Move to the next level


I would appreciate opinions. In the past two years I have put together a modest system that has tremendously increased my appreciation of music. I have legacy collections of vinyl and cds, about 500 of each, but what has really excited me is streaming because of the way it lets you roam through time and genre virtually unrestricted. Currently I am listening to a Yamaha wxc50 connected to a Rogue Sphinx which feeds into a pair of KEF LS50s and a Syzygy SLF850 sub. I also have a Mac mini running Audirvana that hosts my ripped collection of CDs in the Apple lossless format and that runs into the Sphinx through a Topping D50s DAC.I am at the point where I'm ready to make a major investment in a quality source for my system to move to the next level of sound quality. I’m thinking of a budget of about $5000 for which I’d like a streamer/server with quality power supplies and preferably the DAC, along with, if within budget,  Roon. Candidates so far are the Aurilac Aries G2, Innuous Zenith Mk II, SOTM SMS200-ultra, and Lumin D2. What do you think fellow sound addicts?
bruce19
Hi Bruce, You left out Aurender? The main reason why I bring up the Aurender is the Conductor app. Its ease of use and many features are just the start of what can only be called "magical" in terms of sound quality when you hear it.. Also, Aurender makes streamers that have USB audio output so you can use your own DAC and save some money. I think the Aurender X100L is around $2800-$4500 (depending on size of internal storage) .This is a source that you will love forever!

https://aurender.com/x100

Matt
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Matt, I completely overlooked Aurender. They look promising and there are actually some dealers near me (New Jersey) which is a big plus. Thanks!
Thank you Dweller for the names, but I'm hoping for guidance along the lines of strengths and weaknesses, preferably based on personal experience.
Are you looking for "chip" DACS or R2R DACS? Or does it matter? I have little experience in streaming and find myself in the same position as you, so I will follow along for education. I can say that ExaSound  has become an interest. Good reviews but they are R2R. Same with Metrum & Schiit Yiggy which are also interesting. 
Artemus, thank you for bringing another contender to my attention. I have not settled in one DAC camp or the other due to inadequate opportunities to actually listen to a variety of DACs. But I currently I am of the opinion, based on reading, that DACs are like ice cream, they come in flavors. Ideally you listen to enough and you develop an opinion of what goes best with you taste on your system. For that reason I was trying to start with a quality streaming source, figuring to address the DAC question down the road. However I have run into the reality that there are many interesting products out there like your Exasound and like the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge, that "start" with the DAC and add on the streamer/network bridge. Life is complicated.I like the look of the Exasound products and they are in the right price range...have you heard them?
@bruce19, Lots of possibilities. If your top priority is to simply improve SQ, most any of the suggestions given will likely do the trick. Understanding and prioritizing your secondary objectives are what will differentiate between many of the options. Do you prefer on-board or out-board DAC, how much of a priority is Roon and the list goes on. One thing you didn't mention is Bluesound? Their product offers terrific value and would allow you to focus more on the DAC if you wanted to go in that direction first? I just upgraded from Bluesound Vault to Innuos Zenith. I can give you some details on what pushed me in that direction if you are interested. Best of luck.
@Chilehed, I would love to hear your reflections on your move from the Vault to the Zenith. I am not considering the Bluesound only because I don't perceive it as enough of a step up sound-wise from the Yamaha WXC-50 I currently have, to be worthwhile.  You made the kind of jump I am considering. I'm not so sure that the integrated file server is essential for me. I have a Mac mini with Audirvana that works well and I suppose I could always stream files from the Mac to the streamer. Integration would just simplify things and hopefully add a tad more sound quality.  I appreciate what Roon offers but I'm not sure it is worth the price of admission for me. Since I'd be holding an Ipad anyway to control the system, it seems very easy to jump to wikipedia, allmusic or other places to research artists composers etc. The one thing that would tip in Roon's favor is if they offer the kind of info that used to be standard on pop and jazz album covers naming the sidemen by track, song authorship, producer, etc..I don't know if they do this.  I am currently using Spotify and I can tell you that they very rarely offer this info to a sufficient degree. Recently I had the chance to use Roon while listening in an audio store; I didn't find the interface that intuitive, despite being pretty computer literate with other software.
@bruce19, you are probably right about the move to Bluesound. I only mention it because of the value and that it is widely integrated with all the popular services and has a well integrated control app. I know Yamaha makes some good stuff and am a fan from way (way) back. I guess I was thinking that if you went in this direction you could focus on the DAC which arguably has a greater affect on SQ (for me it certainly did). Going from the onboard Bluesound DAC to the Benchmark DAC3 I currently use was immediate and obvious. Going from the Bluesound Vault to the Innuos required a bit of auditory memory (mine sucks) and it was not obvious until I played a bunch of well known tracks on the Innuos and then switched and played the same tracks on the Bluesound. It should also be noted that I did the BS/Innuos comparison at the dealer using the same DAC/amp/speakers (but different signal path as BS uses SPDIF and Innuos uses USB). I had some issues getting Innuos integrated at home so was switching back and forth with the BS. Being more familiar with the sound of my system and the room made it much easier for me to distinguish between the two. I still only have 25 or so hours on the Innuos and it sounds noticeably better than BS. I’m not great with colorful audiophile adjectives, but there is more image definition and separation between performers with Innuos. It adds to the palpability and puts you that much closer to the presentation, and at this point that is what I am after. But aside from the improved SQ I have been interested in Roon. My son has it and I am intrigued by the features and amount of background content they make available to the user. I don’t have a suitable server to host the core so being able to run that on the Zenith is a plus and I am seriously hoping that works out because the alternative control app (orange squeeze) I am currently using is a clunker. I also have a library of ripped CDs that I had on my Vault so having the ability to import them to the Innuos was also attractive to me. Already I can say I’ve achieved the incremental SQ improvement I was after so even if I don’t see more changes during break-in I am happy. The one negative is that I miss the Bluesound control app. If I can get Roon to integrate with no negative side effects that will be a huge plus.
In the end I was looking for a Vault upgrade and since the Zenith is almost an exact overlay from a feature perspective it made my decision easy. I think you have more to consider? Good news is you have considerable budget and no shortage of dealers that are willing to let you listen or demo their gear and that is the fun part:) Best of luck on your journey.
I been running a Wyred4Sound modded Sonos for years to a Wadia 321. I wanted to move up so I could stream 24/96Khz and above on Qobuz. I found a Bryston Pi used for half price. Took a few weeks to get it sorted but the improvement is there. Manic Moose interface is spartan compared to apps but having a browser interface has its advantages. It also came with a Radioparadise FLAC 16/48 capability but alas it does not work. It is Roon Ready. But the only services it appears to support are Tidal and Qobuz. I like that fact it has an external power supply. It mounted an external drive with some tracks I bought off of HDtracks and sorted those and plays seamlessly. Small, light weight and good looking piece of hardware. https://bryston.com/digital-audio/bdppi/.
If I had $5K to spend I would be considering BDP-3 and BDA-2 combo. If you need DSD you have to shell out more $$
But there is a BDA-3 here that looks interesting.  https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649565689-bryston-bda-3-silver-with-blue-lights-dealer-demo-piec...
@jbuhl, I studied the Bryston  Pi and the other Bryston items. Have you seen this review of the B-pi by Hans Beekhuysen?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4FU1tqZdeUI like him a lot and found it enlightening. But its not the direction I want to go. The Bryston player and dac are more in that direction but if I was going that high for hardware I think another Canadian offering, the NAD 50.2 would be a strong competitior. Especially since I have previous good experience with NAD products and the dealers are easier to find in my neighborhood. BTW that BDA-3 dac you pointed me to resides right down the road from me in New Jersey. I think it is more DAC than I want right now but I may go take a look. Thanks!
@bruce19 No, I have not heard the exasound. I live in flyover country where hifi sales don't really exist. I do a lot of reading and have put a pretty good system together without hearing it first. This is what the internet has brought us w/ online sales. Plus any have 30 day $$$ back which is helpful.

