Streaming Quality Test - Lumin U1 vs. PS Audio Direcstream DAC vs Bridge II

I recently acquired a Lumin U1 Network Player (no internal DAC) and have it connected to a Directstream DAC via USB. I have A/B tested the U1 and the Direcstream DAC w/Bridge II by simultaneously streaming the same DSD file on the U1 and the Bridge II and used the Direcstream remote to switch inputs between the USB and Bridge II connections. Bottom line, my initial reaction is I don’t here a perceivable difference in sound.

Anybody else compare these two devices or are surprised by this initial test?

I really like the U1, but it doesn’t make financial sense to have it in my system I’m not getting a substantial increase in the quality of the sound.
11c3c823 1094 4a0c 969c bfe86101a97fAg insider logo xs@2xsfseay
You've discovered that most streamers and DACs sound exactly alike. Congratulations, you're not a sucker. Save your money or invest in better speakers.
So what you are saying is that the Bridge II streams the bits to your Directstream Dac as well as the U1.  That's really not that surprising and means you should sell the U1.

On a well setup system the differences especially in dacs, should be quite large unlesss both dacs are of a similar quality, then the differences come into play in terms of soundstaging, resolution, musicality and tonality.

We sell and display many dacs, Naim, Nad, Mytek, Lumin, Light Harmonic, T+A, Cary Audio, Emm Labs, Anthem, M2 Tech and a few others.

As per a built in streaming card vs an external server, the internal card should have the advantage, it is not a matter of price, the internal card will allow for less transmitted jitter as you effectively have no cable and the signal path is very short.

We have run exactly thoese kinds of demos we have compared the Innouos servers vs the Baetis, the Baetis vs the Memory Player, and we have done other such tests, such as the Aurender vs a modified Mac Mini

On our systems as well as many of our client’s systems the differences are very audible.

There is a richness and improved dynamics when you upgrade your digital server, also some digital servers can allow for digital crossconversion and upsampling.

On certain dacs a regular 16 bit 44k redbook cd file when upconvereted to a higher sampling rate or converted to DSD may sound far superior to its native red book files.

With the Lumin the kicker is to set it to transcode PCM to DSD and then feed it to the dac.

The amazing thing is how audible the difference in servers actually is.

At the Munich show Innous was comparing their new two box statement server $13k to their original reference server the Zenith SE a $7,500.00 server and many people were blown away by ow much better the new more expensive server sounded on the same digital file.

If bit was bits then you could not hear a difference in digital cables we have sold the AQ Diamond, the Wireworld Platinum USB, the Enklein David and the Light Harmonic USB cables and boy these cables all sound different and they are all transmitting digital data from the same server to the same dac.

Ask anyone who ever heard a CEC belt drivien CD transport if there is an audible difference in CD transports?

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

Dave and Troy,

sfseay was listening to two different streamers through the same Dac, not different Dacs.
Replying to hemotech comments about dacs sound the same they dont.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
I've been going back and forth between the bridge and the usb input fed by a microRendu and LPS-1 and while they are very close, I think I prefer the sound through the usb input.  The difference I'm hearing is a little bit more tonal density and liquid smoothness through the usb fed by the microRendu.  It is a very close call though.  Of course if you care about MQA you'll only get the full unfold by feeding the dac over ethernet into the Bridge II.  I have noticed NO functional difficulties with either the dac or the bridge II. I just prefer the sound of the usb fed by the microRendu.
You're not going to see much of a difference in a DAC like DirectStream or any of the latest Chord DACs. They are more or less immune to jitter and other streaming artifacts as they feed the data into memory first in the FPGA chip. For all intents and purpose my Chord DAC sounds identical whether fed by Auralic Aries or $35 Chromecast. I use Chromecast to be able to stream directly from the iOS Tidal app without using the Roon or Lighting wrap around the Tidal API. Anyone that says otherwise does not understand basics of what happens to the signal once it's fed to the FPGA's memory cores. 
It may be possible for a $20,000 dac to sound ’better’ than a $7500 dac but that depends on so many things (cables, room, speakers etc).

Even if I made a million dollars a month I would never spend so much money on a dac. Around 2-3k$ may be ok but 10,000$ for DAC!? Really!? It will be worth nothing within a year.

BTW I am shopping for dacs. I have Dynaudio contour 20 speakers. Want a good dac for less than 4k? Lumin, PS Audio, Chord? the cheaper the better but I would prefer to be able to stream directly (tidal / deezer) OR connect my Sonos streamer to the dac. Any Suggestions?
Replying to hemotech comments about dacs sound the same they dont.
Most certainly do when level matched. Well designed units will measure the same as well. But go ahead and be a sucker for a heavy/shiny chassis. I'll put my money in speakers where it pays real dividends.
DACs don’t sound alike level matched or not.  Well designed units won’t measure the same either.  Ever read a DAC review by John Atkinson?  

I have owned at least seven different DACS and they definitely didn’t sound alike.  However, I appreciate bold statements spoken from ignorance by people seeking attention.

It turns out that Ethernet as well as USB must be optimized for SQ.

For USB, this means:

1) Quality USB cable

2) the right playback software - I like Amarra memory playback

3) an optimum computer - I like Mac Mini

4) optimized power supply for the computer

5) minimized background tasks

I don’t know if the Lumin player does all of these well or not.

for Ethernet, this means:

1) quality Ethernet cables - I like WW platinum

2) Ethernet isolator - I like EMO EN-70e 0.5m cable from switch to isolator and 2m cable from isolator to the BridgeII.

3) optimized switch or router - I recommend the AQVOX switch

4) optimized playback software - I like DLNA playback using Linn Kinsky, Minimserver and BubbleUPnP. (all freeware)

What you should do is try playback with the BridgeII using a computer and this software with the AQVOX switch, good Ethernet cables and the isolator. This will make a HUGE difference.

Generally, it is easier to get really good SQ from Ethernet than USB. This of course depends on the designs of each interface.  It might be that the Lumin is making both sound identical, even though one of the interfaces is superior.

Here is a comparison of my own USB and Ethernet interfaces jitter measurements and SQ differences:

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

DACs don’t sound alike level matched or not.  Well designed units won’t measure the same either.  Ever read a DAC review by John Atkinson?  

I have owned at least seven different DACS and they definitely didn’t sound alike.  However, I appreciate bold statements spoken from ignorance by people seeking attention.
JA? Really? The guy who believes in just about every snake oil type product under the sun. Placebo is a powerful phenomenon. Enjoy being a sucker. 
Respond to my post when you guys are done arguing! 
@danimaz - Lumin doesn’t make DACs, but they do sell streamers and some of them have DACs while others are just transports.  The PS Audio Direcstream DAC can act as a streamer if you get one with the Bridge 2 Card.  

The important question is what is your budget?  Knowing your budget will get you more help with your question.  By the way, I don’t argue with trolls, just point out when they are misguided in their opinions.  
@astelmaszek    - what type of wires do you use to feed you chord dac with tidal using chromecast? my audio note dac has usb and coax inputs.