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Streamers that stream better

Discussion in 'audio' started by yuckyamson, Oct 16, 2020.

  1. Heckyman

    Heckyman pfm Member

    I’ve read that a lot but I wouldn’t worry about it. All things being equal BNC should be the default choice, but all things rarely are equal!

    I‘ve compared BNC-BNC, RCA-RCA and various combinations of adaptors. IME a better RCA cable will outperform a less good BNC cable (either with/without adapter).

    For a laugh I just tried an analogue I/C from my spares box and it did sound a fair bit worse than either of my digi I/Cs.
  2. Stuart Frazer

    Stuart Frazer pfm Member

    My view of a Streamer is it's an optimised computer feeding audio data to a DAC (DAC can be internal or external).

    Check out the Lamizator SuperKomputer
  3. HiFiman

    HiFiman Don't tell him Pike

    I stumbled upon this device a few days ago whilst web searching for a replacement streamer to replace my UQ2 that feeds a Qutest.

    Looks like an interesting product but as others have suggested above does the streamer make a huge difference.
  4. Heckyman

    Heckyman pfm Member

    I have Allo and like it a lot, great sound and highly customisable/upgradable. But it’s basically an optimised Raspberry Pi that encourages “semi DIY”. A very different product to the Bluesound that is more “plug and play”.
    Operajulian likes this.
  5. flatpopely

    flatpopely Prog Rock/Moderator

    They claim they tested RAM for musicality, really!
  6. Heckyman

    Heckyman pfm Member

    Everyone has their own definition of “huge”...

    Running an Allo USBridge Sig + Digione Sig provides a lot of options to change things on the streamer and discover what is or isn’t audible. I can say that different software sounds different. Even things like underclocking the CPU can help!
  7. Stuart Frazer

    Stuart Frazer pfm Member

    And what is wrong with that? It might not make a huge difference, but Lampizator obviously found it did make some worthwhile difference.

    Lampizator started as an hobbyist and enthusiast - he didn't set out to be an Audio Business. His pages on testing CD players and modifying them testifies to his enthusiasm, especially his write-ups and sharing of knowledge. He rates Naim CD players very highly along with the JVC K2 filter players and an old Grundig player. He then moved into exploring DACs and made his own and eventually started to sell them.
  8. bencat

    bencat pfm Member

    Well for what it is worth I would always consider a Raspberry Pi 4 - 4GB / 8GB with whatever distro you feel comfortable with is an ideal and very cheap streamer solution . If you use a USB DAC then just the Raspberry Pi and use the USB 3 output . If no USB input on your DAC then you will need to add a Digi Hat which gives you SPDIF and TOSLINK digital out straight in to your DAC.

    I personally use Max2play for which to get all of the options you need to pay a license fee . Many object to this and so use other distros like Moode , Picore etc and each will work . I use Max2play because i find it simple to use and set up and it uses Logitech Media Server which is free and supported by the Squeezebox Forum . Using a GUI called Material Skin you get a very nice interface on your phone / tablet / PC / Mac which shows you articles and details of artists and also shows your albums as a gallery of album covers . I also like that LMS has plugins for Tidal , Spotify , Deezer , Quboz and then also BBC Radio stations and the Flac stream of Radio Paradise . The unit when built is very small and can be hidden away it uses very little power so can be left on 24/7 or turned off if you want to do that (I turn off my Pi based players but leave the Media Server unit on all the time) .

    Just doing this will cost about £100 -£120 depending on the box and Pi you use and will work and sound very good . If you are like me and get a bit twitchy about what if this etc you can add a nice Linear Power Supply to the PI (this will cost you more than the whole Pi set up) but that is an option and not needed unless you are a little bit obsessive (guilty as charged) .
    Operajulian and Stuart Frazer like this.
  9. yuckyamson

    yuckyamson pfm Member

    Gents thanks for the suggestions, we've arrived at the rub;

    Can there, is there, and if there is, how big can be, the difference between streamers only doing streaming of either cloud based services or local storage files? (Keeping the DAC the same and all else being equal).

    I realize some people have said that "bit perfect is bit perfect" but I'm not so quick to accept this. As I said earlier, I notice a significant different on the same system of a new PC running into a Mojo, between the Web version of tidal and the tidal app. Same bit-rate, same presumable settings, the App sounds significantly better.

