Do I need a streamer?

Streaming devices, with or without an internal DAC, seem to be very popular these days, so I am wondering if I am missing out on something.  I have Audirvana on my iMac that streams Tidal and music from my 8 TB external HD.  My iMac resides next to my audio rack and I connect my iMac via an optical cable (Fibbr) to my Aqua LaVoce DAC.  It seems to me that my iMac and external HD take the place of a streaming device.  Am I missing out on something other than convenience?  My external HD was a few hundred bucks and streamers a whole lot more.  The sound of my system is fantastic. 


If you want to experience the glories of streaming remove the computer from the audio chain.








In capable high end systems MACs and PCs cannot compete with dedicated streamers. They are far superior and can sound as good or better than vinyl. Of course you have to carefully choose them and make sure they conform to your values in sound. 

So it comes down to your overall system. Taking a look at your DAC… something like an Aurender N200 should significantly exceed the sound quality from your MAC. But it does depend on the rest of your system. The higher the resolution of your preamp, amp and speakers the bigger the difference… and the venue is important as well. I would recommend putting some photos and your components under your UserID as a virtual system and that will allow us to better assess your situation and be helpful. 

Another vote for a dedicated streamer, especially with your excellent DAC.  A computer is about the worst source of streaming due to excessive noise, which is the mortal enemy of better streaming performance.  I started streaming Qobuz from my iPad, and adding even a low-budget iFi Zen Stream ($399) was a huge improvement.  You could consider something like an Innuos Zen Stream that along with being a very good streamer you can load your CDs directly into it.  In streaming, I’ve found everything can make a significant difference, which is both exciting given all the areas to get better sound but also a bit daunting.  Such is audio, but it’s well worth it and you can just upgrade pieces in stages, which is nice.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.  

You don’t "need" a streamer, especially when you have not experienced the benefits. Carry on.

Most SQ improvements require an A-B compare for me to confirm. Not so when I hooked up my first streamer.

Night & day.

And I use Fildelizer.

The key to good quality streaming from a general purpose computer is keep the “noisy” computer physically well away from the hifi gear by using a long wire to connect. Mine is a good 8 feet or so away connected by a long good quality USB wire and the results are very good, competitive with using the hifi streamer as the source. Also be sure to use a driver on the computer capable of doing higher res streaming. Default driver on a PC for example may not be up to the task.

As much as I read about music servers and streamers, I am still bewildered how they fit in my system which includes:

Don Sachs preamp & KT88 amp; Willsenton 300b; Wells Audio Innamora,VTV EVO1200 

Spatial Audio M4 Triode Masters

So the streamer does not have the noise that a computer does?  Does a Micro-Rendu clean up that computer noise?

I have ripped all my music to my external HD which has nearly 8TB of music on it.  Would my HD connect to a streamer?  I am unaware of any streamers or music servers that have that much internal storage, or do streamers not even have storage?

I currently control music on my iMac with Audirvana so how to I control the music if I have a streamer?   Do I still use Audirvana if use a streamer?

Thanks for your information. 



The OP is absolutely correct.  He is currently streaming.  Streamers are just networking computers made to look like audio components.  Audirvana is a program that enhances the computers ability to stream music.

  Why get a dedicated streamer?  They tend to sound better and not be affected by issues that computers have, such as the need to constantly re update the OS for reasons that are unrelated to playing music.  For example I was using an older MacAir with Audirvana for a while, but periodically Apple would force me to do an update that “bricked” my DAC.  I would have to call Apple support, they would blame the DAC manufacturer, and a few days later all would be well, but I never had that issue with a dedicated streamer.

  If you like the sound of your setup, and you don’t mind having your computer unavailable to you while listening to music, and you aren’t having networking issues, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated streamer.


You make a good argument to not pursue a dedicated streamer. However, there are many here who were in OP position and believed what they heard sounded great until they made a switch to dedicated streamer and freely acknowledged the improvements from a dedicated streamer or server. Simply put, the proof is in the pudding. 

I say this to @whitestix If you have the funds then a streamer like Aurender N200 will definitely sound better than the iMac. A well appointed system like yours especially with LaVoce DAC can greatly benefit from a dedicated streamer. And N200 allows up to two 8TB SSDs storage for your music. Let N200 will be the only source for your stored music and streaming from Tidal or Qobuz. Just keep the external HD around as your back up. 

