I have been a die hard analog fan for my entire audiophile life. I know very little about digital and streaming, currently. Do different sources of streaming material sound different? Do different devices sound better than my current $100 Auris bluMe HD Bluetooth 5.0?
Do different sources of streaming material sound different? - Yes. Do different devices sound better than my current $100 Auris bluMe HD Bluetooth 5.0 ? - Yes or No.....a better streamer also cost more $$$...you may or may not hear appreciable uptick in performance.
You’re going to hear all sorts of opinions based on personal experiences and then there are those - bits are bits, are we talking 1’s and 0’s ....how can they sound different? Digital can never sound as good as analog (vinyl) BS...so why bother.
First off, why are you’re seeking opinions on something you already own...are you unhappy with its sound or just curious. If you’re looking to improve your digital experience or even curious what else is out there then please outline your rest of the system and the budget so members here can give their recommendations.
Here are couple of recent threads that will provide some insight on digital streaming.
First and foremost, there are good sounding recordings, and bad sounding recordings, no matter the format. Some streaming sources do sound better than others, and that is based on the file format and bitrate. Like anything in our hobby, there are good sounding devices, and better sounding devices, price USUALLY being the differentiator.
@jw944ts - I own a Auris BluMe Bluetooth receiver and it a very good for what it does. I previously owned a couple of less expensive Bluetooth receivers and I found the BluMe to be superior in Sound Quality and far superior in maintaining a stable connection.
However, the Auris BluMe is not a streamer. You stream music from some bluetooth enabled device, like a laptop, smartphone, etc., through the BlueMe. It simply wirelessly connects your source device to your system.
Bluetooth is reported to be lossy and compressed. You can find plenty of information on the internet regarding this. A dedicated streaming device connected directly to your system via analog cables, or digital cables, theoretically should sound better.
That said, I stream Spotify Premium (a lossy format) from my laptop via bluetooth to an Auris BluMe connected to my integrated amp. The BlueMe has a built-in DAC and it produces pretty good sound. I also run a digital cable out of the BlueMe to an external DAC, then into my integrated amp. I don't hear much difference between the analog out of the BleMe and the digital out through my DAC.
If you are happy with the sound and functionality you have now, stop right there. However, if you are not happy with the sound quality you are hearing, and/or the functionality of the streaming method you are using, do some research of dedicated streaming devices, such as the Bluesound Node 2i.
At about $550, the Bluesound Node 2i is nearly the defacto standard for dedicated audio streamers. You might want to check it out to see if it better meets your need for Sound quality and fuctionality. BTW, it also has bluetooth, so it will also do everything you are doing now, plus a whole lot more.
I appreciate all the help, but I remain confused in my limited understanding of the digital world....if I now understand, my iPhone is the streamer, sharing with the BlueMe via Bluetooth...both those devices, doing these functions, are, to some degree "lossy"(new term I just learned). As my preamp is vintage, and has only analog inputs, and my router is in another room, Im still a little confused as what "better" options are available to me....is WiFi LESS LOSSY than Bluetooth? How do I get a less lossy digital signal to my preamp, given the above limitations? Thanks for your help, and I apologize for being a digital age virgin...lol
Yeah, I'm not deep pocketed enough to have enjoyed the best of the best, but all this long, long, longtime audiophile can say is that I'm just plain wild about streaming. For better or worse, my current weapon of choice is a Mytek Brooklyn Bridge. My ammo is Qobuz and Primephonic. My delivery vehicle is Ethernet. Fidelity-wise, streaming doesn't always outclass my vinyl and SACD gear but it does so often enough to make me a happy camper. The vast amount of material available via streaming makes it a slam dunk.
JW, bluetooth is a way to transmit digital signals. It is low fidelity but fine in a car. WiFi is the "network" environment to enable transmission of digital signals either with or without an ethernet cable. My set up.....modem receives wifi signal from my service provider via coaxial cable. Modem is physically linked to the router with an ethernet cable, which distributes the signal creating transmission of your "wifi" network. Everything runs off the network. I have a one box streamer with a dac that is ethernet cable connected to my router. The streamer-dac is connected to my integrated amp with analogue cables. I use a music streaming service Qobuz that I access through my Ipad or iPhone with an app....it's fairly simple and you don't need to be a computer expert. I've been into streaming music since it first was available, years ago.
jw, The music comes in through your internet connection. For most people that is wifi these days. You connect a streamer to your wifi modem (router) wirelessly (wifi) or wired (ethernet cable, Cat 6 or 7 whatever they’re up to today).
