Music streamers

My question is About music streamers in general. My current setup is a Laptop connected to my integrated job amp through usb. I was wondering if I should replace my laptop with a dedicated streamer without a Dac cuz my int already had one. So purely speaking about the difference between a dedicated streamer and a laptop. Does a streamer have a tangible improvement than a laptop? Just on the audio quality is there a tangible improvement. If yes plz suggest me some good ones below 1000usd. I’m currently eyeing the lindenmann limetree bridge. Thank you 
You will get the biggest improvement when you add the DAC.  Computer DACs are cheap noisy affairs.  Any gains that may make going from a laptop to a dedicated streaming component will be incremental in comparison.
I am not using the Dac from my laptop. The int already has one hence the usb connection. So generally people use streamers without Dac just for connectivity and accessibility is it ?
I use a streamer more for convenience than anything. I'm not sure where your setup is but I don't want a laptop in my stereo cabinet. It's easier to control a streamer with an app on my tablet. Sound quality would be more about how well your integrated deals with USB. If it's fairly new using asynchronous it's probably fine. 
If you can stretch your budget, get the N100H and call it a day. You also get a ‘killer’ app interface that is considered the very best outside Roon. A dedicated streamer like N100H offers much better sound quality and noise rejection over a laptop.
If you can stretch your budget, get the N100H and call it a day.
Buying that Aurender was one of the few major blunders I’ve made as an audiophile. I dumped it after less than a year and would never consider an Aurender product again. The N100H can throw a fit if the power goes out - it’s always on "standby" - and software updates can be a disaster. Many praise Aurender support but in my experience their sluggish, indifferent stock answers sometimes showed they couldn’t even be bothered to read the inquiry. Other times the answer was simply pedantic.

Yes, the Aurender software is slick and some people think it’s "sexy." No matter - I found the Aurender N100H hardware to be more trouble than it’s worth and the OS is a mess. To be fair, it may be the start of a good product but it would need some substantial fixes before I'd consider it a proper finished component.

I thought the unit was so bad that I couldn’t in good conscience sell it on A’gon, even though my unit was "mint." (It still had the protective plastic over the display.) So I sold it to TMR at a major $$$$ loss but that wasn’t their fault - they paid me what is was worth.

TMR was very nice to work with, btw - I’d do business with them again if I ever acquire another heap of headaches like the Aurender.
The primary benefits of a network streamer without DAC are ease of use and convenience. In other words, making it so listening to music is more enjoyable. So checking out the software user interface before hand and doing some research on how the unit performs and integrates into your existing music library and streaming sources are a good place to start.

We recommend Lumin in large part for those reasons. But there are many other good options.

Past that, there is an argument to be made about a streamer's digital audio connection to your DAC being less noisy and therefore having an impact on the quality of the reproduced sound.

An example I often use is when we found a popular brand-name sound card was improperly grounded and sending out extreme amounts of noise over the digital coaxial cable. The noise can be rejected/mitigated by the DAC's receiving circuit, but of course it's better if there isn't any noise to begin with.
cleeds-- I have no doubt you had problems with your Aurender .
Every manufacturer has a lemon once in a while. I have owned my N100H-4-4TB for about a year or so with no problems at all . I moved from a small desktop with an external hard drive and wireless keyboard to the Aurender . Although I thought the desktop sounded great !
The Aurender absolutely smoked it ! In all perimeters . I was using an outboard Dac to my preamp .
Paratham--- Using your dac in your integrated would , I think , bring a likewise large improvement from the laptop.  Aurender has a great track record and I think lalitk is right . That is a good price for the N100h.
If you can--try to go for it . I think that Aurender will blow you away.
I have a friend that has used a laptop and we matched it ti the aurender 
to compare . Was not even close .
One other thing that I found ( surprisingly ) .The type of power cord used on the Aurender made a big difference .
Hope this helps and just my two cents worth 
cleeds-- I have no doubt you had problems with your Aurender .
Every manufacturer has a lemon once in a while.
Quite so, no doubt. My issues with the Aurender were only in part the actual product - which I do not think was a lemon - but also the indifferent support. And to be fair, many users praise Aurender support. But my experience with them unsatisfactory.

