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Newbie question about streamers

JustJones

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#1
I am constantly hearing on other forums how much better uber $$$ streamers feeding the same DAC over inexpensive ones sound and I was wondering what exactly does the streamer without a DAC do. I thought it simply took the stream over ethernet converted to a USB protocol or spdif and sent it on to the DAC. I assume the software does this? If the streamer works well enough that the DAC works and the measurements on the analog output is good what is it about the streamer that would make one sound a lot better than another? This my first question and if there's a link somewhere that explains this perhaps someone could point me in that direction. I haven't been able to find it.
 
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JustJones

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Thread Starter #2
I guess I posted this in the wrong area it should be in the Newbie section? I don't see any way of deleting this or moving it. If someone does know how please let me know.
 
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Cahudson42

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#3
Perhaps if you describe where you want to end up, headphone system? Home Theater system? Members here might be able to provide more useful stuff..

But let's say a headphone system: Mine, simple, but IMO, very enjoyable..

The 'streamer' - which streams Amazon Music HD, is a $120 LG V20 cell phone. No SIM cards. Works over 2.4or5g wifi. It has a USB-C port, which you can use with an OTG cable to then connect an external DAC, such as a Topping D10. But there is no need to. The LG Quad ess built-in DAC is better. So the LG 3.5mm headphone out can be used directly with efficient IEMs or headphones. Or CD-in/analog in if Receiver/stereo.

But the LG, most phones, most DAC dongles have (again IMO) anemic output. Little bass, little headroom, limited dynamic range when directly driving HP (no problem with Receiver) . So my 3.5mm LG feeds a Monoprice Liquid Spark, with clean 1w capability. Then to HIFiman HE400i. Done.

You really don't need to spend more.

Read the reviews here at ASR. Get to understand the Dashboard display. See in the LG G7 review (same Quad DAC), SINAD is 110. See it's 105 in D10. And 99 in LS. This means streaming 16/44.1 Amazon HD will be ''transparent'...meaning while you can get more expensive even $10,000 devices 'perhaps' with better SINAD, you likely will not hear a difference.. (unless the device intentionally 'colors' - distorts - your music with a 'house profile' that they have conditioned their buyers to like)

Have fun! Read everything here before you buy! And don't miss the totalDAC review:
https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...and-measurements-of-totaldac-d1-six-dac.8192/
 
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kaka89

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#4
You probably already have few streamer at home already, such as your computer, playstation, you could try to play some music and see if you can tell the different, then you can decide how much does it worth.

I have tried a few, such as Lumin D1, Chromecast Audio, Pi 3. I would say the different is next to non-exist, and some of them aren't even bit perfect (namely Chromecast).
 

Eetu

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#5
A dedicated streamer is basically a glorified Intel NUC. The expensive ones typically have better PSUs, silent / fanless running, fancy casing and claim to have lower usb noise and jitter etc. Whether any of this translates to an audible improvement depends on who you're asking. Highly doubt it, assuming we're using the same (separate) DAC.
 
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JustJones

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Thread Starter #6
I was hoping someone might be able to explain how streamers actually work from a technical perspective. I know generally. I use a raspberry pi 4 connected to a Topping D90 and it sounds great to me. Curious as to why something like a Lumin U1 at $5K would improve the sound if I used the same DAC. Thanks for your responses.
 

Wes

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#7
Let's think about this in a simple way: You have 2 'sides' to your HiFi system - a digital side and an analog side. The DAC is on both sides and bridges them (internally).

The digital side can be very dirty yet because of the nature of digital signal transmission, that 'dirt' (EMF noise) will not affect sound quality (unless it is extremely high - and you'll hear it big time). The analog side needs to be fairly 'clean' but that is pretty easy these days.

The only hiccup is that the DAC might be susceptible to dirt (noise). Apparently, this was true a decade or more go but is no longer true. Even if your DAC is affected, you can just use various noise isolation techniques or devices (say optical cable or WiFi) to isolate it while allowing the signal to get thru.

So I will predict that the answer to your question is "No" (the question arises because unscrupulous or poorly informed people are trying to sell you expensive things you don't need).

Buy a streamer based on what it does (e.g. Roon or whatever), how easy it is to use it, and how it looks. Function, Ergonomic, and Aesthetics.

