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Do streamers affect the sound?

Discussion in 'audio' started by rockingdoc, May 11, 2019.

  1. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    Hardly surprising, the USB spec does not demand ultra low noise 5V out. The DAC designer should expect this
  2. Foot Tapper

    Foot Tapper Foot Tapper

    I have just listened to a Chord M Scaler + DAVE fronted by an Auralic Aries G2 and then by a DCS Network Bridge. In both cases, they were fed by an Innuos server, then out via a Naim 252/300 & Kudos Titan 606 speakers.

    With the G2 streamer and Roon server (Roon DSP switched off), music flowed well and sounded tonally slightly warm. All in all very good indeed.

    Then the G2 was switched from being a Roon endpoint to using Auralic's own software. Dear me no. The drummer and bass guitarist were suddenly both so exhausted that neither of them could play in time, instead lagging behind the singer and lead guitarist. It timed as badly as a DCS Bartok does. And the sound was flat, lethargic and lifeless. Switch back to Roon again (with DSP engine switched off) and the same track came back to life.

    How is this possible? I simply don't understand it, yet I hear it.

    We then replaced the Auralic with a DCS Network Bridge. Weird. The listener is no longer drawn to the rhythm section (i.e. drums & bass guitar) but to the lead singer and lead guitarist. Tonally, the sound is a touch leaner. Yet music flows even better. This was my preferred set up of the three.

    How one streamer can make music sound leaner than another, or one make music flow while the other produces ill-timed notes using the very same dac (Chord DAVE + M Scaler at that) is just baffling. Yet that is what both I and the dealer heard. Nor were these subtle differences, discernible by those blessed with bat-like hearing. The differences were obvious within the first 5-10 seconds of each track.

    This streaming lark, it ain't 'arf complicated.

    Best regards, FT
    Dozey and andrewd like this.
  3. SteveG

    SteveG pfm Member

    My experience with streaming is limited however in my current room I sometimes stream direct from my laptop (of lossless audio files from a NAS) and sometimes via a Chromecast audio using the same audio files. They now both feed into the same DAC (the laptop via USB and the Chromecast Audio via optical) and I can't tell any difference between the sound from one or the other. Previously, when they used different DACs, I could but I think that seems to have been because the DAC I was using for USB wasn't all that good. The same DAC is also used for CD's (with a coax input) but I haven't done any checks to see if that sounds better than streaming yet.

    I don't have any more expensive/upmarket streaming solutions but if I did buy one (and I might) it'll be for convenience reasons rather than sound quality I think - especially as I still think of vinyl as my main source.
  4. theadmans

    theadmans pfm Member

    ...Aye it is that Ronnie - you have to be quite forceful I find.

    But I have fitted 3 of these cases now and I haven't broken one yet.

    You have to prise the rubber feet on with a jeweller's screwdriver or similar.

    I don't bother with the light tubes as they are more trouble than they are worth

    But the wee case does the job and doesn't look as blingy as some.
  5. Moggi1964

    Moggi1964 Active Member

    I just bought the Bluesound Node 2i and have been streaming Amazon and a couple of other stations. It sounds really good though it is early days on comparing it to my laptop/Emotiva XDA2 setup.

    I'll report back!

    Aesthetically, compact and attractive setup and Blusound on the App is very intuitive!
  6. rockingdoc

    rockingdoc pfm Member

    I needed to re-visit this thread, because while I was willing to accept the suggested notion that, everything else being equal, the Squeezebox with a decent power supply should be as good as anything else for rendering.
    However, I picked up a Sonore Micro-Rendu cheap, so gave it a go (same power supply). The improvement over the Squeezebox into the same Dacs is huge and obvious, to an extent that must be measurable, if I had the instruments and skills.
    So, streamers/renderers DO sound different.
  7. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Which dacs, what wire interface?
  8. andrewd

    andrewd pfm Member

    Did you try the direct output from the Innuos ( running as Roon core and player)?
  9. Del monaco

    Del monaco pfm Member

  10. Foot Tapper

    Foot Tapper Foot Tapper

    Hi Andrew, no, as I plan to stream over ethernet rather than USB.
  11. Del monaco

    Del monaco pfm Member

    I discerned so little difference once level matched that I chuckled to myself that I had gained so much for so little really. Never heard a huge difference yet. That's why I still have my Squeezebox.
  12. Zombie

    Zombie pfm Member

    Did an A/B yesterday with my second SBT with the wall wart and a 600 euro streamer called SOtM SMS-200 at a friend's home. There was a minor difference, but did it justify the 500 euro price difference? Not for me, but YMMV.
  13. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    With decently source agnostic kit, the streamer should have negligible effect on the sound. That's a pretty big should though. Design competence is usually price restricted In some way. Though cost is no arbiter of quality.
  14. CoherentSystems

    CoherentSystems Trade: Coherent Systems

    The DCS bridge does seem to produce different focus points with the sound I would agree
  15. suzywong

    suzywong pfm Member

    And yet on the DIY pages you have a picture of the world’s premier battery pack:D on your own streamer. Seems like a lot of faff for a “negligible effect on the sound”

    Surely then the answer to the OP’s question in the title must be “yes”, otherwise why not use a wall wart.
  16. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Battery is for dac, reclocker and iv stage. Obs...
  17. firedog

    firedog pfm Member

    IME, better power supply can make a small difference. USB implementions also differ, so it's possible if you are using USB that could make a small difference. I think these things are in the realm of a "cleaner" sound, less background noise.
    I recently bought one of these as a Touch replacement - it has a 7 inch screen instead of a 4.5 inch one, so it's about double the size.
    Simply replaced the built in Volumio OS with piCorePlayer OS which has a plugin that makes it a near perfect Touch emulator.
    Pictures below of a DIY version next to an actual Touch.

  18. John Phillips

    John Phillips pfm Member

    I am sure this is true.

    Looking carefully at DAC output you can almost always see evidence of power supply noise and USB interface noise. However I have not seen many examples recently where these levels exceed -110 dB FS which is more than you really need.

    What do you need? Taking it to levels well beyond normal, if your listening room background noise level is 20 dB SPL (a quiet night in the countryside) and you play peak levels of 110 dB SPL (a symphony orchestra from a front-row seat) then you need 90 dB of noise-free dynamic range. Allowing peaks on the digital medium of -6 dB FS (6 dB below full scale), 90 dB dynamic range brings us down to needing noise better than -96 dB FS. So -110 dBFS worst case for PSU and USB noise is good and allows for the human ability to hear (spurious) signals below noise levels. And it is typically bettered by at least 10 dB in tests I have seen on respectable but inexpensive kit.

    DAC designers have for quite a long time known how to sufficiently reject PSU and USB noise (and noise in the time domain - AKA jitter). A few bad example still get through, presumably because of lack of design time, but provided I can avoid such bad examples I can't bring myself to worry about typical levels of imperfection these days. But that's just how I see it. YMMV, as always, depending on how anyone wants to enjoy the hobby.

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