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.
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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.
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.
- 17 posts total