Rebadging of Streaming Platforms

So I was reading some Q&A from an audio reviewer last night in which he mentioned that most audio streamers are just rebadged platforms from one or two vendors (I'm talking just the streaming portion of any unit, not the DAC).  I have had more than one dealer tell me the same thing.  So my question for anyone who knows is who actually makes these one or two platforms?  Or conversely, who actually makes their own streamers?  I going out on a limb and am guessing that Sonore may be one who "makes their own" but was hoping some one else had the actual answers.


Are you talking high end streamers?  Seems Aurender, Innous, and Auralic probably are independent products, which is consistent with their price points.

Yeah, this is probably true. One big exception, and extremely overkill, is the Mytek Empire which had 2 Intel i7 mini computers inside. They were still off the shelf minis but much more customized design than typical.  Does it sound better? No idea.

Honestly in some ways reusing a platform among many brands is better, because of the amount of R&D involved in the streaming part of the hardware. Having one company that only does the streamers means hopefully better updates and software compatibility down the road.

This is one big reason I went with Roon on Linux, though their major releases usually disappoint me.

Even if true, as with all things in audio implementation has a huge impact on the ultimate results.  

Low end streamers… probably. That is how much of low - mid-fi stuff is produced.

Maybe a little off topic, but last time I saw a Maserati their display/entertainment was mostly by Chrysler. A small, boutique audio company trying to do custom computers and software could easily drown as their resources get consumed in the digital streaming part of the work.

I mean, just how custom do we want the hardware to be? Are you going to insist they write their own coding language, real time OS and streaming services interfaces when, on the right platform, all this code is available on download?

Do they have to make their own CPU's and motherboards?  That is a hell of an organization that can get down to that level in the weeds.

I think we shouldn't focus too much on uniqueness so much as value.

Everybody jumps to conclusions about the original post, but nobody has actually answered the question.  I think the analogy that might best fit here is CD-Players.  Yeah there are all kinds of DACs, power supplies, and other things that go into the end product but most players contain a disc spinner from either Sony or Phillips (which hopefully your players manufacturer stocked up on to service their product as I have found out).

Yeah, the "magic" is in the implementation, but generally speaking the actual streaming board in any unit really is just delivering the signal to the parts that really impact the sound.  I absolutely don't believe this is a "low or mid-price" thing.  As two examples of brands that you can buy as stand alone DACs or with a streaming card added, it's unlikely that Weiss or Bricasti has developed their own proprietary streaming card.  I'm not saying that is a bad thing.

So back to the implementation question--what can you actually do to a streaming card to really improve what's being feed to the DAC?  And how much variation in units is possible?  Power supplies and isolation look like two positives.  It also appears that the only thing that really markedly improves the sound quality out of a streamer (not talking just 5% better) might be galvanic isolation, something akin to what Sonore does with the Opitical Rendu.  I'm sure there are others. 

So does anyone actually know who produces the platforms that many streamers use?  It seems hard to find (like they don't want you to know), much more difficult than finding out what CD drive mechanism is in your CD player.  

I've got a new DAC coming, just really trying to get down to brass tacks with a streamer that helps me get the most out of the DAC w/o paying for total BS.

Well, if what you mean by platform is the motherboard, then yes, they all use motherboards, all are computers. But implementation is the key, some use pretty much stock off the shelf motherboards, some use custom built motherboard, others modify off the shelf motherboards. In order to determine which board any particular streamer uses, one has to open up and take look. You may also be able to determine board used from interior photos some reviews provide.


The motherboard provides the basis for which processor can be used, some boards can handle high level processing, others only low level. Noise vs. speed is battle here.


Rendering is the another important aspect, some use rendering right off motherboard, others modify with add on boards with better clocks and power supplies.


Power supplies to motherboards also important, some use stock switching power supplies, others have varying quality linear power supplies.


Sonore is one of few streamers using optical, whether it preferable to another streamer debatable.


I agree with OP, many manufacturers don't want you to see what's inside. I've seen some streamers priced up to $10k with not much proprietary stuff going on. I'd suggest one get a good look inside these streamers prior to purchase, learn about power supplies, rendering. Parts used important as well, quality of processor, ssd, RAM has impact on sound quality.


I recently made choice to go with custom build streamer, over $3k in parts alone, this minus external lps cost. I've looked inside many of these off the shelf streamers, very few have near $3k in parts. On the other hand, I do see some pretty nice proprietary work going on in the better ones






I would forget about streaming cards and platforms and go listen to some streamers. It is obvious from your post that you don’t want to believe streamers make a difference. You want to believe that bits are bits and high cost streamers are marketing hype. Sorry to disappoint you. I tried to maintain that illusion for many years. It came crashing down when I bought my first real streamer, Aurlic Aries G2. From there, quickly jumped up stepwise to a $22K streamer… which I consider an outstanding bargain for the sound quality provided.

I have followed digital for forty years trying to achieve the highest level of sound quality. I have extensively auditioned or owned about 7 or 8 high end streamers from Aurlic, Aurender, and Linn. In general, the sound quality varied tremendously and roughly varied pretty much in line with price… from $3K to $22K. The variation in sound quality amazing… from good to audiophile / analog level. 

