Streamer Value Question Innous vs Bluesound


I am ready to try streaming again after my 1st failed effort.
I had owned the basic Roon streamer. 

I plan to use the Roon with Tidal service but not
the Roon hardware this time around.

I am now comparing the Innuos Zen Mini @ $1,250 v.s. the
Bluesound Vault 2i @ $1,295. 

The better Innuos is about $4,400.
If you add the reclocker and linear power supply to
 the Mini you are also getting closer to $4k.

Now here is my thought: Buy the Vault and plan to find
a DAC upgrade- currently I have an Oppo 205.
This will bring me the better SQ result overall I think.

What have others found?

94b60302 cac0 4543 8dcb 330d93295659chorus
Seems like with your options these will hold your files.
Personally I’d have the files on a NAS with suitable backup.
This separates the storage from the streamer then you can change the streamer without having any impact on the file storage.
I have a Synology 2 drive NAS with a LUMIN D2 streamer and I’m very happy with it.
You can use this independently or add a NUC/PC for Roon if you want it.
Or just get a NUC and also store your files on it.

At the end of my year subscription I’ll be dropping Roon and just using the LUMIN to stream. 



The DAC in any of these (including the OPPO) is adequate, but not really good. You should pick a streamer/server then get a better DAC later, maybe a re-clocker too
Does the OP intend to stream Tidal only?  Or convert CDs as well?
if stream only then you don’t need the Vault2, the Node2 wii handle all.  If need storage I would also favor keeping the files on a separate location.  I did transfer about 0.75tb from a Vault to a NAS but it wasn’t easy.
if the OP intends to continue to play CDs I would put the money first in a good DAC and add the other stuff later.
I’m in danger of sounding like a broken record on this issue, but in my experience, the streamer/server is at least as important as the DAC and likely more so. I enjoyed a greater improvement in sound quality by improving the streamer than I did from the DAC.  

The Bluesound Node 2i is a terrific value - a killer unit from a utility standpoint (I have one in a system).  But, if sound quality is the goal, I wouldn’t be building around the Vault or the Node because even if you upgrade the DAC significantly, the end result will still be limited.  My $.02. Of course, YMMV.
Thanks for all the tips and expertise. So the streamer does in fact
have an audible impact on SQ as most other components?

mahler-I do intend to covert my few cds to files besides streaming with a
hirez source. Tidal, Qobuz or Amazon. Undecided yet. I may choose
the service with a real support department as opposed to a member
forum.

Would it be difficult to keep a copy of all my downloaded music
on a separate drive for security? Like a thumb drive? I understand
they hold a lot more nowadays.

highpeak-what is a nuc?

mgrif- which streamer did you buy?

Is the Lumin line of streamers a better value than Innuos?

Thanks!

Happy 4th!
NUC small form factor PC
if you go the Roon route you will need something to host the core.
https://www.intel.co.uk/content/www/uk/en/products/boards-kits/nuc.html
Just read a rather poor performance review on ASR for the Bluesound.
I think I need to continue shopping for a better $1,000 solution.
Start with a Zen Mini Mklll and upgrade the DAC and power supply as funds allow.  
Chorus,

I have three streamers in different systems and have been able to do direct comparisons of each.  I have the Bluesound Node 2i, and Aurender N100H, and and Auralic Aries G2.  The Aurender is audibly  better than the Node 2i and the G2 is audibly better than the Aurender.  They are priced accordingly as well.  There are other users in these forums who have gone much farther upstream in performance (and price) than I have and report additional gains in performance.  And, having read their various posts on these forums, it would appear there’s general agreement that that the server/streamer is at least as important as the DAC.  Happy shopping and let us know what you decide.
The BlueSound output does not include USB ... which I think many of the better DACs require.  


I have not heard the Zen Mini MkIII, but it has the added value of functioning as the Roon Core. Since you want to use Roon, you could start with it and build from there (without a NUC or other computer for Roon). 
I don't understand what you mean by plan to use roon with Tidal service but not the roon hardware? What basic roon streamer did you have? I didn't know they made a streamer. 
I'd take a look at the Wolf Audio Systems Luna server. They sound better than the BlueSound and Innuos and you can install other 3rd party apps to their Linux or Windows OS. Plus, their support is fantastic and can help you get going.
I’m very happy with the Innuous Zen MK3, it is in the middle between the Zen Mini and the Innuous Zenith. It is priced around $2700. I’ve ripped all my near 1000 CD’s ( very fast ripping) and with Roon it is a great solution for me. Customer support is terrific!
Dave
I should add I purchased my Innuous Zen MK 3 from Dave (The Audio Doctor) here on the forum. Dave gave me a great deal and offers exc. customer service!
I can only speak from personal experience but I spent a “bit” on a good NAS with plenty of space. It can run the Roon core, plus act as your PC backup :)

I also had a Node 2 which is a good quality streamer, but I wanted to upgrade to a better streamer/dac with a CD player/ripper. 
After a bit of investigation I came across a product range called Cocktail Audio which has a range of streamers/ DACs/ CD player/rippers and storage or any combination. I have an X45Pro which has a very high quality DAC.

