What is the added value of a streamer over a networked dedicated Computer


I see lots of sales pitches for streamers as digital sources, and plenty on this site advocating them. I get that they're a purpose-built user interface but, apart from that convenience, including a visual display on the device, (i) do they really deliver better hi-fi sound as a source over a well set up computer dedicated to hi-fibreoriduction (ii) if so, why?

Here's some background to my question(s). I currently use a dedicated Mac Mini with SSD (headlessly) and Audirvana Plus software through a USB DAC. I tend to listen to digital files on external drives (wired connections). Some are high Definition eg Flac, some are aiff ripped from my extensive CD collection. Currently I only tend to use Spotify etc to test if I like music and invest in actual downloads of the music I like.  In day to day use the Mac Mini/Audirvana Plus (virtual) player is controlled using its remote app on an iPad on the same Network. If I wanted I could add high quality online streaming from, eg, Tidal. Whilst that would expand the breadth of music I have immediate access to, it seems to me to add another potential source of interruption/corruption of data flow. The Audirvana software overrides/bypasses detrimental computer audio elements and processes keeping the data path simple and dedicated to hifi audio replay.

So what, sound quality-wise, would a standalone streamer device using NAS or other drive storage and/or online web connection bring to the party? It seems to me it's just a digital device containing effectively the components of a computer with a button (or remote) interface. I understand the old argument that it's dedicated and not doing other things simultaneously and that computers are traditionally electrically noisy environments but I'm currently sceptical that with a dedicated computer, not being used for other purposes, and running a virtual device like Audirvana Plus which effectively switches off internal functions which might compromise sound, this is a real problem. Also it seems that a "dedicated streamer" contains many elements which are effectively computing elements. Note that I have no industry connection or monetary interest from Audirvana or Apple.


I have a Cambridge Evo 150 and have compared various sources for streaming including the on board streamer and class 2 USB audio input from Remote Desktop computer using the same source files. Both sound very similar, top notch. I’d really have to nitpick to say one is better than the other. Class 1 usb set on same input is much inferior. So you just have to have your technology being used to stream at a certain resolution lined up properly either way. Of course as always YMMV.



I have found the dac by far the most expensive , a dedicated line with 4 wire 2 grounds ,one dedicated isolated with seperate buzz bar and awg 10 was a huge step up in black back ground the little green computer with dedicatedlinear power supply ,withSS drives ,every bit as good as $5k streamers IHave compared with .

Not close. My Aurender N100H was vastly superior to my Mac Mini and Mac laptop as a source. Not remotely close…

Here is my advice, probably similar to the above in a nutshell:

1. Run the Roon Core (ROCK) on a Mini PC that is overbuilt compared to Roon’s ROCK specs. You can use a SMPS brick or if you want a LPS. Not sure it will make much difference. 
2. connect the above with a good Ethernet cable to an audiophile network switch. 
3. connect another good Ethernet cable to your separate streamer. Provide that streamer good power. 

Wow, seems to be some polarized responses.  I've been reading here and other forums to decide my next step and it seems fairly universal...  It's either very, very worth it to upgrade to a streamer or bits are bits.  I have to find a way to A/B this... I just got some decent speakers but only have a low end Denon AVR as an amp/DAC so not sure I'm ready  (but then forum posts often indicate AVR DAC's are fine).  Would love to try though.  I hope the OP posts his thoughts if he makes a change/purchase.