You are in a very good position to start. You want a dedicated streamer.
Streamers are like every component in audio… you want the best and compatible piece you can afford. I recommend an Aurender Streamer (Linn streamers are great as well)… I would think you can get a used N100 within your budget.
You can get a Bluesound for much less… but, for me, tiptoeing in is a great way to spend a lot more money. I would spend as much as you can on an high quality dedicated streamer and you will be really impressed.
My streamer sounds as good as my high end vinyl rig. You can see it under my UserID. You do not want to fool around with PCs or MACs. Dedicated streamers have huge advantages over them.
It is likely you will get something with internal storage so you can transfer some of your ripped CDs, or purchased files. But they are there for legacy reasons. I haven’t played any stored files for over a year. Streaming is so good with a good streamer you will have no need for CDs. Qobuz is the service you want… $12.99 / month if you pay for a year. Half a million high resolution albums. Millions of CD quality albums. Your library becomes virtually infinite.
If you do not have a router near your system, then no problem, buy a $59 wifi extender, plug it in and connect your streamer to it. You do not have to plsy with your network… the better the streamer…. It makes up for deficiencies in your network. The Aurrender cashes the music. I have two and they work when my IPad will not refresh the page.
Get a Paradigm Link or Martin Logan Unison, it does everything you want PLUS will add ARC room correction to your system.
Innuos just came out with their Pulse Mini that comes in at $1249 and would be a great choice. Their new Sense software is free and gets great reviews from both a performance a sound perspective, and they’re constantly improving it for free. Plus, their customer support is excellent. Just my $0.02 FWIW.
A good place to start would be with the Bluesound Node streamer. One of its advantages is how is the very well designed software and how easy it is to integrate with all the popular streaming sources. It would allow you to use your existing DAC.
For budget conscious systems, the Bluesound is excellent.
For a better quality, I would go with Innuos and Aurilac.
As far as your DAC goes, I think it would be the best start in order to attain higher quality sound. A used Ayre Codex,(now under $1K), will blow the PWD out of the room.
My 2 cents...
The Martin Logan Unison are on closeout at 50% off for $199 and the ARC room correction is a game changer. No other streamer will offer this room correction except Paradigms:
The Unison wireless pre-amp can not only stream music using your choice of DTS Play-Fi or Apple AirPlay, it also offers one of the best room-correction solutions on the market.
Everyone usually recommends the one they use, so take that with a grain of salt. My only recommendation is to get a streamer with an OS (Operating System) you like for your application. A lot of OS work best with Apple products and not so good with Samsung. And many are difficult to operate with phones, specially android. Some don't even do android. I only want to use my android phone as a remote to control my streamer and the bluesound NODE 130 does that flawlessly. Decide how you want to operate your streamer and dive into Google to find the streamer that will work best for it. As an example, Auralic, no android at all.
If you need to upgrade your network, don't bother with an extender, they just add latency and halve your bandwidth. Rather, invest in a decent mesh router that supports WiFi 6 and a dedicated backhaul between nodes. The big advantages are far better coverage and WiFi 6 support of parallel streams. In other words, your streaming isn't competing with someone else's gaming or video for a time slice. This is a big deal. So I also wouldn't spend a dime on a streamer that didn't also support WiFi 6. This will only become more important over time as more devices compete for bandwidth and time slices.
Thanks for all the great suggestions and please keep them coming. I would like to use my iPad for controlling whatever app I use like qobuz or tidal. I also have a panel that is wired throughout the house with cat 5 that I was hoping to use to run the Ethernet cable from the router to the streamer. If the cat 5 isn’t sufficient I could run a dedicated Ethernet line from the office to the living room (about 50-60 feet) pretty easily?
'I would like to start streaming some high res and cd quality music. I am very computer illiterate so please take it easy on me. I would like to set something up fairly easy to use and not spend more than 2k. I would like to use my iPad for controlling whatever app I use like qobuz or tidal.
OP, to start your streaming journey, the following will match above parameters you have set:
If you can find a docking station including RJ45 LAN connection port and USB A port, you could connect the iPad with your DAC using USB B input on the DAC. In addition, you want to download a dedicated music player (like Audirvana) to your iPad supporting hires music files provided by Quobuz and Tidal.
If a docking station is an acceptable solution for you and you like what you will hear, your journey could end right here. Otherwise, you might want to
- change the CAT5 to CAT 5e or CAT 6
- and/or go further down the road (also called rabbit hole) thinking about the purchase of a dedicated streamer
I'm investigating the same options at the moment. I like to understand what I'm doing from the ground up. "Buy what works for me isn't much help although none of the suggestions are bad, they just don't help as everyone is unique and their need differ. I started off reading John Darko's BACK TO BASICS Part 1: Music streaming guide and worked up from there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5rGHPYh3E0
Bluesound is the typical entry point. I would recommend Cambridge Audio CXN 60, for roughly $1100. Sounds great (it also has a good DAC, but you can bypass it and use your own). You can play Tidal and Qobuz directly through Ethernet or WiFi. It does Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast, so you can play anything from an Apple or Android device. It is really good with Internet Radio. The app works well on either Apple or Android. Customer service is quick and responsive, not that you will need them very much.