If you get a dedicated streamer like N200 then you need an iPad to navigate / browse music from Tidal and stored music. As long as both your N200 and iPad on same network, iPad is going to communicate with N200 wirelessly. N200 has its own proprietary iOS app called Conductor. I am including a link below for Conductor app so can see for yourself, the layout and functionality,

I do not want to muddy the waters by mentioning ROON here as you’re still trying to process all the information. A dedicated streamer like Aurender or Lumin would be the way go given your excellent system. 

@lalitk, @fuzztone ​​@mapman +1 on getting a dedicated streamer.

Per @lalitk :

"However, there are many here who were in OP position and believed what they heard sounded great until they made a switch to dedicated streamer and freely acknowledged the improvements from a dedicated streamer or server. Simply put, the proof is in the pudding."


So true.  Each time I thought my streaming sounded great: 1) using my Mac Mini. 2) using the internal streamer in PS Audio DS, Auralic Vega and finally MM Tambaqui.  But then I added a dedicated streamer (Auralic Aries G2.1) and it sounded WAY better.  Good Pudding!


Feel free to contact me here using private messaging to discuss if you like. I’ve been streaming various ways for many years to my pretty nice hifi setup for many years and have a good bit of experience to draw on there.

Try this experiment. Take an am radio and tune it to a moderately clear  station. Then move it closer to and further away from computer and see if that affects reception to get a handle on how much noise your computer creates or not. FM station may work also but fm is not as susceptible to RF noise that any digital device can create . Then maybe try same with a streamer and compare.

Streamers come with many terabytes of memory down to no memory (usually with empty solid state storage slots). Most have USB ports to connect USB drives and they can access Network Accessible Storage though the network.


The high end audio industry is going through a major transition from owning physical media -> streaming personal files -> using streaming service. The final stage is mature. I have a very good analog system and Qobuz streaming service sounds better on high resolution albums of the same as Red Book CDs on the same resolution.

If you get your streaming up the an appropriate level you will have little use for your ripped files. I keep some on my streamer… just in case of a network outage… but only use one about once a year. This is common… once you achieve equal or better sound quality you abandon storage.


I would recommend getting the best streamer you can afford… Aurender… although there are a number of good brands. Aurender only makes streamers and their flagship is the standard for audio shows it sounds so good.My rule of thumb is that (your carefully chosen) components should all be roughly the same cost (TT, DAC, preamp, amp… etc.). For me, my streamer is about 20% more… well worth the premium… it is a source component, like a turntable. Start out with poor sound and amplification will not make it sound better.



Yes, your Mac is a ’streamer’. That’s all streamers are - computers. As long as the bits are getting to your DAC without error, then you have a fully functioning setup. There’s no need to buy another box.


I currently use a Mac mini as a streamer for a living room system and a Raspberry Pi 4 for the downstairs stereo. The Mac holds all my music in a shared folder. The RPi can access the shared folder and streams my music library over wi-fi - everything from ripped CD’s to hi-res 24/192 downloads to archived SACDs without a hitch.

@whitestix I used Mac Mini as a streamer for quiet some time before upgrading to Auralic Aries G1 and Lumin U1 Mini. I’ve done several comparisons of streamers to Mac Mini and the Mac lost every time whether it streamed Qobuz or played files from the attached HDD. The difference was immediately audible. 
The Mac Mini is now in a totally different part of the house, away from my audio components and is being used strictly as a Roon core.

There are means to get nice sound out of computers such as mac mini but requires much diy effort. I used three different iteration of mini's over the years, last one provided very nice sound quality, no complaints, could have lived with that one for a good many years.   


I agree that general service computer does not belong in high end streaming setup, self generated noise, lousy rendering, nothing you do post  computer will get back what's been lost in the noisy general service computer used as streamer. Stock mac mini is one thing, highly modified mini is quite another.


As good as that final mini was, my present streaming setup betters that by quite a wide margin.


My greatest issue with vast majority of off the shelf streamers is lack of processing power, forget about running HQPlayer or any intensive DSP, I bet many would surprised by what DSP can offer. Versatility of present setup allows great manipulation of digital bits, like having a number of different streamers and dacs in one system. I'd suggest custom build streamer is valid route for top flight streaming if one is up to the task.





