Mid Range Streamer DAC recommendation help requested!


Good evening,

In looking for a new one box music streamer /DAC  I am striking out as far as the actual in store, "seeing, listening and buying" process is now a little bit harder to find.  

 Two of our local brick and mortar A/V stores have closed, Axpona is postponed until 2021, and the big city stores are now curbside delivery or online only.   

For now I am hoping to share this discussion with the Agon experts here to get your thoughts and feedback regarding a few possible good music streamer / DAC candidates.

I am looking for a  good quality Streamer/ DAC  that should provide years of good, enjoyable music service.

Some of the  Brands /models that I have read about as being good mid range devices are listed below:

Bryston BDA 3.14
Cary Audio  DMS-550
LUMIN  T2
Mytek  Brooklyn  Bridge / Manhattan

Please share your experiences (good or bad)  if you have had some extended / operating listening time with any of these components!   

Some of the criteria that I would hope to find would be :

1. Very good sound quality,    
2. Reliable, durable,  (something that does not break down during streaming or need  frequent tweaks or updates)
3. Future-proof, (as much as is reasonable) 
4. A product that is fairly easy to operate, and also fun to use.
5.  Right Jacks and plugs for the key connectors.  (Do not need a headphone jack or TT connector at this time).
6. Good quality  DAC chips, with equally high specs for playback PCM and DSD levels, etc.
7. Should function perfectly with ROON, Tidal, MQA, Qobuz, etc.

Not interested in the multiple box / PC route as I am not an IT person.  

PS 1: There may other Streamer DACs that should also be included  in this list ,and please suggest those in your reply email.

PS2: The output end of the music is through Legacy Amps and Legacy Focus SE speakers.

PS3: I will pursue some type of  digital storage in the future, maybe like a Roon Nucleus or equivalent. 
Hopefully that future NAS will mesh perfectly with the new streamer  DAC.

Thank you very much!

Dan


  








dan2019
search is your friend, my friend
Yes, there are dozens of threads in this section discussing these issues, so a few brief comments.
1) OP doesn’t mention if they intend to use a streaming service such as Tidal or if they intend to rip convert a CD collection and stream that.  If converting CDs will be involved then equipment for that is required.
2). Expect some degree of difficulty.  In general it’s not as easy as pop open a CD drawer and play the disc.  WiFi vs wired is another issue.  Customer Service will be important, since because some degree of difficulty is to be expected you want to be able to contact the company and get reasonable support.
3) controlling app is critical.  For example my Bryston BDA-3 sounds magnificent but is not fun to use due to a terrible software controlling program.
Lumin T2, a great one box solution.
I've said all this stuff before, but I'm still loving my Mytek Brooklyn Bridge.  Via the Mytek BB, Qobuz and Primephonic, my two streaming sources, can deliver truly excellent sound quality.  And now that the BB is pretty much broken in, my moving coil-equipped turntable sounds good enough through the device to take me out of the market for a stand-alone analog stage.  More often than not, double-layered CD/SACDs sound better via the BB's DAC than through my SACD's SACD output.  Agreed, my system is forgiving when it comes to brightness, and the BB's control panel that is set up on my Windows laptop sometimes needs to be helped through a couple of hoops in order to operate, but even if you and your PC have gone brain dead, you can still just press the appropriate buttons on the BB itself.
All this isn't to say that you can't do better than the Mytek, but at this point I've stopped obsessing about componentry.  Instead I leisurely cruise Primephonic, cue-ing up yet one more performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.
How many times has this question been asked and answered? What seems to be ignored is the importance of the functionality of the app that goes with the streamer. If you mainly add classical music to your Tidal etc library  I have not found one adequate app. Idagio is the only one that adequately catalogues classical albums by composer but Idagio is a streaming service for classical music only and is pay for play. Even Roon doesn't get it right and is very hit and miss with it's search engine. Many apps are fine for rock, jazz etc as long as you know the artists first name but can't get it right for classical.
Enjoying my NAD C658 but only because I couldn’t afford the Mytek BB. 
What are you planning to stream to? This was another reason I went with Blueos, future expandability in his-def. 

Your mileage may vary....
I can recommend the Antipodes line of streamer servers. I have the DS.