I’m spoiled, though, because for decades I’ve had excellent support from companies such as Bryston, Grado, ARC and McIntosh. In years past, I received excellent support from Infinity, Tandberg, Nakamichi and PS Audio. In my experience, Aurender isn’t in their class. Not even close.
+1 Aurender.

I’ve had the N100C. IMHO - It was an excellent sounding and functioning streamer.
I recommend it highly.

OP - depending on your set up, you should be able to derive better performance with a dedicated/quality steamer.  Aurender should be a consideration if you have budget. 


Feedback like yours on the Aurender was what steered me away from them. I get that their Conductor app is good, if you don’t want Roon, but if you decide you want Roon later you’re SOL. I’m kind of blown away that the $20,000 Aurender is a top AbSound pick. Something had better be as reliable as a crowbar for that kind of money. I wasn't willing to take a chance.

No recommendations without further info. They all do somethings better OR not at all.
The five I ended up with range from $250 to $1100
If you just want to pay for Roon a Metrum Baby Ambre or a USBridge Signature will get you there ~$400
Much better than a dirty computer.
Last night I streamed from my iPhone to ROON via AirPlay2 to my brand new Matrix Mini-i 3 Pro DAC. Sounded very good.

I also streamed directly from my computer using Toslink to the same Matrix. It was also rather good.

I also streamed from a Sonore microREndu to the USB-C input on the Matrix. That also sounded very good.

In the past (5 years ago) it was easy for me to tell the difference between such comparisons. However, yesterday it was a bit difficult. 

The Matrix DAC I just got has RJ45 connectivity, Wifi, AirPlay2, something that works on Android. I am waiting on ROON Certification so I can use RJ45 Ethernet directly.

I am currently listening to my Sonore microRendu into my Benchmark DAC3B. It sounds better a bit better. I am not sure if it is the streamer, DAC, or combination of the two. The difference however do not seem that large vs the Matrix ($900 MSRP).

DAC inputs must really be improved these days, at least on the Matrix. A lot of headphone folks are connecting directly to their DACs from a computer. I was thinking that is pretty bad but I am not so sure today.
I’ll put it this way. For years I played local files from a desktop or Spotify (through a Schitt MultiBit), to the whole house dist. network. Remote volume and play functions via RF. Program maybe 50% mp3’s. Even set up a Synology. I was happy until I got streamer #1, a lowly BluSound. Stopped playing mp3’s, changed to Qobuz and never looked back. A $100 rPi will out-SQ any commercial computer.
I upgraded as many of the local files as I could and put them on SSD’s accessible via WiFi from the remote desktop. Including SACD one bit files.
Now that is what goes on the dist. network and the FM transmitter.

The OP asked for suggestions under $1000.
Why can't the Aurrender, Auralic Lumin crowd respect a simple request.
Maybe they can't read.

Sorry to hear about your experience with Aurender and it appears you’re still pretty miffed about it. I see very little point in dwelling over the past. Move on please....
lalitk2,256 posts12-11-2020 11:56am@cleeds,

Sorry to hear about your experience with Aurender and it appears you’re still pretty miffed about it. I see very little point in dwelling over the past. Move on please....

He and others have got valid reason/s to me.
I wouldn’t go near Aurender no matter what model, after they tried to pull this stunt.

Cheers George

I've never touched an Aurrender. The last good Korean hifi I got was Cowon.
I just point out that it is inappropriate for this thread.