Arguments about streamer versus computer are way too generalized. Many things contribute to computer sound quality and you have control over all of them. With streamers you get what you get. Most are good these days so little risk with proven products. But a computer can compete. But it may take some tweaking using good quality streaming software configured properly, drivers up to the task, Keeping the noisy computer physically apart from other sensitive line level or phono hi fi gear, etc. So do not buy the conclusion many reach that a dedicated streamer is always better. It may or may not be. DAC used always matters. It’s always a bad leap of faith to think that just because some reach a certain conclusion that is always the case. The devil is always on the details. If you want low cost high quality streaming consider a computer if you already have one. If you want to pay for a specialized device and not have to worry about it buy a good streamer. Need not cost much. Many ways to skin the cat. Google Cast and airplay on any good quality mldern device are also very solid options for CD quality and maybe more. 

A standard computer makes way to much noise it’s power supply and many programs running in the back ground , for the money buy a small green computer 

it’s just dedicated to one thing Music , add a decent linear power supply 

ifyou add a 2-3T SS  hard drive , it has Roon built in , from their Sonore 

which is very good and Fiber optic ,  without question I would buy a dedicated high quality dac noticeably more important sonically then the streamer 

and with a streamer you don’t hav3 to constantly have to turn on the computer to get Roon or QObuz,or Tidal .

Like others have said, get the computer out of the equation and get an inexpensive streamer to start with. If it doesn’t sound better, you can always resell it.

All the best.

I agree, don't write off the computer, but you need to do some research, learn how to optimize. You can pair down processes run by operating systems and power with lps, creates much lower noise floor. Computers can compete with or surpass off the shelf, requires knowledge. Can't or don't want to make the effort, get  off the shelf.

It really depends what you are after. Good sound that you enjoy or great sound… the best you can achieve with your budget. So, it gets complicated… what is your budget… <$10K? Then it is going to matter on your components. But once you break a certain level ($ being a proxy for quality)… then the PC / MAC becomes a anchor holding your system back.

In budget systems, MACs and PCs as streamers are reasonable choices. But at some point one has to move up and get a purpose built streamer to replace a computer. It is easy to rationalize the level to be far above where you are… but this can frequently be rationalization. In general, an equivalent valued streamer… say $1,200 will sound better than an equivalently valued PC… given appropriate audio components.


Fibbr is nice brand in fibre optical cable. 

if not getting streamer, you can upgrade a RECLOCK to enhance the signal quality from your Mac. check this little reclecker with psu boost : iFi SPDIF iPurifier2. this is also an option of enhancing the sound quality instead of replace by a streamer. 

I'd suggest what many have said, dump the computer and go with a dedicated streamer.

If not then you could use a DDC to reclock the data, then output to your DAC. I use a $500 Denafrips Iris DDC, but I'm using a Bluesound Node 130 and just streaming.....not attaching storage like you have. The Iris isolates the USB input both galvanically and optically, and reclocks it with a high quality TCXO crystal.

If you have an interest, check with Alvin Chee at Vinshine Audio.....he'll steer you in the right direction.

Yes you are.  A $300 streamer (IFI or Allo) will be a big upgrade to your computer.  After that, return on your $ is limited although I ended up spending the money for an Innous Zenith MK3 and love it.  


if one is streaming using a standard computer then a streamer is not needed per se, but one might well sound noticeably better -- but really no way to know without trying it yourself

here are three quite well respected, very good performing, cost effective streamers, you can buy them try them and if no improvement over your imac, just resell at no or minimal loss

of course there are ifi usb purifiers available used too, can try that as well


It seems to me that the issue revolves around the ownership of the music. Streaming gives you access to an enormous library of music - almost everything ever recorded! Streaming enthusiasts are often not interested in owning physical media, since they can "dial up" anything they want to hear anytime. Why waste space storing CD boxes, record albums (silverfish eat the cardboard covers), or even external hard drives if you don't need them? But if your cell phone towers fall down, or the local nodes fail, or a hurricane knocks out the businesses you !get your music from - no tunes for you!  Some of us old guys think it's normal to own your own music. "That's how we did it when Brubeck and Basie were alive!"

