streamer for PWD DAC mkII - tired of a computer and complicated connectivity!


Hello All,

I have a PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC mkII (PWD II) and I am sick and tired of having a computer connected to my hi-fi system.  I find it far easier to clean and play a record than it is to play a digital file, this is not acceptable!

I would love to keep my PWD II as it is a great sounding piece of gear, but I need to feed it with a music stream that is simple, and eliminate the mac mini and software.  I would love to use a Sonos Connect, but it cannot handle high res music.  Is there any other solution?  Is there a competitor to Sonos that handles high res?  Can I plug in an Apple TV and play music from the network without needing to look at iTunes on a computer somewhere?  Is there a low cost streamer that can plug into the PWD?  Can I control a NAS drive connected to the PWD II via ethernet without a computer?

Or, do I sell the PWD II, raise some funds, and buy a Cambridge 851N or Sony HAP-Z1ES?  Both of these units look way simpler, and both have plusses and minuses:  The Sony supports DSD, The Cambridge supports iTunes Airplay (and I would assume I can stream Apple Music through that?).

Thank you for your help!
- Mark
marktomaras
Could this be what you are looking for to replace your current dac?


Jon2020, I'm sorry, I think I missed something - what is your suggestion?
thanks!
Marktomaras,
The link did not get through but here it is  :-

http://www.caryaudio.com/products/dms-500-digital-music-streamer/
Ah yes, this is a beautiful piece, the Cary. Just out of my limited budget.  If I keep the PS Audio piece, my budget is minuscule. Maybe $300-$400. If I sell the PS Audio piece, my budget grows to about $2k, give or take. Anyone have any advice on a bluesound node as a streamer for my PWD?
You're pretty much where I am regarding the music server / streaming thing - your choices are very limited.  I've had two Olive Media products, the One and the 03HD, a ReQuest Audio F4.800, and most recently a Bluesound Vault 2 with a single Node. 

All require being tethered to the Internet which for my needs simply did not work.  I've tossed in the proverbial towel with the idea of going this route and I'm returning to simply getting a good DAC. 

I'm no newbie to computers, either.  I just found the whole ordeal of ripping cd's time consuming with minimal return.  That's just me but...
This sector of the industry is a quagmire.  I hope it improves in 2016!  Basically I want a hifi version of Sonos that I can plug into my DAC for a good price.  That or a single unit that combines a good DAC and a very convenient player.  For the moment, I am going to reconfigure things a little with my computer and see if I can get it to run more conveniently.
oblgny, you can rip what you listen at the same time.  Eventually all CDs will get ripped with no effort.  Technically speaking, rip is better than original.
Mark,

Good news. You can keep your dac and get this :-

http://www.stereophile.com/content/lumin-u1-network-music-transport#5H22VdmDUCUTq8qP.97

J. :)
Such a bargain!
Agreed! Very poor value for just a transport. The Cary is much better value but still prohibitive.
Maybe the Bluesound Vault 2 :-

http://www.bluesound.com/products/vault-2/
Is the node the same as the vault just without the CD  Drive  and internal storage?
I have a pwd mkII with the bridge connected to the internet. All my files are stored on a 4 bay drobo not a nas drobo. The drobo is connected to my laptop via a usb cable I use Jrivers as my player. So all I do is pick a song and plays through my system. Do you have a bridge in your dac? Sound is way better than playin through usb. It is not as complicated as you are saying. Ps audio has a lot info on there website.
Looks like it. Just connect the Node by coax rca to your dac to bypass its internal dac. 
Fmer, I know it is possible, I just find it clunky.  I detest JRiver.  I think it is really poorly designed software.  In my time with the PWD, Bridge, and JRiver, I have never been happy.
The answer to your prayers:

http://www.tweekgeek.com/auralic-aries-mini/
Either the Aries or the Node 2. Or for more money an Aurender. I've been reviewing my options for removing my laptop from my system too. Just when I think I've landed on the perfect solution, I discover something like I need to run an ethernet cable from my router (upstairs) to my stereo (basement) or put all my music (on external firewire or USB hard drives) on a NAS or something else I don't want to do. So I decided to buy an ultrasonic record cleaner instead. I haven't given up but just can't find the ideal substitute for my laptop. Like you, I already have a DAC I like (PS Audio DACII and Ayre QB-9 DSD).
I had a PS Audio PW Dac w/bridge and it was the most frustrating and disappointing experience I've had in audio. The only upside is it drove me to sell all my digital gear and get into all analog tube gear. That was about 4 years ago and I now have about 1000 lps, they play every time, they sound awesome every time. I did get a Schiit Gungnir and have it running through a mac mini for my digi files, mostly for casual backround music or through super highbend headphone  rig, but all my serious listening is vinyl. With a good analog vinyl setup there's absolutely no contest, vinyl just blows digital away. 
Moryoga,  that was probably a good move! I prefer listening to vinyl on my system though my whole quest for a digital plan here is to at least to be able to enjoy my digital somewhat!

for the time being I decided to reconfigure my Mac Mini and my set up somewhat and hold off on any additional purchases. I had an old SSD laying around so I installed that in the Mac Mini to make it a little zippier,  I connected the hard drive directly to the Mac Mini to  eliminate network funniness,  i've converted all my files to AIFF, and playing them using iTunes and bit perfect.   I've set the computer to never sleep, there's no display attached to it so it looks fine on the audio rack,  and since the computers use for absolutely nothing else, it seems to be always ready for the iPhone remote app. 

So that's the plan, I haven't tested it fully yet,  but I'll keep you posted on the thread! Thanks for your help so far. I hope in a year's time  there will be an interesting solution for me at a good price.
marktomaras- Can you rip CD's with the mac mini? This seems like a nice option. I'm looking at the Bluesound Node2 right now but this might be something worth looking int.
Yes, you can rip with the mini. Some models have a built in optical drive, some require an external drive to rip.  I like the idea of a bluesound vault 2 over the node. It is basically a node  with an optical drive for ripping and a hard drive for storage.  I have yet to use one, but they look interesting.  The app and usability will be important in making a decision on that brand.
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Bluesound Node 2. Sounds better than Sonos, app easier to use, TIDAL integration and just around your $400 price point. Above that Aurender N100, which is on a different level in many ways. If you can find a dealer with some stuff on demo so you can get a feel for the apps and how they work etc.

i agree that computers can be a distraction from listening to music. They always seem to need some attention. Now that piece of dedicated streamers has come down so much I see little reason for a computer.
acousticfrontiers: perhaps you can help me out. Most of my digital music is stored in iTunes (Mac OS 10). I am using iTunes --> AirPlay --> Apple TV --> TosLink --> Cambridge Audio 851D DAC/Preamp.

Do you think Bluesound Node 2 will give me noticeably better sound quality over Apple TV? I understand that ATV samples at 48 kHz, but the question is whether the degradation in SQ is noticeable at this point. I don't want to introduce a relocker in the chain in order to keep it simple.

Secondly, I understand that AirPlay cannot support anything higher than CD quality. What other streaming options are there to stream hi-res music?

Thanks in advance

@arafiq have not compared ATV to Bluesound, but compared to Sonos (both digital out) it is a clear step up in SQ. Bluesound iOS app then becomes your UI, and your music library in iTunes just another source. Bluesound does hires, as do many other streaming solutions, just not Sonos or ATV.