I would suggest a rpi 4 running Ropieee XL for the operating system (~$75 including power supply, passive heat sink case and 32 MB microSD card) feeding a Topping D10s DAC ($99). All available on Amazon. Google search for RoPieee for instructions on how to flash the operating system to the microSD card. Works with Roon (either WiFi or Ethernet) or iPhone music apps (Tidal, Amazon HD, etc) via AirPlay 2.  Sound quality of the Topping D10s DAC is likely better than your integrated DAC if it is more than 3 to 5 years old. And put the extra $800 in the bank. 
For under $1k the Bluesound node is a great value- streaming via multiple sources, user friendly app and while it foes have a DAC you can use it only as a streamer. 
Heck you can even compare it to your integrated amps DAC and use the better one. 
I use the Audiolab 6000N wi fi  streamer and the cost is $600 it uses DTS Play-Fi for the user interface that l control with my Samsung S10 phone Easy peasy Play- Fi supports lots of music streaming services and It has a fairly good internal Sabre DAC . In my system l bypass to my Exogal Comet plus DAC 
It does not have a display,  but does have six programmable buttons on the front. No display for me is a non issue as everything is very well controlled with Play-Fi through my phone or iPad 
It’s actually very easy to beat the Bluesound. Rpi4 w/RoPieee XL + Topping D10s + Tidal/Qobuz/Amazon HD streaming directly from your iPhone via AirPlay 2. $200 all in. 
To the OP - The Limetree bridge you are considering I don’t think is USB. I’d consider the two Roon ready (in case one day you might try Roon) commercial Raspberry Pi based models -
1, Stack Audio Link II
2. Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra
3. SOtM ultra 200

The Pro-ject has Volumio software integrated into it, which is a decent interface for streaming services. All are less than $1000 in Europe.
I compared these three to the Auralic Aries G1 (an expensive bridge) and could not detect any difference in sound quality.

I have ditched my preamp and have been extremely happy with my CocktailAudio X45Pro into my Classe amp into my Magnepan 3.7i..  AMAZING SOUND!
I used a cheap streamer that I highly recommend. The Allo USBridge Signature. That would leave you a nice chunk of Wonga to buy a decent USB lead, which would be essential to make it really good. Control it with Bubble UPNP.
The allo usb bridge signature is £299, add and ifi ipower £49 and you have a streamer that competes with most under £1k. It should be a significant improvement over your laptop. This is one of those rare cases of a genuine hifi bargain. I have an auralic g2 in my main system which is the best streamer I’ve heard under £5,000 and the allo as is much closer than it should be in performance. 
+1 on the Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra. Several reasons why I got the Pro-ject:
  1. Its power supply is reported to be well sorted out. Adding a linear power supply doesn't add much improvement, so that is several hundred dollars that you don't need to spend
  2. It has Wi-Fi that can be turned off for better sound quality when using a hard wired Ethernet connection
  3. Though it has only a minimal amount of internal memory, you can attach a USB flash drive or external SSD or hard drive to store music files. FWIW, music seems to sound better when played back from my attached USB flash drive than via streaming.
  4. You can rip CDs through the Stream Box into an attached flash drive or external hard drive.
This is a post about the experiments one person did to improve the sound quality of the Pro-ject:
Sorry to hear about your experience with Aurender
Thanks @lalitk but it’s OK. It’s just an appliance.
... and it appears you’re still pretty miffed about it ...
Oh no, not at all. I was never "miffed" about it, just disappointed. Stuff happens.
I see very little point in dwelling over the past. Move on please....
I think it’s useful for readers to share their honest experiences here.
What’s odd about this is that if we praise a product, we’re subject to being called a "fanboy." Yet if we’re critical, we may be called "miffed" and asked to "move on."