    So above someone wrote that ultimately a good streamer is a stripped-down, purpose built PC and I'm inclined to agree, so I don't care WHY it might sound better, I just care what is out there and how much better can one piece sound than the next. But I have to imagine if my PC system (as an example) would sound better simply adding a line conditioner, or adding one just to the PC, that a streamer's P/S approach would matter....etc. So this is what I'm curious to look into. I'm interested in options for streamers, not changes in DACs as that is a separate matter for a separate day.

    So far the interesting suggestions are the Arylic, the Bluesound Node 2i, The Allo, and the Lindeman.

    OOC, I wonder how an original Linn Klimax Renew would sound? Can it access Tidal and what bit rates does it support?

    Anyway great suggestions by all. Thanks. Also thanks to Strictly Stereo for giving a solid retailers opinion, many thanks.
  10. manicatel

    manicatel pfm Member

    That “rub” Can probably be split into 2 parts....
    1–Is there any difference between streamers or do they all sound the same & it’s all down to the DAC
    2- IF there is a difference between a budget one & a high end one, is it worth the £££?
    Thats when it’s time to demo & see if the price is justified.
  11. cctaylor

    cctaylor pfm Member

    I don't think that streamers should be seen in isolation rather as forming a system with the DAC.

    I have a feeling that some streamers play better with some DACs. I would guess that some DACs are more sensitive to quality of the streamer output. If there is more than just bits in the output (such as psu noise) and this has an effect on the DAC which may affect the sound.

    On the other hand some DACs may not be sensitive to the quality of the output of the streamer.
  12. bencat

    bencat pfm Member

    Again my view is that streamers in the full sense of that and passing on digital streams to a DAC are pretty much all the same . The only difference and in my view way they can be improved is by a a quieter power supply . Now this in my case for the money I can afford has to be a Linear Power Supply . There are incredibly low noise and high quality SMP supplies but they are often very expensive to produce . I would also say that the full network of router , player and streamer and if on its own Media unit can all be made to sound better by improved low noise power supplies . If the power supplies are equal then in my view all streamers sound the same .
  13. firedog

    firedog pfm Member

    Among other pieces, I have the Matrix Element i mentioned above and I can vouch that it is a fine piece of kit that does almost everything you could want in a streamer/DAC/pre.

    On the other hand, you could also get a Raspberry Pi4 and a nice DAC for about half it's price that would probably sound just as good. There would be some time involved in setup, and possibly less features, but such a pairing can also give you excellent sound for a very affordable price.

    The difference in SQ between something like a Pi and a "higher end" streamer (most of which are Pi's, with some modifications, etc) is a matter of debate. Some say the differences are there, others say there aren't any. There isn't a consensus.
    I'd suggest starting with something relatively modest and seeing if you are happy with the result. If you are, no need to go down the audiophile rabbit hole.
    cctaylor likes this.
  14. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    Simple. Nothing.

    Stand alone streamer(s) make sense in some systems, depending on how you store or access music and what your physical layout or restrictions are, or how many users want to access the music at the same time (whole house systems and so on). But as far as SQ there is nothing the streamer is doing that the PC is not. The streamer (inside) IS just another computer, but with restricted workload to do the one job.
    cctaylor likes this.
  15. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    For me the difference between a good streamer and a bad one isn't as much about the SQ (as all the ones I've heard, including my Pi, have been fine), but more about the software and in particular the control app.
    camverton and adamdea like this.
  16. firedog

    firedog pfm Member

    Agree. For me, I'm also willing to spend some money on cosmetics and a nice heavy case. For those who aren't sensitive to that, the Pi (even spending a bit on a nice case) is a good buy.
  17. adamdea

    adamdea You are not a sound quality evaluation device

    I would add to this the point that a good streamer is almost inevitably going to require regular software upgrades to keep abreast of new services and updated APIs of the existing services. There is always some risk of obsolescence but buying an expensive device from a hifi manufacturer is IMHO inherently high risk compared with

    • buying an inexpensive device which can run software from different sources especially free ones from people who specialise in software (eg a pi); or
    • using a multi purpose device like a mac mini or nuc or even regular PC.
    perhaps more debatably one might trust in someone like sonos whose entire brand is about streaming.
    sukalite likes this.
  18. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    I started off with a Pi as a streamer but after trying various software options found they were all a bit crap so ended up going with dedicated streamers in all of my systems (Cambridge Audio ones in 2 of them and a Squeezebox Touch in the other).
  19. adamdea

    adamdea You are not a sound quality evaluation device

    You can make a pi into a squeezebox touch.
  20. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    It was cheaper to just buy a 2nd hand Squeezebox Touch though.

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