Streamers in 2023 - Discussion, Impressions, etc

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

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  1. Gazny

    Gazny MOT: ETA Audio

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    How much better is a streamer than a Mac Book?
     
  2. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    FWIW- My friend who builds the Pass amps (I've posted a few pics) as well as tube pres and 2A3 amps likes the Raspberry pi 4 running Ropiee straight from it's USB port to his Audio Research dac.

    This was an upgrade from the Pi 3 and Allo USB sig with if power. Both are fed via Ethernet from a Roon server.
     
  3. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    I started with a Macbook (way back in 2004) and it was pretty good, but any desktop without a screen built in sounded better. All laptops I subsequently used got beat by good biz class desktops. Mac Mini on the other had was my stalwart for years.

    And comparing my best desktop setup to my friends pi and Allo sig was close but no cigar the pi/allo was better, but way harder to implement Jriver and the EQ plugins I need to get the speakers and room just right. That to me was and is more important than slicing hairs on the source differences.
     
  4. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    ^^^ this ^^^
     
  5. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    one reason for not using my laptop as source is that my desktop setup is in another room and my laptop stays at my work desk. I don't want to carry it around every time I want to listen to music and streamer just works and my laptop is free for more important things in life like watching Insta Reels .
     
  6. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I have a huge streamer boner right now I’m pumped! :p
     
  7. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    UPnP is a device discovery protocol. What you are looking for is DLNA transport protocol, which is typically paired with UPnP for device discovery, and allows the streamer to access music files on a suitable server. The Zen Stream supports DLNA. You should be able to use BubbleUPnP to control play on the Zen Stream from whatever server is serving your music files with DLNA. I have a Zen Stream on the East Coast, talking to a Soekris dac2541 over USB. It was easy to set up, but I did not test DLNA, only Roon.

    I've owned a wide variety (too wide) of streamers. My conclusion is that they are all pretty similar in sound quality once above a base level. Pi2AES is outstanding if you need S/PDIF/AES3/I2S. If you want USB, it doesn't do anything for you.

    In your situation, I'd just get the Zen Stream and call it a day. It does everything you seem to need. Not I2S, but why do you care for that, it only makes sense for DACs that could benefit from better external clocking. Not the Y. A2.
     
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  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    My understanding was that DLNA is used to stream from a music server full of music files like on a Mac mini or something that is connected to the internet. (not what I'm doing). And UPNP is used to stream from Tidal and Qobuz (only services that allow it).

    I'm not going to upgrade from my 5V mod Pi2AES w/ Sigma 11 LPS to a Zen Stream, I just want to try out the Hydra Z which is a DDC, takes USB and converts it to SPDIF/BNC/AES. So I was curious if there were other options other than the dated Allo USB Sig Bridge Shanti to deliver USB to the Hydra Z,

    I'm curious about streamers, because as far as I know the Yggdrasil is my favorite DAC, so getting the most out of it is of interest, but I also just thought SBAF could use a thread dedicated to streamers as there are none now, its been several years since any real thread about them and companies seem to release new ones all the time.
     
  9. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    Pi2AES, ropiee & roon... DONE & basically bulletproof - some of my pi2aes boxes have been running unattended and not restarted for 6+ months (I assume they restart if they update, but I don't worry about that).

    I have a pi2aes at the office that runs moode and I use mconnect to stream qobuz to it. This has also proven to be fairly bulletproof, it might get rebooted once every 2-3 months (if that).

    I see absolutely no need to chase more expensive/fancier streamers... the pi2aes does everything I could ever need, and even if I include the cost of a lifetime subscription to roon, it's less expensive than most of other streamers out there.
    ------edit-----
    I do have one Allo USBridge Sig feeding USB to my Walnut dac. It is a dramatic improvement over Rpi USB or the USB out of my computer. (well, as dramatic as you can probably get for a USB implementation... which means its really a minor improvement)
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2023
  10. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    that's fine, being satisfied is good. I'd like to eek out everything I can from my Yggdrasil. I also don't use Roon because Tidal integration is terrible for the way I browse music and Qobuz's library sucks for the music I listen to. Let's leave the Roon/Qobuz topic to another thread though. I'm glad what you have is working for you, I have no desire to push things on you that you don't want/need. :)
     
  11. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    Zen Stream runs Volumio (reskinned for iFi branding and customized for iFi hardware). Volumio supports UPnP.
     
