Questions from a noob on digital streaming


Ok, I am a noob.... I apologize here in the beginning.

I have been a vinyl guy since forever....

I have been considering a change to digital for several months and finally started to make the transition. I just sold my turntable so there is no going back, and believe me the decision was brutal to make. But I am happy with my new path....but still a bit anxious.

I am currently using a Cambridge magic plus through a tube Pre and tube mono blocks. I am planning on getting the direct stream Jr. and this is where my questions start.


I have been using Audirvana to play Tidal with my current Cambridge Dac...

I see that DS Jr. has installed ability to play Tidal, and use Roon.....

Does this mean I can play Tidal without using Roon or other player with the DS Jr. and MConnect Controller?

What are the pros and cons of this if true, compared to using Audirvana or Roon or Jriver?

Can I use Audirvana to play tidal through the DS Jr. ?

What are the pros and cons of this vs Tidal direct through the DS Jr.  or roon  or Jriver  etc.?

What I think I understand is...Tidal is a streaming service (check), audirvana and roon are players used to play the stream and send to the Dac (check)????? But the DS Jr is a streamer ????? Why is one better than another? And which should I use?

A bit confused, and I have been trying to do my own research, Im just not quite getting what is what and why one may be better than another.



I am trying to sell a quicksilver pre-amp to complete my purchase of the DS Jr.....It's on audiongon YOU SHOULD BUY IT !!:-)

Also, since I am selling the tube pre and using the Jr as a pre.....will the power tube amps smooth out the digital sound????

OR  should I get the Gain Cell, which I could today, and keep the Tube pre???? Seems a waste to have a tube pre with no turntable and switching strictly to streaming.

I HATE confusion....

Thank you,

TD


tonydennison
The DSjr is a DAC with a built in streamer, the Bridge II. There are other streamer/DAC combos that you may want to consider.

I think you need to slow down a little and keep your preamp and amp so that you have a solid reference to judge the sound of whatever streamer/DAC you purchase. Also, some people like to go direct from streamer/DAC to amp, some, like me, prefer a preamp in between. I’d try both ways before you sell anything.

Some streamer/DACs require a wired connection to your wifi router (that’s called an ethernet connection) and that will require you to have your router near your stereo or run a long section of cat 6 (or 7 or 8) wire to your stereo. Some streamers will work with a wireless connection (wifi).

What I would suggest that you do is buy a Bluesound Node 2 for $500 or less. It is a streamer/DAC combo, it is Tidal ready, you can run it with either a wifi or ethernet connection and it has analog outputs that you can connect to your preamp or amp.

It has its own own app for your phone or tablet which you download (for free) from the Apple store or Google Play for the Android version. You use the app to connect to Tidal (or other services), to select music and to control the volume if you go direct to amp. It is as close to plug and play as you’ll get. There is some setup involved but the instructions are clear and you can email support for help or whoever you buy it from can probably help with any problems you have.

The Node 2 may sound plenty good enough for you, but if you want to spend thousands for a better streamer later, you won’t lose much reselling it.

I think you can get access to the Tidal webpage that lists all the devices that are Tidal compatible without having an account so you can research some of them, if you want. Tidal offers at least a 30 day free trial so take advantage of that when you sign up for an account.

That’s my advice. We can talk about roon or other programs once you get comfortable with streaming with the Node 2.
There is an ad for a Bluesound Node 2 for $375 but the description says the title is a mistake, it is a Node (1).  I'm not familiar with the Node but I would get a Node 2.

Also when a streamer is Tidal ready it means you can access Tidal via their own app (which is horrible). If its ROON ready you can access compatible hardware and mix and match (well easily enough), and if a device such as a streamer is Tidal and Roon ready, you are on your way, just use ROON if preferred. It is IMO very good. Just remember the Tidal app is rubbish, but it accesses Tidal via various hardware including mobile phones...

It may be helpful to realize that there is a chain of components and functions, and that in some units some of these functions are combined, but need not be.
1 streaming source, like Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz or TuneIn, to mention a few.
2 a streamer to capture the audio stream, with an app to play that particular service
3 a DAC to convert the digital signal into analogue output
4 a volume control plus source selector
5 a power amplifier.

