Streamers in 2023 - Discussion, Impressions, etc

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by rhythmdevils, Feb 9, 2023.

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  1. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I'm interested in getting something that sounds better than the Pi2AES and there isn't really a thread here on SBAF dedicated to all the different streamers on the market. I recently picked up a Hydra Z w/ZPM power supply based on a recommendation from a friend and was looking into getting an Allo Usb Signature with Shanit power supply to feed it USB (all as an experiment to see I it sounds better than the Pi2AES) but I found out it doesn't do WIFI and would require a WFI dongle that needed to be setup and I started getting a headache.

    It occurred to me that the Allo USB Signature is pretty old and so is the Hydra Z and both are discontinued. Maybe there is a better option for a streamer with USB output to my Hydra Z, or if I'm spending this much money, a better option for the whole thing that would replace the whole Allo USB Sig and Hyrda Z and Pi2AES.

    There are different kinds of streamers with different features
    • Wifi vs Ethernet only
    • UPNP support, DNLA support, Chromecast support, specific app support. like Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Amazon, Airplay (I guess this is Apple's only option for connecting to Apple Music?) etc
    • Roon ready
    • USB output vs digital outputs like SPDIF/BNC/AES/HDMI
    Let's discuss streamers!

    I'm personally interested in:

    1)
    a Wifi enabled streamer that outputs clean USB to my Hydra Z and supports UPNP (I prefer BubbleUPNP to the Tidal App, and I can connect to both Tidal and Qobuz from it),

    2)
    OR a whole new unit instead of the USB streamer + Hydra Z that sounds better with newer tech/development.

    There are also budget considerations.

    $300-400
    Pi2AES, Pi2AES lite
    Zen Stream

    $500-$700
    Pi Mercury v2

    $700-$1000
    Cayin iDAP-6
    HOLO RED

    $1000-$1500

    $1500+
    Hydrabyte Hub
    Lumin U1 and U2

    I tried to create a thread we could add to over time and that would be a useful resource for all of us. Happy to make changes though,
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2023
  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I was looking at the Zen Stream and thinking it likely sounds as good or better than the Allo USB Signature, and it has wifi built in, but it doesn't have UPNP support as far as I can tell. And I'm interested if there is an all in one option in the $700-$1500 range that would beat the Pi2AES and an Allo-Hydra Z combo.

    Features I would want in a streamer that outputs digital connections: and would replace the Pi2AES and Allo-hyra Z combo:
    • $700-$1500
    • Wifi
    • UPNP support or ability to use MoOde
    • variety of outputs including AES and HDMI outputs
    • No extra crap like built in DACs or amps or bluetooth
    • Includes a good power supply or ability to add an LPS
    • Delicious and juicy sound
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  3. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    But the Zen Signature has a DAC? Do you mean the Zen Stream?

    EDIT: I meant the Zen One Signature, but there’s also the Zen DAC Signature, and the Zen CAN Signature. All quite confusing, but the others are no streamers. But maybe there’s an iFi streamer with Signature in its name I have overlooked? X-)

    Anyway, I got my Zen Stream + iPower X power supply today, and first impressions are superb. \o/ I can’t compare it to the Pi2AES, though, as I never had one.

    I’ll write more when I had more time to listen.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    fixed I meant Zen Stream. Thank you!
     
  5. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    For sub-$500 streamers, there’s the Zen Stream, Wiim and Wiim Pro, and Pi solutions.

    For $500-$1k, there’s Bluenode, Holo Red, Pi2 Mercury, am I forgetting any?

    For above $1k, then you’re looking at ifi Neo Stream, and probably a bunch of others I don’t know well because I don’t look at that segment much.
     
  6. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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  7. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    In the >$1k range the Metrum Ambre. Or just above the $500 range is the Baby Ambre, but that does not have AES out, only coax and optical. Although neither of them have WiFi and would require a WiFi to Ethernet bridge, but so will the new Holo Red. I run moOde on both the Ambre and Baby Ambre.

    It is really hard to beat Zen Stream and I hear the app is very simple. If I did not have the Metrum's, that is where I would go, or if you can get a WiFi bridge, then Holo Red.

    And another option is a Allo Digione Signature Player AND you can order it with moOde preinstalled AND with dual LPS for $486 -

    https://allo.com/sparky/digione-signature-player.html
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  8. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    I’m using Metrum Ambre as my DAC is from Sonnet and hence it has compatible I2S however Ambre and Ambre has good clock and LPS but it doesn’t have Wi-Fi and rolling OS is not easy as we have to open a case all the time. For $1500 and lower just get Pi2Design Mercury streamer with Sbooster LPS. It has Wi-Fi, you can use OS as per your need and checks all your criteria except may be clean USB out ?
     