  12. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I'm afraid that's the result of some terminology confusion in specs/documentation. UPnP is the general protocol for device discovery and connection establishment. DLNA is a trade association and a certification for audio and video streaming between devices (servers, endpoints, ...). BubbleUPnP uses UPnP to find what to connect to what (I've used it before Roon, and still do sometimes to control my Hugo 2+2go), and then the music is streamed according to DLNA standards. https://www.theabsolutesound.com/ar...en Stream supports many,use as a music source.

    I don't want to sound like an iFi shill, but it's really easy to try, and all the the info out there indicates that it does what you want.
     
  13. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    Yes, it does.

    @rhythmdevils UPNP as you use it and DLNA are synonymous. Actually, DLNA is a newer version of UPNP AV, which is the part of UPNP that deals with audio and video stuff.

    UPNP (“universal plug and play”) means too many different things to actually be a useful acronym. Nowadays, most people using it mean the UPNP feature that allows devices in the network to open a port in the internet router in order to be accessible from the internet (like Roon does for ARC, e.g.).

    Note that while BubbleUPNP can use standard DLNA, its preferred use is an extension of DLNA called OpenHome (used, among others, by Linn and LUMIN in their streamers). This allows to control streaming without the controller (e.g. the smartphone app you are using to start playback on your streamer) having to be online all the time. It can send playlists to the devices, not only a single song to be played which has to be actively replaced by the next one once it’s over. This is why you can use the free Linn and LUMIN apps to control a BubbleUPNP server.

    So, everything around UPNP/DLNA is quite a mess, including the varying support of parts of the protocol by different devices, like gapless playback, e.g.. It’s still the most widely “supported” local network streaming protocol, but YMMV a lot depending on the implementation.
     
  14. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Good info! I’ll never understand the nitty gritty of networking tech it’s just not my forte. But I want to use it for good sound and convenience. Thank you for clarifying I’m sure others will find that info helpful as well.
     
  15. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Indulge it by setting up a "streamer" on a PC (including tiny computers such as pi). Do the jigsaw: see the picture!

    I've sometimes thought of resurrecting my squeezebox functionality using a rasberry pi: it would probably cost less than my original squeezebox did. I don't have have a separate hifi system these days so I can't. Else, on some techieday, I would. And if I had a boner for the whole thing I'd call my server "vagina." That would be most satisfying :)

    I wouldn't really: I have only one computer. It does everything. It would be the music server if I wanted one. Of course, it already has a name. It's a nice name, but less interesting. But hey, if I had a boner for setting up a dedicated music server*...

    Which I wouldn't. Unless the computer's other work is stuff like animation and/or heavy video processing, it has heaps of power to "stream" while I internet surf, or even edit photos.

    BTW... if I just wanted to listen to the music that is on my computer on another computer --- I'd just access the files over the network. Little or no software required other than the end-point media player. Sooo simple!

    UPnP... as I (slightly) understand it: a protocol which allows your computer to tell, eg, your router, to open up ports and let stuff happen. This is the sort of network leg-spreading I do not favour, and most advice I have seen is turn it off. If router ports need opening, do it manually. Don't understand network ports? Follow a 1-2-3 guide from a reputable, security-conscious source. Don't get shafted.

    So, music over networks in various ways: groovy. Sticking hifi-company names on it and adding zeroes to the price; not groovy.

    When hifi companies started doing this, istr that they were called out. Now people are lying on their backs: tickle my tummy and take my wallet. And, of course, we get crap like I saw in quick google session yesterday, like "streamers sound warmer than cd players," from a well known magazine that most of us would never ask for advice.


    *Building PCs for media... There are beautiful cases, with lovely heat-pipe cooling systems, for machines to look hifi-stack rather than office.
     