The most abundant BS around is that high end streamers don’t matter and are all the same. My rule of thumb, invest the same in a streamer as you would a DAC, Turntable, Phonostage, preamp, or amp. They must be carefully chosen and compatible… then you get your jaw drop moment of “wow, that sounds incredible!”


So there you have it.. believe in what you see and what the majority say or blow stupid money for blind bragging rights. Winner winner chicken dinner.  


1971, so true. Take the plate amp in a Wilson sub. People think the more $ you throw at hifi the better the system.  If you have a Great room and quality music you're ahead of the game, not chasing it.

+1 ghdprentice  - Better quality streamers or CD transports make a significant improvement on SQ , and none sound the same

And then we have differences in music players and OS to add even more variables. Linux based may be unique and the music players certainly are proprietary. Streamer I just purchased runs Euphony OS, certainly proprietary, Stylus player, also proprietary.


For one to believe streamers all sound the same is preposterous. Totally ignores wide variability in parts, implementation, OS and players. I guess all those reporting and hearing differences are delusional, hilarious. 


And we haven't even gotten to the network, how about a ton more variables.

@ghdprentice It's obvious that you actually have no idea what I think, just jumping to all kinds of conclusions.  No need to jump on the bits is bits defense, I don't think that at all.

I do think I would be much more likely to spend money on a DAC (up to a point) than the streamer.  I have heard differences, but interestingly they seem much harder to pick out the higher you go up the food chain (to me).  I asked a pretty simple question--one that I have had more than one dealer tell me, and no one actually seems to know--which I find interesting.  

I would be interested in demoing an Auralic Aries G2.1, the Sonore Ultimate Rendu and the Innuous Zenith MkIII (which I already own) against one another once my DAC arrives next month.  No way I'm heading north of those on a streamer though, I'll leave that for you.  


@facten I think that's the more on-point observation--none sound the same.  Picking out which is better is often a lot more difficult for me than noticing the actual differences.  It often seems they are trading one trait for another and it all comes down to what's important to each listener. 

@curiousjim It was Andrew Robinson in a Q&A. But I have two dealers who also make the same point, which is their way of saying the DAC is more important.


I agree that the DAC is important. Not only do I use a steamer, but I have a few thousand CD’s and a NAS that all end up going through my DAC. In fact, I’m listening to Houston Person from the NAS as I type.

I do think I would be much more likely to spend money on a DAC (up to a point) than the streamer. 

If you listen to people who’ve built streaming systems it’s pretty clear that everything matters, and matters a lot.  Cheap out on the streamer if you want because you think they all use the same modules, but the overwhelming evidence is that the devil is in the details.  If you look at reviews of streamers like Wolf, Aurender, Grimm, etc. you’ll see there is another level of performance no matter what common base electronics are used.  That’s the bottom line.  Your point is noted, but largely irrelevant. 

No the bottom line is if a person (or most) can’t here a difference then Smart is when to Stop. So imagine say 2% better, what kind of animal can here that difference Certainly not a human ! Now add up all the I think I here a Difference’s, Snake oil included, and the only real hard core fact is the money you’ve wasted. You might have a few Lit, Light, empty pretty cases, bells and whistles and flashey cables to brag about, so all is not lost. Yup we’ve come a long way, 40-50 years learning….What how to listen ? Heard that before Lol
Digital is here, things are changing, there will always be debates along with that marketing B.S. Enjoy 😎

Overwhelming evidence is that the devil is in your ‘pockets’ 😈 A ‘massive’ majority would leave little room if any for a debate correct ? But it’s easy BS for all to sling. Irrelevant as an adjective…not connected with your money  Lol 

Hear: can’t here a difference then 

Ben hearing this for  4o + years now yet analog is still here and we convert digital to analog. 

You might have a few Lit, Light, empty pretty cases, bells and whistles and flashey cables to brag about, so all is not lost. Yup we’ve come a long way, 40-50 years learning….What how to listen ? Heard that before Lol

1971 GTO eh? 

About as un-digital as you get. 

Think I will take my Lucid Air GT for a spin. 


Indeed, there are a number of streamers anchored by the open source flexibility of the raspberry pi variants. There are others which utilize a more sophisticated cpu setup but Linux seems to be OS of most. I can imagine that many of the manufacturers today are taking advantage of the pi as their core streaming platform and they write custom interfaces for their specific application. Like so many things in life, how the signal is addressed to feed the input, power supply implementation(s), what is done to the digital signal on the output side and how the handoff takes place are where the art of the individual designers is on full display. Noise rejection is also a big deal.


I've been streaming for alot of years and there are distinct performance levels. Some believe it is a matter of minor degrees...and within certain performance bands it is. There is quite a performance improvement from a normal home computer and an optimized mac mini. There is a considerable improvement from a mac mini to a purpose built streamer. Then you have the performance leap from there to the Aurender/Innuos level, then to the Grimm/Taiko level and on up. Is it worth the $$$ to move up the performance band? Thats an individual choice. For many, the entry Innuos level is a terrific stopping point. For those who want more, there are more sophisticated approaches as you move up the $$$ heirarchy.