  9. Pocomo

    Pocomo Friend

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    Maybe I am a luddite, but I am super happy with the Pi2AES (which I never would have discovered without SBAF!).

    I would need a waaay more resolving system to require a better streaming device.
     
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  10. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    I would try a solution from ifi in first hand. It won't tick all boxes but some. Is there anyway to try them where u live Whitney?

    Tbh i don't think you'll find a blatant "this is much better" in terms of sound per se but slight difference that may agree more, or less, with your system so maybe try a few, make a roundup and give us your thoughts.
     
  11. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    The Lumin U series streamers are also well-reviewed. There's been some discussion on SBAF of the U1 Mini I believe. With price increases, I think they are outside the $1,500 range now unless you buy used or on sale.

    I've never used one.
     
  12. wbass

    wbass Friend

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    I did a shoot out on a bunch of streamers a couple years ago. Here's what I said about it in another thread. TL;DR: I preferred the Lumin U1 Mini. Others have felt differently. I heard what I heard and had all of the below on hand to AB directly. FWIW, YMMV, etc, etc.


    *********

    I had the Pi2AES for about a week on the loaner program. (Thanks, y'all!) I compared it to my Lumin U1 Mini (which is obviously a more expensive unit) through my Matrix X-Sabre Pro and more briefly my Yggdrasil (Analog 2, USB 5).

    Rest of the set-up: Bryston BHA-1 into HD800 (stock). I also have used a Bluesound Node2i and an ultraRendu and microRendu as my streamer solution. I used the AES output with both the Lumin and the Pi2AES and briefly experimented with the i2S output on the Pi2AES. I heard no difference between the two into either DAC.

    Note: I really dislike comparing digital components. I find even the differences between DACs maddeningly subtle. However, I have heard, with very close listening and immediate ABing, just about noticeable differences between streamers. Primarily, as others have noted, in the technicalities.

    To my ears, compared to the Pi2AES, the Lumin is ever so slightly more resolving and offers more fine grain detail. It can be subtle, and not every recording shows up the differences, but some do. On Brad Mehldau's Blues and Ballads, I heard, with the Lumin, a little more clearly the ringing overtones of a sustained chord and a more coherent sense of how Mehldau phrases his lines. A little more of the subtle brush stuff Jeff Ballard does on his kit.

    On Rickie Lee Jones S/T record, I heard a bit more coherence, with the Lumin, in the various electric and acoustic guitar lines, a bit more of the room ambience on Steve Gadd's kit, and the bass lines came across as a bit more solid and growly in the way I think an electric bass should sound.

    The Pi2AES struck me as ever so slightly closed-in sounding, with a bit more haze between the instruments. Perhaps this is another way of saying that the Lumin U1 Mini has better separation.

    BUT--and this is a big but--I think I'd be hard pressed to tell one streamer from the other in blind listening. The Lumin is better, is my somewhat hesitant conclusion, but it should be at the price.

    My ranking of streamers I've heard, on sound quality, partly from memory:

    Lumin U1 Mini > Sonore ultraRendu (sBooster LPS) --> Pi2AES --> Sonore microRendu (sBooster LPS) = Bluesound Node 2i.


    By ergonomics and ease of use:

    Bluesound Node 2i (the Blue OS app is fuss-free) --> Lumin (also has a good app) --> Pi2AES (plug and play for me, as I used a Roon trial, and Roon recognized it immediately) = microRendu = ultraRendu (both via Roon, with some fiddling).

    The new Pi2Designs all-in-one should solve the minor ergonomic concerns I have with the Pi2AES: the inconvenience of the placement of the various outputs and inputs and the interior lights, which are too bright and a touch gaudy.

    Conclusion: the Pi2AES is an excellent streamer for a modest outlay. It is almost but not quite as good as the Lumin U1 Mini, which is in a significantly higher price tier. It is better sounding (more clarity, less muddy, less rounded) than the Bluesound Node 2i, but the Node 2i has great ergonomics. It is better than the Sonore microRendu with a good PSU. But the ultraRendu has the lowest noise floor of all of the above and is a slightly better box (to my ears).