  16. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    Not sure if this is the right place, but here's some more info about DLNA/uPnP AV:

    There are three kinds of devices in the network:

    The renderer plays music/videos. A TV, a smart speaker, a streamer.

    The controller tells the renderer what to do, i.e. which files to play and actions like volume changes or play/pause etc. It also usually has a UI, i.e. some means to choose which files you want to play, buttons for play/pause etc. The controller could be an app on your smart phone, e.g.

    The media server provides the files to play. This can be a NAS, e.g., or in some cases like Qobuz a streaming provider, too.

    Those three can all be in one box, e.g. if you use the remote of your TV to scroll through a list of videos on your NAS, the TV acts as controller as well as as renderer, and if you connect a USB HD, it might be able to be the media server for other devices, too.

    The basic principle is that the controller provides the renderer with the URI of a file to play. This is a good idea: The controller (smart phone app) tells the renderer (smart speaker) where to download the music. The renderer then acts all by itself. You can leave the house with your smart phone, you can power it down, the speaker will still keep playing.

    This is different from Apple's AirPlay, e.g. (at least AirPlay 1, not sure about AirPlay 2), and Bluetooth, of course. If you want to play music on your speaker using your smartphone and AirPlay/Bluetooth, the phone will download the music and send it to the speaker, via a network connection (AirPlay) or via Bluetooth. This has an impact on your smartphone's battery, of course, and when it's empty, the music stops, too.

    Roon's RAAT is similar to AirPlay in that some instance must send a continuous stream of music data to the speaker/streamer. But in this case, you have a server that is designed to do just that. The Roon apps only tell the core (server) what to do, they don't stream themselves. (But they can receive streams, i.e. act as a renderer in DLNA terminology, too.)

    DLNA/uPnP has its downsides, too, of course, and quite a few. First, the controller only has loose control over the renderer. There's no chance to sync several speakers in different rooms to play the same song at the same time. Even if the controller tells both speakers to play song X at the same time, the speakers decide themselves when to start. One might decide to buffer half of the song before it starts to play, while the other one starts at once. This (and the extremely varying quality of DLNA support in different devices) is one of the reasons why Roon doesn't support DLNA. (Note, just to be complete: The speakers themselves may provide means to be grouped. Bose speakers, e.g., can be grouped with the Bose app. That group then presents one DLNA device for the whole group, and the speakers do the time syncing among each other. This is not a feature of the DLNA protocol, though.)

    Also, DLNA only supports to provide the renderer with one file. That means, when the song is over, the speaker will stop playing unless it is immediately told what to play next. If it supports gapless playback (and that's a big if), the controller can tell the renderer what to play next while it is playing a song, but not more. This means, if your controller (smart phone app) is switched off, e.g. because the smartphone OS decides to kick it out of memory to save battery, your speaker will play to the end of the song, possibly to the end of the song after that, but that's it.

    This is where OpenHome comes in. It is an open specification of extensions to DLNA. I think it specifies more than just playlists (EDIT: Yes, it does, including gapless and multi-room synced playback), but from a user perspective, playlists are the most important feature: The renderer can be provided not with just one URI of a file, but with a list of URIs. So if you use your smartphone app to tell your speaker to play an album, it will send the list of all URIs of the album song files to the speaker, and the speaker will play them one by one without the need for interaction by the controller.

    Unfortunately, most normal consumer devices don't support OpenHome. Linn and Lumin streamers/smart speakers do, and I think also everything that runs on BlueOS (like the Bluenodes), but I'm not sure about that.

    This (and now it gets complicated, so skip this if you don't plan a setup of devices using OpenHome/DLNA) is where BubbleUPNP server can help. It is an OpenHome "renderer" that acts as a controller to DLNA devices. :)

    Ok, one step back: I want to give a playlist to a device (OpenHome-style), but that device doesn't support playlists, i.e. is a normal DLNA device. So what BubbleUPNP server does is, it accepts the playlist and then sends commands to the device I want to play on for every song of the playlist, one after the other. So, in my OpenHome controller app, I use the "speaker" that BubbleUPNP server presents, and BubbleUPNP server then controls the actual speaker using DLNA.