Great sound, reliable, has all the right connections and runs Roon etc perfectly.
The aftersales support is flawless too, bearing in mind that they are in New Zealand so time zones come into play there.
Good hunting!
I had a bluesound node2 which was really good, cost effective and easy to use. I recently upgraded to a PS Audio Directstream with network bridge 2 which is phenomenal. While the PS Audio is pricy rather than a DAC chip it is a programmed array which means they can fully update it every year for free. So if you bought one 10 years ago all you do is plug in the SD card each year with the new firmware and you have the exact same machine as if you bought one today. It supports Roon so you can stream from your NAS really easily and Roon supports Tidal.
SimAudio Moon 280d is niiice 

lumin t2 nice 

From what I've heard around here the best option is the Lumin or for much less $$$$ Pro-Ject Stream Box RS.
It has tube sweetness,  3.5" color display for art and remote. ~$1300.
@dan2019 Dan, what is your expected budget? You could have a look at the Cocktail Audio line up. I have the X45Pro and it would tick all your boxes, but maybe not your budget. But do look at the range. They are very good. 🇦🇺
I am enjoying Lumin T2 for the last 4 months. Very nice sound with a deep sound stage.

Also it has a nice software which works perfectly fine with the streaming services as well as my own music library running from QNAP network storage.
If you like "digital" sound, any DAC listed in your post will do the job because all of them qualify for specified requests. However, if by "very good sound" you mean very emotional, or very analog, probably none of here listed devices will make it. I've noticed that all recent DACs are trying to provide maximal neutrality and the smallest details in musical reproduction. In a sense, they all act like binoculars allowing you to see the smallest detail on perfectly clear winter horizon (it's freezing...). They all lack to transmit the emotion to my ears. I'm sure that many Audiogon audiophiles and happy owners of Bryston, Mytek, Blusound, PSAudio etc. will not agree with me, and will probably kill me for saying this. But I've found myself happier with a decade-old tube DACs like Musical Fidelity Tri Vista (modified), EAR Yoshino DACute, EAR Acute Classic CD & DAC, and more recently with Audio Note DAC 5, and Lampizator Big7. All of them are tube DACs, they have a distinct personality and their creators had the Analog Sound as a primary goal to achieve. The one I found most easy to live with is EAR Acute Classic. Connected to my Mac (USB or optical) it acts like streamer for Tidal and most of the time I'm using it as CD player. I may have more transparency and more neutrality with Mytek, but honestly, I do not care because that Tim de Paravicini's work is just a splendid music box. Anything I listen with it comes out in the beautiful summer-night landscape. But, if you are not into analog-sound pursuit, you will probably dislike it. It's been 4 decades that we listen digital sound mostly. So almost all of us have already lost the taste for analog. Unless you own a turntable as well.
Teac NT-505... I have one for about five months... bought it directly from Teac USA with %40 discount...Installed firmware upgrade right away... SQ is just amazing and so far no complaints, except original app won’t work stable, but this is not a problem, cause Linn apps works with it just perfectly.... highly recommended. 
I know the bryston is very good and sounds incredible.  Has a very long warranty as well.
I don't think you'd go wrong with any of the devices you've listed.  I've heard the Bryston and Lumin and they both sounded fantastic.  I owned a Mytek Liberty DAC and for me it was too analytical.  The Bryston and Lumin both have a fuller sound that is easier to listen to and sounds more "analog".  The higher end Mytek may be different, but usually brands have a certain sound signature.

I think the TEAC NT-505 mentioned by the previous poster will tick all your boxes.  It sounds great and is more affordable than most of the items you listed.  
I know you said single box and you are not techey. But don’t rule out the pc route into external dac. The pc is always updating on auto pilot, unlimited storage, backed up and portable. External dac can in most cases outperform internal dac’s that come with streamers. For upgrade in dac you just replace it instead of the entire single box. Schiit has dac’s with at home upgrade and slide in slide out circuit board upgrades.
"Mid-range" streamer is the question to me... 

My interpretation of your ask is the key component is the DAC - the ways in which you provide source content to the DAC, streaming, CD transport, NAS, etc.

My journey has led me to Moon 280D, it also has streaming capabilities.  This is an upgrade from my initial streaming journey was facilitated by Bluesound Node 2i.  

The MiND Controller App is very good - able to access Tidal, Qubuz and the like.  It works with my NAS easily.  The Bluesound App is more familiar to me and I view it as better.

I purchased the unit primarily as a DAC - because I could use the Node 2i as a streamer.  Streaming may become a common feature on mid-tier and higher DACs going forward.

The sound quality of the Moon DAC versus the Bluesound DAC is significant.  The details in the music come through with details that are effortless to observe.  I noticed many additional details in comparing the same song sequentially.

Good luck on your journey
I just sold my Bluesound Node 2i->Schitt Yggdrasil combo due to the fact that once I put the Teac NT-505 in line I didn't want to switch back it's simply a great sounding piece of gear.  

I've had a lot of DAC's and it's definitely a winner and kind of a Goldilocks purchase for me as I'm almost never pleased with the purchase of a digital product.