    All of this said, differences between all are subtle. Purely on sound quality alone, I think many, many people would be happy with an ultraRendu or a Pi2AES just about equally. (The Pi2AES has more output options, so that's a big plus.) However, my favorite streamer, thus far, as I haven't heard more than the above, is the Lumin U1 Mini. It does more--has its own dedicated app, upsamples, offers various configuration options--but is significantly more expensive.


    Thanks again for letting me be part of the loaner tour.
     
  13. caute

    caute Lana Del Gayer than you

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    I wonder how much of a role good digital interconnects play in squeezing the most of out any of these streamers. Power supplies as well, but that's an obvious one. I'm a basic bitch, so I just use a Pi2AES with a BJC BNC cable and stock SMPS to my Gungnir A1. Before I go Holo Red (which I believe has an LPS onboard, and also Golden One measurements here), I want to try a better power supply and a better BNC cable. Perhaps we already own a "better" sounding digital streamer/DDC, it's just about maximizing its utility.

    Edit: The Holo Red might be a solid contender for you RD, apparently it's one of the best Golden One has tested so far, "TLDR: It's the lowest jitter and some of the lowest noise of any device I've tested."
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  14. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Discordant Note...

    What is it about a streamer that is not a PC in a hifi-looking box?

    Hmm... the neat display and controls, I suppose. But hey, we've all got phones.

    Logitech squeeze boxes were lovely (although the one I had had a horrid remote control which cost more than the box. The software at the PC end worked well. Logitech killed the squeezebox because bosses didn't understand them and they had Linux inside. The software lives on and is free.
     
  15. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    What's with all these expensive streamers with no wifi?

    the Holo RED and Lumin U1 Mini have no wifi. At that price is that that difficult to add an antenna and wifi?

    I'm wondering if this would work on either of them but my spider senses are tingling that it would be a world of pain.

    the Lumin U1 Mini also appears to have no I2s. And $2k is so much money for a streamer, I imagine a better DAC and the Pi2AES would sound much better (though I don't know of a better DAC for my preferences than the Yggdrasil A2)

    I would get an iFI Stream to test my Hydra Z but it doesn't support UPNP which is a deal breaker.
     
  16. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    The iFi should support UPnP, I think it's not mentioned as much because people with superior taste use Roon. :D
     
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  17. wbass

    wbass Friend

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    I've used one of these with my U1 Mini:

    https://www.amazon.com/TP-Link-TL-W...GS211V9/dp/B08GS211V9/ref=dp_ob_title_ce?th=1

    $25 bucks, rock solid, and all of 4 minutes to set up. Uses a cheap switching PSU no doubt, but I detected zero audible difference between it in and out of the chain. Also has the advantage of extending your WiFi range. You could probably get similar benefit from, say, a Google mesh system.

    In other words, lack of Wifi hasn't been an issue for me with the U1 Mini.

    Also, I got both of mine used for good deals, though I concede that they're pricey new.

    It's true that the Lumin doesn't have an I2S output, and I know that's a dealbreaker for some people. FWIW, I compared the Lumin with its AES out and the Pi2AES with both AES and I2S and heard zero difference between the outputs. This was into a Holo May and a Matrix X-Sabre Pro.

    As above, I preferred the Lumin to all other streamers on hand no matter the output. The differences were pretty subtle, but just about worth it to me.

    Currently have the iFi Neo Stream (while the rest of my rig is in storage). I probably would've just gotten a WiiM, but got a deal on the Neo and had a use for its internal DAC. Streamers are pretty boring, IMO, and I just want something stable that works with my software. I'm sure the Holo Red is good, too.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  18. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    I ran a Squeezebox server on my Metrum Baby Ambre on my 2ch. rig for a year or more. It worked well when I had it working. Confusing as crap to setup, but the SQ was worth it. It was the most "hands off" of the stream as possible. And the app was pretty simple to use.

    Unfortunately it is very unstable on Linux and if you have a power outage or cut the power without a proper shut down sequence, the whole kernel goes corrupt and will not boot back up. The only fix I could figure was to wipe, re-load, and re-setup. I got tired of doing this everytime I had a power outage and was not about to buy a UPS for it. So it now has moOde.
     
  19. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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  20. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    I'm not a nerd so I'm probably getting this all wrong, but as I understand it upnp is not generally a great idea since it gives devices the ability to open ports willy-nilly. BubbleUPNP acts as an interface to direct a streamer to a resource, but doesn't allow the streamer itself to index that source like UPNP would. I've read on computer audiophile (or, audiophilestyle or whatever) that BubbleUPNP does work with the Zen Stream.
     

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