I have moved on, btw - I bought a Bryston BDP-3 from the same dealer where I bought the Aurender. It’s terrific! I use it with Rigelian software and I think I’ll be pleased with it for years, as I have with other Bryston products. And if you think that makes me a "fanboy," that’s your problem.
I have tried a laptop and stand alone streamers. A lot depends on your system. Amp speakers etc. I ended up getting a Simaudio 680D used with Focal Kanta 3 speakers and the sound is amazing. Simaudio makes just a stand alone streamer that is really good. The Moon app is everything that Roon offers and is free. Very easy to use but it's personal preference. Just get something and you will be happy.
Hifiberry Digi+  Raspberry Pi is cheaper than Allo, less than $200 for everything.  Sound is amazing via coax or optical. Built in WiFi sucks, but hardwired works great. I’m no programmer and was easily able to set it up.  Roon endpoint too!
Another vote for Bluesound Node 2i. $450 on sale, connect to a better DAC, and there you are. Easy to use, small profile so easy to place, and it does everything it should. One of the smartest purchases I've made.
Do to a dearth of decent radio stations in Miami...  no Classical, Jazz no longer broadcasting on FM, no Blues.....  2 Classic Rock stations loaded with commercials....  I decided to try a streamer.  Went with the Cambridge CXN (V2) which delivers 97% or 98% of the sonics of my Sony XA5400 ES which was a Stereophile A+ rated component in 2014.  Going to try it with a Banchmark DAC 3b which should be delivered later today.
I purchased the Cambridge CXN (V2) to feed a secondary system based on a video I saw where it  was connected to a system $$$$$$$$$$.
Being curious I watched several reviews and for $1,100. why not.
Absolutely one of the best sounding if not the best sources in my systems. Using with Roon.
I’ve got about a $50k system but used to stream  an iPad into my Yggy DAC.  Going to a dedicated Innuos server/streamer was the biggest improvement I’ve heard in 25 years.  That’s not the point, it’s outside your budget.

For my tv room stereo I got an Orchard Pecan Pi streamer $500 including DAC.  It’s got better reviews by guys who only review digital than the Allo, which they used to love at the price.

 I tried it in my good system and no it’s not in the same class, but it’s VERY good for the price.  Reviews are on YouTube.
There is NO difference between a streamer and a laptop.  That's the beauty of digital audio.  Bits is bits.  There is so very much stupid BS out there.  Money spent on USB cables and the like is money wasted.  Transfer of digital information either works or it doesn't.  Keep in mind that digital gear has transfer protocols that insures data accuracy.  

You trust that your bank keeps accurate digital records.  Why can't you trust your digital gear to accurately transfer digital data?

Save your money.
Has anyone compared a streamer/DAC combo to the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth receiver? I’ve been using the B1 for a few years, sending iTunes music to my 2-channel stereo, and the sound is outstanding. I’ve been interested in exploring a streamer/DAC combo but don’t know how the sound can be much better than this. My primary reason for looking to move away from the B1 are recent Bluetooth connectivity issues with the iPhone.
After using a Raspberry Pi with a  HIFIBERRY DIGI+ PRO SPDIF board and iFi power supply (running Roon) for years to feed decently expensive DACs (e.g. Berkeley, SimAudio, Bricasti, Mojo Audio) I finally tried a streamer upgrade after spending less on my latest DAC than originally planned.   

I purchased a Bricasti M5 and using the same Shunyata SPDIF cable heard a much bigger difference in sound quality than I was expecting.
Hind sight I should have upgraded my digital streamer years ago if I had known I would hear that much difference.   

The Pi is amazing for the price and a Pi with the Allo Signature (requiring dual power supplies) is likely a step up from what I was using and is still super cheap compared to the M5 which is cheap compared to some other streamers...  But, in the context of my system (Sim 740P+Pass 250.8+Spendor D9) and my ears the amount of improvement I heard with the M5 was up there with DAC, preamp, and amp changes I've made over the years.   I hear a darker soundstage with much better detail retrieval.  It is like I just washed a window between me and the music.

After this experience, I suggest you at least do what I didn't and compare some in your system to see what differences you hear (if any).   My initial goal was to find one under $1K but since I want to use SPDIF that was a little trickier than USB only.   The Project Stream Box S2 and Sonore UltraRendu were two cheaper units I was considering if switching to USB.

Good Luck...