I use a 10 year old laptop feeding a Sony DAC and get excellent sound (as good as a CD anyway) and I can record it if I want via an outboard digital recorder (hand held, usable for recording live music/environmental sounds. It can handle 96/24 for live music and is way better than 44/16). Most streaming is CD quality.  I don't use wireless. It's only half as fast as a wired connection. Being an old guy, I don't mind opening a CD box, putting on a record, or (now nearly always) loading up music on a hard drive into my music playing software. My computer lets me write/edit music/edit photos/use the internet and stream music at the same time. If you like what you have, enjoy the music! If  you live in a "tiny house" and have no room for storing physical media, If you'd rather travel light and live in a trailer - stream on! If you enjoy the latest in hi-fi gear, buy it and enjoy the experience. Happy Listening.

Something that always seems to get lost in streamer discussions is the idea that all streamers are computers. The dedicated streamers use computer motherboards, in some cases the exact motherboards you may find in a standard computer. SOTM makes the only dedicated audiophile motherboard I'm aware of. Then we come to the hardware used with these motherboards, processors, RAM, SSD, etc. I see nothing special being used with most dedicated streamers, most use standard stuff one finds in general service computers. As far as processors most use rather low end so as to keep noise down, more easily accomplished vs more powerful processors.  Less powerful processors don't allow much if any dsp, manipulating digital bits via dsp may result in much higher sound quality. As far as the rest of the hardware, one can do much  better than the common parts found in vast majority of dedicated streamers, enterprise level hardware with extremely low levels of latency contribute to lower levels of jitter vs the dedicated streamers.


Dedicated streamers do come with optimized operating systems, which can be replicated by the diy. Issue is diy needs to acquire the knowledge in order to maximize OS. Some dedicated streamers also have proprietary music players which may or not be superior to the Roons, Audirvanas of the world. Both proprietary OS and music players are also available to the diy, so this need not be a consideration for direction taken.


Then we come to power supplies, the better dedicated streamers do come with linear power supplies, again something available to the diy.


End result is I'd put my custom build streamer up against any off the shelf dedicated streamers out there with exception of Wadax and Taiko Extreme. All enterprise level parts, JCAT PCIe board, proprietary OS, proprietary music player available along with Roon, HQPlayer. Finally, I'd put my LPS up against any lps available at any price, over thirty years in developing this lps, first totally linear power supply ever developed for Windows based motherboards.


The point of this is don't fool yourself that dedicated off the shelf streamers are the end all of streamers. The diy or custom builds can equal or surpass sound quality of off the shelf.


But going back to OP. Yes, one does need dedicated streamer, whether diy/custom build or off the shelf. My first foray into streaming was with general service computer, my first custom mac mini way back in day easily surpassed the general service. The general service computer is noisy environment, noise takes away from resolution, resolution you can never get back once lost. Optical solutions may block noise from dac, but can't give back what's  lost in streamer. General service computer does not belong in audiophile streaming setup, one has handicapped their system at the source. I don't know why this question is continually asked with so many here attesting to the value of dedicated streamers. Yet to hear a single instance of someone contending general service superior to dedicated streamer,  speaks volumes.


That would be a fun comparison! Comparing your optimized PC streamer with dedicated streamers at say $1K, $5K, $10K, and $20K…. and see where the crossover is. Have you tried yours against any dedicated streamers? 

I swing both ways currently with my Cambridge Evo 150. Use it’s streamer and use PC as streamer to it via USB 2. Sound quality is not the determining factor. Both are top notch. Dead quiet and detailed to the nth degree. Had to use right driver up to the task on PC to accomplish that.

Did not sound as good with default usb driver on the PC. It had limited resolution.


Again, I have always kept my PC well away from my hifi gear, a good 8’ or so and use long good quality USB wire. BTW I have heard from reputable sources that short digital connections are not necessarily a good thing due to potential reflections and jitter. Probably less of an issue these days with a good quality jitter resistant DAC. That matters a lot!

Also use the same PC to convert vinyl to digital for my music library. My vinyl sound is superb and the digital equivalents the same.

For those who consider themselves not “computer savey” just buy a good streamer if not cool with having to tweak computers.

