Streamers in 2023 - Discussion, Impressions, etc

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

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  1. caute

    caute Lana Del Gayer than you

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    alright, so what's the story today? what's the best sounding streamer for redbook as of Sept 2023?

    I want a streamer and not a straight DDC, as I would like to use my phone (UPnP or Roon) w/o any wires going to it to control my music.

    Right now on my list are:
    • Holo Red (when it comes back in stock)
    • Lumin U1/U2 Mini & klnna way outta my price range, but that
    • Bricasti streamer
    Just want something that will be competitive, trade blows with a good-sounding CDT. (also getting a CDT as well, but am greedy and want both lol.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2023
  2. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    https://www.whatsbestforum.com/

    have you tried here? I think these guys know what’s best
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    I really like this steamer:
    steamer.jpg
     
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  4. Gazny

    Gazny MOT: ETA Audio

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    At those prices I would just buy a computer and claim it’s audiophile and maybe even get an audiophile rock for it. The choice is the shangling ET3. But I don’t know if you want a real answer or not because I’ve read you ask this for what I want to say since you heard of Abbas.

    Check out these videos


    Reviewed by chacha here

    Was this the one with a good spdif output measured by John Atkinson?
     
  5. Garns

    Garns Friend

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  6. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Absolutely. With these people selling super-priced PCs as "streamers" you don't even get the rock included! You do get a fancy cabinet. But you can get stuff that looks nice on a hifi rack (and has super, silent cooling systems) anyway.

    Of course its perfectly possible, if engaging all the nervosa and over-specifying, to spend a lot even on that route. I can still think of an advantage, though: Configurable and upgradable to tomorrow's nervosa! At the drop of a hat.
     
  7. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    Maybe its just me, but I am finding the definition of streamer is getting fuzzy. For me, the original DDC was the Squeezebox Touch. Ok, it had a DAC, but I always used it with an external DAC. Mostly, it took music from my computer in the other room over wifi and sent it to my DAC. But it also could play internet radio and pandora, so was it really a streamer?

    Pi2AES seems clearly to be a DDC since it takes music from USB, ethernet, or wifi and sends it out as low noise, low jitter, digital signals on many digital formats. But depending on what software you plug into the RPi, you can play remote music, internet radio, UPnP, Roon, Spotify.............

    Holo Red seems to have 2 defined roles as DDC or streamer and it, apparently, insists on being a streamer and using its bespoke software if you plug in a streamer. I admit, I'm a little unclear about this one. But I have a friend with a Red who uses his PC to feed it music by ethernet and outputs i2s, so I guess he is in DDC mode?

    Even the Wiim Pro Plus does most of this stuff and has multi-room like many of the RPi systems.

    Why isn't this just one thing?

    I admit, the Shanling ET-3 might be a good choice in a one system situation. I use a single server connected to 4 players/systems in a multi-room format, so the inability of many of these to send out music to remote players on wifi is a limitation.

    Another option new to the market is the PS Audio AirLens. Kinda pricey at $2000, but I would love to read a review and measure because it seems like it's trying something new that might improve performance. Too early to tell.
     
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  8. Garns

    Garns Friend

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    I think you have it bass ackwards. A DDC turns one kind of real time digital audio stream, USB, S/PDIF, AES, I2S into another kind (or the same kind, but better). So basically you still need another box which will produce the audio stream that goes into the DDC box. That could be a PC or a CD player or a streamer.

    A streamer turns files or internet streams of files into a real time digital audio stream. The source is either an Ethernet or Wifi signal coming from some kind of computer, maybe a normal computer or maybe a NAS; or else a USB key or attached hard disk. (Note this is a different kind of usage of USB to before!) So the Pi2AES is a streamer, the Squeezebox is a streamer, and the Holo is indeed both a streamer and a DDC in different modes.

    A streamer needs to be more like a computer, because it has to process computer-y files into audio streams. Often they are little system-on-a-chip or barebones computers. If you pay the big bucks you can get ones which are custom designed on minimalist chipsets. A DDC does not need to be anywhere near that complicated, just a few DSP chips can do the job.

    PS Audio AirLens I hadn't heard about. I don't see that it's trying anything different from any of the other streamers but it does seem like an interesting new option!
     
  9. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    It is quite blurry. Agree w @Garns on what a DDC is. Not quite so clear on other devices. I got started on all this digital file based stuff back in 2004 or so with computer audio, Sonus, Squeezebox Touch, etc

    I always thought of a streamer as a device that could serve up music via a remote location like the internet with radio, Spotify, Tidal etc, A music server to me was always something that served music from local or networked source.

    Yet, both a streamer and server can do both remote files, internet streams and local or networked files. I guess nowadays, one might use them almost interchangeably. My computers do all these things and I guess I might refer to them as music servers yet most of the time I just say computer. :D
     
  10. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    Yup, I do have it backwards. Part of the confusion, I guess.

    Having fun with words, an alternate pronunciation of "bass ackwards" would be bass pronounced as in "bass and treble" rather than the fish.

    That's interesting. I never considered a server to be limited to local sources.

    I guess I've been in the Squeezebox world for too long and automatically refer to those definitions. The Squeezebox world has 3 parts, a server, a UI, and a player. The server, LMS, communicates with the UI (usually on a phone) and sends music files, local or internet, to one or more players. The server and player can exist on the same computer or a player can be on it's own computer. So I guess a streamer is a device with both a server and a player in one box using bespoke software.

    For the Pi2AES, the RPi is the server and/or player running the software that manages the music. The Pi2AES is a DDC because it receives i2s from the Rpi, cleans it up, and outputs is in multiple digital formats.

