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Can a streamer affect negatively sound resolution or introduce noise on the signal chain?

Miguelón

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Hi everybody!

I recently bought an Ifi Zen Stream (second hand, unboxed but half its original price), and connected via USB to my DAC (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2).

The device has no dedicated app for streaming services management, so I use either Airplay 2 or Tidal connect to listen to Tidal or other services.

I noticed a decrease on quality, enough to not using anymore even settings adjustments (has MQA auto, on and off which can be changed, and volume control by software which I disconnected)

Guessing that probably can be again a psychology phenomenon, and I didn’t made blind test, I’m looking for possible real physic possible explanations.

The thing works bad enough at its stability to use it only as a paperweight, constant blocked and need to reset despite firmware updates, so I will probably go to Wiim Ultra in the future.

But before wasting more money I want to know if the streamers degrade sound compare to direct USB computer PC to DAC connection or if it depends on each device, or just another psychoacoustic effect.

Thanks for reading!
 
Peruse the units that have been measured by Amir and buy one that is properly engineered,
Keith
 
I noticed a decrease on quality, enough to not using anymore even settings adjustments (has MQA auto, on and off which can be changed, and volume control by software which I disconnected)
A decrease in quality compared to what?

Guessing that probably can be again a psychology phenomenon
I'd also guess it's not "real" since you didn't say what's wrong. The most likely thing to happen digitally would be glitches/dropouts which could sound like clicks & pops, or if the dropouts/gaps are long enough you could hear the gaps. Or if the data gets corrupted it can sound like pure noise.

You aren't going to get "slight distortion", frequency response variations, or "regular noise" (hum or hiss) in the digital domain. Those are analog issues. Digital errors tend to be gross/obvious... This isn't a perfect analog but a 1-bit error in your bank balance is just as likely to cause a billion dollar error as a 1-cent error.

...I don't know exactly what MQA does to alter the sound.

and I didn’t made blind test,
A blind ABX test has to be level-matched and statistically valid and repeatable.
 
A decrease in quality compared to what?


I'd also guess it's not "real" since you didn't say what's wrong. The most likely thing to happen digitally would be glitches/dropouts which could sound like clicks & pops, or if the dropouts/gaps are long enough you could hear the gaps. Or if the data gets corrupted it can sound like pure noise.

You aren't going to get "slight distortion", frequency response variations, or "regular noise" (hum or hiss) in the digital domain. Those are analog issues. Digital errors tend to be gross/obvious... This isn't a perfect analog but a 1-bit error in your bank balance is just as likely to cause a billion dollar error as a 1-cent error.

...I don't know exactly what MQA does to alter the sound.


A blind ABX test has to be level-matched and statistically valid and repeatable.
Oups, I thought I said the comparison: I notice a difference between the DAC connected to the streamer and the DAC connected to the PC.

I know the need to test blinded to avoid psychological influences but the streamer works so bad that is way faster to select the track directly on the PC than on the Tidal app at the iphone.
So I don’t use it anymore, just posted the question to decide if I go to other streamer or I use the PC. A matter of confort, no need an streamer imperatively
 
Carry on using the computer there will be no difference in sound quality. through the same dac.
Keith
 
Oups, I thought I said the comparison: I notice a difference between the DAC connected to the streamer and the DAC connected to the PC.

I know the need to test blinded to avoid psychological influences but the streamer works so bad that is way faster to select the track directly on the PC than on the Tidal app at the iphone.
So I don’t use it anymore, just posted the question to decide if I go to other streamer or I use the PC. A matter of confort, no need an streamer imperatively
You would really want to check that there is no DSP (including things like loudness/ volume levelling/ replay gain) going on in either set up and ideally check that the voltage going out of the DAC is the same for the same signal going into the DAC from either source.
 
You would really want to check that there is no DSP (including things like loudness/ volume levelling/ replay gain) going on in either set up and ideally check that the voltage going out of the DAC is the same for the same signal going into the DAC from either source.
Thanks, I have no multimeter but I’m the more and more convinced to buy one
 
Thanks, I have no multimeter but I’m the more and more convinced to buy one
It's the obvious first thing to check with 2 devices that shouldn't really do anything to the signal other than pass it on. One stream is at a higher level.
 
Oups, I thought I said the comparison: I notice a difference between the DAC connected to the streamer and the DAC connected to the PC.

I know the need to test blinded to avoid psychological influences but the streamer works so bad that is way faster to select the track directly on the PC than on the Tidal app at the iphone.
So I don’t use it anymore, just posted the question to decide if I go to other streamer or I use the PC. A matter of confort, no need an streamer imperatively

The PC would be my first choice over any streamer of any brand when connecting to a high quality DAC. To me streamers are invented for people that don't want to use a PC. I have tried lots of streamers and they are adequate but I much prefer the larger screen on my MacBook Pro and Audirvana to any little app on a phone or iPad. Plus, all my music is on the MBP. Can't get too excited about paying extra for a streamer when I would rather use the computer that has so many more capabilities. I can even control the MBP on the stereo from another spare old MBP if I want full house wireless control.

There is absolutely nothing any streamer can do that my computer can't do easier with a quality DAC connected. It's really a personal choice. I have heard a thousand reasons why people don't want to use a computer. The reasons make me laugh.
 