Dedicated streamer is about Audio only however computer has lot more different tasks purposes and to perform those tasks computer has lots of extra circuits with negative ER influence on each other so Audio outcome suffering at the end. 

@ghdprentice I've not personally done  comparisons to top line off the shelf streamers, but the group of people who built my streamer and other very similar builds  did hear and compare my exact build which at the time of comparison used HDPlex 200W ATX internal power supply combined with a number of nice external linear power supplies, so this build was last compared to Aurender W20SE, the custom build was preferred by the listeners. Information on this build, along with others and comparisons to various off the shelf streamers can be found at Audiophilestyle forum, thread is well over 700 pages at this point! This group does find the Aurender to be one of the top echelon streamers, only bettered by Wadax and Taiko Extreme.


Those exploring custom builds based on Windows motherboards have experimented with no end of hardware, optimized software, at this point have come to conclusion the best custom build can compete or surpass every off the shelf dedicated streamer with exception of Wadax and Taiko Extreme. The individual that built my streamer with the HDPlex power supply ended up purchasing Taiko, Individual I purchased streamer from also ended up purchasing same. Both have not heard this streamer with my JCAT Optimo LPS so who knows where it stands in hiearchy of dedicated streamers? I'd certainly like to do direct comparison to Aurender W20SE, undoubtedly one of the best streamers out there.

@mapman Optimized rendering via USB, I2S, coax, AES/EBU with PC requires JCAT or Pink Faun boards powered via external lps. Rendering via motherboard, even with optimized OS leaves much to be desired. Ethernet optimization effected with JCAT NetCard XE.


Optimized rendering via USB, I2S, coax, AES/EBU with PC requires JCAT or Pink Faun boards powered via external lps. Rendering via motherboard, even with optimized OS leaves much to be desired. Ethernet optimization effected with JCAT NetCard XE.

Meps.  Meps.  Conehead.  Meps.  Meps.  


You are probably correct that someone with your skills could build a dedicated system that performs extremely well. Most of us don’t have your skills, so the standard question remains “will a dedicated streamer outperform a “standard” computer based streamer?” I would suggest it would 

@whitestix streamer is probably the wrong term, I would have thought the term renderer is more accurate what you’re after.

A renderer connects to an LAN to convert TCP/IP into something a DAC can translate to produce audio or a digital output like USB, AES3 TOS. I agree with @fuzztone , the MAC needs to be some distance away from the audio system, but it can control what is fed to the renderer.

If you have Audirvana, you can select the renderer to playback whatever is on your MAC or ipad IOS app from Audirvana.

There are many ways to reduce noise to the renderer, depends on:

a) where the music files are stored
b) what noise mitigation filters are used & where
c) this is for convenience, what control points you use, Ipad?
d) The playback software (established as Audirvana OK one of six)
e) What power supplies are used and where
f) AC Power topology

Safe to say, any place where music is stored on a computer, the noise is going to BAD, unless you have the cash to spend on a JCAT XACT S1, Taiko extreme or similar server. I haven’t bothered with either, since their storage solutions are too small.

Ethernet transmissions can be filtered, depends on the $$$ you want to spend.

Then there’s the renderer itself. Lumin and Linn have been building them for years, so the noise is reasonably under control in these, the less noise that feeds the renderer, the better to overall SQ.

ifi audio have a new ’Streamer’, quite a versatile device, have not heard it. One bright note is that is has a copper to optical media converter, so ground loop is gone. Does common mode noise vanish with optical..... well that’s the debate, common mode can re-appear again at the other end of the optical chain, depends on the design.

Pi2designs punches way above it's price point. I have the pi2aes hat for raspberry pi but you can't get it anymore. Was very budget friendly until the chip shortage.

Here is a complete package similar version. Kind of pricey now compared to the hat/pi but still very good. 


DIY route is certainly not for everyone. All this has been steep learning curve for me, and continues to be. The cost premium one pays for off the shelf dedicated streamers is well worth it if one doesn't want to get bogged down in technical details. There have been those moments when I regretted my choice, luckily they've passed! Plenty of more knowledgable computer guys willing and able to help has gotten me past some rocky cliffs.


