sim Audio Moon Mind 2 ($1900) was another streamer I was looking at closely. Not a lot of reviews on it, but I reached out to a few owners directly and all had high praise for it. Most of them had come from a Node 2i.
It has native streaming capabilities for all the popular streaming services - so no Roon required, but it is Roon-ready. No USB digital out, but it does have AES out. It has built-in wifi. 10 year warranty.
I'm extremely happy with the DCS Network Bridge. I think it will scale with any future DAC I can afford. Over at AudiophileStyle, there are many owners that use it with high-end dacs from Lampizator, DCS, Total-Dac, Berkley, etc.
The NB streams the major music services natively. Drawbacks? The app is just ok, no usb-out, no wifi - which weren't dealbreakers for me. You can attach a usb-drive to the DCS NB - which I use for the handful of higher-res files that own. I bought mine for $3100 used, and I have no regrets.
People might think spending almost 2-3x of your dac on a digital front end would be crazy. Maybe. But what I've learned over my digital journey is that the source matters - a lot. I think some people might be mistakenly upgrading from their already very good dacs, when there are significant sonic gains to be made from a source upgrade.
I've never seen the Limetree Bridge before. Thanks for sharing. Looks like a good option to dip your toes in the water - but with something potentially above a Node2i. Maybe using a linear power supply with it takes it up a notch as well.
It comes with a "medical grade" SMPS it seems. My big decision really is whether relinquishing Roon early on is a mistake...will Roon make my early experience more enjoyable and fruitful. If that is the case, Innuos Zen Mk3 picks itself.
Roon: Do you have a lot of music files currently, or plan to buy hi-res files, or rip your current cd's to files? If so, it seems like the Zen Mk3 with Roon would be the way to go, as you would have a common interface/app (Roon) for both local and internet streaming, and a single box. I think I read where the Roon music discovery features really shine is if you have your own library of music. But I'm not sure.
Sorry if you've covered this already.
Most streamers today that have native internet streaming support can also connect with network storage for local file streaming - using a single app.
Deezer makes a personal channel of tracks/artists that are similar to the music that I choose to play over time. They call it "Flow". I love it. I play it all day. I think Tidal has the same thing. Great way to discover new artists.
I resisted Roon for years simply because I baulked at the $119 a year. I gave it a 14 day free trial after which I paid for a year and have not looked back. I have Roon core running on a separate win10 laptop hooked up to my network, my ultrarendu is on the network and now passes signal via usb to Metrum Onyx dac ( replaced the Orchid yesterday). Just my opinion but Roon as an end user experience is outstanding, it has found music unknown to me that neither Qobuz or Spotify did with genre searches.
I love the way you can have your Roon remote on as many devices as you please, have multiple zones as I now have 4 separate Roon zones throughout the house. Practicality is excellent, is their an uptick in SQ? Hard to tell tbh but it is certainly no worse!
In my system it blew the Orchid away but I think that is because the Orchid is tubes and it runs into my BAT which is also tubes. Too many tubes and it lost some of the punch and dynamics I was looking for. The Onyx while maybe not quite as musical is a lot more inciteful and has that big dynamic factor and an even wider and deeper soundstage if possible! The Orchid sold in 48 minutes from listing it here... lol
Spirit. It is obviously very system dependent, might work out fine in your system. In mine I always had the feeling it was being held back a little. I think the Orchid is $1300 new and instant resale at $1050 if you don't like, I do not think they have a return policy?
The only downside I now see to my Metrum is that in between buying it and receiving it their owners went bust so now very little support for Metrum products.
@spiritofmusic I've never tried my Orchid in my all tube main system, but have used it with my ARC Vsi55 tubed integrated and it sounded fantastic to my ears. This is in a computer system and at the time I think I had my Focal 1008 BE speakers in there. I'm currently using it with a Vincent SV-237 tube/SS integrated and Harbeth P3ESR and it sounds wonderful.