You then send digital out from your streamer to your DAC over a digital interconnect, or if your streamer is a streamer/DAC, send it to your preamp from the analog out jacks with ordinary analog interconnects. The Bluesound Node 2i is a streamer/DAC.
Then to control your streamer you download an app (usually free) to your phone or tablet. The Node 2i uses the BluOs app which is very easy to use and functions really well. It is all pretty simple and you can get help if you need it
SO, bare with me......the Bluesound Node 2i does NOT need to be hardwired to the router, but can get a WiFi signal on its own, and then be interconnected to my preamp? How do you chose the SOURCE material, please?
Node 2i will work on Wifi but sound better if you hard wired to your modem or router as hard wired connection eliminates any RF interferences.
You can connect Node 2i via its analog output directly into your preamp. Once Node 2i connected to your WiFi network, you need to sign up with Tidal or Qobuz service for lossless streaming.
Both services offer free trial so you can pick and choose what you like best. You will need an iPad for best experience to browse music content from Tidal or Qobuz but you can also use Android or iPhone. The Node 2i app allows you to browse music content from Tidal or Qobuz and many other streaming services. But only Tidal or Qobuz offers lossless content.
It may seem overwhelming at first but once you get Node 2i, the setup is fairly simple.
the Bluesound Node 2i does NOT need to be hardwired to the router, but can get a WiFi signal on its own, and then be interconnected to my preamp?
Yes. If you have a good wifi signal at your stereo it will play hi-res just fine over wifi. A wired connection is not needed. Then you just connect the Node 2i to your preamp exactly like you connect your phono pre to it.
How do you chose the SOURCE material, please?
Download the BluOs app to your phone or a tablet from the Apple store for Apple devices or Google Play for Android devices . The app is ready to connect with and control Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, internet radio and much more. You just open the app, select the service you want and then you can search or browse for music, it shows the album covers, the tracklist, etc. It’s all you need until you become hardcore.
If you have a decent wifi signal and can listen to cd, the sound quality will be fine. Not the ultimate, but good enough.
@jw944ts - what is the source of your music now? You say you are streaming via bluetooth from your phone, correct? What is the app on your phone that you are using? Is it Spotify, Apple Music, etc?
A Bluesound Node 2i is a dedicated streamer. It connects to the internet via wireless or hardwired. If you have great wireless in your home, it will be fine to connect via wireless. And it has a built-in DAC, so it has analog outputs that will connect to your pre-amp or integrated amp. The Node 2i supports nearly all available streaming services, like Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, etc. It also supports internet radio, like Radio Paradise (which is Awesome!). It can also find any music files you may have ripped anywhere on you network connected devices. It's really a jack of all trades for digital music files, steamed or ripped to a network device.
If you are interested in improving your sound quality, improved access to various music streaming services and have about $600 burning a hole in your pocket, the Node 2i is a very good way to go. As I said before. it's nearly a defacto standard in the budget dedicated digital auto streamer category. Lots of help available to you from Bluesound and the huge user community.
I have an Auris BluMe HD and a Cambridge Audio CXN Streamer both of which I have run through an external DAC. Perhaps it's my age but I can hear no difference between the Auris and the CXN. In fact when I run both directly to a preamp streaming Tidal I can still hear no difference. For the money the Auris BluMe HD is a bargain and I suspect you would have to spend a lot of money to hear any appreciable difference and again it all demands on the quality of the recording. I haven't personally heard the Bluesound Node 2i but I have read reviews which, while positive about the Bluesound, rate the CXN as better. I suggest be happy with the Auris and listen to the music not the equipment.
There are $20,000+ streamers and even more expensive DACs out there and your asking if there are things that sound better than your current $100 unit. The answer is.....yes. There are many things that will sound better. The question is where to start. I started with a Bluesound Node 2i and then added a good dac. Sold both, bought much better DACs and streamer. Could not be happier.
jw944ts That thing is only a BT digital receiver. If you use a phone, the phone is the streamer. If you have a true streamer your phone is a only a remote. You can then play internet streaming radio, services like Spotify & Qobuz and local files via USB-A. Once a program is set it will continue to play without a phone via connection to your WiFi network. Start with a BluNode combo or a digi streamer and DAC. Bluetooth is not for me except wireless headphones for TV & jets.
Sorry but the bluesound node 2i is not a de facto standard for streaming. Bluesound makes a decent product but nowhere near the top. You can do much better but it will cost more, from a little bit more to a lot more.