I've had zero issues with mine but others apparently have I would only purchase this product from a dealer with outstanding customer service.
Matrix Audio Element-X... Read up on it. :)

Where are you located?
I have a older Oppo Bd-105 feeding a Anthem STR integrated amp with Focal Aria 936 speakers. Does Tidal well but want more options. I have been looking at the Cary Audio DMS-550 since it's on sale and has a 30 day return policy. 
I wonder if you did a  blind testing if you can really hear the difference between a Bluesound Node 2i and a high end streamer?  If so, what would you hear.  Dealers here in Denver don't really demonstrate different streamers to compare.  If there is a difference in sound quality is it significant.  
OP - I am biased to use LUMIN for a streamer /  DAC - I bought a LUMIN D1 ( Wolfson DAC) 5 years ago. It ran great - the software interface on my I pad mini runs great. I stream Tidal - you have to hard wire to get a quality signal to the streamer. I just upgraded to the LUMIN T2 6 months ago. The soundstage got bigger (width and depth). Vocal separation improved, instruments are better isolated in the soundstage - very musical IMO.

No mechanical issues and you get auto software upgrades via the internet. 

you cannot go wrong with LUMIN. IMO a LUMIN customer for life!
I'm just going to throw this out there. The Topping E30 DAC (with remote and volume control option) has completely transformed my listening experience and my system. Strong words, I know but I stand by it. Not to mention the stupid price of $129. Digital improves at a faster pace than anything else so it's not surprising that something like this would eventually happen. That's my input.
Good evening and WOW!

I just wanted to briefly say Thank You for all of your thoughtful,  and detailed filled replies!    I have already learned a lot, and have some new options to consider!

I have printed each reply note and formulate a more thorough response over the weekend.

(Again I do apologize  as i did not realize this  question  has been asked  on this specific forum in the past, and  I thank each of you for your patience!! )

Enjoy your  Independence Day weekend!

Thanks

Dan


Very satisfied LUMIN customer here too.  I loved my T2 so much that I just purchased an X1 and moved the T2 to move second system.  I've listened to the T2 extensively both with and without the DAC and it continued to impress.  That's part of what I'd call "future proof" because you never know what future system change could necessitate or eliminate the need for the onboard DAC.  The software interface is probably my favorite one too.
Another alternative: build a dedicated computer (which is basically what all streamers are). You can build a small NUC (with or without a fan, depending on where you plan to keep the device), with 4 or 8 MB of RAM, one small hard drive for software, and another or others for your own digital collection). The only software you need is Roon ROCK. If you are concerned that quality of wiring and board construction affect sound, you can source whatever components you prefer online. And the whole thing will cost a fraction of the price of a Lumin or Aurender, potentially less than $1000, including the $600 lifetime Roon license.
I’m another sold on Lumin customer. The D2 is a perfect match feeding Tidal/Roon to a Primaluna Dialogue HP Integrated providing great music i enjoy for hours on end with no ear/brain fatigue. That is one true benefit of being “banished” to work at my home for the past 3+ months. My new office is in my main listening room. Just a small slice of sunlight in these otherwise dark times. Enjoy the blessing of having the means to pursue this hobby and the musical fruit it bears. 
I recently bought the Cambridge cxnv2 and have to say I love it. It sounds mostly delicious erring towards the warmer side of the spectrum. Currently it’s feeding my old but still impresses Musical Fidelity A3 twin mono integrated which is powering my also newly acquired Monitor Audio Silver 500’s. Chord c line interconnects so overall nothing too fancy. The Cambridge really is a well designed and thought streamer cater for almost all formats. Look it up and also don’t forget the YouTube reviews. Darko was very impressed...
Lots of suggestions here but I can recommend the PS Audio DirectStream with Bridge as a great sounding option. It has been my reference for the last 2 years and even though the rest of my system has been upgraded significantly (eg Gryphon separates) the PSA still fills its shoes. There were a lot of firmware issues earlier on but they have been sorted out and Roon is very reliable. It’s not as comprehensive with direct streaming support (eg it took a while to get Spotify and it was spotty [har har] at first though this has likely improved) but you’ll be set with Roon. If you’re looking for longevity, the upgradability of the DirectStream’s FPGA is a great selling point though the latest firmware has been great and I’m not sure how many more gos Ted Smith has in mind for this model. He’s been able to repurpose work on his new reference DAC in the older model to some extent so that’s promising.

i agree with a previous comment that Roon integration with Tidal and Qobuz leaves something to be desired, but I’ve found it to be serviceable and I never use the native apps. If you want to do some serious curation you can always sit at your computer and create playlists in Tidal which Roon can access. 

For less money I have always liked Cambridge - they make a solid product. 
Cheers,
TAWW
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