That sauid, one of my worst buys was heard prior in the hifi store. Sounded great. Then I took it home where I hated it for a year and sold it. That was back in the mid 80's. So I don't worry about auditions anymore.
What I’m running with right now in my system would fall within your budget. Roon Nucleus feeding Chord Qutest DAC via Curious USB Cable. The Nucleus has a bay which can be fitted with an SSD or HDD such that it could function as your server.
At full retail:
Roon Nucleus $1399
Lifetime Roon Member ship
                         $699
Chord Qutest  $1695
Curious USB    $350
==================
Total                $4143
Still leaves room within your budget to purchase SSD and upgraded power supplies if so desired for Nucleus and/or Qutest.
I’m currently utilizing Small Green Computer 5v LPS ($160) with my Qutest and stock power supply with my Nucleus.
The key to all this is using Roon Nucleus as your Server, functioning as Roon Core Server and Player. You can substitute the DAC and USB Cable of your choice. I find that this setup works very well.


@artemus_5 , you would think being in NJ I'd have lots of choices but perhaps it has to do with the death of retail but I have found that usually when you get to a dealer they may not have the model I am interested in, making it a "special order" and if they do it is connected to equipment that is so different from what I own that the listening test is meaningless.

@jazzman7 , Thanks for your post on a couple of counts.

