Are "streamers" the new "transports"?

Have been following recent threads on streamers, DACs,etc. and wish to pose a question...

But, first, I would like to limit the discussion to just streamers and NOT DACs.
The analogy to which I seek clarity is the CD transport.

Assuming I have the same DAC (Chord Qutest) in use, will a "better" streamer measurably and audibly improve sound quality. If so, at what price/performance thresholds do you see?

Is it analogous to CD transports "5-10 years ago"?
Meaning, I could use:

1. Cheap Sony CDP ($200)
2. Oppo whatever model ($500)
3. Bel Canto transport ($1500)
4. Metronome or DCS ($5k+)

...and pass the signal to my DAC then to the amp. Now, as it relates to streaming...I could then...:

1. Use Apple TV or Chromecast then optical to DAC ($75)
2. Bluesound via Coax, Opt or USB to DAC ($500)
3. Lumin or Aurender ($2000)
4. Any crazy streamer that is $5K+

Sure, it's system dependent and only noticable if you have the ears and the gear for it.

But, my broader question: Outside if the "cost no object" gear ($5K+), is there a difference in the transmission of the digital signal that then creates SQ improvements via the SAME DAC?

If so, WHY?

Yes, I have no idea why and cost is not really the issue.

I just went from a Raspberry Pi 3 to 4, and from a tinyCore Linux to Ubuntu, running the same software packages which are Squeezelite and LMS 7.9. The Pi 4 sounds much more open and transparent. Everything from the USB cable on forward is the same.

Is it the aluminum case? The OS? Lower noise in the USB output,  a quieter power supply, or the fanless operation?

Is it the additional compute and memory capability of the 4 makes it much more responsive and reduces jitter in the output? No idea.

However, this cost me < $150
This kind of brings up something else.

DAC's are not equally indifferent to the quality of the input signal.

Unfortunately, audiophiles are often lured by "discerning" DAC's (and speakers). That is, they buy the DAC that lets them hear a difference in transports.

To me, the ideal DAC has such a great input stage that it is completely indifferent to any reasonably good source, and many have gone to extremes to do this. The Parasound CD player for instance would read tracks into memory and play from there instead of the CD to ensure the least amount of jitter in the output. Other RAM-centric players and streamers and DAC's have appeared with the same idea.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. :)
In digital, its always something new. The King is dead. Long live the King. 
Yes I think streamer’s and streamer/servers are the new "transports".

As far as things that contribute to better sound quality goes it’s the same basic things that are needed with other digital transports. Things like high quality audio grade parts, minimizing electrical noise by isolating components, minimizing jitter, better power supplies, controlling vibration etc. All that stuff applies to most all audio gear. Mass market computers are not designed for audio and so company’s are designing dedicated components optimized for audio performance.
Basically, "yes" but with one big caveat. For most of the time transports have been on this earth, they transmitted the data over SPDIF, in the original mode, which was isochronous. That meant that the timing of each sample transmitted was determined by the goodness of the clocking of the transport and the goodness of the recovery by the DAC.
So if there was jitter in the transport, the music is compromised.  I wont go into the math, but consider the "bits" the X-axis and the timing the Y axis, draw a curve and you get the idea.

USB, and a newer mode of SPDIF, are asynchronous.  In asynch protocols the transport, streamer, or well-trained parakeet just sends the data and the DAC gathers it up, reads it into memory, and re-times it.  So NOW the jitter is almost entirely under the DAC's control.  Other issues, such as digital noise enter the picture, but let's stay on the big difference for simplicity - and that's timing and jitter.
So the inference is that DACs today are less dependent on the goodness of the timing of the signal than in the older transport days. So my answer is "yes, exactly, but its less relevant today".
My two pence,
and I design the stuff,
I think that you left out the sweet spot 2.5
Both in the $800-$1000 range.
I have the Studio, I like it better than my BluNode.
It uses Volumio which is easier to play my local tracks on SSD.
BluSound is a little easier with Qobuz.
Plus the Studio has DSP.  Maybe I'll get to it after Christmas.
I would use Bluesound Node 2i (or Vault if you need CD ripper + storage). Excellent BluOS software will make a difference. Then stream to your DAC of choice...

I'll preface by saying, I have a stellar system, a great collection of vinyl and CD's . I took a long time and investigation before jumping into the streamer "world".  I have had CD transports for years and still enjoy my current  PSA PWT transport. 

