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A bit of Streaming "Auditioning"

RoyB

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Last night I had some time and the inclination to audition various methods of listening to streaming music on my system.

System components....Sound Artist SA200ia amplifier, Bluesound Node2i streamer/DAC Bluetooth Receiver, Gustard X16 DAC, KEF LS50 Meta speakers, HP Laptop with Realtek HDA (High Def Audio) sound card, 1Wii aptX HD dongle BlueTooth adapter....Quobuz as the source

I used five songs for listening:

Rolling Stones “Symphony For The Devil”

BS&T “Sometimes In Winter”

Steely Dan “Black Cow”

Pentatonix “Hallelujah”

Fleetwood Mac “Everywhere”



#1...LapTop headphone out jack to AUX in on amplifier...Barely listenable. Might be fine for inexpensive earbuds, but the system in use showed up the flaws. Muddy bass, collapsed imaging, shrill highs

#2...LapTop internal BT to Bluesound Node2i BT receiver...Better than the headphone connection. Much improved bass response but imaging still lacking. Female vocals are recessed in the sound field. Not bad. Most would be satisfied if lisening through simple HiFi

#3...LapTop using 1Wii aptX HD BT dongle to Node2i BT receiver. HUGE improvement over the LapTop’s internal BT transmitter. Very listenable even on these superb loudspeakers. Would be all you need on a casual system.

#4...LapTop USB output into Gustard X16 USB input. With this LapTop, not much difference than #3 above. It doesn’t speak to the inadequacy of the USB connection, but it does show how good the 1Wii Dongle is as a BT transmitter. This USB to USB sounded great!

#5...Node2i internal DAC through RCA to Sound Artist amplifier...Monster improvement to all above. EVEYTHING improved. Easy to hear the difference. Just confirms that a dedicated streamer will usually outperform a phone/tablet/PC as a streaming device.

#6..Node2i using COAX into Gustard X16 DAC and RCA out of DAC into Sound Artist amplifier....I didn’t think #5 could be much improved...I was VERY wrong! As great as #5 sounded, adding a much better DAC blew the imaging and sound stage wide open, and added tighter more defined bass. I found it hard to believe it was this dramatic. I thought it might be a sound level issue playing tricks on my, but my trusty sound level meter confirmed the volume was the same.

(Just for fun, I installed an Andover Songbird streamer ($150) in place of the Node2i....With the SB using it’s own internal DAC, the difference between the Node2i with its own internal DAC was not as great as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, the difference was there, but I’m betting with lesser speakers and amplifier you might not hear ANY difference....The little SB sounded amazing on this system. But the SB can only send CD quality though its USB connection, so when hooked to the Gustard X16 DAC, the difference was night and day. The Gustard showed up the short comings of an inexpensive streamer. But if you simply want to get into streaming with out spending lots of money, I don’t think you can beat a Songbird)



It’s fun doing these types of auditions (I don’t call them TESTS as a test requires absolute results...this is opinions)...Hope to do more in the future...Thanks for reading!
 

Tangband

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Last night I had some time and the inclination to audition various methods of listening to streaming music on my system.

System components....Sound Artist SA200ia amplifier, Bluesound Node2i streamer/DAC Bluetooth Receiver, Gustard X16 DAC, KEF LS50 Meta speakers, HP Laptop with Realtek HDA (High Def Audio) sound card, 1Wii aptX HD dongle BlueTooth adapter....Quobuz as the source

I used five songs for listening:

Rolling Stones “Symphony For The Devil”

BS&T “Sometimes In Winter”

Steely Dan “Black Cow”

Pentatonix “Hallelujah”

Fleetwood Mac “Everywhere”



#1...LapTop headphone out jack to AUX in on amplifier...Barely listenable. Might be fine for inexpensive earbuds, but the system in use showed up the flaws. Muddy bass, collapsed imaging, shrill highs

#2...LapTop internal BT to Bluesound Node2i BT receiver...Better than the headphone connection. Much improved bass response but imaging still lacking. Female vocals are recessed in the sound field. Not bad. Most would be satisfied if lisening through simple HiFi

#3...LapTop using 1Wii aptX HD BT dongle to Node2i BT receiver. HUGE improvement over the LapTop’s internal BT transmitter. Very listenable even on these superb loudspeakers. Would be all you need on a casual system.

#4...LapTop USB output into Gustard X16 USB input. With this LapTop, not much difference than #3 above. It doesn’t speak to the inadequacy of the USB connection, but it does show how good the 1Wii Dongle is as a BT transmitter. This USB to USB sounded great!

#5...Node2i internal DAC through RCA to Sound Artist amplifier...Monster improvement to all above. EVEYTHING improved. Easy to hear the difference. Just confirms that a dedicated streamer will usually outperform a phone/tablet/PC as a streaming device.

