Streaming + DAC questions. Please help this noob!


Hi Guys,

After a couple of decades avoiding the desire to become an audiophile . . . here I am. I've jumped head first and purchased the following:

Bryston BP 20 preamp
Bryston 4B SST amp
B&W 801 Matrix II

I'm actively avoiding becoming a vinyl collector (too many hobbies, not enough physical space, etc etc), so most of my music will be from Spotify. I know they aren't the greatest quality . . . but for the sake of ease and variety and modernity, that's what I'm using. My 'hub' would be an imac sitting 10 feet away from the hifi system. I'd like to control from that computer since that's where I'm sitting most of the day. 

At first, I had hoped to be able to connect via bluetooth adapter directly into preamp and that sounded horrible. (Lesson #1). I then tried with an Audioquest Beetle and that sounded pretty good. I also tried an ipad direct into the preamp and that's OK, too (not as good as with Beetle). But it's clear to me I probably need a dedicated DAC (Lesson #2). So my questions:

1. Whats the best way to use Spotify connect via my Imac? Should I dedicate the ipad to sit on top of the hifi? I also have an old macbook pro that could sit on the hifi and be the connected hardware. The beetle worked fine, but I don't want my computer sounds to come out of my hifi system, only Spotify. 

2. My head is spinning with DAC info. It seems like I can't go wrong with a $99 Schiit, but I'd rather just buy right the first time. Happy to spend up to 1k (used is definitely ok with me) on a DAC that I can just forget about. Did I mess up by not getting an integrated preamp/dac? 

I come to you guys with humility and ready for Lessons 3 thru infinity.
8297dd92 1d30 476c 895a 2f80fd4a0937quesofrito
Post removed 
Ditch Spotify. Get Qobuz or Tidal! Superior sound quality! Buy the Bluesound Node2i streamer ($550 + free shipping from Crutchfield). It has an excellent DAC and is much better than using your computer for music via the 'Net!
IMO the Node2i DAC is capable of excellent SQ - limited by the program source. Why spend more?
Some good advice, so far.
I, too, was overwhelmed with Streaming music, but a little research yields great results.
First, I really like the Spotify app, but unfortunately, they don't offer higher resolution formats like Quobuz, Tidal, et al. So, moving to another streaming service will allow you to get the fullest experience of high fidelity.
Second, get a dedicated streamer. The Bluesound Node is very good, the Aurender is better.
Third, get a good DAC. Schiit makes very good equipment, but I suggest going beyond the $99 model and go to the Gungnir or Yggy. (Trust me, I started with the Bifrost and ended up moving upwards- Yes, the higher priced models offer greater resolution. The lower models are probably as good as the onboard DAC in the Node).
Though it might be a bit out of our budget, a used Ayre Codex is about $1300. I find it to be a super performer.

Bob
++ on ditching spotify. Go to deezer for red book CD quality or Qobuz for Hi Rez. You could spend the budget on a good high end DAC and use the old macbook as the streamer. Qobuz also had some recent deal where they dropped the subscription price to $15/month for the first 100K subscribers.  The below DAC is on sale now as well.  Check out the reviews. https://www.wyred4sound.com/products/digital-converters/clearance/dac-1v2-trade
I bought  a Cambridge Audio CXN streamer to use with my Pure Audio Lotus 5 DAC. While the sound is great the Cambridge Audio app options are horrendously non functional. I then bought an Auris Blume Bluetooth receiver to connect to the DAC and could barely tell the difference between that combo and the CXN and with the former I could use the Tidal app on my iPhone ( Qobuz unfortunately not available in Australia). I now face the dilemma of whether to find a better streamer with a usable app or sell the CXN and continue to use the Auris. Financially at least the former course of action makes more sense.
You can start streaming right away with the Bluesound Node2i. Use the internal DAC to start with and see how it sounds playing back Tidal, Qobuz (or Deezer).  Qobuz has lowered it's monthly service charge.

You can then take your time and audition different DACs. Schiit has a trial period.

