Streaming Audio Questions

I've recently started back into the whole stereo game after many years. I am interested in getting into streaming audio to my stereo and have questions I hope to get help with. Is it better to get a streaming system like the Bluesound Node going into my system or is a decent quality DAC from my laptop the way to go? I first heard a Sonos player through some darn good gear at a stereo shop and was underwhelmed with the sound quality. I read on the internet about the hi- res playback of the Bluesound and wonder if that is a good stand alone unit or if a DAC from my laptop would be as good or better than the Bluesound? Are there other hi-res streamers on the market? Is Tidal the only hi- res streaming site? Anyways, a bunch of noob questions I'm sure but I really need some guidance. Opinions would be appreciated.
Personally I do not like the computer+dac solution and prefer a dedicated network player. The Bluesound are nice products with a very good app to control; you can find alternatives within the same price range as the Marantz NA6005 (but the app still suck IMHO) and Pioneer. As regarding the CD quality streaming services, beside Tidal you can find Deezer Elite and Qobuz (regional restrictions can limit the service).

In my main system I use a Wyred4Sound modified Sonos into a great DAC and in bedroom a standard Sonos into a Peachtree Dac itx and am very happy with both. A standard Sonos can be underwhelming, but I did the upgrades because they have a great user interface...

I would not discount Sonos so quickly.  If you add a Synchro-Mesh reclocker between Sonos and your DAC, this can make all the difference.  Sonos is a great platform for redbook playback.  However, it delivers the bits with some jitter.  Then you just need a good de-jittering device and a good S/DIF coax cable.  I can provide both of these.  IT even has a path to audio nirvana.  Add the Hynes-based linear supply "Dynamo" along with my Coax cable and you have world-class source.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Audioengr- That all sounds really confusing and complicated. Why would I go to all that work when a unit like the Bluesound will do as good/ better out of the box? I'm not trying to be smug, I just would like to know. 
The Bluesound is a very good unit and value, but the Sonos with Steve's products or the Wyred4 mods with a good Dac will sound much better. I would think you could also use these mods with the Bluesound. Depends on the sound quality you want and your budget.
First, welcome back to HiFi!  We've been busy trying to figure out how to get the best sound out of the new high rez material on the market, and streaming too.

You need to be excited because the outcome of years of work have yielded some incredible playback capabilities.

Having spent years and a small fortune on digital audio my findings for the best sound are to use a standard laptop with an SSD drive, running JRiver software in memory play mode, then outputting the digital signal via USB cable to a USB Disruptor unit, then finally to a USB DAC.

With this setup you deliver a pristine digital signal to the DAC and though this is very cost effective, it is my opinion based on years of experience that this method is as good as any method of getting a clean digital signal to an audio component.  So in this case low cost does not mean sonic limitations, it just means low cost.

The USB Disruptor ensures your digital signal from the computer is free of noise and interference that causes jitter.

With this setup you're set for the new HiFi.

What you have with Jriver is probably as good as it gets with USB and a PC. If you were to go Mac with the right version of Amarra, it would be a bit better, but not hugely. I have compared these and Mac is what I use.

The USB interface in the DAC is likely the weak point now.  Not too many really good ones out there IME.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thanks for all the great info! I was hoping for a plug-n-play solution but it looks like it's not quite that simple. DAC's, De-jittering devices and  USB Disruptor units have my head spinning. One thing it seems is that a DAC is needed for whatever digital source goes into the preamp. One other Question, Jriver is used to import CD's and vinyl, it's not for streaming services like Tidal or Fidelify- correct? I appreciate all the help everyone has given. Thank you!
If you want a simple, one box system take a look at the Sony HAP-S1. It a DAC and integrated amp and pulls music from a PC onto its hard drive. You just rip you CDs to a computer and then the Sony will transfer them over. From then on you are just dealing with the Sony. Not as versatile as a stand alone PC with JRiver and a separate DAC and amp, but very easy to use and it does not take much space. Sony also has the HAP-Z1ES which has more internal storage but no integrated amp. It is basically a music server with a DAC.