I think the product range (from Sth
Korea) is worth considering (in my opinion).
🇦🇺
Lumin and Auralic make good transports and have decent control apps so you can run Tidal & Qobuz plus add a NAS, thereby avoiding the $$$ Roon trap. I would then save for a good DAC like a denafrips pontus, then get the power supply upgrade for the transport and DAC. Go step by step so you dont have to stretch too much. 

Or just go all in and get the 6k Lumin T2 with Leedh volume control so you can rid yourself of all the boxes and cables and preamp etc. - that is my next move BTW.

FWIW of course.


I am a 61 yr old novice who just finished spending $12k+. I only stream as I own very few CDs and 0 records. I have the Innuos Zen mini going to Ayre Codex DAC to Rogue tube amp to Vandersteen Treo CT speakers. Had a Node 2i but it had no USB output. Had the next higher Innuos also (too expensive). They were on loan from Audio Connect in Verona NJ (John Rutan). Settled on the former. I learned that it is very very hard to discern clear differences. Our ears and brains hear differently. It reminds me of appreciating and describing fine wine and liquor. Beer is much easier. Pick a price point and get a trusted dealer to consult with. Diminishing returns happen fast. Spend the $$ on the speakers.
I have recently started streaming using tidal. 
I use a melco with an Exposure Dac which sounds very organic. I had a Chord 2qute which sounded very digital, the dac makes a huge difference. 
OP

if you hardly have any CDs and downloads and don’t intend to add more then you don’t need to spend for a streamer that has storage and ripping functions.  Just make sure that is has a slot for thumb drive.  So I wouldn’t get the Vault2 as you won’t need 2/3 of what it does.  If you decide on Bluesound just get the Node.
  I upgraded from Bluesound to a Bryston BDP3.  Qobuz sounds much better on the Bryston, but the Bryston BDP3 costs a lot more than the the Bluesound.
  I couldn’t get Qobuz to work at first on the Bryston.  It did work on Bluesound and my Android phone.  Bryston’s CS fixed it remotely, but whatever streaming service you choose you may want to try try it first from a phone or PC.  Then once you are comfortable with how it works, if there are any issues with the service playing on the streamer, it may help you decide who is at fault, the streamer or the service.  That can be helpful because as with any IT software/hardware compatibility issue, the two companies tend to point fingers at each other
I recently upgraded from a Node 2 (not 2i) to a Mytek Manhattan with network card. I originally did not plan to get the network card (streamer) but it was being offered for free with the DAC and I am glad that I got it. I have direct compared the Node playing through the DAC on the Manhattan and the Manhattan using its internal streamer and the internal Card is a better. However, the biggest jump in quality came from getting the better DAC- I’d put the improvement split at 90% DAC and 10% streamer in this particular case. Not sure what your budget is - the Manhattan is in the >$5K range but they also have a Brooklyn model that I think is under $2K. 
I bought mine direct from Mytek. Michael, who is the designer of the equipment answers all of my emails - usually within minutes. Excellent customer service. 

I am really happy with my purchase. The improvement in SQ is night and day, not small. As always YMMV. 
I’ve had a Bluesound Node 2i and found it extremely buggy with no tech support.
Node did work for few months then just crapped out. It mostly didn’t work as it was intended, it wouldn’t recognize my Eero Mesh network even though it was directly plugged in. Reset the device and still no joy. I’ve returned to my HiFi dealer after 5 months, and now picking up an Innuos Zen mini.

I would add the TEAC NT-505 to your list.  You won't have to (and can't) use an external DAC.  It comes with a very good DAC, does MQA, Roon, all that good stuff.
Don’t want to sound like a broken record (pun almost intended relative to this general forum!) but why not consider the surprisingly good RPi based Allo Digione (or Digione Signature)? It can stream most everything mentioned here, can be easily equipped with a LPS, and had been (considered) to outperform the bluesound nodes in at least a couple of reviews. Well, I think Darko still makes that assertion, at least. With every new DAC upgrade I’ve made, it just keeps surprising me. It would take a big budget jump from this particular RPi platform before overtaking it.
Otherwise, SOtM then Lumin stuff seem to be really great for the $$$.
@chorus

"So the streamer does in fact
have an audible impact on SQ as most other components?"