That aside the very best in streaming is obviously Latex Solar Beef. Just add an 'r' - not as an endpoint, but as a midpoint....
 

DuxServit

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#8
I was hoping someone might be able to explain how streamers actually work from a technical perspective. I know generally. I use a raspberry pi 4 connected to a Topping D90 and it sounds great to me. Curious as to why something like a Lumin U1 at $5K would improve the sound if I used the same DAC. Thanks for your responses.
I think you already described it well in your post about Ethernet. Many folks use ordinary computers or NUCs, and install the streaming software. Those standalone Streamers are expensive because a third party is bundling these functions into one box.

Your D90 is already great. Don’t waste money on those expensive Streamers.
 

Wes

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#9
Exactly.

If you have an itch to spend money, buy better speakers or find the very best recordings/masterings of your music.

If you have an itch to tweak something, move your speakers around, add room tmts. etc.

If you have an urge to do both, build a new listening room.
 
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#10
I use a raspberry pi 4 connected to a Topping D90 and it sounds great to me. Curious as to why something like a Lumin U1 at $5K would improve the sound if I used the same DAC. Thanks for your responses.
With your RPi you are already doing "streaming" just at a lower cost level. Do you have a USB Audio HAT board on your Pi? Or are you using the standard USB output on the RPi? The stock RPi USB port is pretty universally criticized for being very sub-par for audio output. If you are not, you are not getting the best you can get out of your D90. You could go further with better power supplies for the RPi and a USB HAT board if you have/buy one.

The Lumin, Innuos, Auralic products just take what you are already doing to another level. Better power supplies, better components, a device designed from the ground up for one general purpose. PLUS, they each have their own music organizing, sorting and playing software and desktop and mobile apps.

I'll no doubt receive a stern talking to for suggesting here that better sound is possible with better streaming hardware. That's OK.
 
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JustJones

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Thread Starter #11
I figured out I don't need the raspberry pi. I am using a fanless NUC running ROCK and I connected that by USB to the D90 and it sounds pretty amazing to me. My spending itch was scratched buying the D90.
 
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#13
For the raspberry pi hifiberry digi+ (or clone) add-ons are available with digital optical and coax out. Got one from china with a diy plastic case for less than $20.
 

Wes

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#15
Not a stern comment, but ...

How is "better sound possible with better streaming hardware"??

i.e. what is the mechanism?
 
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#17
I have been thinking of using a cheap Android tablet running USB Audio Player Pro -> an external DAC -> Analogue output, as my potential streaming solution. This could be away from the desktop in my listening room. I don't need Ethernet. The Android tablet would have Wifi and Bluetooth if I need. I tend to use microSD and load all or nearly all my FLAC on it and this is accomodated by the memory slot on the Android tablet. This probably can also run Tidal/Roon or whatever. I see this having a better interface due to the touch screen on the tablet.

Any opinion? What kind of CPU power on the Android tablet do I need to run Tidal etc well?
 

kaka89

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#18
I have been thinking of using a cheap Android tablet running USB Audio Player Pro -> an external DAC -> Analogue output, as my potential streaming solution. This could be away from the desktop in my listening room. I don't need Ethernet. The Android tablet would have Wifi and Bluetooth if I need. I tend to use microSD and load all or nearly all my FLAC on it and this is accomodated by the memory slot on the Android tablet. This probably can also run Tidal/Roon or whatever. I see this having a better interface due to the touch screen on the tablet.

Any opinion? What kind of CPU power on the Android tablet do I need to run Tidal etc well?
If you are after convenient I think this will be a good option with a nice display.
Sound quality will be fine but don't expect bit perfect; when you receive an app notification it certainly will break your listening experience.
 

Objectivist01

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#19
If you are after convenient I think this will be a good option with a nice display.
Sound quality will be fine but don't expect bit perfect; when you receive an app notification it certainly will break your listening experience.
Why can’t it be bit perfect ? Genuine question here
 

kaka89

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#20
Why can’t it be bit perfect ? Genuine question here
ChromeCast Audio has a sample rate limit of 24-bit/96kHz. It will down sample if the source's file is over this.

Should be fine if you are not upsampling or playing ultra hi res file.
 
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