For those who believe its snake oil or marketing BS, I would respectfully submit you havent heard it for yourself. A healthy dose of skepticism is always good...but to deny the performance improvements aren't available and are figments of an imagination is the equivalent to offering that all phono cartridges sound the same...that all phono stages sound the same....

I'm sorry that no one seems to be able to answer the original question from the OP.  My guess is that this is a similar situation to high end class D amps.  Most of them are based on a few different amplification modules.  Of course, different input buffers & power supplies (and occasionally more dramatic alterations) results in different sounding amplifiers, but the module used is often known and even touted,

Industry sources have suggested to the OP that most streaming is done via a few standard platforms.  As with class D amps, additional circuitry before, after, and possibly even in those modules can result in different sounding streamers.  Yet the identities of those common platforms is clearly not common knowledge.

It is possible that most/all "high end" streamers are the result of completely independent platform designs, and that the sources were referring to the multitudes of AV receivers, HT setups, etc. sharing "streamer on a chip"-type implementations.  The real answer is probably more subtle. 

Going back to class D amps, most of them are tucked away in cars, TVs, etc. and are probably not GanFet, Purifi, Hypex, ...  They're based on anonymous, less carefully designed modules.  It seems unlikely that every high end streamer shares no common circuitry/software, but none of us know if there is a "Hypex" of streamer platforms (not singling them out as best or worst, just noting that it's easy to find multiple well regarded amps using Hypex).  Given that this is Agon, I believe the OP doesn't care whether all the streaming devices at Best Buy use the same -say- Samsung streamer.  They're probably curious if there are reputable streamer platform modules being used in multiple high end devices, and who makes them.



Correct, very little digital it’s an old car wrapped in some new material quite simply just fun to drive, another hobby. You’ve a Lucid Air really ? Humm… although slightly unimpressive inside at its price point, it’s definitely a quiet slingshot ride.


@1971gto455ho no I do not that was sarcasm. I do have a 1968 z-28 that I have owned since High School.  Weekend rides in the summer only, zero rust all original. 


Screaming solid lifter forged 302 kicked many a big blocks Ass-embly Lol. That’s good stuff guy hang onto that baby. Been doing the Auto thing about as long as the audio thing. Always nice to know there’s other’s keen on steel.


Nothing says lack of character like a battery-powered car. Think, golf cart. Sorry, I know it’s the future but nothing from a battery will replace the thrill of hearing a Ferrari 8-cylinder or a Porsche 6 singing behind my ears. Or even a Ford or Chevy V8 from the front.  Never ever. God help us whenever we can no longer fuel these wonderful machines. Just sayin’.

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I am guessing whom ever told the OP this is referring to the Chi-Fi area. The all in one Streamers from SME (or whatever its call) Topping, and a few others. All are very similar. Not sure they are the "same" but nothing really stands out with them. They get the job done, they do it well, and can certainly be beat. But many like the all in ones as they just set the AVR to passthrough and add streaming and better DAC. by better DAC I am referring to the one in AVR. Its easy, they are very cost effective and hi value. Are they audiophile, not really. ASR loves them as chi-fi caters to his low noise = best.

As the traditional HiFi manufactures had to include streaming capability a few years back without having the know how, they used technology from companies that already developed streaming technology. One of the leading companies is StreamUnlimited based in Austria. Their origins are in the Vienna-based Philips Audio Video Innovation Center. They don't publish who their customers are. Interestingly Google took a 41% share in the company in 2017. A few (undisclosed) high end hifi companies use their platforms.Do check out their website and you have an idea of what their capabilities are.

In addition to Stream Unlimited, another swiss outfit

My Signature Rendu (spdif) streaming module identified itself as a MR-MOD formerly produced by ABC-PCB now Engineered Electronics and still supported with newer firmware. I can say the Sonore unit is an exceptionally good sounding unit using this module. I've been through various streamers up to a DCS Network bridge and the Sonore is right up there with it but the DCS and Blue sound Node 2 is just so much more convenient as one box w/native android app solutions, no server needed to stream Tidal/Qobuz and radio. With the Sonore I did have to add an SOTM Neo 200 to use Bubbleupnp server & app and was worried about leaving the SOTM on 24/7 (w/SD card hosted software). I may actually put them back into service at some point for variety. I have not compared any Raspberry PI or similar mini computer board based solutions or Lumin/Aurender/Auralic who probably develop their own.

@oltmb Thanks, I think you got closer to what I was asking than anyone else.  I have a feeling there are two or three companies providing the streaming capability in all kinds of high end components.  Interesting that the image under HiFi is a Naim Uniti Atom and under Smart Speaker it's one from B&O.  $20 says if you pop the top on streaming Weiss or Bricasti you find something like this in there.

Unless you are talking something uber bespoke (on the level of the Grimm), I'm guessing most folks use something similar to the StreamUnlimited boards.