JRiver is software that rips (CDs), manages the library, provides a user interface  and sends tracks to a DAC, usually via usb. It is a very versatile program but does take a little while to learn. It has volume control so you do not necessary need volume control in a DAC. However, most DACs that are meant to drive a power amp directly have volume control.

Ripping vinyl is another matter. You need an A to D converter and software to process the digital files. You can get a simple A to D like a Tascam DR-5 for $100 or you can spend several thousands. Vinyl Studio is a good program for process the files - splitting tracks, tagging (album name, track name, composers, etc.), and removing noise (pops and clicks, hum, etc.) - cost $29.

Some systems like Sonus integrates with Tidal, but JRiver does not. However, you can just run Tidal on the same PC if you are using one for playback. You can pump the Tidal output into JRiver to use its various DSP modes ( (e.g. tone controls)) for playback.

Don't get too wrapped up in the whole jitter discussion. It is important but clearly a secondary issue. First, you need to decide if you want a full PC solution (like JRiver) and a music server (like the Sony above or a BlueSound solution, or Sonus). Part of the consideration is now good you are with a computer and how much time you want to spend managing your library through the PC.

If using the PC solution, you can then decide on a specific solution. There are several DACs with volume controls that drive a power amp. Or you can get a DAC and an integrated or separate pre-amp or power amp.

I would think about how much you want to spend and how much you want to deal with the computer and go from there.
I also use a Wyred4Sound modified Sonos player into a good DAC streaming Deezer Elite (16 bit 44.1khz) with very very good results.  You can also stream redbook from file based sources with good results.  Not a complicated setup, and the app that runs on IOS or Android is very mature.
Thank you for the info and opinions! I am being patient (maybe hesitant) about what my first steps into the digital realm will be. Streaming audio seams logical but getting a good DAC might be the right first step. There are so many ways to go. So many source options it's a bit confusing. Now I see this HiFiBerry setup running Rune audio player. It's pocket change compared to other pieces but does it do all that is claimed? When I put all my gear in the closet years ago there was FM tuner, turntable, tape and CD as sources. Now it's a big ball of confusion!
The absolute best gear for streaming audio has come out of the Head-Fi arena...Have a VERY long look at the UNDER $100.00 HiFiMeDIY"SABRE DAC2" for 24/96KHz. streaming/HiRes files & for DSD or 24/192KHz.the SMSL "M8"at $250.00 is WORLD CLASS!
 Also just use the standard Window Media Player unless your going 24/192 or DSD...

If your goal is sound quality with server driven audio, then Jitter is the #1 thing to reduce. The #2 thing is to eliminate or minimize the effect of the digital filter in the DAC. This is what wins best of shows and Golden Ear awards. This is why the new Meridian MQA technology is interesting. This is why so many use NOS DACs with older D/A chips in them.

The #3 thing to optimize is the server software, which means the player S/W, CODECs, power supply, OS and background tasks etc..  One product that optimizes all of this for you is the Antipodes server from New Zealand.  I would not hesitate to use one at a trade show and I have.  The Sony HAP series is very good, but beaten handily by the Antipodes.

If you dont care about SQ, then ignore these and buy the $250 DAC and the $500 server.

If your budget is $2K, then just get the Sony top of line HAP.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Noob #2 in line here. Not wanting to high-jack the OPs question, but my question may be inline with his and relevant.

I have a peachtree audio nova 220se that drive some cm9s2 speakers.

To enable streaming, I was going to get a chromecast audio and hook it up to the peachtree using a toslink.

My audio sources are 90% Spotify, the other 10% being Amazon Music or Tidal.

2 Questions:
1. Would I benefit from a reclocker / any other modifications to drive the quality up?
2.  Would you experienced folk recommend not getting the CCA, and sticking with something from bluesound or sonos instead?
Spotify and Amazon are very low quality sound sources...not worth reclocking or modding...Tidal is worth it
Yes. I heard tidal for the first time today. Much better quality. I believe I'll be making a shift to tidal premium from Spotify.