I don't think so. But the DAC does. I happily switch between Node 2i, (portable player) Fiio M11 (with SPDIF out), or an old laptop. I just need them to deliver FLAC file bits to the DAC, RME ADI-2 DAC FS, in my case. Only difference is ergonomics, interfaces, and where do I have what music; files on disk vs Qobuz/Tidal that both Node 2i and Fiio can access on WiFi. The real sound-maker is the DAC. I pump the bits to the DAC with reasonable but inexpensive coax and optical cables.
Node 2i and the RME cost me some $1,600 together, new. The RME's DAC does sound better than what comes with Node 2i, and it allows me to use balanced cables (again inexpensive) to the amp. It also sports very good headphone amp. I can't imagine spending more on streamers, etc. -- all that they need to do is to pass on the bits of the digitized audio. And BTW -- I am getting spectacular sound!
I would go with Highpeakriders option as its nearly what I have here.Nucs are really convenient and have a range of options. Adding a good DAC and NAS storage gives you better control of your files.
Ghjuvanni: you’re making a claim that the streamer doesn’t make a difference. Fine, but you’re also using 3 examples that are all relatively simple and are budget driven solutions - and unlikely to reveal differences.  As stated before, I found at least as much difference between servers as in DACs. The difference wasn’t in tonality, but in spaciousness and detail - musicality. And, the difference wasn’t subtle.  Perhaps you could  try a better unit and see if it was a good value for the performance (if any) improvement. Of course, it doesn’t matter to me one bit that you may not want to explore this to see if it makes a difference worth spending $ on.  But, you’re also suggesting to another forum participant that there’s really not a difference - without relevant experience - at least that you’ve revealed.  We all have opinions.  Myself included.  But opinions are better received and more helpful when backed up by experience, not speculation.  So, if you’ve invested a decent amount of time and $ in your system - try a better server.  And, then come back and tell us your experience - good or bad.  
@mgrif104 +1

Well said, and completely agree with your point of view. In my case, just swapping the steamer and keeping the same DAC made a substantial improvement. 
So far the take I am getting is mixed. One guy for $ on Streamers
and several who report improvement using better DACs.
I am very certain better DACs matter. If I had $4k to burn I
would own the Terminator. But I am too cheap to buy a $4k
product that in 2 years will be available for $2k in a better 
version.  

Any comment on an Oppo 205 DAC?

Thanks
Oppo 205 is decent, probably better than the DAC in the Bluesound devices. I own both so not just just spinning from my sofa.

The Vault is a great product for the money but I found the the first day in my system the DAC in my CDP was superior and used that... and not talking about my Oppo 205.

I don’t know how good the Innous is as I’ve never heard one so I’m not going to spew BS about it. I will say using a Vault as a streamer only to my recent RME DAC is outstanding and it’s was a reasonable purchase separately and together.
If you already have an Oppo 205 it will definitely get you by but a DAC such as an a RME will walk all over it and that’s not a stretch. The Oppo does nothing wrong and unless you compare it to other DAC’s you will be very happy with it. For what it does, the Oppo is an outstanding product, but unless you already have one I would not spend the money today for a used one.
A better streamer will make you DAC sound better.  You can upgrade the DAC later.  Source matters.
A better streamer/server will sound better.

A better DAC will sound better.

The built in DAC in the Node/Vault are OK, just like the one in the Oppo 205.

I heard the Innous Mini with integrated DAC, Better than the two above, but better with a better DAC. The Innous Zen III was better than the Mini using the same out board DAC
@jperry1  - I am thinking of hooking a Naim ND5 XS2 to a Mark Levinson 526.  Does this follow your thought process?

Great streamer
Great DAC
Going to a great amp...

In this setup, does each instrument do it's job?  I don't want to "not use" a specific component.  There is a lower quality DAC in the ND5, but that is OK.
I have not heard any of those items. Sorry
I’ve been living with the Innuous Zen Mini (no LPS) for about the last month. I’ve performed pretty exhaustive shootouts between the Mini and the Node 2.

The presentations are different, but I wouldn’t say that one sounds better than the other. I actually prefer the presentation of the Node and will be sending the Innuos back.

I found the Innuous to sound a little clinical and sterile. The Node seemed to have more focus and separation around instruments and a better overall sound stage. With the tone controls completely disabled, the node also puts out more low end. Maybe that would be a drawback for some, but I like it.

