Music Streamer Quality

This may be a dumb question but does the quality of a music streamer ultimately affect the sound? So here's some detail. I currently have a Sonos music streamer fed into a Simaudio Moon 300D dac. In the interest of having higher quality sound I could upgrade the dac or I could buy a dac with streaming capability such as the Simaudio 280D. I'm looking at a R2R ladder dac but would have the same Sonos feeding it. Does that make more sense than something like the Moon device? I appreciate an comments.
Yes it matters and personally I think you should stay separate, doing so will allow you to upgrade in stages. A new dac now and then down the road replace the Sonos.There are several threads about the Auralic Aries Mini and Blue Sound Node2 both would be a nice upgrade to your Sonos. Do some reading there is a lot to absorb here!
That has been my issue jond, there is so much to absorb! I thought if I could combine both devices into one then I not only eliminate one device (and the related cables) but also have perhaps a little better synergy. Anyway, just trying to figure out which direction to go.
In my opinion, so much of this is evolving before our eyes.
By using separate components, you get the best of both worlds- highest fidelity at the time, and the ability to upgrade in the future.
I give a +1 for Bluesound.
It has great wireless connectivity and also allows you to output to a separate DAC.
As far as DAC's go, I would try to keep the budget around $2K.
Like I said, the tech evolves so quickly that what is SOTA, may be eclipsed in a year or two.
My 2 fav's are the Ayre Codex and the Schiit Gungnir or Yggy.
+1 also for bluesound . Vault 2 w Ayre codex has, for the money, great sound and usability.
I checked out the Ayre, both the Codex and the QB-9 but unfortunately I need multiple inputs. streamer, tv, & Oppo.
If you're looking for a DAC with multiple RCA coax inputs, the options collapse into only a handful, at least based on my search, within a reasonable price range. I don't care much for the optical input. I had a limited budget so I went with a Cambridge Audio DACmagic Plus. I'm feeding my CDP and Node2 into it and the sound quality is quite good. Bryston BDA models all have two coax inputs and depending on your budget you can go new or used.  
Another +1 for the Bluesound Node 2

It has a great analogue output stage,which responds very well to great cables - IC's and power cables.

I was using a good mains cable and a C7 power Adapter. I changed the IEC connector to a C7 connector, which did away with the c7 adapter - the improvements were extremely noticeable.

It may seem frivolous to spend more on the cables than I spent on the component, but in this case the improvements in sound quality was well worth it.

I found the Node 2's DAC& analogue output stage was better than my Bifrost 4470 DAC - so it's no longer part of my system

Regards - Steve   
I had a Sonos and things didn’t sound quite right, so I tried running Tidal from my iPod through my CD player (it has a USB line in) and that did the trick. Dynamics returned, etc.

I gave the Sonos to a non-audiophile friend.

(note: I did upgrade the power cable for the Sonos to a PS Audio Jewel C7 cable and recall this helping slightly),

Hello I have had excellent  performance with thd Aurender 100H-2T HD 
With class leading super fast 120GIG memory buffer ,linear PS
Custom library interface , Tidal and much more with Gigabyte WiFi 
For under $2300 and built very well 10 lbs ,and numerous awards .
If you want to put Everything on the internal HD it is faster and better 
Upgrade as well as help desk write on same access page very well thought 
Out and customer service is very good, and most of all sounds Excellent 
I did add a Synergistic Black fuse as well as a quality Cardas PC.