Thank you all for the responses! Some good options here. @mazian I hadn't heard of that Auris. That could be a breakthrough for me, thank you. 

@gdnrbob, that codex is actually around $800-900. That might be the ticket!

To everyone recommending Tidal. How does the music offering compare to Spotify?

I’ve been debating this decision for the past month and decided to pass on Node 2i based on the recommendation of the audio science review website. I bought a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 on a black Friday deal. The kicker was the Node 2i toslink input has literally the worst grade on the entire audio review site, and the Node 2i wasn’t recommended. I was interested in the toslink input, but you may not be.

I can’t comment on a sound quality comparison, but the reason I went with the CXN is the sound quality is supposedly much better (as per the recommendation of two reps at Music Direct in Chicago), and also because Cambridge Audio just released a new app which seems much better than the original Cambridge Connect that a lot of people don’t like. My plan is to start with the CXN DAC, which as far as I can tell is the same as the DAC magic plus, and then upgrade it if I want a better/different sound. 

Hope this helps.
after investing so much for a proper system it will be foolish not to invest in the source. no reason to listen to anything below cd quality we are in 2019! most people had better sound in 1992 with cd players than now with spotify and youtube. 
try tidal with mqa first month free.whatever dac you get make sure:
1.it plays mqa
2.it has firmware updates (like ps audio or ifi dacs)
iv'e recently bought the ifi idac2 used for 250$ i'm very happy with it.  i would avoid schiit 100$ dacs,instead ide get a 100$ usb cable and 500$ dac with your system. bryston makes nice dacs as well. what about a headphone system?(pc dac headphone amp)

Oh the slippery slope  You have a pretty nice setup to be sure. I'm in a similar situation, and my last step is deciding on a streamer.
I have a Tube pre amp and a Tube amp from the mid nineties. Question was, how the heck can I stream hi rez music's to it. The simple and easy way was getting a Audioengine BI high quality Bluetooth music receiver for casual listening. I connected it to my pre amp via RCA and I can send any music from my phone to the B1 like Tital, Amazon HD, Spotify and YouTube etc. For more serious listening and out do the DAC in my Oppo BD 105  (which I use alot) and take my sound quality up a notch, I bought the Exogal Comet plus Dac and that has balanced outs and I run those into my pre amp ( ARC LS15) and it sounds very good indeed! The Audioengine BI also has toslink out, so I could  run a toslink cable from the B1 to my Comet DAC for even better sound quality.  For streaming I'm strongly leaning towards the Innous Zen Mini as it also will rip CDs and I like that option, as I have some rare CD's The Innous also has a high quality internal DAC, so maybe no need for an external DAC in your case.
As you've already figured out, there are so many options, and very good recommendations. The difficult part, what will work best for you and your system. Happy hunting!
Hi all streamers. Has anyone compared the usual Tidal etc to Amazon Ulta HD?

Thanks,

B.
@bowe60s...start your own thread, dude.
please don’t hijack this one...;-)
Buy a Bluesound Node 2i and stream Tidal.  Connect use RCA to hear MQA.  Don’t bother getting a DAC.
I  personally use BluSound and started a Tidal subscription with MQA for $19.99 a month and have a free trial of Amazon Music HD. I initially almost abandoned BluSound because the setup process is awful and took a while to get going. I also had to invest in tagging software so that I could fix issues that prevented album art from showing up properly in my personal collection. Now, that I have all the bugs worked out, I love it.  I  am looking to expand BluSound to our master bedroom.

