Network Players - Streamers Impressions and Reviews

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by David De Lucena, Nov 14, 2018.

  1. David De Lucena

    David De Lucena Science Nut

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    Greetings friends
    I'm starting this thread as I didn't see anything dedicated to the subject, and I think its important to adquire knowledge and impressions to avoid money lost.
    For the last 12 years i have been using a Marantz CD-63 MkII KI Signature and really liked its sound. After yggdrasil I tested some streamers with tidal but never felt they could touch my old Cd player in sound quality. In the last couple of years, i really started to lose interest for searching CDs because Roon platform changed the way I search for music. Since that, a good streamer or computer could be an elegant solution to enjoy music.
    Last month a friend of mine took a Auralic Aries to my place, and it was the first time that a network player sound equivalent to my CD transport.
    So it will be very helpful to know your impressions and reviews about equivalent gears.
    Until now I searched several brands, but only demoed the Auralic Aries (out of stock now).
    I'm a little worried because their prices tags are huge. Maybe this thread could help people to make a good choice.
    Cheers!

    some exemples

    1. Sonore Rendu - 1000$
    https://www.sonore.us/ultraRendu.html
    2. Auralic Aries 2 - 2200- 3800$ ( out of means)
    https://us.auralic.com/products/aries-g1
    3. Moon Neo MiND - 2000$

    4. Cambridge Azur 851N - 1500$
     
  2. winders

    winders Mentally ill. Do not engage.

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    With Roon, I think the best solution for sound quality is a Roon Core using HQPlayer (HQPlayer Embedded would be best) with an NAA endpoint connected to your DAC. I use a sonicTransporter i5 with HQPlayer Embedded for the Roon Core with directly attached storage (internal 2TB spinner) for the music tracks. I use an ultraRendu for the NAA because it has a very clean USB out and my DAC has a nice USB implementation.

    This setup uses Roon only as a front end to the music. All of the networking is handled by HQPlayer and the NAA. In other words, Roon RAAT is not used. I don't know why, but using HQPlayer and NAA sounds better than Roon using RAAT even if you don't use any of the filters and noise shapers available in HQPlayer. This may be all or partially due to the fact that all the rendering is done by HQPlayer and not the endpoint. With Roon, the endpoint is doing more work.

    If you are using an Yggdrasil, you may feel better converting the USB output of the NAA to SPDIF or AES. But I found the USB 5 input on Yggdrasil to be excellent.
     
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  3. David De Lucena

    David De Lucena Science Nut

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    That’s very interesting. I will try to understand the technical detail studying. Did you try only the ultra rendu to dac? How do you classify this solution? The files would stay in a regular computer with Roon
     
  4. k4rstar

    k4rstar On a journey... somewhere

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    In my opinion streamer/server solutions are not going to match the fluidity and purity of the legendary mechanisms great disc spinners. Even the $$$ streamers with expensive clocks, buffers, capacitive battery bank PSUs will be more different than better than a really good disc spinner. The differences are akin to zero feedback (CDT) vs. moderate NFB (file-based transport) in amp design. I don't know why. Your own mileage may vary depending on the rest of your system and especially the design of your DACs digital inputs. Those with elaborate re-clocking and buffering schemes on various inputs will homogenize differences and often put file-based delivery on even standing if not ahead.

    With a pre-built streamer you'll be locked into whatever UI/UX choices the manufacturer made. Or you buy a very expensive computer in an audio component sized chassis which can then run whatever software you want. The signature version of the Allo DigiOne looks pretty legit for the $ and is capable of becoming a Roon endpoint. John Darko made a video on it recently where he thought it was better SQ-wise than the original Aries. I would get a good BNC cable for best performance.

     
  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    The DigiOne Signature is pretty legit. Relatively inexpensive for a great sounding streamer. Set it up with Volumio or use it as a Roon Bridge, the latter being my preference.

    You have the Eitr if you want plug-and-play with any device, and if you want a step up from the DO Signature, just step up to a CD player. I wouldn't even worry much about high priced streamers with the Allo stuff around.
     
  6. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    I personally didn't enjoy my time running Pi, so if you can have Roon talking to it that would make the user experience significantly better. Certainly much cheaper than an UltraRendu, which is a good device certainly.

    Very fortunate that I don't need to fuss over this as the DirectStream has a streamer built-in. If I ever go to Metrum or Schiit again for whatever reason, I would definitely buy that DigiOne Sig. package first.