I use a Simaudio 300D mk2 with a Wyred4Sound modified Sonos Connect  Sounds great.  The Wyred mod made a big difference. 
Another vote for Bluesound Node 2. If you run that into a Schiit Gungnir multibit dac, you're talking seriously good sound, a highly functional and a really well designed music server for a bit over 2k. If funds allow, I think it's a superlative bargain. Good luck. 
+1 for Auralic Aries mini. It's super flexible and the iPhone Directstream app is quite elegant. Plus, their customer service (if you ever need it) is outstanding. 
I have a Moon 780D and I get better sound using the internal MiND streamer vs using my Meridian Sooloos MS600 to feed it via an MIT Oracle digital coax.  Not sure if this is due to a shorter signal path or just differences in the sonics of the streaming devices. 
Falconquest - There is no reason to upgrade your dac at this time... the Sonos is the weaker part of your system.  If you want to keep the Sonos, an external re-clocker or Wyred4Sound modification will make a big difference, especially if used with a good power cord.  I owned the unmodified and W4S modded Sonos with Furutech FP-320ag power cord that has the C8 connector, and this source sounded much better than the standard Sonos.  However, you can improved the sound quality even further  by moving to a small streaming source like the MicroRendu from Sonore or the SMS-200 from SOTM audio.  
I've owned the MicroRendu since fall 2016 and can safely say it is a major upgrade over the modified Sonos.  If the other parts of your system are reasonably good quality, you will hear music like never before.   Plus, you can use Roon to stream from Tidal, which is opens doors to other musical worlds.   BTW, I've used several dacs with the W4S Sonos in the past 3 years (Rega, Naim, PS Audio DS Junior, and Resonessence Mirus) but never really found them to transform my system like the MicroRendu with a good linear power supply (Uptone Audio LPS-1.  So does the streaming source make a difference... absolutely yes!   
Thank you kendrick,
I had pretty much decided on the W4S Sonos upgrade until your comments so I will do some more research. I do use a ifi SPDIF iPurifier between the Sonos and the dac but have not switched out the power cord. The entire front end of my system is powered through a BPT balanced power unit.

I am still researching dacs and have somewhat narrowed it down to the Holo Audio level 3 Spring dac, the Soekris dac 1541 or the Denafrips Ares. The R2R design intrigues me.
You are welcome. The IFI SPDIF iPurifier re-clocks and regenerates the signal before being processed by your dac, so I would think the benefits from a W4S upgrade would be marginal and probably not be satisfying in the long term as a primary music source. Looking back on my experience, the W4S Sonos is a very good source for the money but I wanted better sound than it could deliver. Better signal cables and better dacs helped but it always sounded like a digital source, which of course it is. That changed with the mR, which sounds similar to analog sound in my system... when using the Uptone Audio LPS.   BTW, I sold the Sonos here on AG last week; it was snapped up in one hour!

I also have an interest in R2R dacs, including some you mentioned and Metrum products. I previously mentioned trying a number of expensive dacs and not finding a meaningful, longterm improvement until replacing the Sonos with a better quality music streamer like the mR. So my caution would be don’t expect a dac to "fix" problems that are better corrected up stream, so to speak.

Another lesson recently learned, and much to my surprise, was that good quality power strips can make a difference when used with routers, modems, switches and servers. I have an Audience AR6 PDC for my stereo setup, and it helps a lot.  I recently bought a used IsoTek EVO3 Sirius for the computer gear and WOW, the improvement is amazing. All the digital grunge that accompanied the music signal is gone! Furman Audio makes some less expensive devices you could trial on home demo for around $180.  The AudioStream author uses these on his system.  

Any sense of how the MicroRendu compares to the Auralic Aries Mini? The latter seems to be quite highly regarded also. I get what you're saying about the upstream component so I will focus on that for now. One thing I have to say for Sonos is the interface is incredibly simple and stable. As for power issues, I don't worry about power with the BPT in the system.
BTW, I have been communicating with another member who says he could not get the Soekris dac to work properly with his MicroRendu so I guess one has to watch out for compatibility issues.
I can't comment on the MicroRendu but I will say I am a happy Aries Mini owner with the Sbooster upgraded power supply.
+3 for the Bluesound node2. It's a really well designed unit. The remote works a treat.  I've used it's analog out against the Schiit multibit Bifrost, and found it quite close. 

What c7 plug did you use? I tried the Pangea 14se, and it is a loose fit and falls out. Sounded better but…

I have not listened to the Aries Mini and cannot comment on the sound quality.  My guess is that with a linear power supply (e.g. Sbooster) and a good dac, the sound would be very good.  You can probably find some discussion here or elsewhere that compares the different Aries models.  The manufacturer is getting ready to release a new model, so you might see some used Aries and LE units for resale.  These would give you an option of using Roon, which the Aries mini does not provide.   A major downside, IMO.  

Yes, the Sonos interface is terrific.  But having made the transition to Roon, there is no going back.  I tried Roon free for 30 days last fall, using the office iMac as a temporary server.  You might do the same.  

About your possible dac choices, I was unfamiliar with the Soekris dac and went to the company website to find this notice. "Due to declining sales, limited resources available to design new products, and increased competition from Asia, Soekris Engineering, Inc. has suspended operations in the USA as of today."  There is a down side to buying good stuff from small, boutique companies whose products are not well known (think resale) or have limited financial resources.   