After ripping 70% of my CD's , I went to AXPONA this past year and noted that most of the rooms with streamers that I enjoyed were Aurender units . I even met the gentlemen from Aurender who gave me an excellent education on streaming and why I should buy Aurender ( of course ) .  Recently,  I bought a lightly used Aurender X100L .  Previously , I listened to my ripped CDs using J River through my laptop to my PSA DAC bridge which was pretty excellent, but the Aurender has taken everything to a whole new level of music appreciation. And I recently added Quobuz HR within the Aurender Conductor App and I may never leave the house again . 

If you're going to take the "jump" , I would recommend an Aurender product, followed by the Lumin U1 Mini forgoing the built in DACs and using your own .  

And in answer to your question , YES , a better streamer will provide you with better everything in my opinion IF you have a good system with which to appreciate what is being presented to you. 

Happy Listening ... 

Post removed 
I’d add the Innuos Zen Mk.3 ($2600) to your list of candidates.  I like that it has a CD drive that let’s you rip your CDs right into its onboard memory — very easy and convenient.  Watch Darko’s video review of the unit where he compares to other streamers and also gives some explanations for why streamers make a difference.  I found it fairly interesting having not read much on this topic before.  FWIW. 
I heard a noticable improvement in SQ when I moved from a Wadia 3200 transport using coax to DAC,  to ripped CD's on a Windows laptop feeding the DAC over USB.

When you get to sourcing digital data from the Internet and sending it over USB to a DAC, it's incredibly, unbelievably cheap and reliable. We're talking $5.00-$10.00 components in a teeny weeny box, but you need a user interface, which could be a phone, tablet, or desktop.

Moving an analog signal from spinning vinyl to an amplifier is very difficult and always falls short of perfection.  Perfection in moving digital data from Internet to a DAC is not that hard with today's commodity technology (assuming adequate bandwidth).
Absolutely yes, with the same issues regarding the digital output plus the usability due to the app for the control of the player. Bluesound app is very good, Aurender app is good too but both are somewhat limited (not so for most of the users but I am quite nitpicky on this regard). 
My system is streaming based, I have an Aurender N10 streamer connected via AES to my DAC. Using a dedicated streamer absolutely a huge improvement in SQ and indeed its highly recommend if you wish to depend on qobuz and tidal.
What i have recently discovered and its quite shocking, but hearing is believing, and some of these tweaks are cheap to test, is the quality of your ethernet makes a substantial difference. 

First of all, forget Wifi. Your streamer must be hard wired using ethernet. That's why some streamer don't even have Wifi option.
Start with your typical three in one commercial "router" like Asus, netgear, tp link etc. These are a router + a switch + wifi hub all in one. Get a cheap router only, from a company like Ubiquity, like edgerouter x. we are talking a 150 USD investment here only. Create your internet connection within the new router, connect your streamer directly to it. Then you can use your old router as a wifi hub only (for your regular usage and also for your controlling device to see your streamer on the network).
If the improvement in sound of eliminating wifi circuitry interference from your main router doesn't shock you, i don't know what will!!
If that cheap step proves to you SQ improvement is possible through 'cleaning' your ethernet, you can try other steps such as adding a level of optical ethernet converters for further isolation (also relatively cheap). Then for a final icing on the cake, you can get a fancy ethernet switch from likes of Sotm or uptone. This is an expensive step, but after trying the earlier cheap ones, you might want to stretch to this. Naturally, high quality shielded ethernet cables like AQ vodka or Sotm make a difference as well. 
I believe we are still scratching the surface when it comes to digital music playback. But its fascinating how such services like qobuz and tidal could sound almost as awesome as a CD transport if used with a proper chain of playback. Starting from your router.

Outside if the "cost no object" gear ($5K+), is there a difference in the transmission of the digital signal that then creates SQ improvements via the SAME DAC?

Yes, and I think sonicjoy’s post is spot on. FWIW, Chris Connaker (Audiophile Style) just announced their Product of the Decade picks and in the hardware category he chose the Sonore Rendu series.
It's been half a decade since I had a disc-spinner in my system, and I've never looked back.
OP here...;-)

Why should I "forget wifi"? I dont get it. 
First, I cant, as my stereo is across the room with no ethernet jacks around.

I have found musical satisfaction by streaming Qobuz via Bluesound to my Chord Qutest.
Also "stream" my library of music on my MacBook Pro via AirPlay to the Bluesound to Chord.