    BubbleUPNP server is a free Java program. It's not very hard to configure (in an ideal case, no configuration at all is needed), but, of course, it is harder than something like Roon.

    You can then use OpenHome controller apps like BubbleUPNP (feature-rich, but rather complicated Android app, paid) or apps like Linn and LUMIN (free, but iOS only if I'm not mistaken) to control playback and even stream Qobuz or Tidal. I did it this way before I switched to Roon. It isn't as comfortable as Roon by far, but it has all the home playback features that Roon offers, too, minus multi-room playback/device groups (talking about simple playback features only, Roon offers lots of other stuff).
     
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    Last edited: Feb 10, 2023
  17. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    To add to @zottel 's excellent summary above:

    A DLNA renderer can be a software device, eg Volumio or Moode, which strictly speaking means hardware-agnostic (different streamer hardware, eg Pi2AES or HiFiBerry Digi2 on top of RPi3B+ or RPi4, doesn't matter, the renderer is the software, the streamer is the hardware). Different streamer manufacturers might support a single or more than one renderer.

    The DLNA standard is pretty loose, so even if a particular DLNA server is 'compliant', it might not respond well to everything the control point tells it. The server built into Windows Media Player Sharing 12, for example, won't allow sequential lists (tracks on an album) to be in numerical order, only alphabetical (at least, the last time I tried it; I don't know if this has improved with Windows 11). Also, different servers might behave differently with different combinations of hardware and firmware. So try different DLNA servers.

    Similarly, different controllers have different functions. The Bubble UPnP controller allows Tidal and Qobuz streaming as well as playing of locally hosted files, whereas the otherwise excellent (IMO) Hi-Fi Cast is for local files and internet radio only. And some are available for Android only, some for Apple only. Again, try different ones; and different combinations of servers, renderers and controllers.

    I like DLNA/UPnP, despite the concerns with open ports. It works well for me (but might not for you, because of hardware/firmware issues or security concerns). But if you want a streamer that supports DLNA, these are all points to consider.
     
  18. caute

    caute Lana Del Gayer than you

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    @rhythmdevils is after % of % since he is already maxxed out everywhere else, % that may end up adding up to rather big changes in how his setups sound. At that Parnassus-level of audiophilia, I don't even kno, I still use $4.50 RCA cables from Amazon, so I'm with you on the Pi2AES being enough for me.

    The ones with the most nervosa seem to be the most in-the-know, and the ones with the most disposable scratch can satisfy that nervosa itch. But perhaps the resolve was the friends we made along the way.
     
  19. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    Frankly, after using Bryston BDP-2 for a while and then getting two Pi2AES (on Pi 3 and Pi 4) I entirely lost interest in streamers at least in terms of sound quality.
    Granted, I use only basic features: I need Roon ready AES/EBU and BNC out, never used wi-fi, simply because there is a measurable, I do not know if audible, noise of wi-fi, particularly with Pi 3 where everything was hanging off USB.

    Yes when I plugged in Ara to the Pi2AES-> RME ADI-2 pro -> Bryston BHA-1 chain and with no music playing, the background was not as completely black as with BDP-2 but listening to music, or using any other headphones, and I was ABing it for weeks, I could not hear squat. Even with my better ear :(. And 10 times the price difference? Thank you.

    I can hear the difference between Pi2AES and Digi+ Pro, or my Roon transport running on fan less Surface but comparing to the impact of any upstream component it is not the game I want to play.
    As long as it is fanless, has AES/EBU balanced out and is quiet I am good, but this would change obviously if I needed more advanced streaming options.
     
  20. zottel

    zottel Friend

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    This is a misunderstanding. DLNA doesn’t open any ports to the internet. One part of the uPnP specification is a possibility for devices in your home network to open ports in the internet router/firewall. This is normally not used by audio devices, though, but rather by stuff like file sharing software or telephony software etc.
     

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