So I have been collecting music since 1959. I love my vinyl and cd’s. But technology moves forward and I don’t want to be left behind. So I’m in the market for a music streamer. I just want something that can access music through my wi-fi network, and plug into my existing preamp. I would like to take advantage of the increased sampling rates like with Tidal. There seems to be a wide spread in price points but since I’m just beginning I don’t want to spend a lot (under $1000). Let me know your suggestions and thanks.
My system: Thorens turntable Ayer CD player Krell KCT preamp Krell FPB400cx Revel Performa F32 speakers.
I wouldn’t pay much attention to the above… There are numerous threads in this section addressing your very issue. You won’t have to scroll very far to find them. My recommendation is the Bluesound Node2. It works better wired, but everything does. For about $500 you get a streamer that can handle resolution, comes with a DAC, and has an easy to use App
Second the recommendation of the BlueSound Node 2i. It's easy to set up, works with a broad range of sources and sounds good. You can improve the sonics by using an external DAC rather than the one internal to the Node 2i but that can be a second step. The 2i and a decent external DAC would be within your budget.
I started with a Node 2i a few months ago and I’m very happy.
You’ll find variation in the smoothness of the interface with tidal, deezer, and qobuz.
I do not use the Onboard DAC. I think those considering the Note to be lowfi are assuming you are using the onboad dac--which is indeed better than a phone or a computer but not the equivalent of a $2k DAC.
Except for that the OP asked for a first streamer. Not a second rate streaming alternative.
Audirvana via a computer (I’m assuming he has one) into a standalone DAC at his 1K budget will be superior to the Bluesound, since the Bluesound’s internal DAC is it’s achilles heel.
The OP is a lifelong analog music lover. He has a far better chance matching his preferences and enjoyment quotient via a carefully selected DAC at his budgeted price, than with the Bluesound player-DAC solution.
Well sir. I’d get a Node 2i, replace the PSU interface with a PD Creative PSU upgraded board and get an SBooster 5V/3A linear power supply. Let it all break in for 40+ hours and it sounds extremely good.
I’ve got the Node2 and like it. The BlueSound middleware apps are good and I only stream high res these days via Tidal. I recommend just using the Node2 for streaming and getting a DAC. I started off with just the Node2 and it sounded fine, but I didn’t know what I was missing. Since then I added the tube MHDT Orchid and love it. The upgrade in sound quality is substantial. It’s around $1,100. Both together wouldn’t put you much above your $1,000 initial budget. Lots of DAC choices, but I’m a big proponent of one that utilizes a tube(s), non-oversampling and R-2R. The BorderPatrol DAC is also a nice unit. Both lines are sold by Linear Tube Audio and Nicholas is very helpful over the phone.
The discussion here between @david_ten and @fuzztone is interesting because of the changing nature of digital technology and terminology. For example, the term “integrated amp” , now sometimes called “digital amp”now routinely refers to what I would call “integrated amp with included DAC “. If someone is writing about an integrated amp sans DAC, they now start referring to them as retro amps. Similarly, streamers are specialized computers (usually Linux) for networking and music reproduction. I tried Googling the definition of a music streamer, and there doesn’t seem to be a standard . I should add that for me, a definition isn’t a gold standard unless it’s been endorsed by the Oxford English Dictionary. In the present Information Age, the use of terms, particularly tech terms, changes so fast that the OED can’t keep pace. Certainly any bog standard computer can do what a streamer does. I therefore think that PCs should be included in the streamer definition Whether it does it as well is another matter. Back to the practical matter—the OP wanting to explore streaming— assuming he has a PC —it’s the first place to start. I would buy a program such as Audirvana Plus, which I have and still use. This basically tries to turn off all the stuff in the PC that isn’t essential for streaming and music reproduction, and also provides a graphical interface for searching the collection. I don’t use Tidal so I can’t comment on Tidal integration. Will it sound like analog? The OP can always fry some bacon in the background if he wants that experience. However, if his DAC is up to it, he might try some High Resolution and/or DSD files and be amazed at what he has been missing by using an expensive needle slashing it’s way through a slab of petroleum to extract music. Eventually he might tire of having a PC in the equipment chain. I know I did. Streamers, in the commonly accepted use of the term as employed by @fuzztone, eschew a lot of the b.s. that come with PCs, and since they are dedicated audio components tend to sound better that optimized PCs, but ymmv
The ~best~ starting point for a "beginner" is the streamer one has on hand.