Ive been at this hobby for 30 years.
My current set up is working for me. I can A/B the same song on my CDP/Chord and Bluesound/Chord and I cant tell the difference. I'm an amatuer musician and also have a decent rig: Belles amp to Dynaudio Speical 40s with all DH Labs cables.

This thread has confirmed to me that, yes, there are more expensive solutions out there yet not many can even articulate in 2 sentaces WHY they would be superior to Bluesound assuming both solutions use the same DAC.

Stepping off the merry go round...
I asked the question on this thread, the conclusion from the guy that did upgrade to Lumin was it’s a sideward step rather than huge improvement, I’m sticking with my Node 2i

Maybe most of the cost is software development rather than improvement in sound quality and maintaining the platform?

@highpeakrider2...Exactly my "conclusion", too.

Sure, I would bet there are some sonic improvements. But, at what cost for what incremental improvement...?

As I have stated in other threads, I'm a "92% guy" when it comes to audio.
I respect those who seek that last 5-10%, but it comes at a cost on which I (personally) do not place value.

Maybe I just cant tell the difference...?
Maybe I don't want to...;-)
This thread has confirmed to me that, yes, there are more expensive solutions out there yet not many can even articulate in 2 sentaces. WHY they would be superior to Bluesound assuming both solutions use the same DAC.

I believe I recommended in my prior post to read Darko’s review of the Innuos Zen Mk. 3 where he not only compares it directly to other streamers but also offers possible explanations as to what aspects of its design and build may contribute why the Zen sounds better.  If you haven’t read it you may find it somewhat interesting. 


Yes, I did see that...thanks.
But, perhaps I am mistaken...wasnt that solution @$1299 requiring an ethernet connection?

It looked interesting, but I also dont need a CD ripper and 1 TB of storage.

My existing music collection is all on my MacBook Pro.
Any music added in the future will come from streaming services.

I will never buy another CD the rest of my life.
In fact, I threw out about 500 of them in September.

WiFi appears to work for me.
What is the "value-add" in an ethernet connection?
I guess the value add is more bandwidth and less flaky connections if you have poor Wi-Fi, plus you can spend another fortune on audiophile routers and Ethernet cables or optical networks.
Hey if you are happy at 92% more power to ya! That just means you are more of a music lover than an equipment lover. As long as your wi-fi has the bandwidth you need (and most routers do) you should be fine.
@ sonicjoy

I think you summed it up.

I'm writing this while listening to the same Grateful Dead album I have been listening to since the 70's and it has NEVER sounded better streaming "HR" via Qobuz to my Node 2i then to Chord Qutest.I hear instrument passages that I have never before noticed.

Plus, my internet and WiFi are VERY, VERY strong and as stable as Xfinity/Comcast can be in the 3rd largest city in NA.The router is in the same room as my stereo but on opposite ends of the room.

I'm happy at 92% and know that the path to the last few increments can be finicky and VERY expensive.

Cheers, all.
The reason for no wifi is almost the same why its advised to use a streamer which was built for audio, instead of a noisy laptop.
Wifi protocol generates lots of noise and interference, its not like you hear it in your music, but its there. 
I was always against such ideas when friends bring them up, thinking its too much of stretch. but when i tried myself i was astonished and even became obsessed with tweaking my ethernet further. Even using better power supplies on your network devices could make a huge difference!!

Its very easy and not costly to test things for yourself. You don't have to be the last 5-10% type to spend 100-150 USD of a ubiquity edgerouter. You can have long runs done by optical fibre cable, then use a Tp. Link media converter next to your streamer to convert back to ethernet wire. Even connected to your laptop by a generic ethernet cable, you would hear a positive difference. 
Are server’s / streamers the new sources like a CD transport , I guess they are however without all the inherent unsolvable issues of players and transport’s .
Being introduced briefly to music through a Mac book pro a few years ago compared to a dedicated server later brought in we immediately noticed a leap in sound quality . Much more transparency off the bat with a list of great recording’s . 
There was so much more to my favourite music I’ve never experienced before .This was directly attributed to much , much lower noise the Mac Pro simply cannot come close to not by a country mile .

Though I have to give credit to others locally for helping me transition away from spinning CDs I would never dump my collection.
Who knows in just a few years where servers and streamers will be including dacs for that matter. However even though these are basically computer parts in some cases proprietary topologies in a attractive looking machined box they are not all created equal.

Anyway you can call others what you like for dumping their money into this hobby . If you believe your most of the way there , what ever that means I guess that’s all what really matters .