So, I am returning the Innuous, and will probably redirect those funds toward upgrading my TT.

Cheers,
Joe

PS. This review was based on streaming Tidal Hifi. I don't really rip CD's.

Equipment used:
Node 2 - via coax
Innuous Zen Mini Mk III - via USB
Mytek Liberty
Belles Aria
Vandersteen 1ci
All Audioquest cables


Where did you buy the Innuos product which allowed for home trials?
Dealer. I don't want to out them in case this is something they did just for me.
Hi 
I have a BLUESOUND VAULT and I became curious about having an external DAC to improve sound quality. I am on a very low budget so I shopped used and purchased a MONARCHY DIGITAL INTERPHASE PROCESSOR and a BEL CANTO DAC2. I stream Amazon Music HD with those now thru to my MFA MAGUS A2 Tube Preamplifier to Meitner MTR101 monoblocks to two vintage BOZAK URBAN speakers. When I added the DIP and the DAC2 I very happy with what I am hearing. I invested only $350. and  I got a whole lot more value in sound quality over and above what was good to start with!
I came from Auralic Aries camp, affordable and very good sounding to LDM servers. Very organic, dynamics, details but engaging sound.
I would suggest, if you are going to use Roon then you are wasting money buying the software that comes withr Auralic, Aurender, or Innous, when you could buy the Roon Nuclues. I’m thinking you already have a DAC.

Cost of Roon Nucleus $1400, 1tb SSD $140, Roon Lifetime $700, USB cable $200 + or -. Total cost is $2440. Add a linear power supply $400. I have about 700 CD’s and another 700 favorites from Qobuz so the Nucleus + is not necessary. My DAC is in the Mc C49. Just another way of looking at this. Happy Listening.

I agree with @mahler123.  I just have the Bryston BDP Pi / Qobuz but it's the best sounding streamer/service combo I have ever had and Bryston support is excellent.   But the Bryston stuff is pricey.  I kept my eyes open and found a Pi for a little less than $600.  Manic Moose interface is spartan compared to something like Sonos or Roon but the sound is high end.
keep in mind that the app interface is important in determining the quality of your experience. bluesound os is excellent, play-fi less so. check out naim as both their streamers and app are quite good. 
I recently bought a ZenMini MK3, a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 and subscribed to Roon. I owned a CXN V1 and subscribed Tidal before. I paid 1.700 €, I sold my old CXN for 400 €.

The ZenMini MK3 is used as a Server for our CDs (archiving is super simple). 
I am not using the Innuos Player and apps, can’t comment on that.

Roon is a great graphic user interface for our 2.000+ CDs. What I like best: their RAAT protocol ... music sounds so
much better compared to playback from my MacBook via USB or Airplay. Somehow even Tidal Sounds better through roon.

I didn’t compare the ZenMini to a BluSound Vault - I wanted to get into roon. Comparing with a nucleus: I missed a CD archive function, the nucleus got more power for DSP functions (which I do not need at the moment) and is more expensive.

Soundquality: the DAC in the ZenMini is ok. Hooking up my amp (Exposure XM5) with the ZenMini via USB is better (details, bass). Through the CXN It sounds marvellous: great details, wider soundstage. 
I do not plan to get the LPSU power supply nor the reclocker. I believe roons RAAT protocol does the trick to eliminate jitter. I might get another (roon ready) Streamer/DAC.

(My next audio project is to set up a secondary system for my husband - I am probably using an old Google Chromecast Audio hard wire it to a Router and use it’s TosLink to feed my old CXA60 amp with roon.)
Roon Nucleus has both internal and external hard drive capability for archiving CD's.  Roon's best feature is to mix your owned CD's along side your streaming service selections.  Add the metadata and you are all set for a great listening session.
@audionoobie
 07-08-2020 4:51am

If you are using Roon, try the Roon core with squeezelite option on the Innous.  It is remarkably better than Roon core on the Innous.  It may change your mind about which sounds better.
Skip the Nucleus and install a Roon Core on your existing laptop or computer.  I run mine on an iMac that stays on 24x7.
I have an Innuos Zenith Mk II that I really like.  The detail is great without getting all analytic.  I've corresponded a bit with the people in England, and they are great to deal with.  My only complaint is that ipeng is a big i-pain.  I often forego the remote and just log into the lms server in a web browser from my laptop.  (It seems you can't simply write my.innuous.com:9000, you need your dotted decimal address.)
I am going with jason's suggestion. When a clearly superior product with good support and priced reasonably- aka Schiit Audio- I will
think about a purchase. 
Eddie,  Don't even think anything Blue