Streamer and DAC question

Hi -

I currently use a Naim XS 2 and PSB speakers in a medium sized room. My source is streaming music through an airport express connected to the CA Dacmagic (not plus). I listed to classic rock, 80's new wave, and classical. I am obtaining a large collection of 24-192 recordings and would like to upgrade my streaming and DAC. I'm not exactly sure what sound I like but would say I lean towards a warmer sound. I can say without a doubt that I like my friend's primarily all Naim system (big amps, power supplies, wilson sophia speakers, and a dedicated room build with listening in mind...much more money than I can spend).

My brother-in-law is coming over today to help me wire my place with 10/100 cable so that I don't need to rely upon a wireless connection.

Can I connect my airport express' optical output to stream the higher bit-rate files when it is connected via the ethernet port (not wireless)?

If not, I think I would have to use a dedicated streamer. I am looking at the Moon Mind and/or Sonore Rendue. Does anyone have any experience with these products? Any others I should look at?

As far as an upgraded DAC goes...I am looking at the Rega DAC, Moon 100D, and PS Audio Nuwave. The only one I have the opportunity to listen to before purchase would be the Moon 100D. Any opinions on these DACs? Any others I should be aware? I am thinking $800 and under for the DAC.

Thanks for any input!

Hi John,

I too am looking for a new DAC and have not auditioned too many yet. I did do a direct compare of the Moon 100D and the Parasound Zdac and found the Zdac to be much better than the Moon 100D. I had both for about a month and at first was having difficulty finding a preference as the ZDAC sounded fuller and had stronger bass but I thought at times got congested sounding on more complex or dynamic passages. The 100D was not as full sounding but had a nice delicate approach that did not get as congested sounding during those complex passages. However, by the end of the month (both run 24/7 to fully burn in) I much preferred the Zdac. The congestion seemed to go away and what I was left with was a more harmonically rich sound than the Moon gave. The bass gave a solid foundation and the individual instruments seemed more palpable. I read one review that nailed the difference - saying image density was improved with the Zdac and more harmonically rich. For the money it is a steal. However, I ultimately returned both, due to uncertainty with my job. Now I am in the hunt again and considering the Nuwave, Rega, Gungnir, Wadia 121 or a Bryston - I am open to used to save money but at this point I am not at all sure what direction to go. I wonder too if they would really provide an upgrade to the Zdac - after all I don't want to spend money that is not necessary to spend. The only reason I have not repurchased the Zdac is my speakers and tube integrated amp are already very slightly laid back in character and the Zdac was very musical but slightly laid back as well - I felt like I might like a more forward or detailed sound to balance things out. My fill in is a Dragonfly - which was well bested by both of the other two but there was something about the tonal balance that I tend to like better - not saying the dragonfly is better - but it made me think there is still something missing from the two I auditioned. By the way I previously owned a VDAC II and both the Moon and Zdac were an improvement as VDAC just didn't speak to me and was not involving like the other two. In my younger years I had a higher end all krell system but these days am on a much tighter budget so I am still picky and trying to find the best balance for the dollar making things harder.
IMHO the Bryston BDA-1/BPA-1 combo is outstanding. However, I realize that there is a lot of good sounding equipment out there. Actually there's too many choices. This hobby can drive you crazy if you let it.
"Can I connect my airport express' optical output to stream the higher bit-rate files when it is connected via the ethernet port (not wireless)?"

No, only the Squeezebox Touch will do 96.

"As far as an upgraded DAC goes...I am looking at the Rega DAC, Moon 100D, and PS Audio Nuwave."

If you want a warm sound, the Rega or the Lampizator will do this. I recommend to use USB, but not the interfaces on these DACs. You will get much better results using the Off-Ramp 5 because it delivers lower jitter. Off-Ramp 5 will drive coax output to the DAC. Upgrading power supply and using a really good coax with the Off-Ramp 5 makes a big difference too.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
No effort required to get good results with DLNA/UPnP streaming vs massive PITA optimizing a computer for asynch USB with unpredictable results. So go the streamer route for easiest success.

Check out the Rendu and keep you eyes out for when the Auralic Aries comes out to see if it beats the Rendu.
Hi All - my intent is not to hijack John's post so apologies if it sounds that way - but regarding the part of his post to update the DAC - we seem to be looking in the same budget so hopefully my following questions will help both of us. First - Thanks for the feedback. No doubt the Bryston BDA-1 with BPA-1 will be good from what I have been reading, but buying both is way out of my budget. I am seeing used BDA-1s dipping under $900 which would be a stretch already. My idea was if purchasing one of these quality used units like the BDA-1, that don't have the most up to date USB input, I would use it with my NuForce - U192S - USB to S/PDIF Converter which I picked up cheap at Audio Advisor last year. The U192S worked great for me when auditioning the ZDAC and SimAudio 100D. Where it gets confusing is reading reviews of newer units like the ZDAC and hearing it performs better than units costing thousands - of course that is one opinion, and maybe it sounds better than some units that cost thousands - but maybe they were older units or not good values to begin with. So I guess it goes back to the age old question of how much is digital improving and does something like a ZDAC outperform something like a DBA-1 coupled with a U192s. Keeping in mind I can get a demo or used ZDAC for around $400 - I don't mind saving money for a future upgrade if the extra money now does not get me a noticeable improvement. I also hear good reviews about the Gungnir - but rarely see them sold used and usually not for much of a discount - so then again, comparing a new Gungnir to other new units in its price range, maybe it is a great value, but when comparing it to a unit that was $2000 a couple of years ago, but sells used now for the same price - what is the better option? Bottom line - with a limited budget I always am looking for max performance for least outlay of cash - whether used or new. I have also seen used Rega Dacs going for under $500 and Wadia 121s for under $650. Yes - this hobby can make you crazy - I think I am well on my way. :)