Consider one of the Sonore Rendu models. And Roon. A match made in heaven. You’ll wonder how you lived without Roon. As you read about the Rendu, you’ll understand why music sounds considerably better on a Rendu, as it uses fiberglass Ethernet, not copper. No noise. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of RAM for Roon - at least 16 GB. 
I see some of these responses and some people just don’t understand what a streamer is. A streamer like the Aurender/Lumin/auralic are all computers. A lot of them run linux, who cares? 99% of users of these streamer servers can’t even spell linux, so what can they do to fix these streamers if they have any problems? How are these users going to backup their attached disks? How are they going to restore this data?
Most of these streamer manufacturers claim you need all of this cpu power to handle streaming services or large ssd drives for cache. Far from reality. I run multiple Roon endpoints simultaneously and cpu is fairly light.
I’ve ran Roon on both a Mac and on linux, no difference in sq. Put my TB of music on hdd and on ssd with no difference in sq. (Quite a few others have also stated no difference in sq in different operating systems or preference of what media the music is stored on.
The biggest difference you will see in sq is quit using usb to your dac then you can keep your server out of the audio room.
I really like my BlueSound Node 2i.  I added a DAC and sold it on Audiogon.  I thought the BlueSound DAC sounded much better.  Wonder if an expensive streamer sounds SIGNIFICANTLY better?  If so, what do you hear?
I listen to limited English songs. Mainly my regional songs which u would not be aware of. I’ll attach my Spotify playlist of old English numbers to give a taste.
Sound Quality and simplicity go with:

Small Green Computer SonicTransporter

You can build a system around it. No DAC included but you don’t want one in your server / media provider. This way you can improve bit by bit as you learn and your system grows. This approach allows for incremental upgrades all along the way if you so choose.

Everything is going Ethernet today. Why? Because It sounds the best. Sure tons of people still use USB or SPDI/F via BNC or RCA or AES to good effect but they are all obsolete.

Whatever you chose. Make sure it is Ethernet based. That way you can grow around it.

Mine goes like this

Small Green Computer SonicTransporter (Gen1) running Roon Core with hi-res library music stored via USB connected 2TB SSD.

FYI Note: Gen1 is slower and not as good at up-convert this or that - that all the kids are doing these days but that is the point. I don’t want any of that.

I want the cleanest and lowest power needed. The Gen1 processor only take 10 watts. Lowest power requirements equals lowest noise and that of course in theory equals best sound. It’s not as quick with Roon search and other features etc but the trade off is that I am willing to make for its lower power requirements. The current model you would buy solves this hence my recommendation.
Mine system to give you a thumbnail sketch goes like below:

SGC SonicTransporter Gen1 is powered via the excellent UpTone Audio JS2 Linear Power Supply (2 rails to power 2 devices) via Ghent custom dc cables (Canare cable and Oyaide connectors). The SonicTransporter runs Roon core and sends music signal over Ethernet to my Ethernet switch.

Ethernet switch is the all new Uptone Audio EtherRegen Ethernet switch powered by the 2nd rail of UpTone Audio JS2 LPS.

Then Ethernet cable from EtherRegen is then sent to a DJM Electronics GigaFOILv4 - Ethernet Fiber-optic Filter via premium Audioquest Ethernet cables. It takes the Ethernet cable signal and converts to a Fiber-optic signal (Fiber-Optic is light so it cuts the actual electrical signal to remove any residual noice) and then converts back to a clean electrical Ethernet signal then feeds this scrubbed signal to my Ethernet based DAC.

My DAC is the Bricasti M1SE DAC with Ethernet input that is Roon Ready.
The idea is to send the lowest noise Ethernet signal into the DAC. The Ethernet signal goes into my Bricasti and then my DAC internally takes the Ethernet signal and right in front of the DAC chips it gets buffered and reclocked and converted to an IS2 signal right at the DAC chip.

This sounds like a lot but I improved each part along the way.
The goal is to start with an Ethernet based signal so you can improve it along the way.

Thought to share to help you and those that may want to hear from someone that spent a lot of time, energy and resources to get what I think is the most ideal way to marry a media service with a DAC.

Spotify as low resolution source....does it even matter what OP goes with? Raspberry Pi or anything else under $1K, he is unlikely to hear any discernible differences in sound quality. 
Hi  @fsmithjack, just curious if you have tried running fiber into the EtherREGEN instead of adding another box after the EtherREGEN to do a copper-fiber-copper conversion?   That way the EtherREGEN fiber-copper conversion is the last thing being done before hitting your DAC.
By far best forum I've seen on Audiogon in a while, great conversation and learning 👍
ddafoe- thank you - I have not tried that but now I will. My goal was just trying scrubbing that Ethernet signal as clean as I can scrub it but if you think it’s cleaner with regen last I’ll certainly try that. Thank you 
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