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iphone or walkman as streamer

lofiguy

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I had a long version written up (2 of them actually) but trimmed the fat down to this.

I want an appliance streamer. I have tried using Mac Mini but it's not working for me for reasons I won't bother you with. I can afford any product but it has to be at least somewhat worth it. Those $10k and up streamers are right out.

No DAC and no amp is best, since I won't be using them. I have separate components and just want network streaming (of my owned library).

I don't care about the sound quality. I can't hear the difference. I know that anything I bought would meet a minimum bar for a digital only device, that is just a glorified transport. But I do want DSD capability for the smug sense of superiority. (Plus there is some great SACD content.)

I've narrowed it down to a few, but then I realized, why not iPad or iPhone? I get to use the native Apple Music experience (mostly meaning auto sync), you can now do DSD out via USB adapter, and I have old devices just laying around. Is there a way to charge the phone/tablet (lightning connector) and listen at the same time? That is the main and only concern I can even think of.

I also have a walkman coming for christmas. The advantage there over a phone is the higher quality built-in DAC, so when on the move I still have a really good-to-great experience, and I think I can charge and have digital out at the same time. But probably manual syncing of my music library from my Mac?

The top 3 streamers I narrowed down to are

Cambridge CXN (V2) $1100
Lumin U1 mini $2100
Aries G1 $2900

Others in this price range are missing upnp or dlna support so given the rough equivalence of all these products, I also eliminate them. Given the prices of these products, I would consider a new Apple phone or tablet as well, if the usb-c port gets me to charging while listening, and if the apple experience is going to be more or less as good as a dedicated appliance.

What a great age we are in, with amazing DAC and amplifier technology easily accessible, digital downloads, and spoilt for choice on our incredibly good hifi experience. And with no shortage of USB salesmen!
 

linuxfan

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I don't care about the sound quality. I can't hear the difference.
Thank you for stating your true agenda. Often on these hifi forums we provide advice on the assumption that the person asking the question wants maximum sound quality, per dollar. With that requirement out of the equation, I will base my answer on functionality and price. So as I understand it you music library is stored on your Mac.
Those 3 streamers you listed are all overkill, unless you really want a front-panel display, in which case the extra expense (and size) might be worth it?

If you're happy to use a smartphone or tablet as control interface, you really can't go past the Bluesound NODE - US$600.
A slightly cheaper competitor is the iFi ZEN Stream, but this is a new product, and there are some reports of bugs and instability.
Or DIY: Raspberry Pi with Volumio/Moode/Rune or RoPieee. Add a metal case, Topping D10s DAC, and the total price is approx US$180.

why not iPad or iPhone?
Well yes, the latest models (with USB-C connector) can connect directly to a USB DAC. Older models with lightning connector can connect to a USB DAC via the Apple Camera Connection Kit (a generic lightning to USB cable won't work).
But this will tether the iPhone or iPad to your DAC/amplifier. Seems a waste of a portable device, which has many other uses.

Is there a way to charge the phone/tablet (lightning connector) and listen at the same time?
Yes, provided you use the Apple part number MK0W2AM/A. See further details here -
https://www.audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/bypassing-ipad-dac.895088/#post-13316707
 
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lofiguy

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Thanks @linuxfan that answers my question perfectly. The NODE seems most promising.

I'll look more into it and in the meantime I just ordered that USB3 adapter.
 

linuxfan

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Oops, the Bluesound NODE will pre-convert DSD to PCM, but it won't play DSD. Do you really want native DSD support?
Anyway, another option would be the SMSL SD-9 - US$400.
 
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lofiguy

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Yah, I noticed that, Bummer, but it does hit every other req't perfectly. I'll keep it as a fallback option.

I realized that a phone/tablet won't work for me. Especially if I want to recycle an older device. Not enough onboard storage, so I'd have to carry a wifi drive as well. In tablets I'd have to go up to ipad pro which is too big, and in phones I'd have to go to 13 pro which is $1500 maxed out on storage. (Still cheaper than a $2k streamer tho.)

So my best plan right now is to focus on DAP as streamer. Those all seem to have expandable SD card storage.

SD9 looks promising, almost perfect, except no gapless per a review here on ASR. I can't believe there are products in the marketplace without gapless. (Apparently the ifi also doesn't have gapless.) I should have mentioned gapless as a requirement, however I just thought they all did that.
 
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