    The Auralic Aries I had was the full femto w/ LPS and it certainly was good. At that time, I wasn't using Roon. I didn't enjoy the Lightening software and with JRiver it was buggy, driving me to the point of selling it. Looking back, the device from a hardware standpoint was nice but visually was from the 80's making my Squeezebox Touch look futuristic. Still have that thing kicking around actually.
     
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  7. David De Lucena

    David De Lucena Science Nut

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    So you are using the bridge 2? In terms of pure sound, do you think it’s very different from the auralic Aries?
     
  8. winders

    winders Mentally ill. Do not engage.

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    Okay, why would a "legendary" spinner be better than streaming using a quality endpoint over Ethernet like ultraRendu?
     
  9. MrTeaRex

    MrTeaRex His head's not fat, he's my brother!

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    Saw this "legendary" fidget spinner mechanism at RMAF. No streaming transport can possibly compare.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. k4rstar

    k4rstar On a journey... somewhere

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    Seriously though, not everything in audio has a concrete explanation. In fact when it comes to good sound I would say there are more inexplicable factors than not.

    There are some theories and conjecture behind it, for example the idea that error correction during digital playback has a net negative affect on what we hear. But these are just theories and conjecture.
     
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  11. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    people say the same behind the speed correction mechanisms that underlie direct drive tables, can have negative effects on pitch and moment to moment stability even if you get accurate rpm stability
     
  12. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    haven't tried or tested Roon myself, but if anyone has experience with the Metrum Ambre as a Roon endpoint please chime in.
     
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  13. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    @Hands is being modest. More detail on the DigiOne from him here:

    https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/allo-digione-player-review

    Edit: I'm streaming wifi to a Pi/HiFiBerry Digi+ combo running Volumio, and self-ripped FLACs from that don't sound as good as from my CD63-II (there seems to be more noise, or maybe it's jitter). But that might be because I'm feeding the Modi Multibit with Toslink from the Digi + vs coax from the Marantz; I haven't tested head-to-head using coax from both units.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
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  14. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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  15. David De Lucena

    David De Lucena Science Nut

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    That’s what I’m talking about. Didn’t know that metrum was doing such thing. Where is the Is2 output anyway?
     
  16. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Ah, right - I hadn't spotted the distinction. Nonetheless, your review of the base DigiOne would've had me thinking of replacing my HiFiBerry HAT but for the hassle of only having one coax input on my DAC (want to keep using the CD transport too).

    @David De Lucena , if you're thinking about going the Raspberry Pi route, the Pi threads in this subforum include some discussions of using Roon.
     
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  17. JK47

    JK47 The Beer Houdini

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    Black Magic, Witchcraft, and Sorcery... drops the mic/mike BIG D style !!!
     
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  18. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I was thinking about starting a thread for this a while back but wasn’t sure how others would feel about it. Some folks seem to have an aversion to investing in a file/streamer based transport other than Rasberry Pi. But I have tried a few streamer/endpoints, and they each sound different to my ears. And I don’t want a full computer or laptop in my speaker room.

    I’ve owned the microRendu, UltraRendu and the Sotm SMS-200Ultra. So all USB-based endpoints up to this point, but I’m on the hunt for an SPDIF or AES based source as well. The DigiOne Signature is looking interesting.

    I have an Eitr as well, which is very good, but only puts lipstick on a pig in the case of running it from my laptop (IMO). I’ve compared running the above USB streamers direct into Gen 5 USB vs going through Eitr into Gungnir Multibit and Yggdrasil A2, and the differences are very small. However, generally speaking I prefer direct USB into Gen 5 vs. Eitr. If I was going into another DAC however with a lesser USB input (most), I would definitely go through Eitr - I did this with the Metrum Onyx because the USB input was very bad, even feeding it a quality USB streamer. The USB input on the DAC side of the equation definitely matters.

