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How to make a streamer (Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra) playing Qobuz & Tidal to sound better than CD

Discussion in 'audio' started by duckworp, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. MasterTape

    MasterTape pfm Member


    I double checked some of Rob's posts over at Head-Fi and the distinction should be made between the DACs that are galvanically isolated and not. So the desktop units are the ones where he doesn't think there is a worthwhile difference between SPDIF/USB. I was under the impression the Hugo 2 had galvanic isolation as I had read it a few times on the web, but that appears to have been misinformation. I haven't heard it yet so all I can do is recommend you compare yourself somehow.


    It outputs over RCA or BNC, so you're looking at getting a RCA to mini jack adapter or a RCA to mini jack digital cable if you want to give it a go. I hadn't tried the USB out of the Pi as I bought it as a DigiOne player but apparently I could try it by switching output device in Volumio and after going back and forth a bit it's a very safe recommendation to upgrade. There's nothing to not like about the change as its simply a cleaner, more precise sound with a lot more depth.

    Given the title of the thread I might add that I've been curious about the S2 Stream Box too and would love a demo against the DigiOne and see if the sound difference justifies the price hike. I tried getting a used one recently but just missed it. I hope this is not too big of a derail.
  2. Timo_F

    Timo_F pfm Member

    Thanks for your response @MasterTape — I am also curious how Allo Digione (especially the Signature version) compares to the StreamBox or Stack Audio...
  3. duckworp

    duckworp pfm Member

    Many folk mention the price differential between the Pro-Ject Streambox S2 Ultra (£600) and a home-built raspberry pi (£50?) thereby suggesting that the Stream Box is a bit pricey. No one seems to have directly compared the two to see if there is a SQ differential through their DAC.

    What no one has mentioned is that compared to the equivalent network bridge made by Auralic (Aries G1/G2), Dcs, and Lumin, all over £2k and pushing £4K in some instances, the Pro-Ject is exceptional value for money. I had an Auralic G1 to compare with my Pro-ject Stream Box and could not hear a difference. The Pro Ject is considerably smaller too. Although the lightning software in the Aries is better than the Volumio. And you get a pretty display with the more pricey brands.

    So from an off-the-shelf point of view the Stream Box is relatively very good value.
  4. Whatsisnaim

    Whatsisnaim pfm Member

    An AirPort Extreme has 3 LAN ports, so it does include a basic 3 port unmanaged switch. If you are talking about the Cisco Catalyst switches some use, these are relatively sophisticated managed switches, although their basic function is the same. Another difference is that while both have a built in SMPS, the one in the Catalyst switches is electrically very quiet, which is not the case with the AE.
    Not quite sure how that relates to this particular topic, but hey!
  5. mjw

    mjw pfm Member

    The Cisco seems to be a fundamental link in securing the reported improvements but, being well outside my knowledge base, I have no idea why. I just wondered if an Extreme (being superficially similar) would confer the same benefit. You’ve explained very well - even I understood it - why that probably isn’t the case so, thanks.
  6. coupe-sport

    coupe-sport pfm Member

    It's a cracking little box. I've had mine now since April and it's worked very well. It's a tiny little box that is tucked out of the way and apart from updating the firmware (a couple of clicks via the web browser) it's not needed any more interaction and in its role as a Roon endpoint I have no complaints. As with all these things, yes you can DIY it at a lot lower cost and I'm sure performance will be pretty similar - ultimately it will depend on the DAC and it's susceptibility to noise entering via the USB connection so mileage will vary depending on set up.
  7. duckworp

    duckworp pfm Member

    I am tempted by Roon for the elegance of the system - I do not have any music on hard drive though. Does it work well with whatever streaming service you use? (I use Qobuz). The one downside of the Pro Ject is the poor Volumio software when using Qobuz. Qobuz have not released the API to allow any sorting of favourites so accessing a well-sorted catalogue of albums is nigh-on impossible.
    What I would love to do is to sort all my albums I have favourited on Qobuz by genre: so have a jazz library, a classical library etc. Does Roon allow you to sort albums on Qobuz/tidal etc. in this manner?
  8. MasterTape

    MasterTape pfm Member

    An S2 and an Allo Digione Player (£180) are much more similar than they are different. Both are Raspberry Pis with competently designed hardware add-ons to do two things - reduce jitter and reduce PSU noise. You can't beat the Digione for jitter but the S2 likely beats it in PSU noise reduction as it has a more thorough hardware re-work in that department. Both are ready to go out of the box, in custom cases. Both use Volumio (unless otherwise specified in the case of the DigiOne). You just have to compare them, it's impossible not to bunch them together as products.

    Some things that not everyone wants to pay for in the case of the S2 are,

    - Low volume EU manufacture
    - Brand name with included marketing and distribution costs
    - Industrial version Pi with more CPU horsepower
    - More on board storage
    - Custom Volumio version for which you the customer pay the licensing
    - Fancier casework

    For these reasons it's just not going to beat the Digione in terms of VFM as the Allo engineers too are highly competent and work under circumstances that allow them to push the price way down (shipping just this small add-on board out of India with word of mouth and measurements as marketing). That doesn't mean the S2 isn't better, the only person I've seen compare them is Darko and he thinks it is, and I'll get one if I find one used so that I can sell it on without much loss if I don't find the difference worthwhile.