Bluesound Node2 review :-

http://www.whathifi.com/bluesound/node-2/review?oq=node%202&src=textfield&aq=node%202&ty...
Hey Mark

   I too got tired of my Mac&Dac setup and got the Bluesound 2 Vault and Node.  As has been mentioned upstream, thehy require an ethernet connection.
  It generally works well, except there are frequent updates, and you have to rest the whole system with each update (or at least I have to reset mine, perhaps other uses don't have to).
Frequent unwanted i tunes updates were one reason that I bailed on Mac&Dac, so this does not make me happy.
   There is no substitue for Physical Media, imo
I like to own the physical disc too but lately I have been converting my CDs to .wav  and putting them on a hard drive. I use my OPPO 103D universal player to send the digital stream to my NAD M51 DAC and it sounds great plus the Playlist  and cover art appears on my TV and my tablet which also  serves as the remote/interface for all my media. I would love something like the Bluesound Vault 2 but I can't justify the cost right now with a kid in college...  maybe next year.  I almost bought the original Vault but didn't like the form factor and lack of coax digital out.   

So mahler, how do you like the Vault 2 ?
I don’t know, but I don’t think Bluesound is doing a good job of explaining the technology as well as they should be. For example, they don’t explain how well streaming works if you only buy the Node 2 unit, i.e. no Vault. Currently, I’m using Airplay to stream music to my Apple TV. There’s very little information on how this can improve the sound. I'm sure someone has done subjective studies, but I can't find any info. Bluesound doesn’t support Airplay, so they advise that you buy an airport express and hook it up to the Node.
https://support.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/articles/200271836-Does-Bluesound-support-Apple-AirPlay-

Well, that’s confusing. Do I really need to buy an airport express? I don’t want to, because the whole idea is to simplify the setup with Bluesound, not add more pieces to the puzzle. By suggesting that the user add the Airport Express, I believe Bluesound is diluting the message.

I’m assuming that they have an alternative (to Airplay) proprietary streaming protocol that can work well with a Mac/iTunes. We know that Airplay cannot stream hi-res music, but can a Node 2 stream in, say 24/96, given a Mac and iTunes combo? There are lots of obvious questions and not much information on the net.
Arafiq, I am in total agreement about the lack of info. I have been scouring the manufacturer's websites to find streaming products and I am finding very few that look like attractive options at any price. It seems this section of the industry is still quite undeveloped. 

My my options seem to be to buy a $500 streaming device (bluesound node or auralic mini) to replace my mac mini and connect to the PS Audio PWD via USB, but this makes me rely on the USB which reduces the quality of playback of the PWD by not using its onboard player in the bridge, and it also means I am investing in an underdeveloped user interface in either of those streaming products. Basically, I am not super excited about either.

My other option is to sell the mac mini and the PWD and purchase one of three stand alone DAC streamers: the Sony hap-z1es, the Cambridge 851N, or the Marantz na11s1 (the Marantz being a bit north of my budget).  The issues here are, I may be taking a step back in sound quality from the PWD, and the question of user interface is still there - how mature are these other options?

i think I am going to give the old college try on the PWD bridge, and see if I can get a different software other than JRiver to work. If I still find it too cumbersome, perhaps I'll audition the Cambridge unit, as it looks very flexible. Has anyone compared to Cambridge 851N to a higher end ($2500 a $5000 price range) stand alone DAC?
I use MacMini - Itunes/ALAC - WiFi -Airport Express - Benchmark DAC1 - Power amp.  WiFi makes playback program, computer speed, amount of memory etc. irrelevant.  I use ALAC since it is format used to send the data over WiFi (one conversion less).  WiFi allows to keep computer away from the audio system.  I also use computer during playback (won't affect the sound).  Airport Express has decent jitter spects (258ps measured by Stereophile) but only on the Toslink output.  Analog output is pretty bad showing jitter of 2400ps.  Apple TV receives data at 44.1kHz but outputs it at 48kHz.  That requires interpolation and might affect the sound.  My DAC suppresses jitter (no noise - very clean sound).

I don't understand problems with USB.  With good cable and asynchronous USB DAC it delivers jitter free music.  What is common with WiFi (or any other bridge) is lack of timing that is recreated on the other side of the bridge.
kijanki, a few comments ...