Honestly, a decent laptop, a good digital coax or toslink cable, good pair of analog interconnects, a good usb cable, and the musical fidelity vdac 90 is all you need for very good results. I’ve streamed this way for a year now and it sounds fine to me. But I must confess, I am a dedicated vinyl/ analog guy, so your preference and or results and needs may vary. I generally use streaming as a way to discover new music. I don't use it for my serious listening. I’d rather spend my money elsewhere, as in acquiring more physical media, as in lp’s, cd’s, and cassettes.
"Lossy" refers to music files like mp3 which discard some details from the encoded soundwaves to save space. These files are 5 times smaller than FLAC files which are lossless, and which sound better on recordings which have a lot of important detail. Tidal's MQA is also lossy and sounds worse than FLAC on eg. piano music. Personally I stick with HiRes or CD quality material from Qobuz or Tidal. Bluesound Node 2i is great indeed; I've been using it connected to WiFi. There should be no difference WiFi or wired if your WiFi works well. Say you are streaming FLAC from Qobuz. Wired or WiFi, you will be getting the same, and lossless, file. You can also put FLAC files on a disk and connect the disk to Node 2i with USB. Node 2i has nice applications that let you connect services like Qobuz and then select music to play. So what does Node 2i do with this FLAC? Well, you can let it decode FLAC to analog with its internal very decent DAC; then connect Node 2i's analog RCA output to your amplifier. That's how I listened to music since October 2019 to January 2020. And it was very good. Then I improved the system by getting an external, dedicated DAC (RME ADI-2 DAC FS). I no longer use Node 2i's internal DAC. Just use Node 2i for its streamer function and pass on FLAC files that it gets from Qobuz via a digital link to the DAC's digital input. Now the external DAC generates analog output from FLAC. In addition to RCA, it has balanced outputs, which I use to pass the analog signal to the amp. Perfect sound and I am done with upgrades. Your experience will then strongly depend on amp/speakers/room.
I've decided on the Audiolab 6000N streamer to get into the world of streaming. It uses the DTS Play- Fi. (Play-Fi https://play-fi.com/) which supports lots of streaming services and multi room, so you can stream to every device you own.The unit has Wi Fi, coaxial and RCA out Apparently the app is very user friendly for phone, ipad & Apple & Windows laptops It has the ES9018 Saber32 reference chip, although I'll bypass the chip as I have the external Exogal comet plus DAC. Currently I don't own a laptop, but do have an ipad. I like the idea of being in the music room and controlling streaming services from my smart phone I'm sure you'll find a streamer that will suit your needs, and be amazed at all the new artists and music that's available via streaming! Good luck on the hunt.
I see you say you have decided on the Audiolab. From what I have read they appear to be a good unit in that price range. If you have not purchased the Audiolab yet I would like to suggest looking into another option from a company that rarely gets mentioned. Nord Acoustics Easy Stream Connect DAC 9038. Nord is a UK based company that from everything I have read appears to make great products at their price point. Many people that have systems comprised of relatively expensive gear seem to be quite pleased with their DACs, streamers and class D amplifiers. The Easy Stream Connect DAC 9038 is a streamer with built in DAC using the ES 9038 chip. If you want to use an external DAC it has the option to do it via digital or coaxial out. I do not currently own one. I am waiting on delivery of mine now. At roughly $300 US I figure it's worth a try. ALL of the owners on the sites that have used both the Bluesound Node 2i and Easy Stream Connect DAC say that the Nord Acoustics product wins by a long shot.
@bgpoppabThank you for that suggestion on the Nord Acoustics Easy Stream Connect DAC 9038 as I've never come across that company before Unfortunately my Audiolab 6000N is on it's way. There are so many streamers out there that I'm sure will do an excellent job. Probably one of the biggest determining factor would be it's internal DAC if you don't own a external DAC and the software (app) interface. The Audiolab 6000N with it's DTS Play fi software multi room interface really appealed to me. It also won What Hi Fi streamer of the year, but they might be a bit bias : )
Using a Cambridge CXN (V2) here on wifi... Wasn't too crazy about it right out of the box with some god awful 25 year old ICs I had but upgraded the power cord and added some audiophile grade ICs and burned it in for a month and it's near enough to my Sony XA 5400 ES SACD.
midareff -- I regularly use my collection of dual-layer CD/SACDs to do audio face-offs between the SACD layer that passes through the DAC of my Sony XA5400ES and the CD layer that passes through my Mytek Brooklyn. I'm not keeping exact score here but I'd guess the Mytek's DA of the Red Book layer outperforms the Sony's SACD detox more often than not. As for the shoot out between the Red Book layer detox, the Mytek nearly always carries the day.