Here is the link to Soekris. They have four new models of their R2R dac coming out. With their top of the line unit dac 1541 selling for $1,190.00 I anticipate we'll be hearing more from them soon. I was pretty much set on the Holo Audio Spring until I learned about this. At less than half the price it's a tough decision. I have read a couple of reviews and discussed with another member that it is almost indistinguishable from the Holo. Definitely something to consider.
falconquest - If I understand correctly, Soekris is merely winding down its US operation, and will continue to produce/sell from the EU and expand the product line.  Even so, there is added financial risk when buying relatively unknown audio gear from overseas suppliers who don't sell in the US... if that is where you live.  If you live in the EU where the company is better known, that's another story.  Assuming you order the Soekris dac, will there be a right of return?  Synergy and user preference is so important.  

The point I was trying to make earlier was not to put too much faith in the ability of dacs to correct problems upstream.  Some dacs are much better than others in dealing with noise and jitter upstream. The best are very expensive.  The Holo Audio Spring, which is supposed to be a very fine dac, is often used with other devices to cleanup the data stream.  

So to briefly recap my story, I tried to find audio "perfection" with several better, costly dacs but found more satisfaction by improving the music streamer.  
Thanks kendrick,
I get it. It's the old "garbage in, garbage out" concept. Right now I am strongly considering the Holo Audio dac along with an Aurender streamer. Every review I read the the reviewer just raves about the Holo Audio unit. I'm guessing this combination should be pretty decent.
Welcome.  The combination is beyond decent...the Holo dac with Aurender streamer should sound fantastic.  Great choice.  I bought a used the Aurender N100H last year and liked it very much.  The unit is well built, the control application was very slick, and the sound was excellent.  The only reason for selling was I was in the trial mode and didn't want to stop!  You should be very pleased with the combination.  Good luck and enjoy the music.  
I have had the Bluesound Node 2 for a few months now. I agree with the others, I really like it for the sound and flexibility. I can play Spotify, MQA files and even a very large library of digital files I have on hand. This player has a very good DAC, but it can allow for any external DAC or DAC upgrade in the future.
This is still a timely topic.  Like many, I have (and love) Sonos all over the house but wondering if 'steaming' can be improved for high res systems.  Just feels like my Simaudio 750D DAC deserves better streaming [hardware] input if possible.  For me CD quality 16/44.1 has always been just fine and I can't say I can really hear benefits of higher res than that.  So putting the DAC aside, who makes a better 'Steamer' for simple 16/44.1 resolution then Sonos? and what actually makes this competitor Streamer better?
Another vote for Bluesound...  I am loving my Vault 2i.    MQA sounds great,  amazing feature set ,  I really love the bi directional Blutooth, IR control , and aux input .   I hate to say it , but with hi rez its hard to tell which is better, the Vault or my DAC....NAD M51.
jmarshak, this was my original post. I ended up going with an Aurender N100H for a streamer and a Holo Audio Spring DAC, Kitsune edition. I couldn't be happier. I must say that 750D is a very nice piece of gear. Find an Aurender used here (there is an A10 listed) and you will be very satisfied with the results.
@jmarshak we ended up choosing LUMIN. The hardware is designed like a real CE product, and built like a high-end piece of kit. The software is easy to use and flexible.

@falconquest @nekoaudio - both the mentioned Aurender and LUMIN appear to be really nice audiophile grade components. Interesting.

So, what I was struggling to understand was - what makes a great Steamer?

We know ‘Speed’ of digital packet delivery is important. However, since these are digital packets (zeros and ones), then either the entire digital packet is delivered, or none of it. And if a packet is NOT delivered to the DAC, I believe the worst that can happen - is that the music will stop until the device buffers back up and then the music will restart again. And as long as your internet connection and streamer is fast enough, you should not have this problem.

So what are the other hardware / software characteristics of a good Steamer?

@jmarshak well, two of the key software components are the user experience and whether or not your use cases and other components are supported.

Aurender, LUMIN, BluOS, HEOS, Sonos, etc. all have different user interfaces and support different features with their branded software. That can anything from box art to languages to device/app settings to widgets (control elements).

Some devices work with third party software and protocols, whether that be Roon, Tidal, Quboz, AirPlay, UPnP, OpenHome, SMB, SSDP, etc. And that compatibility may be better or worse, more or less reliable. If the product forces you to jump through a lot of hoops to do what you want, that's not as good as one that works with whatever you already have or use.