#6..Node2i using COAX into Gustard X16 DAC and RCA out of DAC into Sound Artist amplifier....I didn’t think #5 could be much improved...I was VERY wrong! As great as #5 sounded, adding a much better DAC blew the imaging and sound stage wide open, and added tighter more defined bass. I found it hard to believe it was this dramatic. I thought it might be a sound level issue playing tricks on my, but my trusty sound level meter confirmed the volume was the same.

(Just for fun, I installed an Andover Songbird streamer ($150) in place of the Node2i....With the SB using it’s own internal DAC, the difference between the Node2i with its own internal DAC was not as great as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, the difference was there, but I’m betting with lesser speakers and amplifier you might not hear ANY difference....The little SB sounded amazing on this system. But the SB can only send CD quality though its USB connection, so when hooked to the Gustard X16 DAC, the difference was night and day. The Gustard showed up the short comings of an inexpensive streamer. But if you simply want to get into streaming with out spending lots of money, I don’t think you can beat a Songbird)



It’s fun doing these types of auditions (I don’t call them TESTS as a test requires absolute results...this is opinions)...Hope to do more in the future...Thanks for reading!
Interesting subjective review. My five cents : You have experience how bad a personal computer can sound .
In a windows pc , You have to use ASIO or WASAPI mode, and never, I repeat NEVER use the internal window mixer such as volume regulation and sample rate conversion. This things are VERY badly executed by Microsoft. Heck, its even sounding worse than blutooth !

With that said, a very good sound can be had with computer audio . Foobar is good sounding in a Windows pc. One of the best streamer I have heard is an iPhone 10 or Mac M1 computer with a USB bridge and Apple lossless. Bettersounding than Yamaha wxc50 and better than bluesound node ll, and almost on pair with a Linn Akurate DS hub.

A very cheap and very good sounding solution is also using a rasberry pi4 with Volumeo. This is often sounding better than a bluesound node ll, for less money.
 
Last edited:

SIY

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Can you describe your controls?
 

Tangband

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Can you describe your controls?
Mac has just made their computers compatible with airplay , they can now also receive airplay from an Iphone with Apple lossless. So I use my Mac as a stationary streamer and my Iphone as remote. This gear has replaced my Yamaha wxc50 because it sounds better.

If I want to play real 192 kHz 24 bit material from Apple high resolution I loose the iphone remote/airplay option . I have to play it directly from the computer then.
(Ofcourse one can play high res with airplay from the iphone to the computer, but the music material will then be downsampled to 44,1/48 kHz.)
 

SIY

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Mac has just made their computers compatible with airplay , they can now also receive airplay from an Iphone with Apple lossless. So I use my Mac as a stationary streamer and my Iphone as remote. This gear has replaced my Yamaha wxc50 because it sounds better.

If I want to play real 192 kHz 24 bit material from Apple high resolution I loose the iphone remote/airplay option . I have to play it directly from the computer then.
(Ofcourse one can play high res with airplay from the iphone to the computer, but the music material will then be downsampled to 44,1/48 kHz.)
OK, so no basic controls. None. Zero.
 

Tangband

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OK, so no basic controls. None. Zero.
Well, there is full control , as good as any streamer as long as I use airplay. The important thing for me is that my Mac M1 -USB bridge - digital to Genelec sounds slightly better than both Yamaha wxc50 or Bluesound node ll when they are used as digital transports. So as an audiophile - why would I use something that sounds worse ?
I finnished my spotify account this summer and the only reason I did that was because the sound of Apple Music lossless sounded better.

I also know that using volumeo with rasberry pi 4 and a good spdif HAT often sounds a bit better than the Yamaha as a digital transport with volume control in digital domain.
 

SIY

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Well, there is full control , as good as any streamer as long as I use airplay. The important thing for me is that my Mac M1 -USB bridge - digital to Genelec sounds slightly better than both Yamaha wxc50 or Bluesound node ll when they are used as digital transports. So as an audiophile - why would I use something that sounds worse ?
I finnished my spotify account this summer and the only reason I did that was because the sound of Apple Music lossless sounded better.

I also know that using volumeo with rasberry pi 4 and a good spdif HAT often sounds a bit better than the Yamaha as a digital transport with volume control in digital domain.
Controls as in “accurate level matching, double blind, ears only.”
 

Glasvegas

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I think the OP summed it up perfectly….

“It’s fun doing these types of auditions (I don’t call them TESTS as a test requires absolute results...this is opinions)”
 

SIY

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I think the OP summed it up perfectly….

“It’s fun doing these types of auditions (I don’t call them TESTS as a test requires absolute results...this is opinions)”
Maybe a science forum is not the right place for storytelling.
 

Purité Audio

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Remotes thrown into a bowl on the coffee table?
Keith
 
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