Cat 5 is sufficient. You may get very slight uptick n sound with higher but not enough to justify rewiring the house.
Your iPad will work well as the controller for a Bluesound Node, that's how I stream Tidal in my living room system. I use an iPad Mini because the size is perfect for easy handling but with a screen large enough to be easily read. It also works well with a WiiM Mini streamer in my office system. The WiiM Mini is another excellent way to get started with streaming.
If the cat 5 isn’t sufficient
Cat 5 is fine
Everyone usually recommends the one they use,
I use five. The Bluesound Node for MQA, the X-Box Series S for streaming music videos on Plex TV, Qello Stingray, or YouTube, also for streaming Atmos music from Tidal or Apple music, The Sony UHPH1 for streaming DSD and SACD, and finally my Paradigm Link (which is very similar to the Martin Logan Unison I recommended and has ARC). I don’t own the Unison but recommended it instead of the Link because it has ARC and also does Airplay.
OP, most of these streamers limit what you can stream. If you want to stream a service not in the OS you are screwed. The Unison will work with Spotify, Airplay, the Play-Fi app or DLNA. This app has one feature that makes it the winner in my system. If you use a windows tablet or PC and use the playfi windows app anything you play on the PC is streamed. I like services not on most apps like mixcloud, soundcloud, and concert streaming services like wolfgangs.
That is why I prefer the OS. The reason I prefer the SQ is ARC, no other streamers offer that feature. Finally its 50% off, a winner.
IMO, a new or used Innuos, Lumin or Auralic would put you far ahead of of the Blue Sound.
I'd also strongly recommend the Uptone Audio EtherRegen switch (to get rid of jitter-causing noise) placed just before the streamer. since the rest of your rig sounds pretty solid.
You could probably do both for a total under $2k.
Then some day spring for a newer DAC.
"The Music Room" or TMR has an Aurender N100 for sale right now for $1500. I just got their email today.
@ghdprentice : Hello. In a variety of threads related to streaming, I’ve taken note of your comments revealing that your music streaming has caught up with/surpassed your LP playback. This interests me. With due respect to this thread, which is streaming related, I’d like to ask about your journey to achieve this end. I’m very knowledgeable about stereo equipment in general, but in the category of computer based generation of audio, I am not! I believe you have gone into some details in the past, but I wasn’t fully paying attention because I love the sound of my LPs, and considered streaming background music. I have made the decision to put some more effort into improving the sound of the music I’m streaming. You are one of the few here, who appears to have initially been committed to vinyl, who has written that their streaming has become as good as their vinyl playback system. We all have our own preferences, but I’m ready to explore streaming a bit more seriously… as others may be too.. if for no other reason than convenience. I hope this fits within the context of this thread… since I am, also, looking for some direction on how to get to a higher ground with streaming my music!
So I have been looking at a lot of streamers in the under 2k range and there are a ton of different options out there. I have found a few of the Aurender N100s well with in price range with enough left over for an upgraded usb cable. I’m just wondering if this will be a safe bet to pull the trigger on since this model is a bit older compared to some of the other stuff out there?
Let me see if I can summarize the last 40 years.
I bought a high end CD player when they came out and upgraded every few years, Nakamichi, Sony, Sonic Frontiers (tube CD player… 1995?). I traveled with CD players and headphone amps during the mid to late 90’s. I traveled internationally a lot. Then in in about 2002 started an office system with headphones and a iPod… then added portable DAC… headphone amp… PC… with different software… River… then a real DAC ($3.5K… in 2010). Then my home system added an $18K Sim Moon CD/DAC… around 2010)… streamed using a MacBook… unplugged so running on battery… shut down extra processes. Vinyl alway was soooo. Much better. I would channel surf ripped music… just not satisfying.
I bought an Aurlic Aries G2 streamer ~ 2018. Huge jump in sound quality. Finally, it was actually in the same world as vinyl. Still disappointing… but not terrible, as before… flat, trebly… anemic. Then I upgraded my streamer to an Aurender N100… way better than the Aurlic… then tried a Aurrender N10… much better… and bought a Aurender W20SE. Honestly, holy cow… finally we are talking real music.
The last really significant step was swapping my DAC to an Audio Research CD9SE… this finally raised the performance above my contemporary Linn LP12 ( Akurate… mid level, with a $3K+ isolation platform) with an Audio Research Reference 3 phono stage. Finally, digital was completely engaging. Tonally, sound stage, imaging… everything. What an odyssey. I also, had a Berkeley Alpha Reference DAC ($22K) in my system for several weeks. To my surprise the ARC REF CD9SE sounded almost identical… but the ARC was ever so slightly better… more musical.
So, over the last couple years I have done small upgrades to my analog end, tone arm, sub chassis, Phonostage to Reference 3SE. Each improved my analog end… but still they are on the same plain. This basically raised my turntable to the level of performance to the Linn Klimax… which is really very amazing.