In terms of hardware, superficially there is the form factor and I/O ports, but past that are the actual design considerations such as internal shielding, circuit design, component choice, etc.

Hardware and software choices can have an impact on network quality and behavior (e.g. Wii versus Xbox or PlayStation, iOS versus some Android ).

One of the most fundamental choices a manufacturer needs to make is if the device will be more like a general purpose computer or more like a traditional CE device running embedded software. That has a large influence on the hardware and how things will work, before the user-visible software is ever considered.

I would add a third aspect which is manufacturer/dealer support. If a user runs into a bug or incompatibility, or has network issues, is the manufacturer able to provide high quality support? Is the dealer expected to support the user instead? Or some combination of both? The hardware and software will have an impact on how much support users will require, and the degree of sophistication needed to resolve issues by the support person and possibly also the user.
A streamer absolutely makes a difference. No question about it. There are people who would argue a streamer is even more important than the DAC.

You can choose to buy a good streamer, and try for yourself, or listen to the Archimago cult, who think that a Chromecast Audio would do just as good.
here is an Interesting article by John Darko.

I would say the Sotm sMS 200 non ultra would be better than the Aries Mini, not heard the SotM 200,  but judging by the distance the Sotm Ultra beats the Aries mini, I would bet the sMS 200 may possibly be better. I own an unused Aries mini and a used daily SotM ultra. just my opinion.
@nekoaudio - So Yes, definitely the UI, connectivity, compatibility, reliability, materials used, product features offered and support are all important consideration. And I am particular keen on the ’sound quality’ aspect of a streamer. I believe, (to your point) a big factor is again, ’clean power’ supply, isolation and jitter management. Even in as simple devices as [what I thought were] Streamers.

And @thyname to your point, coming from pure analogue rigs, I am one of those people who believe(d) in Chromecast [but I am working on my self to change that belief now :-) ] Problem is, I’ve tried Sonos streaming from Spotify vs playing CDs on Esoteric DV50 and DV60 players - found Esoteric sounded better then Sonos, but not by that much (using a PS Audio Direct Stream DAC). I found NO difference Streaming from Spotify via Sonos vs Cambridge Audio Azur 851N (using the Azur 851N DAC) , and NO difference streaming Spotify with the PS Audio Bridge II vs Sonos (using the PS Audio DAC). These were simple 16/44.1 AB tests. I am not sure if I compared everything according to the ’scientific method’ :-), but I couldn’t be that far off, keeping cables and downstream high res equipment consistent.
Perhaps, the reason why everything sounded ’close’ or ’simular’ is because I was using a really good Synergistic Research PowerCell, and dedicated 20A line which the PowerCell loves. So perhaps that helped with signal noise floor?.

@gawdbless thank you for sharing! Loved it. I did not know these simple customizations were so easy to find for the ResPi, I am going to try one!


You were streaming from Spotify on your tests? If so, I don’t think any of Spotify tiers does red book cd quality 16/44.1 you mentioned. Up to 320 kbps lossy.

Such a waste using such a good DAC with mp3

Try streaming from Tidal or Qobuz

agree, if you're streaming Spotify then probably doesn't matter too much what streamer or DAC you use, as SQ is so poor...
Yes, Good point. So i should have mentiined that i also tested streaming FLAC 16/44.1 using Jriver MC (using Sonos vs The Esoteric CD players - using same dacs) and (Sonos vs Ps Audio Bridge 2 - same dac) and (Sonos vs Azur 851N -same dac) These tests sounded same as well. Used Coex connections to dac when streamer is not internal. Sonos and azur input is wifi. Ps audio bridge 2 input via Lan. Now i am testing streaming with the really transparent Simaudio 750D DAC, so i guess i am reaching out to understand flaws in my tests cause Sonos connect sound pretty comparable to suposedly better steamers.
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If you cannot tell Spotify lossy MP3 vs lossless FLAC, I don’t know what to tell you. Stop right there and don’t waste your money any longer. Maybe blessings in disguise 😂😉

Highest Spotify Premium is 320 kbps. Still mp3. On the other hand, CD quality is 1,411 kbps (44.1 times 16 times 2), so over four times higher resolution than best mp3.

This does not mean you will hear the difference. Many people don’t. It’s OK. You are not alone. Stick to your Analog 
@jmThey removed my previous reply to you so here we go:

If you are happy with your Sonos Connect and Spotify, all I can say is keep them, and enjoy your music.