Streamer v DAC - which is more important?


I know there have been other posts on this topic but I decided to add my recent experience. I have used a Cambridge Audio CXN but as I have indicated in previous posts, while happy with the SQ, I am totally frustrated with the apps. I recently bought an Auris BluMeHD for use with my second system but decided to ditch the CXN and hooked up the Auris to my Pure Audio Lotus 5 DAC which allowed me to use the Tidal app ( also very poor but better than the Cambridge apps).  Now either I'm going mad or my hearing is defective ( which my audiologist friend would likely dispute) but I could hear no difference between the $95 Auris and the $1000 CXN when played through the external DAC. This leads me to believe that the DAC is way more important than the streamer, unless perhaps you spend mega bucks on the streamer. Has anyone else experimented comparing a cheap streamer with a more expensive one when played via the same external DAC?
mazian
Lots of variables. What resolution on Tidal? How resolving is the rest of your system. Quality of cable(s). I’m currently using a Bel Canto e.one Stream to play a Tidal and Qobuz into the internal DAC in my Anthem STR integrated amp. The Bel Canto is appreciably better than either my MacBook Pro or a Bluesound Node 2i. Now that I’ve got the streamer nailed down I’ll be looking for an external DAC to round things out. All components in the audio chain matter, and the chain is only as good as its weakest link.
I had a Lumin A-1 Streamer and a Emm Lab DAC and a Laufer Teknik Server.  It sounded great.  I upgraded to the Lumin X-1 and as a result I sold the Emm Lab DAC and the Memory player and my sound was even better.  I love the simplicity of the Lumin X-1.  
DAC. The clock is there.

The streamer is not nearly as relevant. I'm using Roon via an old Linux box and $150 Pi 4 streamer.
My two cents? The DAC is more important as that is where the data is converted into an analog signal. It's the spot where jitter, distortion, frequency non-linearity and noise can end up in the sound we hear.  Until then, the streamer and all of the other devices upstream are simply handling data packets. Now, that's not to say that the streamer isn't important. RFI control can be done poorly, or well, for example. And, the streamer and its associated programming is where we interface to select music, build playlists, etc., so a poor design here can certainly leave us with negative thoughts that may affect our perception.
I vary endpoints and sources. Having a high quality stand alone DAC is worth every penny paid. Because so many manufacturers are adding a DAC to whatever they make I expect to find one on the next toaster I buy. The side effect is a perceived diminishing importance of the DAC. The fashion on the marketing end is streaming transport DAC combinations and since money follows fashion, I expect a lot of marketing hype telling me why I need such and such. The power supply, processing architecture and analogue stage of a stand alone DAC has a massive impact on the sound. Night and Day differences between manufacturers using the same chip. Paul from PS Audio has a great video explaining this question,why specs are misleading and why the output stage is so important.  
https://youtu.be/McoA82-fi9s


As a broad generalization, I think the DAC is more important, however it all depends on a lot of factors. For example, does your streamer output/passthrough the file type you're wanting to listen to? If you want MQA or maybe some other file type, you need a streamer that can pass that info to the DAC. You mentioned having the CXN to compare. I don't remember the details, but I know the CXN really isn't intended to be a streamer going out to an external DAC. I believe it only exports CD bit rates regardless of the source. So it might be downscaling some file types. That's an example where you're streamer might matter at least as much as your DAC. 

Another factor would be if you find your DAC sounds best via a certain input. Sometimes that's USB, sometimes IS2, maybe something else. Well if you DAC sounds best via IS2, you need a streamer that has an IS2 output. 

So like most things in audio... it depends. 
That very question was put to the test recently during a get together at a acquaintance home where he quickly demonstrated playback comparisons through a home baked Jcat ? server / streamer and a very expensive net work switch along with a selection of wires , modem , service and a hideously expensive dac to the rest of his system. We listened to a verity of known well recorded music.
He then bypassed his server streamer and Uber up stream components switch and all to a basic components and wire and kept his 30 grand dac in place , playback wasn’t nearly as enjoyable.
Actually there was a shocking difference.

I certainly do not own anything that remotely comes close to this fellows system however I know what actual music being played should sound like and this illusion was a tiny bit closer to the real thing with everything in place including a 5 grand network switch thrown in the mix.

I don’t stream music yet my library of music is ripped to a dedicated server and I have a fairly decent dac however today good performing dacs are a dime a dozen ,
 I’ve always considered the source especially the quality of recordings to be all important and still think so , actually it’s all important.
I’ve used the Bluesound Vault2, a Bryston BDP3, and a Melco N100 as 3 different streamers into the same DAC, a Bryston DAC3.  They all sound different, with the Melco and the Bryston besting the Bluesound.  So I think the streamer matters, but the DAC is where I would put most of the budget
Mahler I would agree to a certain extent today with fast moving technology I chose a 1 bit FPGA dac with separate power supplies all are upgradable with firmware updates , I feel good about that and it performs very well.

Streaming is a new frontier for me and I’m reluctant to dive in for now , I have access to a huge collection of CDs I borrow to rip and so far I’m content with that .
My server was a Black Friday special from a actual audio store and though it had a retail price in the thousands it was heavily discounted being a store and audio show demo model.
ive had another borrowed server to compare and noticed a marked difference in performance and someday soon I’ll sell off my original  purchase.
Though for now I’ll enjoy what I have and see what unfolds in the very near future.

Slightly off topic, but have you ever thought about using a different app for your CXN?

I have used Bubble UPnP for Android and I think it's light years better than the stock Cambridge Audio app. 
Without question the Dac quality for the music is processed here 
it is much better to pay  to 1st buy a good digital front end 
then when you can afford it then buy a good streamer.
your computer can do most of the streamers function 
and a good usb cable is essential . I have  listened to  5 of the best under $1500, and Final touch audio was roughly half that and the most natural I have heard .
Is Bubble UPnP Android only as I can't find it on the Apple App store?
I don’t think Bubble Upnp is on Apple. 
The biggest flaw in any setup is using usb for a number of reasons:
usb is flawed and that’s why you see many many tweaks/gadgets to try to make it better;

if you use usb/toslink/coax, then it requires you to place the computer (streamers are just a computer) in the audio room which isn’t a good idea for many reasons;

get the best fpga based dac that has a network interface and use an existing computer running Roon and you will have a nice sounding system without all the bs/hype that goes with separate streamers. The dac is the more critical piece to get right
Adding a view on user interface. Agree many Apps are bad and native Tidal is much better. However, I started using Roon and that is nice interface and lots of additional information. Tidal is embedded into Roon. 
DACs went out of fashion a while back....   and now they are one of hottest categories of hardware discussion and sales.   I've been using a DAC since the late eighties for good reason,  they handle multiple digital sources and often sound better than one box solutions.  Now with streaming and archived digital files theres never been a better time to buy a DAC.   Im using a NAD M51 DAC with several digital sources including a Bluesound Vault 2i and it sounds awesome.    Movies, bluray audio, files on my HD...  all sound better through the DAC.