The PC would be my first choice over any streamer of any brand when connecting to a high quality DAC. To me streamers are invented for people that don't want to use a PC. I have tried lots of streamers and they are adequate but I much prefer the larger screen on my MacBook Pro and Audirvana to any little app on a phone or iPad. Plus, all my music is on the MBP. Can't get too excited about paying extra for a streamer when I would rather use the computer that has so many more capabilities. I can even control the MBP on the stereo from another spare old MBP if I want full house wireless control.

There is absolutely nothing any streamer can do that my computer can't do easier with a quality DAC connected. It's really a personal choice. I have heard a thousand reasons why people don't want to use a computer. The reasons make me laugh.
Is just a matter of confort, I use Tidal or Qobuz as streaming services and if I’m wandering around the house I change the playlist, the volume or the track on the phone.

Not bought to achieve better sound at all, only have the commodity of managing the music when moving. I have also a visual impairment, for me is easier to approach the iphone to my eyes than stick my head to the screen of my computer.
 
It's the obvious first thing to check with 2 devices that shouldn't really do anything to the signal other than pass it on. One stream is at a higher level.
That’s sure, in this case with the streamer it sounds noticeably louder and have to low the volume on the DAC
 
Is just a matter of confort, I use Tidal or Qobuz as streaming services and if I’m wandering around the house I change the playlist, the volume or the track on the phone.

Not bought to achieve better sound at all, only have the commodity of managing the music when moving. I have also a visual impairment, for me is easier to approach the iphone to my eyes than stick my head to the screen of my computer.

Audirvana includes a partner app that allows users to control the PC streamer via the phone or a tablet. I don't use it as I enjoy the large screen on the computer but it's certainly an option. Like I said, there's nothing the computer can't do. :)
 
I notice a difference between the DAC connected to the streamer and the DAC connected to the PC.
Doubtful that there would be any difference other than level / volume.

It's worth pointing this out though. Due to the loudness effect, slightly quieter audio also sounds worse. Less bass / treble. This can happen with volume changes that are very small and not obvious, so when you connect some gear that is (say) 0.7dB different, you will notice a small, annoying decrease in quality before you notice the change in volume.

This very frequently leads to different gear sounding better or worse in some subtle way, even when it's working well. This is why members here will annoyingly, constantly ask if a comparison is level-matched to within 0.1dB. If not, and the type of change in sound quality is not completely obvious, then the cause is likely simply a level mismatch.
 
Surely is the volume, I guess it was something like that as Tidal Connect and Apple Airplay allow 16/44.1 and more over wifi, so not compression needed and surely no reason to DSP treatment
 
Surely is the volume, I guess it was something like that as Tidal Connect and Apple Airplay allow 16/44.1 and more over wifi, so not compression needed and surely no reason to DSP treatment

At normal listening levels DSP usually sounds quite a bit better than without it. Case in point, the RME ADI-2 DAC FS offers a loudness control that enables the user to not only turn it on - but control how it impacts treble and bass. You might believe a flat FR is fine at low to normal listening levels, but once you have tweaked the loudness control on the ADI-2 DAC to your exact preferences it sounds absolutely amazing. After that, it's hard to be satisfied with a normal DAC that doesn't offer this feature - at the touch of the remote.
 
At normal listening levels DSP usually sounds quite a bit better than without it. Case in point, the RME ADI-2 DAC FS offers a loudness control that enables the user to not only turn it on - but control how it impacts treble and bass. You might believe a flat FR is fine at low to normal listening levels, but once you have tweaked the loudness control on the ADI-2 DAC to your exact preferences it sounds absolutely amazing. After that, it's hard to be satisfied with a normal DAC that doesn't offer this feature - at the touch of the remote.
Thanks for the advice, but the price of this DAC is a hundred miles over what I think I should spend on a DAC, given that my actual one sounds enough good and no special need for EQ.
My probable choice will be the topping d50 iii, and I remember that have an app to EQ, just because I need a spdif input for the tv and have balanced outputs.
 
I want to know if the streamers degrade sound compare to direct USB computer PC to DAC connection
No, they do not.

Your iFi is a competent device, but I've not heard of connecting it to a Scarlett as you have done. Typically, a PC is used as a source for that DAC. I'm not saying it doesn't work, only that it's not the standard configuration.

If you elect to replace the Scarlett, I'd suggest a WiiM Pro Plus. It has a DAC section good enough to not need any external help. WiiM also provide a versatile control app.
 
No, they do not.

Your iFi is a competent device, but I've not heard of connecting it to a Scarlett as you have done. Typically, a PC is used as a source for that DAC. I'm not saying it doesn't work, only that it's not the standard configuration.

If you elect to replace the Scarlett, I'd suggest a WiiM Pro Plus. It has a DAC section good enough to not need any external help. WiiM also provide a versatile control app.
Hum, the Ifi sucks as it get hanged 75% of time, no matter the device with is connected… surprisingly if I switch one numerated knob to “Tidal” which is supposed to work better, it doesn’t work at all.

But finally the sound is the same, as it is class compliant the only problem happened to be the energy supplied by the usb to the Scarlett.

So I connected the streamer on a Belkin adapter double usb input to usb output, a little device I use to plug the ipad to the Sacarlett and no waste the battery, and now it sounds totally fine!

Still sucks on stability but at least it sounds perfect
 
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