It seems like you made great choices. Best of luck with your system, whatever you choose!
I do all firmware updates through a usb stick, because for whatever reason searching for upgrades over the internet does not work. I can't figure it out and neither can BluSound tech support. They offered a remote log in session to help, but I am hesitant about third party access to our network. It is annoying, but if works.
I am having a hard time believing that different streamers have different sound quality when used with an external DAC. I would like to hear from people who have had experience comparing different streamers with the same DAC  and noted significant differences in sound quality. Anybody?
I was using a NAD M50.2 to stream and it looked kinda cool but I couldn’t stand the harsh sound so I now have an Innuos Zenith which is just a black box but the difference is huge in sound. Much smoother and easier to listen to.  The NAD might sound better through tubes but I didn’t like it through ss. That’s all I got but I think innuos is a great  sounding server compared to NAD. 
I'm going to try the Bluesound Node by itself as a streamer. But I'm also going to try the Ayre Codex connected to a laptop with USB. And of course then Bluesound>Ayre Codex>Preamp. For good measure, I might try connecting with bluetooth through my Audioengine Beetle>Ayre Codex>Preamp

I will report back. Lots of work to do

And despite my best efforts to stay the course with Spotify, I've already started investigating Tidal + Roon. 
I am not sure the Bluesound is much better than the Beetle, try before you buy.

You can also try Audioquest Cobalt and connect to your computer. Or the Chord Mojo or iFi Micro Dac.
When I was were you are now, I opted for a dedicated streamer and a DAC. A key reason was to be able to control the music from my phone and to stream directly from the wifi and not from my computer - hence enabling to hear music and do what I whatever I want with my computer simultaneously (like streaming sport).

I started off with a couple of cheap solutions and how now moved to an entry audiophile level. 

I use the Innuos Zenmini (1K) as streamer. On the streamer I have Roon installed, which provides a good user interfaces and a lot of "album information" that I enjoy. Through the streamer I use Tidal, which has better SQ (more bits). 

The streamer is connected to a DAC, where I have RME ADI-2 DAC (also 1K). The setup is good, easy, user friendly and sounds good. I would have liked to have MQA also, but my DAC is not MQA-enabled. 

 
Here's a tip to better the sonics of the Bluesound Node; swap out the stock power cord for a high quality aftermarket.
It's a C7 (figure 8) PC and the replacement doesn't have to be mega-expensive.
I've used Wireworld and Cullen and the upgrade in sound was not subtle; more detail, a lower noise floor, and an expanded soundstage.


I use an old iMac dedicated to music system. I mirror screen on my iPad for remote functions. I have two DACs Schiit modi multibit and Jolida tube DAC. I think the tube DAC has a richer, more nuanced tone, plus you get to roll tubes😝
I run signal to POLK SRS 3.1 tl speakers via Rogue chronus magnum tube amp. I use Apple Music streaming service. I find that despite all the numbers flying around about other hifi services, Apple  is as good as I can hear. I tell it like this: I can tell the difference between a $20 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle, but I can’t tell the difference between a $200 bottle and a $2000 bottle....
+1000 on the power cable upgrade per lowrider57.  Jason at the Cable Company (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer) recommended the Wireworld Mini-Electra 7 and the difference was immediate and impressive.  Much more detail, the "haze" is gone, more 3D and lower noise.  Much larger soundstage as well.  I run my Node 2i through a Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 DSDse playing Amazon Music HD and it sounds excellent.  
To those recommending a power cord upgrade to the Node 2i, have any of you tried the Pangea Audio C7 cord, and if so, what were your impressions?
@OP, 
Good move with the Codex.
It performs way past its pricepoint, and knowing Ayre, will be upgradable if they see fit.
As far as Spotify vs. Tidal.
Spotify has a larger catalog, but unfortunately doesn't offer higher resolutions that Tidal does.
Tidal, in my opinion, has a great catalog for contemporary music (think Hip Hop or anything current)
That is why I switched to Quobuz.
bob
As I'm still on the hunt for a streamer and also and maybe a good choice for OP. Has anyone have or input on the Audiolab 6000N streamer?
It sure seems to have some appealing features
See below  The price for the 6000N is around $600

The 6000N Play provides access to a wealth of internet music services: Spotify, Tidal, HDtracks, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Napster, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and SiriusXM, to name a few. Users might choose to browse a radio guide listing thousands of stations and podcasts, or stream from a home media server with DLNA compatibility. The 6000N Play is hi-res audio enabled, capable of receiving data up to 24- bit/192kHz resolution over Wi-Fi – well in excess of CD quality – without transcoding or down-sampling.

DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter), utilising the same ES9018 Sabre32 Reference chip

The 6000N Play is configured and operated via the Play-Fi app, available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire phones and tablets, as well as Apple and Android smartwatches and Windows PCs. It can also stream directly from Spotify via Spotify Connect, and is DLNA and UPnP compliant.
@jrwaudio that's interesting. will investigate!
On the power cord upgrade . . . how are we feeling about Audioquest cords? They seem to be the biggest name. Hype? Or legit? Their naming conventions are infuriating, I can't tell what's what. 
Tried a C7 Audioquest on the Node. Nothing special.
The Wireworld is an exceptional upgrade for the money. The Cullen as well, but it has a different signature; more laid-back with a huge soundstage.
No need to spend crazy money on a C7 cable.


Auralic Aries G1 streamer to Chord Quetest Dac , sounds fantastic !
i was considering a Bluesound but after streaming Tidal through my MacBook to the Oppo and out to a external DAC the sound was not as good as the same res. flac. played to the same DAC from a hard drive. note that i connected the MacBook to the Oppo via HDMI. kind of turned me off to the whole streaming thing. perhaps streaming from a dedicated streamer like a Bluesound or Auralic ect. rather than a Mac would make me a believer?  Bluesound 2i sounded pretty good at the dealers played into top NAD and PSB T2's via the 2i's internal DAC
Don't go down the rabbit hole. Get the $99 Schiit. You won't be able to tell the difference. Blind tests have proven this over and over again. And any streaming service 320kbps or better will do.
Mark my words, Apple Music will offer Hi-Res streaming soon and will make all these other streaming services obsolete or out of business entirely.  They have the deepest catalog (although search functionality is awful) and the network effect is massive.  My worry is the lack of integration with Roon, whom I hope they’ll buy.  
Maybe I’m late to this, but I am looking into the Lumin D2 and Auralic Altair G1. I will most likely choose the Lumin D2 for my system. With the gear you are using, you might want to do the same. I currently have the BlueSound Node 2i and have been disappointed thus far. My previous set-up was a MacBook air steamed through a Resonessence Concero dac. The drop off in quality has not been subtle. I have not run the Node2i thru the Concero to compare, but my hope when purchasing the Node2i was a one box solution. The Lumin D2 will stream and convert, but does not offer any extra digital inputs. Reports are that it sounds sweet, warm and analog. The Altair G1 will also stream and convert, and has better functionality with the addition of a headphone amp, digital inputs and wireless connectivity. Reported sound is more detailed and airy than the Lumin. I don’t think you can go wrong with either for the price and both are ROON ready.
A DAC and Streamer along with a program to organize your music files will be important over time. If you are only going to be streaming off a music site such as Spotify or Tidal then the program to organize the files is not critical at this point but the DAC and Streamer are. I like one box solutions and I like to connect using a Network connection as opposed to a USB connection.
There are many DACs, Streamers and one box solutions out there. You should listen to them if possible prior to just taking someones suggestion but suggestions are a great way to start your auditioning. The price range is incredibly wide. In my opinion you probably should think about $2,500 as a top limit for both the DAC and Streamer. Once you have it all set up and have become comfortable you may start to add digital music files to your listening.
When adding music files happens in a big way you will then be moving into the next phase in which you will move to a NAS drive and file organizing programs. At that point you might even begin to think about upgrades for the DAC or Streamer but that is way off into the future since it appears that you are just streaming music off the net while working at your desk.
Hi,  I like many here, started my digital journey with a Mac, and then upgraded to a Bluesound node (2).  Nice interface and Streamer + DAC.  but, as many have also said, not the best DAC for High resolution.  But it is good.  You have bought nice stuff with the Bryston. I agree with streaming Tidal or Quobuz.  And I use Roon.  but I have graduated to nicer Dac's / Streamers, and I can easily hear the improvement.  I have two nice systems, one PS Audio with the PS Audio Direct Stream DAC with Bridge Streamer installed. Very Nice, on sale now, and they continually upgrade the coding to improve it.  My second DAC is an Auralic Vega 2 streamer / DAC.  Also excellent, probably more resolving but in a different (say less vinyl sounding?) way.  Still, at 600 the Bluesound is a safe start.  I have sold mine.  BTW, I have two other Bluesound units (as both are Roon endpoints).  One is a Pulse speaker in my bedroom, and the other a Powernode in a studio.  They work extremely well in this arena.  Thanks,  Ken
Stereophile will expand your inquiries regarding DACs.  I occasionally use for background music, or to find something new in Jazz so I then can purchase a quality cd. Traveling, I run my iphone through the car audio- typically listening to music from my  iTunes library.  At home, with serious and enjoyable audio, I'd rather plop in a well-produced cd, sacd, itc., using excellent electronics, and speakers.  Streaming reminds me of the period when FM was rapidly being contaminated by "canned" music navigated by dorky djs. It was largely scripted and hugely annoying. I find it another manifestation of the need for immediate gratification via mediocrity.
FYI: If you have a Sirius/XM subscription for your car, you can also stream it from your portable devices for free. I am streaming it from both my Iphone and Ipad Touch directly into my DAC thru the USB port, and from there on to my McIntosh preamp.The sound quality is wonderful, and you get a gazillion channels. At no extra cost.
Hi @quesofrito,  I hope you're having fun improving the listening experience. There seems to always be further to go, but certain initial steps in the system are huge. You can usually get a free period to test Tidal. The jump from lower res spotify, apple, etc. to CD+ quality is noticeable to me for sure. I use the Schiit modi multibit. There is an online debate between the founder of Schiit and nerds with oscilloscopes about it, but I love it. I also use a Mac (Mini) as the streamer through the DAC to a Freya preamp. There is a lot of discussion on this site about the value of dedicated streamers vs. computers, but again, the first steps make big differences. Good luck!
@peterf6 thanks! just received a bluesound node in the mail and i'm waiting on a DAC to get here. gotta get testing! 
@OP,
Start listening and get a feel for the onboard DAC. When the Codex comes in, I promise you will hear a significant difference.
Though,keep in mind that you should let things run-in for a few days to allow them to settle in. You'd be surprised at how much things open up.
 