Some streaming units combine 2, 3 and 4 (e.g the Sonos Connect). Others only combine 2 and 3, e.g. the Chromecast Audio or the Apple Airport express, others only serve as 2, e.g. the Chromecast Audio or the Airport Express using their digital output.

In your case, you already have the Dacmagic Plus, which is a DAC with a volume control. The simplest way to use it is to omit the pre amplifier (you do not need one if you are not using analogue sources). Just connect it to your power amps. No need to worry about ’digital sound’. If you are using a decent DAC like your Dacmagic, digital is perfect.

If you do this, the remaining question is how to get the audio stream to your DAC. One option is to use a computer - even a very simple one like a Raspberry Pi is good enough. Use the usb output into your DACmagic and you are done. Roon is nice software to handle the meta information, but you do not need it. Another option is to use the optical digital output of a streamer like the Sonos Connect, the Airport Express or the Chromecast Audio. Your DACmagic will convert the digital signal to analogue, and serve as a volume control. Of these, the Chromecast Audio is by far the cheapest, and the digital output is excellent (the high jitter level will be taken care of by the DACmagic). Personally I am not a fan of dedicated streamers from audiophile brands, as these tend to lock you into their software limitations (and are often obscenely expensive for what they are). Units like the Sonos, the AE or the Chromecast Audio sell in such large numbers that no streaming service can afford to ignore them. Digital standards change fast, and since the output is bitperfect, there is no sonic need to spend big. If you want to spend money on better sound quality, spend it on a better DAC. However, realize that no streaming service offers more than redbook CD 16/44, and converting that to analogue is a piece of cake for any modern DAC.

So, in its simplest form, all you need is a Chromecast Audio and you can get started. Of course, you may want to improve on this by replacing the DACmagic by a Benchmark DAC3, but the sonic benefits will be relatively small. And you do not have to do this now. Get started gently.
Thank you everyone for your responses.

I have been led to another question.....

I read serveral persons say "Audirvana sounds better than Roon."
others say "Roon sounds best."

Are there different qualities of sound if these are file managers?

Thank you,

TD
No.

Every playback/control software sounds different. If you want to stream Tidal, the options available do not deliver the best SQ compared to players that do not stream IME. Also, since Tidal only streams FLAC files, so I don’t find these to quite be up to "CD" quality. Whether you hear this of course depends on how good your system is. Those with less revealing, less optimized systems will be fine with FLAC, and they may not hear large differences in different software.

One of the better streaming combos I have found is Linn Kazoo and BubbleUPnP. This is for UPnP renderers, not for Roon-Ready renderers.

There are two ways to go with networked audio:

1) Roon RAAT renderers - only Roon player works and integrates well with Tidal

2) UPnP/DLNA renderers - Many different players work, including Jriver, Twonky, Audirvana Plus, Linn Kazoo, Linn Kinsky, HQplayer, Lumin and more. Only a few of these allow streaming of Tidal, and some require a separate server software like BubbleUPnP and Minimserver to be running at the same time.

The first decision you need to make is whether you like Roon GUI and must have it. Then, you only have to choose hardware that supports Roon, that which is Roon-Ready.

IF you go with UPnP, then your options are much greater. I have found that Linn Kinksy with Minimserver delivers the best SQ of any of the players on the market. If you must stream Tidal and use UPnP or Open Home renderer, then Linn Kazoo and BubbleUPnP are a close second.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Are there different qualities of sound if these are file managers?

Yes.

@audioengr   Any pre-information on which combinations (from European experience) may work well / best with Qobuz, given it's pending US launch?

The one I like best that is UPnP for streaming is Linn Kazoo with BubbleUPnP server.  I suspect that it will support Qobuz.  Another thing to try is Lumin with BubbleUPnP server.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Follow willemj’s suggestion and invest $35 and get yourself a Chromecast Audio and spend another $30 ( or more if you want) and buy an optical cable - mini to regular size, and plug it to your DACmagic and you’re done. Sit back and stream Tidal at 44/96 right from tablet or phone without the need for any extra software. Unless you have mega $ vinyl rig, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the sound quality coming out of you <$100 investment.
Keep us posted.

If you want to do cheap, just get a Raspberry Pi, a microSD memory card and a Digione HAT board. Install freeware Dietpi and you can make it Roon-bridge or DLNA/UPnP compatible with software options.  Then you can stream or play local files with ANY playback software on any computer. Lots of instructions on the web.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thank you all, you have been very helpful.