As a friend recently told me… “well, it depends on the recording… but, digit frequently sounds better.“ what it really means in terms of listening, is I choose what I want to listen to… which format is not relevant… a wonderful change from the past disappointing digital performance.
That is an extremely abbreviated version of my quest.
Thanks everyone for all the advice and suggestions on this thread. I pulled the trigger on the Aurender N100H streamer and can't wait to get everything up and running. I'm going to try Qobuz for the streaming service and use a wifi extender until I get the cat5 run figured out.
Congradulations! I look forward to hearing your impressions.
I finally got the N100H hooked up and connected with a cheap Wi-Fi extender temporarily until I can run a cat7 cable from the router. Thank you so much for all your suggestions, I am really blown away with the sound quality. I was expecting it to be as good as an average sounding cd but so far it has far surpassed all but the best recorded cds. The Aurender sounds a lot closer to my VPI prime and way more analogue than than the dac and transport to my ears. I know I won’t stop spinning vinyl anytime soon but this is way more convenient without the clicks and pops of poor pressings. I’m very happy I went with this and have no regrets so far.
Excellent. Happy to hear… and it only gets better from where you are!
@justinm : Let me understand what you’re doing… You plugged a wifi extender in somewhere close to the streamer, then you plugged the streamer into the extender to provide a wired signal from your network (presumably with an Ethernet cable?). What’s the process to link the extender to your network? I just switched from cable internet, with a modem and router, to a Verizon 5G gateway. It’s been working well for providing internet access, but I’m not sure how to incorporate that to use for streaming. Sorry if this is basic, I’m not a computer guy 🤷🏻♂️
yes that is correct I used a TP-Link AC1900 Wi-Fi extender available on Amazon prime to get up an running before I pull a run of cat8 from my router on the other side of the house. We use cox cable for our internet provider and after downloading the Wi-Fi extender app and going through a couple quick steps and running a 15’ cat8 cable to the Aurender it seemed to work. The Wi-Fi extender is about 40’ from the router and 5’ from the Aurender. Trust me when I say I am very computer illiterate and have put off streaming for the last 5yrs because of this. I plan on pulling a 100’ run of cat8 through the crawl space today which I’m not looking forward to but want to be sure of the most stable signal possible. The Wi-Fi extender is actually working flawlessly at this time but I’m off this weekend and might as well getter dun👍
I, and I assume many others here, would LOVE to hear your impressions of any differences you hear between running direct from your router and using the extender. This would be MOST VALUABLE information as so few people here have done both. Thanks in advance!
@soix @justinm : I was going to ask the same thing (about fully hardwired vs using an extender)! Someone mentioned using a “mesh router” which I looked up, but I can’t tell if it will work with my equipment. I can get an extender, no problem, but I’m not sure I’d be able to run a cable all the way from the gateway to the streamer (at least not easily). Right now my streaming equipment consists of a Bluesound node (N130) into a Cambridge DacMagic Plus. My music sources are Spotify and Apple Music Lossless via Bluetooth, and Radio Paradise (which is preloaded onto the Node). Radio Paradise sounds much better to me, but as I’m learning more, I believe that may be due to the fact that the Bluetooth is limiting the quality of the other sources I’m using. I tried Qobuz for the free trial period and didn’t like it (sound quality was just Ok, and the app wasn’t user friendly - to me), so I cancelled. But now I’m thinking it was dumbed down by being transmitted over Bluetooth. I’m planning to give it another try when I get this streaming system sorted out.
@krelldreams Bluetooth sucks and completely undermined your Qobuz experience. Just get a decent Wi-Fi extender from TP-Link, etc. and run a short Ethernet or CAT7 cable from it to your streamer, do another Qobuz trial, and you’ll really hear what streaming can do.
@soix : I believe that! I didn’t realize it was such a big deal until I tried the Radio Paradise. I was like.. what the hell! I’m definitely going to try Qobuz again. I’ll get used to the OS. If the sound quality is good, I’ll make it work. Lol. I’m willing to get a better streamer and DAC, but I want to optimize what I have first. My LPs sound A LOT better, but I want to give streaming a chance, because it really opens up a whole world of music discovery!
I want to give streaming a chance, because it really opens up a whole world of music discovery!
@krelldreams +1000!!! Hi-quality music discovery has been the biggest innovation in audio in the last 100 years IMHO. I rarely play my own music anymore. First, most of it is available on Qobuz anyway, and some of it in hi-res that I don’t have, and second why would you wanna play the same stuff over and over when there are literally thousands of new and exciting songs to be heard? Definitely invest in at least a decent streamer and DAC that melds with your sonic tastes, because just like with vinyl and as I’m sure you well know, EVERYTHING MATTERS, and matters a lot especially with streaming. Go for it! If you’re at all like me, who was also a relatively late adopter of streaming, my ONLY regret was not getting into streaming sooner. It’s, literally, a whole new world and has re-awakened my audiophile spirit. I’ve never enjoyed listening to music more. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop all over again.