Regarding power cords to the Node- I tried an AQ cord to my Node and didn't find it made much of a difference- though I am using the Codex as my DAC.
 My dealer had me buy an AQ Thunder power cord for my Codex. He believes the best cords go to the source.
Those damn things are pretty stiff and I needed some right angle adapters to get them to connect, but I have to say they did make a difference.
Alas, a bit pricey, but, it is a tweak you can do later on-especially when AQ comes out with a new model and everyone sells their old cables.
Bob
OP You are a Bryston guy.  I have the Bryston DAC3, which is wonderful.  I also have the Bryston BDP3 streamer, which sounds great but the software control program is third rate.  I second the Bluesound Node2 or 2i recommendations as your into into the streaming world.  It costs about 1/7 the price of the Bryston, sounds about 90% as good, and the App is much better.
  I run a Windows laptop via a Cardas Clear USB to a Schiit Yiggy . The Yiggy has a Wireworld Power Cable and isolation feet . I’m at the point where I am sure my laptop is the weak link, especially in regards to clocking .  I’m considering the Bluesound Node as I’m not wired for near my stereo . But now I’m looking at the Project Streambox Ultra . I hope you’ll post your choice as I’m right where you are . Happy Listening, Mike B. 
The Bluesound Node 2 and Ayre should sound VERY SWEET. I have the Node 2 and a Benchmark DAC, but quite honestly the Node 2 playing MQA by itself can sound amazing.
Macnut are you serious?? Sirius is the worst sounding of anything!!  Am radio sounds better..On top of that they play the same songs over and over and over…