Right or wrong I am going with the Direct Stream Jr. and will play around with different players.

Thankx

TD

@audioengr  Also, since Tidal only streams FLAC files, so I don’t find these to quite be up to "CD" quality.

Tidal also streams MQA.

Flac is a completely bitperfect compression algorithm without any sonic signature. You can compress and decompress as many times as you want, and the files will still be identical, and identical to the original CD.
If player software has a sonic signature this can only be because it degrades the signal. Most software fortunately does not do this, as you can ascertain if you have the analytical software to inspect the data.
The only component in this part of the chain that has a (very small) sonic signature is the DAC.

The FLAC files might be identical when unpacked to WAV, but the players all change the SQ when unpacking FLAC on-the-fly.  I have tried it with Amarra, Foobar, Kinsky, Kazoo and Twonky.  I have even demonstrated this at RMAF and other shows.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

@tonydennison  Congratulations on your choice. Keep us posted!

@audioengr  Thanks.
Hello guys, 3- Questions :-)

Q-1
As you know, I am getting a DS Jr. and am wondering if I need to run the power amps while breaking in the DS Jr or if I can feed the DS Jr with a Bluray loop and the power amps off????

The power amps are tube and I dont want to leave them on unattended.

Q-2
Another question....My sub is 40 ft away, at the moment I have 40 ft well insulated rca's going to my sub that I used with my Tube Pre. With the DS jr, I have to use the RCA outs to my amps which do not have XLR....Am I better off getting XLR-RCA adapters (or will they sound like poop?) or running solid core speaker cable from the tube amps 40 ft away to the sub?

I imagine you will say speaker wire....

Q-3
Finally, I purchased an AC conditioner from PS Audio, but as I said, the sub is 40 ft away....would I get any benefit running an industrial extension from the conditioner to the sub power cord, or should I just plug the sub direct in to the wall?

Thanks

TD

tomcy6

Nice to see some love for the Node2. I just picked up a secondhand one  and it should be here tomorrow. Like the OP I'm dipping my toe into streaming for the first time but unlike the OP I'm hanging onto my vinyl and the stuff that makes it happen. Analogue is the go to here.

Tidal,Roon. Do you need these to play the music you have on your HDD's and in my case my PC. I've a ton of FLAC's but I just use VLC at the moment and I have Shazam&Spotify but I have the cheapskates versions which mean ads.
Internet radio is accessed easily with a Node 2 so there's another source accounted for and it's mostly free.(Radio Paradise for instance)

As the Node2 is an amp and a DAC, you do't need to hook it up to any part of your existing system do you?(apart from speakers or wireless actives)

thelid, The Node 2 is a streamer and DAC with a volume control which allows you to run it direct to your amp but it is not an amp. I believe there is a unit that includes an amp called the Powernode 2.

You will download an app called BluOs to your phone or tablet to control the Node 2. It’s available in Apple and Android versions and it is free. You don’t need any other software to operate the Node 2.   

Roon is for gathering information from the net about the music you are playing and offering suggestions for other music you might like. It is meant to give you access to information as you listen. It also can control your streamer but the BluOs should do that just fine.

Tidal is a streaming service which I like a lot. It gives you access to a lot of music. You don’t need it to play the music on your network. It is something you would add if you want to explore music outside your collection.
Ok, I received the DS Jr today at 11am.. it is 1130pm and it is still on.

Started off pretty dang harsh....I replaced the Anti-Cables ICs for a pair of Rothwell Rivers and everything mellowed down nicely.

Sounding better and better  as time goes on. Vocals are starting to move forward.

I hooked up my sub with speaker cable out of the Amp mains.

Speaker cables I am using are 12 gauge appliance copper from home depot....used it for years.

I am using Quicksilver Mid Mono tube amps and Boston VR950's.

Running tidal through Mconnect.

Question, I can only make setting changes in audio streaming with mac when plugged in to the DS JR, but I dont use that to play music, I stream from the ethernet cable, so are there any adjustments to be made with Tidal built in to the DS JR.?

Anywho back to Miles Davis Funny Vanlentine.

TD
Anyway