Tubed gear really does seem to fall into euphonically warm or truthful and revealing camps. I've never gotten on w BAT gear, too warm for my tastes but my Nat triodes are hugely authentic. If the MHDT gear fits closer to authentic than overly glowing, it'll suit me just fine. I just need an inexpensive "in" to streaming, to keep me interested, and not be embarrassed by my well established, optimised tt and cdp.
Just upgrade the output caps that are not very resolving and the Orchid is no longer a tad dark. The unit opens up dramatically and is more nuanced and resolving with the upgrade. It still remains very musical also. Vcap Odam 2.2uf bypassed with Vcap Cutf .01uf. The combo is fantastic and really does improve the dac greatly. Ask owners like StewG here that has heard it before and after. I have heard 10 Orchid units before and after and know how this dac responds to well chosen upgrades. This alone is a great upgrade that is very simple to do. Any DIY dude with skills can do it. A local tech can do it.
I can also also share with you 8 resistor locations to upgrade and what exact part to use. This takes the Orchid to yet another level. A nice fuse is also a sonic upgrade.
Of the DACs you mention the Chord looks to be the most neutral so it would be closer to the most authentic. Ones you haven't mentioned that would be true to the source are Benchmark DAC3 or Topping D90.
@musicmann1 I'm really happy with the Vincent. Besides the ARC, I have a Peachtree Audio Nova 300 and had a Heed Elixir for a while and have also owned Peachtree Grand Integrated X1 and a Krell KAV-300i. The Krell was my initiation into integrateds. It was OK, but not that great. The Peachtrees are very smooth and neutral, while still having a fair amount of detail. They are nice sounding units, but not as exciting as the ARC, which was more punchy and had a richer sound, without being overly "tubey". The ARC was just too hot for my small computer room, which is why I replaced it with the Vincent.
At first I thought I'd made a mistake with the Vincent, it sounded grainy and harsh (compared to the ARC), much like the Heed Elixir (which didn't last long in my system). I replaced the stock tube in the Vincent with a Tungsram ECC 83 tube and it really smoothed out the sound, and has most of the same sonic characteristics as the ARC. It has 10 watts of Class A, which I probably never get out of in that small space and the integrated section is tubed. I'd say it's probably 95% or more as good as the ARC if I had to assign a value to it, only because the ARC is just a little bit smoother. I usually listen to it for an hour or so every morning with my main source being my computer into a MHDT Labs Orchid DAC. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
You said you don't want to deal with computers and you're not even sure about tablets, so I assume you have no stored music library or interest in one and that takes away some of the value of Roon and a Roon Core. While a lot of the responses have been on sound quality, those are based on opinions, all of us have different ears and tastes, none of us have heard everything, so you're going to get some good advice but no consensus. Two considerations I haven't seen mentioned are ease of use of the associated applications and the streaming services you plan to use or try. I tested an Innuous and while the support in England was very good, they had no plans to add Amazon Music or (Tidal) MQA so that limited two services I was interested in. If you go Innuos, you'll probably be limited mostly to Qobuz, which has good sound quality but for my tastes isn't as easy to use or have quite as much of the music I like. Most streamers' apps work with Apple products but some struggle with Android. Some are easier to use than others so make sure you factor that into your equation. Innuos works better with Apple, I believe, and I tried another that froze so often with my Android tablets I gave up and returned it. I didn't want to keep an iPad around and charged simply for music but you may decide otherwise. The extra screen size of a tablet over a phone is pretty handy for selecting your music and viewing details on the band and song.
For what it's worth, I bought a Bluesound Vault 2i. Yes, it may not be an endgame unit for a high-quality system, but it's a good all-in-one introduction to streaming and it couldn't be simpler. The Vault lets you burn all your CDs in the unit and since my CD player was old, I did that and once complete, I haven't touched my CD unit since. It's so simple to pick and choose among my library and all the music services. The interface is simple, not as good as Roon but it doesn't cost me an extra $120 a year. I figure I can always add a better DAC or combination and move this into my second system.
On Roku, I run Plex app to play from my music library. Plex also provides Tidal streaming. You can also run Spotify or other streaming apps. Depending on TV, you might do audio out to an amp and speakers for better sound.