Bottom line, do not overlook and underestimate and undervalue what you already have.
What follows is basic, generalized and summarized for "beginner" purposes.
A mobile phone is the most versatile streaming platform one owns. It is configured for accessing and delivering a wide swath of streaming services WITH EASE.
The ’limitation’ is around the output port, should one choose to go wired. There are many products that allow for the phone’s internal DAC to be bypassed. They also deliver a quality stream to your DAC or Pre, or headphones, depending on the product you choose to use. Cost of these devices and adaptor cables is low.
One’s laptop or tablet can serve the same role. The laptop (tablet to a lesser extent) offers more flexibility in output ports. Laptops can run a number of software options to optimize streaming, sonic performance, and with enhanced user interfaces.
All three can be used wireless and via networked connections and network control. A major benefit of going wireless is the (by default) isolation of the source device.
A TV, a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast or similar device also serve as effective audio streamers. A limitation here is with TOSLINK, which will have an upper limit for frequency/bit rates... transmitter, cable, and receiver dependent. User interface is easy enough though can and will fall short (device dependant).
Your phone or tablet or laptop will most likely serve as your User Interface, even if one is using a standalone server/streamer/network player. In other words, your phone, laptop and tablet are already in and part of the mix. Further, one can simply cast from your laptop, tablet and phone should you own an appropriate receiving device.
The enhanced ability to isolate digital streaming products, apply filters, etc. etc. has moved forward to a degree that makes a phone, a laptop, a tablet etc. a very effective starting point. And when executed properly, capable of delivering high quality sonics. This did not use to be the case.
As you can see favorable responses for Bluesound Node 2 or 2i. If I were you, I would order the newest Node and not consider the Node 2 and 2i (now discontinued). The newly released Node ($549) offers two very important upgrades over previous generations,
1) At the heart of the new units is a next-generation, quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor operating at 1.8GHz. Compared with the previous-generation Node and PowerNode, the new processor has eight times more processing power and four times faster memory speed, leading to faster response times and more efficiency.
2) Another key upgrade for the Node is a new DAC that operates at 32-bit/384 kHz with a differential output and supports audio resolutions up to 24-bit/192 kHz. It also boasts a lower signal-to-noise ratio of -113 dB (down from -110 dB) and THD+N of 0.002% (down from 0.005%). And the Node’s back panel now sports an HDMI eARC input for connecting a TV. (The PowerNode 2i V2 already had this feature.) If you already have a DAC you like, a future BluOS upgrade will activate a USB audio output, bypassing the internal DAC while maintaining all the streaming and BluOS functionality.
“Sorry computers and phones are crappy "non" streamers. At least by the description that defines it as music exclusive hardware. Anything that does other things does not play music as well.” My computer running Roon to an OpticalRendu is far superior than the Node2i but I guess it’s the Rendu and not so much the computer
OP, you are making a good choice with the Node. Like your turntable and CD player, it is simple to use, unlike the vast tech setup options that come with streaming from a laptop. Find a way to hardline the Node to your modem. Then get a MHDT Orchid DAC. Then, upgrade the tube with an adapter and put it a good NOS 7308 tube.
I purchased a Sonos streamer to get my feet wet. I’m surprised how flexible it is. With the digital out I can use my D to A, although that doesn’t make much of a difference. You must look at my opinion as I’m an old fart and a recovering audiophile!