Node 2i vs Cambridge 851N question

I have been streaming Spotify and Qobuz through a Node 2i and Orchid DAC. I have had a very difficult time discerning a difference between the two streaming services on a consistent basis. I recently purchased a Cambridge 851N streamer/DAC and was shocked to hear a radical difference between Spotify and Qobuz. Spotify sounded much worse and Qobuz sounded better. Has anyone experienced this? I can understand Qobuz sounding better, but why would Spotify sound worse than with the Node?


Not sure I’m totally following you. Are you using the Cambridge by itself or still with the Orchid? Could be several things, such as the spdif cable between your Node and Orchid or maybe the Orchid is too warm and not as revealing? Not heard your DAC but it gets plenty of praise here but it does sound like it’s fairly forgiving, probably in a good way, and probably makes poor recordings still sound good. I’m still using a Bluesound Vault 2 as a streamer only and through my DAC I agree Qobuz sounds better as well.

If still have your Orchid, run the Cambridge through it. I have a Cambridge 851C and it’s a nice CDP but its DAC which is the same as the 851N is good but I’m betting the Orchid is much better but it could be a little too polite too.

Hopefully through the Node you were using the coax digital and not toslink. If you are using the spdif, what is your cable? Also connect hardwire/ethernet on the Node and not wireless.

I am running the Cambridge with no external DAC. I have not tried the Orchid with the Cambridge because, honestly, it sounds fabulous as is. I felt the sound through the Node 2i and Orchid were about as good as I could get. It’s the whole disparity between Spotify and Qobuz that has me stumped. Spotify through the Node/Orchid sounds better than the Cambridge, but Qobuz is much better through the Cambridge. 

I am running the Cambridge with no external DAC. I have not tried the Orchid with the Cambridge because, honestly, it sounds fabulous as is.

This is an apples/oranges comparison.  You need to try the Cambridge with the Orchid with the same digital cable to make any assessments of the two as streamers.  My guess is the Orchid is smoothing over the deficiencies of Spotify whereas the more neutral DAC in the Cambridge points out the differences in stark contrast.  Just my semi-educated guess. 

Even without the Orchid, I had a difficult time telling what was Spotify and what was Tidal (at the time). I purchased a LUMIN D2 a couple years ago and returned it because I could not hear a noticeable difference between the Node 2i and the D2. I was a staunch critic of DACs sounding different. Now, I’m not so sure. 

i recently bought an 851n and use that now instead of the Tidal streaming > 2012 MacBook Pro > Topping SU-8. I wasted my money. The Mac laptop with the fan blowing, USB connection sending me a low voltage shock while I simultaneously browse the internet sounded a bit better. I thought the culprit was Tidal Connect sending me a 96Khz sample rate vs the 192Khz+ of the MacBook Pro ,Topping combo. I hooked up a new Win11 laptop to the CA851n at 192Khz and noticed a bit wider soundstage.. but I feel the old setup was superior. 😝.