1. When you say WiFi, I'm assuming you mean you're using Airplay. The problem is that Airplay doesn't support anything above 16/44.1. So if you want to stream hi-res, e.g. 24/96, I don't think that's an option with your current wifi setup. I could be wrong though.

2. Apple TV sample rate - I understand that it outputs at 48kHz but I have never seen conclusive data that it impacts the sound to the point where the difference is noticeable to the average listener. The question is if it's worth going to Airport Express (which probably has worse jitter problems) over the Apple TV.

3. I have thought about using Airport Express instead of Apple TV, but I'm not sure if I'll be trading one problem with another - i.e. better sampling rate but worse jitter. I use Cambridge Audio 851D, so not sure how well jitter suppression works here.

Part of me says that I should just stick with Apple TV over Airplay until the streaming technology improves substantially.
arafiq,

1. you're right, but all my music is 16/44.1 - good enough for me.  Most of music comes as 16/44.1 while a lot of higher rate music is the same upsampled 16/44.1 - not sounding any better (My DAC upsamples anyway)
2. I have no experience with Apple TV but I have read a few posts on this forum claiming detectable sound difference.
3. 258ps of jitter is not a lot but might be audible.  Jitter is basically addition of noise that is proportional to signal level and undetectable without music.  Pretty much every DAC has jitter suppression either in form of PLL or asynchronous rate converter (that suppresses better). Placing reclocker in front of the DAC is always helpful.  Once you get rid of jitter at the end nothing else affects the sound.  I'm so far happy with my setup but in your situation I would investigate Sonos, Bluesound etc.  More people today switch to computer server for convenience, therefore more bridge devices will become available - perhaps Apple TV with multiple output rates?
The Bluesound Node is not a storage device, only the Vault is the storage device. I have the Vault 2 and a Node 2 currently. 
 "SO, mahler, how do you like the bluesound?"

  I was holding off answering this until I got a little more experience using it.  In general, I like it, but it is far from perfect.
  In answer to some of the questions posed since my post of mid january, I don't think that one can use any of the components unless you get the Vault.  The Vault is the only part of the system that can store music and controls the GUI, among other things.  I knew that going in, so that isn't a problem, but I do think the ads are misleading in that department.
  The sound is great.  I did a few comparisons with CDs that I had ripped to the Vault and playing them from my Oppo 105 and the differences are trivial at best.
   One problem is the App, which isn't quite ready for Prime Time.  It works a lot better at identifying albums than i tunes, but that is a low bar to step over.  It doesn't do the best job of organizing and finding albums compared to some other apps out there.  It is somewhat counterintuitive and difficult to make plays lists with.  It also frequently gets updated, which might be a good thing but which crashes the whole app and requires a reboot of the the components.
This also happens when Apple updates the iPad or the Android updates occur.  It isn't the hassle free panacea that I had been seeking compared to doing a Mac and Dac.  Nothing for me will beat popping in a disc and hitting play.
  It is an improvement over iTunes, but it could be so much more.

Mahler, if you ever get the itch to move on from the Bluesound, know that the Bridge II for your PWD is much more stable than the BI.  I put in a BII last week to replace a Squeezebox touch, and I am _floored_ by the increase in sound quality.  I did not imagine that a source upgrade (basically a transport upgrade) could make so much difference in any system.
Hello All, so I decided to keep the PWDII and I actually just replaced the bridge with the Bridge 2.  I figured that had to be done.  I also recently discovered Roon & Tidal, which I adore.  So now I am playing the music via Roon and hard drive, connected via USB.  As soon as Roon & PS Audio combine forces, which I expect to happen this year (hopefully sooner than later!) I will be able to move my mac mini and hard drive off the audio shelf, back into a closet, and connect via ethernet.  At that point I will give the Bridge 2 its proper listen.  For now, I cannot imagine using JRiver again.  Utterly crap user interface and functionality compared to Roon.  I'll be in touch...