    Quick impressions are as follows (these were tested with the same power supply and USB cable):
    • microRendu (mR) - this was my first streamer/endpoint and I still own it. It’s a very good sounding streamer, far better than my laptop into Eitr. But it is beaten on resolution IMO by the 2 others. Reminds me of OG Gungnir Multibit vs new Gungnir Multibit or Yggdrasil - slightly softer and warmer and easier listening, but beaten on technicalities by the newer generation. I believe it will beat most Pi-based streamers as long as it’s fed into a decent USB input, the DigiOne Signature not withstanding (although that is SPDIF not USB). And it’s flexible as far as control UI - you can use UPNP, Squeezbox, Spotify Connect, Roon, etc. They’re also available pretty cheap used.
    • ultraRendu (uR) - this was an improvement over the mR in most technical respects, including a definite step up in resolution and blacker background and seperation. But I found it also came with a dose of sibilance and etched upper mids and highs. I tried it with 3 different power supplies with similar results. It’s much more forward and forceful sounding than the mR, but a bit too pushy and forced sounding for my tastes. It has the same OS as the microRendu, so lots of options for UI control. But ultimately I couldn’t handle the sibilance and forwardness, so I sold it. Especially after I heard the...
    • Sotm SMS-200Ultra - this is a great sounding streamer. Another step up over the ultraRendu in resolution, but more relaxed and smoother and detailed sounding at the same time. Lots a plankton and atmosphere from the recording space, great blackground and excellent instrument separation. Tonally very neutral. Reminds me of moving from most other DACs to an A2 Schiit Multibit DAC like Gungnir Multibit or Yggdrasil, but to a lesser degree. This one is more expensive, and is still best with a good power supply, but worth it to me, since I got a good deal on it used. Almost the same OS as the Sonore streamers (in fact I think they may have ripped Sonore off) so lots of control UI options. This is what I use currently and I like it a lot, however I would love to find something cheaper that sounds as good, if it exists.
    With all of the above I use the BubbleUPNP Android app for control UI, which looks and works great, and streams Tidal as well the files on my NAS. It also costs under $5I believe, so pretty cheap compared to Roon for instance. But I am considering the free trial of Roon...I just don’t know if I can stomach the full price though.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
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  19. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Friend

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    I can't give objective reasons why, sadly, but only anecdotally: I have at my disposal the following:
    George Merrill turntable with Art9 cart
    TASCAM CD-500b acting as a transport via AES/EBU to Yggdrasil Analog 2
    PCIe sound card in an in-room PC with 75 ohm coax S/PDIF to same Yggdrasil
    Sonore MicroRendu via USB to Yggdrasil Analog 2 as a Roon Endpoint

    I have not so cleverly listed them in order of preference. In fact, the Sonore is up for sale and sitting on a coffee table upstairs. It might be that even USB Gen 5 isn't "there" yet for me. I honestly don't know what it is - it could be a psychological thing of not wanting to use USB for audio (but I was hoping this setup would change that), or the fact I have learned that I prefer physical media. But when I do focus on pure sound quality, there is something I hear but cannot quantify in words that puts me off of the streamer solution. Was the same situation when I had a HifiBerry some time ago in this role.

    To qualify my goals for my system - I am more emotional about music than analytical but I have spent hours upon hours, each night, with some breaks over the course of three years, listening to music. Some new, some familiar, but the volume of music I've pushed through this system is almost embarrassing, obsessive. So I feel like my ears and my brain know what they like and what they don't. Doesn't have anything to do with specifications, measurements, or science.

    I know that doesn't "solve" anything other than to provide my perspective. Eventually when I have the budget, I'm going to get an upmarket CD Transport and compare it with my humble TASCAM (paid $189 on ebay).

    I will say this - my experience with the TASCAM + Yggdrasil, so far, has ignited a vinyl-esque crusade on my part to go out and buy CDs. They're cheap and I now know that done properly in gear that suits my tastes? They are awesome.

    My $.05
    Cheers!

    PS - if this is any indication of my nervosa levels on digital audio - four years ago I changed a dedicated audio PC from WIndows 7 to Server 2012 with some tweaks to it. Otherwise all equipment was unchanged beyond that. I would have sworn on all that I owned that the O/S change made a substantial, positive improvement to SQ. To this day I don't know if I was just in an exceptionally good mood that day and that's why it sounded better, but that feeling never left. Well, until I got a turntable ;)

    PSS - My ears aren't terrible. At one point I was an early adopter of i2s out of a PC via Pink Faun bridge into an Aqua R2R DAC. There were jumpers needed to be changed in the DAC and I followed the documentation to a T to make the change. Didn't sound right. It was subtle, but after working with Pink Faun, we found one jumper setting was misrepresented so my impressions were correct about a jumper I ended up setting differently than the instructions indicated. Wasn't a huge change, but that felt like a little justification that I'm not entirely insane.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
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  20. David De Lucena

    David De Lucena Science Nut

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    I’m starting to feel that streamers are the new “usb nervosa”
    If so, I don’t want open this box of horror.
     
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