Whew, a bit of light is shining on the issue so thanks very much for all your comments.  My pal with a similarly good system as mine used to stream from his iMac and went to a streaming/music server (NAD I think) and I noticed zero difference in SQ before and after.  I did notice that his bank account was noticeably depleted after the purchase.   It is really hard for me to imagine that I would get ~$6K worth of SQ improvement adding the suggested Lumin or Aurelic device recommended above.  I do use the USB Disrupter ($150) in place of the ultra-fiddly Micro-Rendu device and it does improve the sound to a degree.  Odd that nobody mentions the MR device which seems to function to clean up computer noise, but at a hefty price.    I most often sit at my iMac while streaming music to my system and I have never experienced a hiccup or drop out... no difference if I have several programs running at the same time or not in terms of the effect on SQ.  

I am going to take mapman up on the offer of a private chat to further my knowledge base.  The modestly-priced iFi Zen Stream might be a place to start, but spending $6K on a streamer is not in cards unless is radically improves the sound of my system and I really doubt that is possible given how great my system already sounds.  Thanks again for everyone's contributions.   

The modestly-priced iFi Zen Stream might be a place to start, but spending $6K on a streamer is not in cards unless is radically improves the sound of my system and I really doubt that is possible given how great my system already sounds.

i fail to see, if you read all the comments replying to your query, that you need to spend 6 grand in order to hear the benefits of a dedicated streamer compared to your imac... 🤷‍♀️

"Do I need a streamer?"


It depends on whether you trust the source, doesn't it?

It's like someone with a turntable asking if he needs to know anything about the LP he's about to play.  Is it an original 1st issue press, or a reissue from an eq tape copy, or a remaster?  Is it from an analog source or digital?  Was it mastered by Robert Ludwig, or Doug Sax, or Stan Ricker, or Kevin Gray, or George Marino, or Steve Hoffman, or Barry Diament, or Chris Bellman, or Bernie Grundman, or Lee Hulko, etc... or was it mastered by the equivalent of some guy in a van, down by the river?

Same applies to CDs.

Is any of that important to you?

Seems like the quality of the source material, i.e., what we are listening to, *should* be important, if we've spent thousands of dollars on our playback equipment.

If I have physical media, an LP or CD or SACD, I can find out who mastered that particular release, and often whether it was mastered from the original master tape, or remixed from the original multi-track tapes, or if it was 'sourced' from a digital file, etc.  I can also determine whether what I have is a first issue or a reissue, and if a reissue, the date of reissue and who was involved. 

If the published information (ad copy) about the album does not mention the source, that's a clue.  If the language about the source material sounds like it was written by Lawyers 'R Us with a bunch of weasel words, that's another clue, etc.

In the last 15-20 years, if someone has reissued an album and gone to the trouble to obtain the original tapes, that's something they would brag about, not try to obscure.

If this kind of info is not listed on the cover or booklets/inserts, then I can find out on Discogs, and if Discogs doesn't have the information, I can search one of the various music forums, e.g., the Steve Hoffman forum, which is frequented by at least several professional mastering engineers, including some of the people who have first hand knowledge and who have mastered many of the albums we know and love.

For example, if I was interested in getting a copy of Led Zeppelin IV for my collection, I would probably want an original 1971 UK first press LP (always nice to have an original country-of-origin as a reference),  mastered by George Peckham, which will have his dead-wax 'signature' inscription "Pecko Duck" on one side, and "Porky" on the other.

If I was looking for digital, I would be interested in the earliest non-remastered CD issue, which IIRC was either the Japan for U.S. market issue (probably with 'pressed by Sanyo' in the matrix area by the CD spindle hole) or the Japan domestic (and export) release (with a "32XD" label prefix), both of which have Barry Diament's original AAD transfer and mastering.

In a world where there are often dozens (up to several hundred) reissues of a single album on multiple formats over the years, how many of them were by the original mastering engineer?

Usually just one, although there are exceptions, like Bernie Grundman for example, who mastered the original Joni Mitchell 'Blue' LP, and has remastered that album at least once or twice since then.

How many of the sometimes vast number of reissues utilized the original master tape, and how many used some copy tape of unknown origin?

If you have put time and money into assembling a nice stereo system, but you're playing some LP or CD of unknown origin, then unless you just got lucky and picked up an original by accident, what good is it to have a nice system, if we're playing *mystery source* LPs or CDs on it?