First it brings me to realize I don't fully understand the exact meaning of the terms server, streamer, bridge and player. So I've got to do some homework. Which of these can access online streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and radio stations vs playing audio files from a local source?
Second, I gather that the above streaming capability is a combination of hardware and software functions. There is proprietary software like the Musicast system on my Yamaha, but then there seem to be several downloadable versions of  software that can provde similar if not identical functionality presumably, if you have the right hardware. Piecing this part together is another blind spot at the moment. Any light you can shed would be appreciated.
Third, I'm was not familiar with Small Green Computer in New Hampshire, they look like an interesting company. Had you previously used their Sonictransporter before getting your Roon Nucleus. It looks like it is a parallel product.

Lastly, does your current set up offer access to on-line streaming services and radio, if so how? If not that is the key missing piece for me in you otherwise admirable setup.
@bruce19, I’ll attempt to answer your questions one at a time.
There is a fair amount of overlap when it comes to servers, streamers, network bridges, and players. But a fair amount of the functionality of the hardware pretty much comes down to the capabilities of the operating software that it is running. A server or player/renderer may or not have have an internal DAC. Most will also function as a network bridge. Most will also support use of an external DAC. A pure network bridge will require use of an external DAC.

Roon software supports Tidal, Qobuz, Internet Radio, and streaming from local libraries of Rips and Downloads. It currently does not support Spotify. What is simply marvelous about Roon is the way that it integrates selections from Tidal and/or Qobuz with your own personal local libary. Your Tidal and Qobuz favorites appear alongside your personal local stuff by Artist, just as if it was part of your local library. And what is also simply marvelous is the Artificial Intelligence built into Roon which supports music discovery. If you allow it, Roon will pick selections for you based on other selections you have played, both from your own library as well as from subscription services.

With Roon, you have the concept of Roon Core and Roon Endpoints.
Roon Core can be run on a PC or MAC, but to do it right, Roon Core really ought to be run on a dedicated Roon Server. A multitasking PC which is also running Roon is a recipe for sub optimal performance.

I picked up my Roon Nucleus in November. I simply love it and there is no going back. I’m currently streaming from my local library as well as Qobuz. Prior to Qobuz I was streaming from Tidal. And prior to Roon I was streaming via Bluesound products. I’ve had Bluesound kit since 2014 and have four pieces of Bluesound kit around the house, and all can function as Roon Endpoints. Via Blu OS I can get to other Blu OS supported subscription services such as Spotify (but currently I’m only doing Qobuz).

I had considered the Sonic Transporter, but considered the Nucleus to be a better solution as it is a perfectly tailored solution by the same vendor. Roon had long been on my roadmap. When my local dealer announced he was closing his store and retiring, I picked up the store’s demo unit at the retirement sale.

My system as of October 2019 can be seen here https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8156
In November the Roon Nucleus replaced my Bluesound Node 2i as my principal streaming source.

I hope I have addressed your questions. If not you can either get back to me here and/or via PM.

In summary, Roon if done right is expensive, but in my opinion if you can afford it well worth it, especially in conjunction with Qobuz and/or Tidal.






 Not Looking to hijack this thread. I’m thinking about upgrading my Oppo 105 , that I’m using as DAC for my Roon Nucleus. My Oppo is feed into my Marantz Sr7005 via RCA.  Nucleus is connected to the Oppo vis USB.  What would be considered the next level up from the Oppo as a DAC ? 
@gelle  what is your budget and what are you currently using for a USB Cable.
@jazzman7. Budget >2k. Using a pretty standard USB cable that was recommended when I had my Squeeze Box Touch connected to the Oppo using EDO. 
@gelle with that type of budget my personal first choice would be the combination of the Chord Qutest and the Curious USB Cable for use with the Roon Nucleus. That is what I am using in my main rig. Having said that, your budget gives you plenty of other good options .... and a lot depends upon what you are looking for in terms of features from a DAC.
Other choices that I have considered (both new or used) include the very fine Ayre Codex and products offered by Schitt and Mytek among others. But as I said above a lot depends upon what features you value as well as the type of sound that you prefer. Also very much like the Bryston products. I have a BDA-1 (used to be in my main rig, now in a second system), but in your case you would require a BDA-2 or above to mate via USB with your Nucleus.
Thank you. I'll look into your suggestions
Thank you. I'll look into your suggestions. I was thinking about when you asked me what USB cable I was using. Do you think I should upgrade that first and see what results I get? If so should I try the Curious Cable?
@gelle,
I think that if I was in your shoes I'd start with the DAC, but recognize that the USB Cable which is an important component in and of itself may be a limiting factor. It's all about synergy and everything matters. That being said, all things being equal, I'd start with the DAC, get it broken in and live with it for a while first before pursuing a better USB Cable. In other words, would rather match the USB Cable to the DAC, than working to match the DAC to the USB Cable. Where possible, I find it makes sense to control one variable at a time.     
Thanks again @jazzman7