    What they are claiming as different is a "new" kind of isolation. They have a dirty and clean side with separate power supplies and an "air lens" between them for isolated data transfer. The "air lens" is a close coupled, near RF transmitter and receiver pair. By having separate grounds, noise filtered to ground can't get to the dirty side and the "air lens" is supposed to be improved signal isolation. Sounds interesting, but then in my experience, PS Audio sometimes sells different without an audible performance advantage. I will watch it, but let someone else try it first.
     
  11. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    By my simplistic way of looking at it, if it has Ethernet/wifi (actual Ethernet, not an RJ45 jack for I2S) it’s a streamer. Sometimes this will be a simple “endpoint” or network bridge, which in some cases requires a server as well (like Roon) but some don’t need this and are self-sufficient (can stream from the web or host/play their own files stored locally or on attached drive).

    Otherwise, if it only has other types of digital audio inputs, that only accept PCM or DSD (e.g. USB), and that outputs to another type of digital output, then it’s a DDC.

    Some devices can act as both, depending which type of input you’re using on the device.
     
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  12. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    Hmmm... wouldn't the server be simply the device that holds and manages the files? It could be a local (roon server, Synology music server, plex server, etc) or a cloud based server (Tidal, Qobuz, DAV connection to my server at home, etc).

    I agree on the definition of streamer - the local hardware with contoller/UI used to access the server... Rpi w/ Roon endpoint (or Volumio or moode or etc), Holo Red, Phone/Upnp/control app, etc.
     
  13. caute

    caute Lana Del Gayer than you

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    this is exactly what I want, but as you said, w proprietary chip that is fully and esp designed for audio transmission, it's $$$$ or even $$$$$...
     
  14. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Going back to the original question : I haven’t heard the lumin, but I’ve owned the Bricasti M5, iFi NEO Stream, Pi2Design Mercury (v1) and Holo Red and I would pick the Red without hesitation, provided it fits your budget and meets your requirements (e.g. lack of Wifi could be an issue for some).

    • The Bricasti was really nicely built and sounded excellent via USB, but it didn’t have I2S, which my Rockna favored.
    • The Mercury has the best feature set, very good (used) price and very good sound quality with an UpTone LPS-1.2 or Empirical Audio Monolith, albeit slightly less so than the other devices, in my setup, IMO, YMMV, yadi yada.
    • The NEO Stream was a step above the Mercury overall, especially when using both their Ethernet-Fiber converter and a 15V Elite PSU. Didn’t want to pay extra for the DAC I never used and it got quite pricey with the PSU.
    • The Holo Red sounds better than all the above (the NEO Stream + Elite is close but from memory the Red is still better), is built like a tank and the DDC is a nice extra feature. The lack of Wifi could be a deal breaker for some. For the price, it’s unbeatable.
     
  15. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    That would be a computer.
    Optionally, or the same computer if it has storage.
    Which is just storage that a computer can access.

    Sure, the music files might be on a different machine to centralise and share. Play music on one computer from another one. Just as you might share documents (or photos). Different ways of doing that, the most basic of which would be to mount the remote drive. Would that turn the remote computer into a "streamer?" It's just serving up data.

    Originally, I had all sorts of cables connecting my PC to my hifi components.

    I got a Squeezebox when I swapped wood+carpet for tiled concrete and no way to run cables. I guess that turned my PC into a streamer! But it didn't increase its value, or cost.

    BTW, the Squeezebox is a computer too. Running Linux, which is why the logitech bosses axed it, because they didn't understand it. And why one can do the same thing with a pi etc.
    Yeah, a streamer is a computer.

    That is to say, a computer is a streamer, when it is streaming.

    And minimal is a good idea for audio. It does not take a lot of computing power, which in turn means that low-power CPUs etc don't cause much heat, which means that fans need be neither large nor fancy. Similarly, no big hot graphics card. Or even, no graphics card.

    So the ideal streamer would be a cheap computer. Right?

    Right?

    But oh no, people are desperate to spend thousands. Even on an audio site which is known for being down to earth.
     
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  16. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    @Thad E Ginathom with all due respect, getting tired of you trolling every time someone talks about streamers. We get it, you don’t believe in them, or like them, or think they’re a rip off or that they are replaceable by a computer or a combination of all. Others disagree, including me. Move on to other threads.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2023
  17. caute

    caute Lana Del Gayer than you

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    whoa, this is nuts! that bricasti has--I believe--a proprietary chipset for rendering/playback, an onboard LPS (like Red), and is 2500 fookin USD... super useful datapoint, thank you for posting, Clemm!!

    might end up saving me a ton of money once the Red (or Red 1.5) goes back in stock...

    if you have the time, and wouldn't mind--do you think you could go into a bit more detail on the sonic differences between the streamers you mentioned/have owned? anything short and sweet would be fine, or a few words, like Mercury wetter-sounding than NEO, Red has more plankton than M5, etc.

    really interested in Red vs Bricasti tho. and the delta between Red and Mercury.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2023
  18. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    can you help with the ease or diffuculty setting up the holo red, I am a noob and had a hell of time and could not get the PI2 to work. The holo red sounds very promising if I can get it up and running as a streamer without putting a pencil in my eye
    best,
    Josh
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Wut? Are you running server/SAN grade fiber channel?

    Have you tried the Red with a WiFi AP, Google Puck, similar solution connected to the Ethernet port on the Redt? That you mentioned no Wi-Fi concerned me, until I realized I have the Ethernet port of the Mercury connected to a Google puck. Doh!
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2023
  20. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Yeah... I guess it's time to give up on this lost cause. Have a free audio pebble from a fresh mountain stream... Sounds lovely, and it's free :)
     

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