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.