    John Westlake's take on how the S2, a Raspberry Pi running Volumio, can cost £600 in post #16 below.
    ask, lenticularis and webster like this.
  9. Whatsisnaim

    Whatsisnaim pfm Member

    There are large numbers of used Catalyst switches on the market, usually quite cheaply, so it’s easy enough to hook one up and try it if you’re curious. Just make sure it has been factory reset by the previous owner, and it’s then just plug and play.
  10. Julf

    Julf Facts are our friends

    I just would like to point out that ethernet (not to mention wifi) is galvanically isolated (at least if you use normal UTP cables, not STP). The interface contains small transformers ("magnetics"). This means that ground noise is not propagated. As to the RPi, the main criticism has been that the ethernet and USB interface share a single I/O interface, so there might be bottlenecks. The new RPi4 fixes this issue.
    foxwelljsly likes this.
  11. foxwelljsly

    foxwelljsly Hawkwind and Fire

    You're fixing up a cuppa in Russell's Teapot.
    Julf likes this.
  12. foxwelljsly

    foxwelljsly Hawkwind and Fire

    £600 for a Pi in a box running freeware with a tiny bit of bespoke polish? And it's shipping with incomplete (aka inadequately tested) support for leading streaming services? Someone is taking the piss.
  13. MasterTape

    MasterTape pfm Member

  14. duckworp

    duckworp pfm Member

    The software is only incomplete as Qobuz have not sorted out their API for saved albums, so it affects any interface with Qobuz unless you go via the Qobuz app directly. Roon probably overcomes it via its own software.

    The Pro-Ject Stream Box is in competition with the likes of £3,000 dcs and Lumins so on that basis a £600 network bridge is looking like very good value. For the wider audio market I don’t think it is fair to compare with self-build as most of us do not have the ability nor inclination to do it ourselves. There are some people who buy self-build pre-amp kits, or build their own speakers with bought-in drivers, or build their own PCs, and they are usually doing it for a lot less money than you would pay for an equivalent off-the-shelf product.

    And remember on a £600 product you are talking £500 ex VAT which means a dealer will be buying it for around £300. If a company is selling to a dealer for £300 they would want to make a 20% margin on it so that means they have to buy all of the parts, manufacture it, sell it, market it, pay their pro-rated staff salaries, pay for the r&d that led to the product, and pay the designer a royalty, all out of that £240 cost. So it isn’t really taking the piss.
  15. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    Roon and Qobuz is an excellent combination - although I do have my own rips as well I doubt I’d miss them if they vanished - most are on Qobuz, sometimes in higher than cd res anyway, and there’s so much new stuff and back catalogue to get into that I now mostly listen to music from Qobuz. Roon have some good searching, organizing and bookmarking features - much better than Qobuz once you have more than a few favourites. Not perfect by any means, but essentially you can add a Qobuz album to your library so you have one library to interact with, rather than needing to flip between Qobuz and your own stuff. What you lose is the offline library.

    As for your particular query, Roon has a thing called “Focus” which lets you focus your library by Genre (or genres/sub genres), composer, artist, Qobuz or not, producer, resolution etc. then sort the result by album title, artist, date etc. so it should get you close to what you want. If there’s a particular Focus that you want to use repeatedly - say Classical by Artist - then you can make what they call a Bookmark for that, and access it with a couple of taps.
  16. foxwelljsly

    foxwelljsly Hawkwind and Fire

    A Pi Streamer is a totally different kettle of fish compared to a self build amp or speaker project. A Pi, case, power supply and SPDIF hat can be had for less than £100, you can click it all together and write an OS on to an SD Card in 10 minutes. Moode, LMS, Volumio et al are free. That £500 extra seems to be for a case, a wireless aerial and not much else. Count me out. I will also regard the products of Mr Westlake & ProJect with a little more suspicion from now on.
  17. duckworp

    duckworp pfm Member

    And that is why it works for you but not for many of us, as ‘clicking it together’ and ‘writing an OS to an SD card’, are not skills we necessarily have.

    No, the £500 extra is:
    Extra VAT £80
    Dealer margin £200 (there is a dealer margin on Pi, but is lower than a hifi shop would require)

    So Pro-ject are charging an extra £220 for a case, a well-constructed power supply, R&D, a proportion of staff costs, a designer royalty, a USB ‘cleaner’, a higher Sound Quality than a vanilla Pi, and of course a margin to themselves.

    As @MasterTape’s linked review shows, the results are favourable...
  18. MasterTape

    MasterTape pfm Member

    It's not exactly apples to apples, Mr Westgate explains a few of the upgrades in the above link. And it's the 'industrial' quad core CM3 Pi module that usually runs for around £40 and needs a £110 IO board to operate, which in this case looks to be a custom job by Pro-Ject, as per his supplied image of the guts of the thing (link from above avf thread: A01 PCB.JPG?dl=0):

    duckworp likes this.
  19. tempo

    tempo New Member

    Hello to all,

    My question (problem) is:

    I have pro-ject stream box s2 ultra playing in my system with Devialet (usb).
    I moved to a new place few days ago and now can not find box s2 on my new router (d-link).....not wireless not with lan cable either, any1 had the same problem?
    Wonder if some1 can help me?
    Thank you
  20. s1h1

    s1h1 performing within expectations

    To reset the box (from the Pro-ject website)

    • Get a USB Thumb Drive • Format it as “FAT32” • Download this file • Please use Google Chrome or Firefox if the download doesn't start automatically • Copy it on the Thumb Drive (make sure the name of the file is exactly "factory_reset") • Turn off the Stream Box S2 Ultra and unplug the ethernet cable (if connected) • Plug the thumb drive to one of the USB ports • Turn on the Stream Box S2 Ultra • IMPORTANT: During this phase the unit might restart multiple times and this factory reset will take about 5 minutes. • The factory reset will be completed when the Net-LED starts blinking again

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