Whatever we're playing may sound 'good' without any reference for comparison, but it may sound like garbage compared to the best available LP or CD.  No matter how good one's system is, it can't make a 'bad' source (LP or CD) sound as good as a 'good' source.

Considering how much time and effort (and money) we put into our stereo system, shouldn't we want to feed it the best source material?

Now, back to 'streaming' or HD downloads.

Where is that digital file (that you are streaming or downloading) coming from?

Is it the recent Analogue Productions remaster from the original master tape, or is it digitized from some tape that is multiple generations removed from the original master tape?  I don't know how you would find out (I've never 'streamed' or downloaded an HD file), but even if you could find out, unless it's in writing somewhere official, what are we going by here?

The 'honor' system?

We are talking about the 'music business', right?

There is an old expression from the beginning of the computer era, "garbage in, garbage out".

The same thing is necessarily true for playing music, isn't it?

So you kind of have to know the quality of the source material.

With physical media, and not very much effort, you can find that out.  Unless the album in question is a new release, there is usually a decades long paper trail of details available.  Just last night I was able to figure out that my LP copy of Getz/Gilberto is an original 1964 mono pressing, by MGM. 

Identifiers: (Discogs link)

Track A3 is spelled "P'ra..." on sleeve and "Para..." on label.

Track B2 label: says from film "Copacabana Palace"

Non-deep groove label, single 1” ring around spindle hole

"ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM" in capital letters on labels (not on other mono pressings.)

Track B4 misspelled "Sohando" on label


With 'streaming' or HD downloads, how do you find out who mastered the digital file, and from what source?

And if it isn't written anywhere besides a marketing website that can disappear (or change the language of the ad copy) tomorrow, then aren't we playing 'just trust me' with the music industry?

So, do you need a streamer?

I might like one for a budget office system, for background music.

But for my home stereo system?  For personal listening enjoyment?

Unfortunately we don't live in a world where we can just 'trust' the word of the people selling music to us.  That's just reality.  So if there is no way to independently verify what it is that I'm 'streaming' or downloading, then how is it not like putting mystery gas in your 1967 big block Corvette (or other classic car of your choice)?

We spend so much time researching our equipment, and so much money on that equipment... what's the point, if we don't know whether we're even playing quality source material?

If we just want sound to come out of the speakers, and we don't care how good it sounds, then why spend more than a hundred bucks on our stereo system?


I recently added an Innuos Zenith and USB reclocker to replace my Mac Mini.  My DAC is a Terminator Plus.  The delta on SQ improvement was small.  It did add other features that I do like as the OS is simplified. The biggest improvement I got was my DAC upgrade to Denafrips.  IMO that’s where money is well spent. 

For almost a year, I used my iPod to stream directly to the line input, I then added a used outboard DAC (Schiit Gungnir) and streamed to that. It was an easily audible improvement in the treble smoothness and soundstage! I just added a used Blusound Node 2i to bypass the computer completely and got another easily audible improvement, this time very a very noticeable improvement in midrange clarity (especially vocals) and much stronger and detailed deep bass. Even used, the pair totaled a sizable (for me) about $US1000 but I'm happy.

@pprocter That’s a great example of how much everything matters in streaming.  I started the same way you did and followed a similar progression and had very similar impressions.  Obviously upgrading your DAC or streamer down the road can get you even more, but if you’d like another very cost-effective improvement in the meantime you can add an upgraded power supply to the Node that many have found to yield significant sonic improvements.  Just an idea to ponder.  Anyway, nice job with the upgrades and glad you’re enjoying the benefits of your efforts.  

@soix Thanks for the suggestion! That was actually my next upgrade planned. I've been slogging around trying to choose the best option. I was looking at the pd Creative kit but they don't offer a USA 120v power supply and the shipping from Poland for just the circuit board is quite pricy! Do you have any options you've tried or considered?

Sorry, I’m far from an expert on power supplies, but I know Teddy Pardo products get nice reviews although there may be others at lower prices that will still get you significant improvements.  I just can’t remember their names.  Buy used if you can is my best advice as power supplies should last a long time and are very robust.  Best of luck.